Besides your standard burrito, there’s a lot going food-wise below the border — like, say, an entire hemisphere and a half of culinary riches. Get exploring!
Maduro Relleno de Bacalao at Mamajuana Cafe ($10)
The Dominican-infused cuisine here is fully on display with this fried plantain stuffed with bacalao — a creamy, salty fricassee of cod.
Mamajuana Cafe, 134 East 48th Street (between Lexington and 3rd avenues); 212-421-1116.
Huancaína at La Mar Cebicheria Peruana ($13)
While the ingredients in this gorgeous Peruvian classic aren’t all that unfamiliar, their combination is: organic market potatoes with Botija olives and a quail egg, dotted with cheesy huancaína sauce.
La Mar Cebicheria, 11 Madison Avenue (between 25th and 26th streets); 212-612-3388.
Beer-Braised Tongue Tacos at Empellon Taqueria ($12-18)
“Tongue?!” you say? Don’t worry, you’re in good hands with Alex Stupak, the wd~50 vet in the kitchen, who pairs it with potatoes and a fiery arbol chile salsa.
Empellón Taqueria, 230 West 4th Street (between West 10th Street and 7th Avenue South); 212-367-0999.
Ackee Dip with Plantain Chips at Miss Lily’s ($10)
The West African fruit ackee is found all over Jamaica. The awesomely retro Miss Lily’s transforms the eggy stuff into a dip with sweet chips. Wild eats bonus: Ackee can kill you if improperly prepared.
Miss Lily’s, 132 West Houston Street (between Sullivan and Thompson streets); 646-588-5375.
Photos: Courtesy of Miss Lily's, La Mar Cebicheria Peruana, Empellion
The Odd Bits
Many meat eaters often forget that animals aren’t just made of pre-wrapped steaks and tenders, and that there’s more on the farm than chickens and pigs.
Goat Pot Pie at The Toucan and the Lion ($22)
Goat is definitely the odd animal du jour in NYC, although there’s no reason to fear it. New downtown spot The Toucan and the Lion stews the lean meat in massaman curry served with a side of roti.
The Toucan and the Lion, 342 East 6th Street (between 1st and 2nd avenues); 212-275-8989.
Mare e Monte at Ai Fiori ($42)
And if you’ve seen goat on a menu, you’ve seen marrow, too. Ai Fiori’s high-end handling layers the fatty, beefy goodness with truffles and scallops for an extra VIP look.
Ai Fiori, 400 5th Avenue (between West 36th and West 37th streets); 212-613-8660.
Scallops with Crispy Duck Tongues at Wong ($16)
Scallops may take center stage on this plate, but the crispy balls of duck tongue — which normally contain bones — steal the spotlight with their rich, confit-like flavor.
Wong, 7 Cornelia Street (between Bleeker and West 4th streets); 212-989-3399.
Sesadillas at Pulqueria ($11)
A recipe for the best water-cooler story come Monday: "Oh, I was just hanging out in this basement taqueria hidden under a Vietnamese storefront, eating pig brains in masa half moons, when suddenly Gisele walked in..."
Pulqueria, 11 Doyers Street (between Pell Street and the Bowery); 212-227-3099.
Photos: Courtesy of Ai Fiori, Pulqueria, Toucan and The Lion, Wong
Spice Up Your Life
The first step in broadening your palate: Learn to love the spice. Go in order with these dishes, from fiery to nearly deadly.
Piri Piri Shrimp at Junoon ($15)
Indian chefs know their way around chiles, of course, and Vikas Khanna deftly deploys the piri piri spice on a small plate of jumbo shrimp, which is a gentle entrée to the world of heat.
Junoon, 27 West 24th Street (between 5th and 6th avenues); 212-490-2100.
Ike’s Wings at Pok Pok Wing ($12.49)
Portland’s James Beard Award-winning chef Andy Ricker brought NYC his chile-sauce-tossed, fish-sauce-marinated wings last month with much buzz. Ask for yours extra-spicy to ramp up the volume.
Pok Pok Wing, 137 Rivington Street (between Norfolk and Suffolk streets); 212-477-1299.
P’hall Curry at Bricklane Curry House ($15-21)
The P’Hall curry is only for spice masters. If you’re one of few who can manage to finish your bowl — after you’ve agreed to a verbal waiver — Bricklane puts your picture on its wall of spice-champion fame.
Bricklane Curry House, 235 East 53rd Street (between 2nd and 3rd avenues); 212-339-8353.
Photos: Courtesy of Pok Pok, Brick Hill, and Junoon
East Meets West (Meets South Meets North)
While “Asian fusion” is still a bit of a culinary dirty word left over from the ‘90s, it’s still alive and well in some excellent restaurants, blending the familiar with the unexpected.
Tonkatsu Hot Dog at Japadog ($6)
Canada’s weirdo hot dog shop specializes in bizarre combinations like this breaded tonkatsu pork cutlet, stuffed into a bun with cabbage and sweet-tangy sauce.
Japadog, 30 St. Mark’s Place (between 2nd and 3rd avenues); 646-476-2324.
Buttermilk Fried ½ Rabbit at Fatty ‘Cue ($40)
Poor Thumper gets treated to both Southern hospitality — that is, battered and fried crispy — and South Asian hospitality, with chile-lemon sauce and a cincalok marinade.
Fatty ‘Cue, 50 Carmine Street (between Bleeker and Bedford streets); 212-929-5050.
Tuna Tartare Façon Rossini at Sushi Shop ($35)
Of course, this is how the French do sushi — by calling it tartare, and cubing up bits of foie gras, turning the staid tuna roll into something overwhelmingly elegant.
Sushi Shop, 536 Madison Avenue (between West 54th and West 55th streets); 212-840-5555.
Pretzel Pork and Chive Dumplings at Talde ($8)
Canal Street meets Times Square with Top Chef Dale Talde’s ode to his dual heritage, these oh-so-New-York pork-stuffed pretzels with spicy mustard.
Talde, 369 7th Avenue (between 11th and 10th streets), Park Slope; 347-916-003.
Photos: Courtesy of Fatty Cue, Sushi Shop, and Talde