It’s a magical time of the year in New York City: Rockefeller Center’s giant tree is all lit up, the streets are bustling with happy shoppers and it’s not unusual to see a group of Santas on the subway
New York’s food scene is notorious for its abundance and variety, but it can be challenging to find restaurants that are open on Christmas.
What to do? Why not forego tradition, skip the classic roasts and puddings and instead embrace the city’s amazing ethnic eateries? It’s the perfect way to indulge in some spectacular meals, while trying something a bit different. Below are several of my favorites.
The classic Chinese meal elevated
Discretely tucked in the theatre district, Hakkasan has created a fabulous Cantonese inspired menu and a sleekly decorated dining room. Fan favorites include the Peking duck (which can be topped with caviar, if you are so inclined), steamed bass in royal soya sauce, and rib-eye, stir fried in merlot. Our table was particularly fond of the steamed dim sum platter that included scallop shumai and prawn and chive dumplings, as well as the smoky chicken fried rice. There are also a surprising number of vegetarian and gluten free options. Black sesame and chocolate dumplings and homemade sorbets are the perfect way to end the meal. (Eleven worldwide locations, including New York, London, Las Vegas, Miami, and Shanghai; open Christmas Eve, Hakkasan.com.)
Elegant Middle Eastern food
Middle Eastern hosts are well-known for their incredible hospitality and Almayass does the perfect job of welcoming guests with an expansive menu and an elegant dining room. The Armenian-Lebanese menu includes many expected favorites, such as hummus, but here it is served in multiple permutations and offered with fried cauliflower, Spanish pine nuts or diced Australian lamb. It’s impossible to choose between the multiple appetizers, so one of the tasting menus is the really the best way to savor the mantee (beef dumplings), the dolma made with eggplant, the kebbe and more. Entrees are generous and my family loved the cubed filet mignon and bronzini. In my mind, the meal must end with mint tea and baklava, but a vermicelli treat topped with halva is also quite good. (Multiple locations include, New York, Doha, Dubai and other Middle Eastern locations; open Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Almayass.com.)
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Celebrate Swedish Julborg
In Sweden, the holidays are celebrated with Julbord, An especially elaborate Smörgåsbord meal, served only during the Christmas season. Aquavit has created the most spectacular version of Julbord, with a table that is filled with Scandinavian treats, including twelve types of herring, four types of salmon, and cabbage that is creamed, caramelized and glazed. Other Scandinavian specialties include Swedish meatballs, rack of lamb, roast beef and wild game sausage, to name just a few of the many dishes. Lobster and caviar are also available and the dessert table is filled with Swedish princess cake topped with marzipan, chocolate cake, gingerbread loafs, multiple cookies, and Swedish Christmas candies. This two-star Michelin restaurant cooks every dish to perfection and the small dining rooms give the impression of spending the holidays in a very lovely home. (Julbord is available all day on Christmas Eve and on Saturdays in December, Aquavit.com)
A great Jewish Deli
For sumptuous deli food, head to the 2nd Avenue Deli where the menu supplies the best deli favorites. This is the place to indulge in matza ball soup, chopped liver, house made pastrami, and some very large knishes. If you come with an appetite, as my 15 year old son did, you may be able to tackle the three decker sandwich where combinations include brisket and turkey or corned beef piled with salami and corned beef. Desserts feature homemade babka that was just about perfect, as well as rugelach and other sweets. Dinner ends with a mock-egg cream that is served in a shot glass and that tastes just like the real thing. (The restaurant is kosher). For a cool vibe on the classics, the 2nd floor Bar & Essen is all atmosphere and features tasty cocktails, cozy leather booths and the Jewish version of tapas—an elegant meat board, veal pelmeni and a gefilte fish croquette. (The second floor is open on Christmas Eve; the main restaurant is open Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. 2ndavedeli.com).
Fabulous Indian food
Indian Accent, located in the Parker New York hotel, serves some of the city’s best Indian food with multi-course options and a wonderful staff who can explain it all to you. Diners can choose from a five course tasting menu or pick three or four options that include appetizers, mid-course, main courses and dessert. Some of my favorites are the mathri (pancakes) filled with eggplant and duck, perfectly cooked tandoori lamb chops, chicken malal tikka in a lovely green chili cream and perfectly seared scallops and crunchy shrimp. The breads are superb and the naan stuffed with butter chicken was so good, we ordered seconds. Desserts are beautifully crafted and the barfi (milk custard) that was turned into a treacle tart was a super sophisticated version of the barfi I had in India several years ago. An excellent wine pairing is also available. (Open Christmas Eve, indianaccent.com).
I focus on family travel and love sharing the thrill of travel with my twin sons. We have hiked in Iceland, bonded with giraffes in South Africa and star gazed in the Atacama desert. I am always seeking my next adventure. My work has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, The …
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