My parents were in from Ohio a few weeks ago, so we did a bit of the requisite touristy-ness: the Central Park Zoo (LOVE the monkeys!), the Natural History museum, a Broadway show (Hairspray), and a trip on the Staten Island Ferry so we could admire the Statue of Liberty without paying a dime. Of course, no trip to New York would be complete without food, so here are the two highlights of our gastronomic experience.
Thursday, we chose to stay around the neighborhood, so we ended up making the short trek to Curry Hill (I’m on the fence about that being offensive, but I also can’t seem to call the area anything else now…whoops), where we ate at Rice, 115 Lexington @ 28th. Since it’s surrounded by Indian restaurants, Mom and Dad were surprised to see that the restaurant is actually multi-ethnic and eclectic, featuring all kinds of dishes that go well with all kinds of rice. Since Dad is a picky eater, I made an executive decision and told him to get the chicken kebab. Mom went with the Thai coconut curry (chicken) over basmati rice, and I got jerk chicken wings over brown rice. Man, I LOVED that brown rice. I think I loved it more than the almost too mildly-spiced chicken, just because it was nutty and rich and fun to eat all on its own. Mom and Dad both cleaned their plates as well. They were charmed by the simple, spare space of the restaurant and the use of rice bags as pseudo Chinese lanterns. I’ve been to Rice in the past, and I know they have three other locations. Their butternut squash soup is another treat, and at some point I’d love to try their desserts.
The next night, before the show, we decided to try Ariana, on 9th Ave between 52nd and 53rd. I was torn between Ethiopian and Afghan food and ended up picking the latter as it was closer to the theater than Queen of Sheba and Meskerem. Ariana proved to be another lucky and winning choice. It’s a tiny, narrow, little restaurant with afghan rugs cut into various designs on the walls, and that famous National Geographic cover shot of that girl with the haunting eyes. It looks like nothing special, like you might even want to turn around and go some place else, but then you’d miss the food! I went with a very standard ground lamb kebab dish that was absolutely delicious and, again, it came with brown rice, which made me ridiculously happy. Mom and Dad, however, ended up striking gold by splitting Mom’s sabzi chalow. (Dad got their chicken kebab, but he definitely liked her food better.) It looks like Indian lamb-saag, but from their ooh-ing and aah-ing and the way they cleaned the bowl, it must have been ten thousand times better. We capped off our meal by splitting firnee, which is a thicker version of Indian kheer, and I swear to God, if I could mainline it into my veins, I would. But that wasn’t the only great part of our Ariana experience. The owner or manager, who is pictured on the restaurant’s home page, was just wonderful and welcoming and very attentive. He even sang an Afghani song for us, completely a capella.
There are so many places in the city to eat, and it’s always a crapshoot. I was really glad that I was able to take my parents to two places that they truly enjoyed…and that I defied current diet logic and embraced my love of rice! Billions of Asian people can’t be wrong, right…?