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Lower Manhattan is home to numerous restaurants that showcases New York City’s cultural variety. Here, we select some of our favorite Asian brunches and quick bites near the L-train.
In its own words, Maharlika Filipino Moderno serves food that ‘is not like your mama’s cooking…It’s also not the kind of place you’ve come to expect from a Filipino restaurant…and that’s the point.’ Maharlika seeks to bring the culinary tradition of the Philippines — with its cultural influences from Spain, Malaysia, China, Americas — to Manhattan’s experimental foodies. Start with the pandesal with homemade macapuno and guava jam. Then try the Flip’d Fried Chicken and Ube Waffle with macapung syrup. For a meatier meal, try the Pampangan-style sizzling sisig with hand-chopped pork belly, cheek and snout cooked three ways with Filipino spices and served with garlic rice.
Not exactly a brunch spot, or Asian, but we just love it too much to leave it off the list. Milk Bar is a brilliant spot to stop by at any time of the day, late morning, evening or late-night. Less than five minutes from the third Ave L-train stop, the chilled-out East Village shop is cozy and cute. It has a few seats by the window that give the shop a lovely New York cornershop vibe. The delicious spin-off of David Chang’s Momofuku restaurant empire serves delectable sweet creations by baking genius Christina Tosi. Milk Bar satisfies our deepest sweet cravings with its unbelievably moreish crack pie®, cookies (our favorite is the corn cookie, though compost comes close) and cereal milk™ milk shakes. What’s more, Milk Bar also serves Momofuku’s signature pork buns, a hefty slab of melt-in-your-mouth pork belly sandwiches between a Chinese steamed bun.
According to Google Maps, Baohaus is 40 seconds from the L-train’s 3rd Ave stop, so there’s simply no excuse to not stop by for a late-morning snack. This place takes its design cues from Bauhaus modernism with a fitting East Village bohemian edge. Visitors are welcomed by a bright neon sign then ushered into the indie-fun interior where diners can scribble to their hearts content on the tables and walls while enjoying Baohaus’ signature Chairman Bao. Sometimes called a Taiwanese hamburger, the bao is a fluffy steamed white bun filled to the brim with slow-cooked red braised fatty pork belly, crushed peanuts, pickled mustard greens and some coriander. Other options that would make any Taiwanese nostalgic are the Chairman on Rice. There is also the lemonade with Ai Yu jelly and homemade soya milk which is nothing like the store-bought version.
Pig and Khao isn’t exactly in East Village, being just south of Houston Street. Taking over a 19th-century building in Manhattan’s Lower East Side, Pig and Khao is industrial-chic with a Southeast Asian spin. combining mosaic tiles with a metallic copper-lined ceiling and wooden furnishings. Pig and Khao’s Filipino/Thai-inspired brunch menu is crafted by Chef Leah Cohen of Top Chef fame. She brings her Filipino heritage into the dishes, with offerings like sizzling sisig (pork head, chill, whole egg). There is also longonissa sausage and garlic fried rice, which needs to be ordered as a side.
Xi’an Famous Foods brings the spice-infused flavors of China’s famous Western city to Manhattan, with several restaurants now open in New York. Xi’an, China is not only home to the famed Terra Cotta Warriors, but is also particularly known for the food of its vibrant Muslim community. This includes strongly flavored mutton dishes. This hole-in-the-wall shop has made a reputation for its specialty hand-pulled noodles and Chinese-style spicy lamb or pork burgers. These make for a hearty late-morning bite.
Entering Panya Bakery is to be struck by the sights and smells of a typical Japanese bakery. Its shelves are filled with delicious buttery breads, pastries, cakes and more, as well as other Asian snacks to buy on the go. Delicate puff pastries and airy sponge cakes beckon temptingly. The real draw, however, is Panya Bakery’s sumptuous — and healthy — Japanese breakfast which consists of the Japanese staples. These include broiled fillet of fish, pickled side dishes, miso soup, steamed Japanese rice, small salad, natto and a quail’s egg. If you’re still feeling peckish after the meal, grab a few of its buttery buns. Don’t forget to sample one of Panya’s adzuki bean croissants.
After having satisfied your sweet and savory cravings for the day, stop by Kung Fu Tea for a refreshing post-brunch drink to ease you into the mid-afternoon. Arguably the best bubble tea stop in East Village, Kung Fu Tea specializes in bubble tea, the sometimes fruity, sometimes milky sweet drink from Taiwan. The secret to a good bubble tea is the consistency of the tapioca pearls — they must be perfectly cooked, neither too soft nor too hard, and Kung Fu Tea does it well.
RedFarm is not your typical dim sum spot. The RedFarm ethos is to serve ‘innovative, inspired Chinese cuisine with greenmarket sensibility’. It is located outside of Chinatown in trendy Greenwich Village. The aesthetics at RedFarm are decidedly contemporary with an artsy flair, picking up on the Village culture. Indeed, everything from the design of each dish to the design of the restaurant is brilliantly done, with a rustic farmhouse meets New York-chic decor. Housed in a 19th-century Manhattan townhouse, its wood beam rafters and supports, copperplate ornaments and mismatched lighting fixtures make this an utterly charming Greenwich Village brunch spot. What’s more, the food is excellently prepared, infused with creativity and fun, including ‘Pac Man’ shrimp dumplings and Katz’s pastrami egg roll.
Kin Shop is Top Chef winner Harold Dieterle’s take on contemporary Thai food, taking the ingredients and flavor profiles unique to Thai food and giving each dish a contemporary facelift that both reinterprets and pays homage to the original. Kin Shop also offers a great dining ambiance, with simple white-washed brick walls and wooden tables with a touch of Thai design flourishes. Melding American ingredients with Thai classic ingredients such as galangal, lemongrass and Thai basil gives each dish a flavourful kick.
Num Pang Sandwich Shop near Union Square serves what many consider to be one of the best sandwiches in Manhattan. Num Pang, the Cambodian word for sandwich, has become one of the most talked about restaurants in Manhattan. With simple black bar seats, bright orange walls and graffiti art windows, Num Pang’s original 12th Street location takes on an edgy bohemian look. Favorites include the pulled duroc pork sandwich with spiced honey and its seasonal specialties especially the five-spice glazed pork belly. All of the gourmet sandwiches are served with Num Pang’s signature house chili mayo. Grab a Num Pang sandwich and head over to the Square to people-watch while munching away on one of the best sandwiches in New York.