Southeast Asian destination Hidden Leaf brings the heat to pre-theater dinners in NYC

Stuffed pork skewers at Hidden Leaf | Credit: Chris Ramirez

In New York City’s newest neighborhood, Manhattan West, the cuisine is as cutting-edge as the towering skyscrapers. At Hidden Leaf, an imaginative, Southeast Asian spot that opened in July, diners can expect one of the city’s most unique pan-Asian spreads. 

“Most of the food we make is new food, the dishes have been created to highlight regions of Southeast Asia,” says Hidden Leaf’s executive chef, Chai Trivedi, who was previously at splashy Manhattan hotspots including Tamarind and Buddakan. “It is a fun process to come up with new dishes with old-world sensibilities.”

Hidden Leaf’s neighboring performance venue, Midnight Theatre—a cabaret-style, after-dinner theater that hosts live magic, comedy, music and more—only adds to the one-of-a-kind experience. 

Hidden Leaf is the brainchild of restaurateur Josh Cohen, whose Brooklyn hits include Chez Ma Tante, Lilia, and Saint Vitus. Cohen originally envisioned a high-end Cantonese concept for his modern, multi-use restaurant. As Trivedi began blueprinting the menu, though, he became intrigued by regional Chinese fare, and found the dishes of Yunnan, a province in southwestern China (bordering Myanmar, Laos, and Vietnam) mirrored his culinary passions. “Having traveled in that region, the idea came to incorporate cuisines, ingredients, and techniques of those countries, and to include Northern Thailand,” Trivedi says. It’s why Hidden Leaf’s menu is a melting pot of those regions.

Hidden Leaf’s dishes, such as wok-roasted rice cakes, feature ingredients sourced from various parts of Southeast Asia. | Credit: Chris Ramirez

Hidden Leaf’s dishes strike a balance between spicy, sour, sweet, and salty flavors, sourcing ingredients from Southeast Asia. “We aren’t holding back the heat,” says Trivedi, describing some of the menu’s spicier offerings, such as kung pao fish and broken golden chicken with crispy curry oil. However, dishes can be toned down for diners who request less heat, and milder options include honey Berkshire pork fried rice.

Trivedi’s menu, a thoughtful amalgam of Southeast Asian traditions, is a departure from what’s offered at other pan-Asian spots across New York City. Dishes such as the grilled ribeye, brushed with prickly ash glaze and served with layers of leeks sauteed in house-made chile crisp, blend culinary techniques from a range of countries.

Hidden Leaf’s signature chile crisp makes many appearances across the menu, in Cambodian-style needle noodles made from tofu, tossed with snap peas and greens; and drizzled across dim sum including spicy cumin lamb dumplings. 

All of Hidden Leaf’s dishes are shareable, whether they are small plates (an herb salad mixing Vietnamese mint, Thai basil, cilantro, and rice paddy herb) or larger entrees (steamed sea bass with pickled chile and daikon). 

While Trivedi’s food spans several Southeast Asian regions, dishes that represent various culinary traditions are often clustered together on one plate. The chef is passionate about weaving certain regional ingredients into all areas of the menu. Sichuan and Indonesian peppercorns working in concert in a dish, for example, or a cornucopia of mushroom varieties, including blue oyster, yellow oyster, and royal trumpet.

The leaf royale, a cocktail that uses the betel leaf, a peppery plant native to Southeast Asia. | Credit: Jason Greenspan

“Our food and beverages pair together seamlessly,” says Trivedi, giving a special shout-out to Hidden Leaf’s internationally recognized beverage director, Iain Griffiths. Griffiths, who did previous stints at acclaimed London bars Dandelyan and White Lyan, takes the herbs and sauces featured in Hidden Leaf’s dishes and uses them in drinks.

For example, the margarita highlights housemade chile crisp, pineapple, and lime. Spritzes such as the leaf royale, a peppery drink, uses a betel leaf, featured in a grilled lamb skewer, a forthcoming addition to the menu.

Diners who want to skip the booze can opt for one of the sophisticated, non-alcoholic selections. The sundowner, billed as “the greatest Arnold Palmer you didn’t know you needed,” by Griffiths, mixes turmeric, black tea, and fresh lemon for a citrus-forward concoction (add a shot of mezcal for a cocktail). The mostly European wine list is offered by the glass or bottle; beer and cider are also available.  

Hidden Leaf’s large, windowed space is inspired by Art Deco sensibilities. |  Credit: Jason Greenspan

Hidden Leaf’s dining room is bright and spacious, with semi-private booths lining the large, windowed space. A local firm, Cycle Projects, designed all the interiors, inspired by Art Deco sensibilities to create a sense of mystery and intrigue throughout the various alcoves in the 75-seat dining room. Hidden Leaf’s handsome walnut wood accents, lush greenery, and shimmering brass fixtures channel an ambience far from New York City’s concrete jungle.

A twenty-seat private dining room is available for events; the restaurant’s 40-seat bar and lounge offer an additional space for drinking and grazing on bar snacks. 

Visit while the sun is still up for prime people watching, plus lunchtime specials including banh mi and avocado toast. At night, go for Hidden Leaf’s disco playlist, strong cocktails, and green getaway vibes. 

Hidden Leaf is open for lunch on weekdays, from 11:30 am to 3 pm. Dinner is served Monday through Saturday, from 5 pm to 11 pm. 

Melissa Kravitz Hoeffner is a writer based in Brooklyn, where she lives with her wife and rescue dog. You can follow her on Instagram @melissabethk and Twitter @melissabethk