A taste of the Big Apple

As a native New Yorker, one of the things I like best about the city are its many restaurants. If you’re ever in New York and are looking for some delicious and memorable culinary treats, here are some good places to check out.

Cha-An Tea House

This is a Japanese tea house located in the East Village. It’s an easy place to miss: the restaurant front is just a small door that opens up onto a tiny room with dim light and a long staircase leading up. Upstairs it is decorated to look like a small Japanese village, with bamboo, Japanese screen doors, and the statue of a tanuki, a species of Japanese raccoon dog common in folklore. Inside, the ceiling is low and painted black, making the place dark and mysterious. The space is small with tables and a bar area, and a private section made to look like an old Japanese house.

Cha-An has a great assortment of teas, especially green tea. They have traditional teas that come in a little clay pot with a single handle to be sipped and savored slowly. They also have matcha lattes, which are sweet and creamy and are served hot or cold with whipped cream and red bean paste.

When I went there, I got sakura green tea. It came in a white teapot covered in sakura (cherry blossom) prints. The tea itself is the lightest of greens, its flavor subtle almost to the point of hidden except for the slightest kick of bitterness. Another time, I got a hot matcha latte which was sweet but still had the strong taste of matcha without the bitterness, and drowned in its center was a hidden island of red bean paste.

For dessert Cha-An offers a selection of parfaits, exotic ice creams and what they call “Jewelry boxes,” the chef’s selection of sweets and pastries that they change seasonally. They come to the table in a beautifully decorated Japanese box that is separated into three sections, each piled on top of the other. I recommend the black sesame and horchata ice cream, which comes  as perfectly round scoops with a sweet and salty crispy wafer stuck in the middle. The black sesame ice cream was grey and dappled with specks of black and streaks of white. It was very creamy and not very sweet. It wonderfully complemented the crispy cookie which also had bits of sesame in it. The horchata was a golden brown and much icier. Its flavor was harder to describe, and it was a little too exotic to work as ice cream for my taste.

Alice’s Tea Cup

Alice’s Tea Cup is a British-style teahouse with locations on the Upper West Side and Upper East Side. The atmosphere is fun and girlish, trying to replicate a mad tea party. Each table has a unique teacup mismatched with a saucer. Painted on the walls are the characters of Alice in Wonderland with quotes from the book.

Alice’s has a selection of over 100 teas and especially tempting are the in-house specialty teas with names like Unbirthday Tea and Queen of Hearts Tea. Usually the house-made teas are a fusion of different kinds of tea with floral undertones.

For lunch and dinner, Alice’s offers soups and sandwiches but they are best known for their scones, which are some of the finest in the city. Warm and fluffy, they come in a variety of flavors that change daily, but some of the regulars are ham and cheese, buttermilk, pumpkin glaze, chocolate, and raspberry. On the side, they come with a little serving of raspberry jam and clotted cream. There are also vegan options for some of the scones.

Otafuku x Medetai

Otafuku has the best selection of Japanese street food in NYC. It is located on the same street as Cha-An. It is a tiny store with room only for about 15 people to stand in. The line outside the door can get very long especially in pleasant weather. But whatever the weather it is worth the wait for their delicious food.

Takoyaki are fried octopus puffs. On the outside, they’re crispy, and on the inside, they are filled with a gooey, creamy dough with a single tiny octopus tentacle. On top they are bathed in tangy brown sauce, zigzagged with mayo, covered in dancing bonito flakes. (They really do ‘dance’ as if they are alive due to the heat.)

Taiyaki are a sweet bread shaped like a fish. Inside, they can come filled with red bean paste or chocolate and banana. They also have okonomiyaki (cabbage pancake) and yakisoba (noodles).


If you want something really fancy that will make a memorable dining experience, I recommend Tao.

Entering through bright red doors covered in lion’s head door-knockers and walking down a hallway of dimly-lit Chinese windows with sculptures on the sides, you emerge into a tremendous underground chamber that has a giant statue of the Hindu Goddess Durga at one end and a twenty-foot long reclining Buddha at the other. There aren’t many restaurants that could be said to take one’s breath away or make one feel like they have entered another world, but this is one of them. It’s worth going there if just for the decor and atmosphere.

The menu has pan-Asian cuisine with an array of dishes from all over Asia, Some notable ones include Chicken satay, an Indonesian dish, that comes on skewers topped with peanut sauce. and Tai sweet and sour shrimp in a tamarind sauce. There is also sushi and sashimi.


In hot weather, Amorino is a great place to stop by after a long summer walk through the city. It is an Italian gelato parlor, but it’s also an edible art show. The gelato comes in the shape of roses. A regular scoop is molded onto the cone. Then, with a special spatula, they cut thin strips of gelato and model it into petals around the original scoop. Every petal can be a different flavor if you wish with no extra charge. There is a great variety of flavors including sorbets. They also sell gelato-filled macaroons which, for extra, can be put on top of the flowers or eaten alone.

Restaurants are very competitive in New York city. One place closes. Another one springs up. Because of this “survival of the fittest” environment, New York has some of the best food in the world. I think food is what makes New York City so special.