6 under-the-radar AAPI-owned restaurants to visit in the New York area

Credit: Yum Cha
Several plates of food on a wooden table at NYC restaurant Yum Cha

New York has one of the most diverse Asian American Pacific Islander restaurant scenes in the country. You’ll find multiple Chinatowns across the city, several neighborhoods spotlighting South Asian food, and one of the most bustling Koreatowns out there.

Meanwhile, legendary restaurants like Shun Lee Palace have long paved the way for several other beloved spots to follow. But because of the depth of the scene here, some stellar AAPI restaurants tend to fly under the radar, and given it’s AAPI Heritage Month, we want to proudly shout out these outstanding restaurants.

Whether it’s a Filipino chef recreating his mom’s recipes on the Lower East Side, a veteran NYC chef doing homestyle Korean food just outside of Koreatown, or two Pakistani restaurateurs recreating the feeling of truck-stop dining back home, these restaurants are all proudly showcasing their AAPI heritage. Read on for six under-the-radar AAPI restaurants that are a must-visit in the New York area.

Kalye (Lower East Side)

Dishes like crispy lumpia are inspired by chef and owner Rob Mallari-D’Auria’s mom’s cooking in the Philippines. | Credit: Kalye

Since opening their restaurant in early 2023, owners Henry Mallari-D’Auria and Rob Mallari-D’Auria have been all about showcasing Rob’s mom’s cooking from back home in the Philippines. “The menu is very much a personal connection to his mom’s food,” restaurant general manager Barry Jacinto says.

You’ll want to go here for top-notch versions of traditional dishes like crispy lumpia, lemongrass-and-ginger-marinated chicken inasal, and pork skewers marinated in the Filipino condiment banana ketchup. But the real star here is the boodle. Grab your friends and family, so you can enjoy this massive feast of seafood, vegetables, and rice all served atop banana leaves eaten with your hands! Pro-tip: The restaurant doubles as an art gallery, so you can spend some time learning about up-and-coming Filipino artists while eating here.

Laree Adda (Jersey City)

Homey Pakistani curries and truck-stop vibes make Laree Adda a must-visit in Jersey City. | Credit: Laree Adda

This Jersey City corner restaurant dressed in handsome red brick is as full of stories and lore as it is traditional Pakistani cuisine. Laree Adda means “truck stop” in Urdu, which, for owners Najam Sheikh and Muhammad Shahrukh, is a reference to community hangouts where neighbors gather over food and drink to chat about cricket, politics, and family.

You’ll find all those good vibes at Laree Adda as you tuck into lamb chops, cast-iron-pan-cooked mozang chicken karahi, and luscious carrot halwa. For something you’ll rarely experience in the city, head to Laree Adda for a weekday breakfast of fluffy Pakistani omelet, or flatbreads with potatoes and chickpeas, that are best enjoyed with one of their three chais.

May Kaidee (Lower East Side)

Chef and owner Sommay Jaijong makes recipes from Central and Southern Thailand as well as Thailand’s Isaan Province at May Kaidee. | Credit: May Kaidee

Sommay Jaijong is a force in the food industry. She got her start cooking at a street food cart in Bangkok in 1988 and now owns a number of vegan Thai restaurants across Bangkok, Chiang Mai, and New York (plus two cooking schools in Thailand). At May Kaidee (Sommay’s nickname; May is a variation of her first name, and Kaidee roughly translates to good business in Thai), you’ll see her making vegan dishes from Central and Southern Thailand as well as the country’s Isaan province.

You don’t want to miss out on the glass noodle dish laab woon sen or warming curries like the fried tofu. But one dish is non-negotiable: the pad kee mao, a bowl of wide rice noodles tossed with broccoli, carrots, and bell peppers in chili and black soy sauces. Plus, thanks to the frequent live music and karaoke, a night at May Kaidee is always a lively evening.

Mista Oh (Flatiron)

Dishes cooked on a sizzling stone pot are among the highlights at Mista Oh. | Credit: Mista Oh

Koreatown has some of the best Korean restaurants in the country, but just a short distance away from the hubbub, you’ll find a spot with homey Korean fare that’s hard to find elsewhere. After 30 years as a line cook at various NYC restaurants, Mista Oh opened his eponymous restaurant along with his family in 2020. Go here, so you can relive the Oh family’s days growing up in Busan. “The menu is a lot of the traditional Korean food we grew up with in Busan,” says Holly Oh, who helps her father run the restaurant. Mista Oh’s dolsot bibimbap cooked on a sizzling stone pan is their family favorite. “Growing up… we shared a big pot of this, so that to me is the definition of family food,” Oh says.

The chef also owned a kimchi company in Busan, so you won’t go wrong with any dish that incorporates kimchi like the kimchi jjigae, the classic kimchi stew, or barbecue brisket with a side of kimchi stew and rice. Plus, Busan is right by the sea so Mista Oh excels at seafood like spicy marinated squid over rice.

Nudibranch (East Village)

A fried chicken sandwich with a knife skewered in it on top at NYC restaurant Nudibranch
Make sure to dunk the fried chicken sandwich in the hot Korean buffalo sauce. | Credit: Nudibranch

With two Momofuku vets at the helm, it’s no wonder you’ll find one of the most unique cuisine combinations in the city: Korean and Spanish food. Jeffrey Kim and Matthew Lee opened Nudibranch in the summer of 2022, and two years later they’re still having plenty of fun with the menu—like with their drinking snacks. Frogs smothered in lemongrass and ginger and a crispy chicken sandwich that should be dunked in their hot Korean buffalo sauce are among the highlights.

Kim is partial to their uni soba noodle dish, a recipe he developed during the pandemic when Nudibranch was still a pop-up. “The fact that it has stuck around, and guests still enjoy coming back for it for this long is something I am very proud of,” he says. Be sure to ask beverage director Devon Fleming for one of the off-the-beaten-path Spanish wines to complete your meal.

Yum Cha (Greenwich Village)

Dishes like this Mandarin fish with sweet and sour sauce are among the highlights at Yum Cha. | Credit: Yum Cha

After moving to the US, Shikun Liu missed the food back home in China so much, particularly from Shanghai and the Sichuan province, that she decided to open her own restaurant. Yum Cha opened last September with Zhang Xinfa at the helm, a chef Liu became friends with in Shanghai and knew immediately she had to work when she decided to open her own place.

With more than 28 years of cooking chops under his belt, Xinfa is best known in Shanghai for cooking the local cuisine, as well as Huaiyang, Sichuan, and Hunanese food. At Yum Cha, you’ll find Shanghainese dishes like fragrant lotus root, Mandarin fish with sweet and sour sauce, and deep fried yellow cracker with dried seafood that is a Chinese New Year staple. Even the Sichuanese dishes go beyond best-known creations like mapo tofu. Yum Cha makes top-notch versions of spicy stewed offals and stir-fried bone-in chicken from Chengdu. “We hope that people try dishes out of their comfort zone,” restaurant partner Roy Chai says.

Known for her pioneering food blog, The Strong Buzz, Andrea covers restaurants, chefs, trends, and big picture stories about the intersection of food, business, policy and the law for publications such as The New York Times, Fast Company, Food & Wine, New York Magazine, Eater, and more. She lives, eats, and loads and unloads the dishwasher in Brooklyn. Follow her on Instagram, @strongbuzz_.

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