In a city where alleyway restaurants are scarce, beholding Mena’s picturesque Cortlandt Alley location when approaching is the first indicator of good things to come. As the long-awaited solo endeavor of the acclaimed chef Victoria Blamey (Gotham Bar & Grill, Chumleys, Blue Hill at Stone Barns), this new Tribeca eatery opened in January and offers a four-course prix fixe filled with creative and stellar dishes in a 50-seat dining room with wall-to-wall windows. The food here is inspired both by Blamey’s Chilean roots and years spent cooking in kitchens in Spain, Australia, and NYC. Expect offerings like the Japanese Sardine with potato mayonnaise, piquillo pepper; Spanish Lentils with donko shiitake and vadouvan; and Cholgas Secas of charred cabbage. Helmed by Gustavo Zamora (ATLA), the beverage program includes organic/biodynamic wines, South American spirits, and cocktails highlighting seasonal fruits.
This new spot from chef and owner Ayo Balogun transports diners to an intimate dinner party inside a home in Nigeria during the ‘70s/’80s. At Dept of Culture, the cozy space can accommodate up to 16 guests via a large communal table and counter seats while surrounded by Balogun’s family photos and records from legendary Nigerian artists like Ebenezer Obey play in the background. Diners are then guided through a four-course prix fixe of Balogun’s cooking along with heartfelt stories about his family and time growing up in North Central Nigeria. While the BYOB menu’s offerings rotate every two weeks, previous dishes include the sweat-inducing Eja tutu ati oshuka cilantro (red snapper pepper soup); Wara ati obe (cheese cooked in stew); Iyan ati egusi pelu eja alaran ati efo (pounded yam, fermented melon seeds, smoked fish); and Dodo ati ice cream (with caramelized plantain). Reservations are required and can be made via its website.
This lavish Indian restaurant from entrepreneur Maneesh K. Goyal, industry veteran David Rabin (American Bar, Café Clover), and actress Priyanka Chopra Jonas opened last spring, and offers diners a white tablecloth type of experience in a spacious flatiron dining room inspired by 1980s Mumbai. At Sona, the menu from executive chef Hari Nayak features contemporary renditions of dishes from Goyal and Chopra Jonas’ respective upbringings, and all arrive beautifully plated with vivid colors. The menu in its entirety is filled with stellar options, including the Gunpowder Gobhi of crispy cauliflower; Crab Puri & Caviar; Ghee Roast Chicken Wings; and India House’s Butter Chicken. Cocktails include signature drinks like the Spicy Chili Margarita and a dedicated section of gin-based concoctions, and brunch is available on the weekends.
In addition to operating his namesake Tribeca restaurant, Restaurant Marc Forgione, Marc Forgione debuted as the new chef and owner of Peasant—a wood-fired Italian spot and popular neighborhood gem on Elizabeth Street known for its rustic food and charm—right before the start of COVID-19. After initially operating as a pizza pop-up early on in the pandemic, the restaurant is currently back in all its full glory. With dishes like Bucatini Carbonara served tableside, Rotisserie Lamb Ragu, and a Family Style Pig Roast, Forgione has ushered in an exciting new chapter for this romantic and homey Nolita restaurant that’s been open since 1999. Another recent addition of his is Peasant Wine Bar, a candle-lit space accessed through a hefty barn door from the sidewalk in what was previously their wine cellar now serving lesser-known Italian grape varietals along with hearth-cooked dishes.
Following the success of Dhamaka (also on this list), the all-star duo of chef/partner Chintan Pandya and restaurateur Roni Mazumdar continue their mission of highlighting Indian cuisine from underrepresented regions of the country with Semma, a new spot dedicated to the flavors of Southern India. Inside a vibrant space with design elements honoring the Deccan peninsula, executive chef Vijay Kumar takes inspiration from his upbringing in the state of Tamil Nadu and offers signature items like the Nathai Pirattal, a snail dish with tamarind and kai dosa. Additional standouts include the tender Kudal Varuval made with goat intestines; Goanese Oxtail; and Kanyakumari Nandu Masala for two with dungeness crab, parotta, coconut rice. Drinks include custom cocktails like the Thalaivaa (bourbon, spiced jaggery syrup, coconut ice), beer, and non-alcoholic refreshers.
This Cantonese-American restaurant in Williamsburg opened late last fall with some media fanfare and thankfully, lives up to the hype. Named after his mother, at Bonnie’s, Brooklyn native chef Calvin Eng (Nom Wah, Win Son) offers his own interpretation of Cantonese cuisine along with recipes inspired from his childhood that make for a unique dining experience that’s become one of the most coveted reservations in town. From updated versions of American classics Hup to Ha of honey walnut shrimp, to the must-try Fuyu Cacio e Pepe Mein or even his own rendition of a McRib, a meal here—served on classic blue and white porcelain plateware—will easily be the highlight of your week. Custom cocktails include the Bonnie’s Negroni (gin, pineapple Campari, baiju) and Yuen Yeung Espresso Martini (orange pekoe tea, coffee infused vodka), and choose from deserts like the Chow Nai Sundae with malted fried milk and ovaltine hot fudge; and a fruit plate.