The Most Unique Dining Experiences in NYC

Hugh Thomas

New York City certainly has its fair share of restaurants, but when they don’t provide the sort of unique take on new or exciting cuisine that you may be looking for, the most interesting ones are often difficult to find.

When we talk about unique, we’re referring to experiences outside of the usual sit down, order, eat, pay and leave that don’t compromise on exquisite, well cooked food. Kyo Ya is without a doubt one of them, and not just because there’s not necessarily any sitting involved – the low tables and kneeling mats in the private dining room are something you rarely get to experience outside Japan, and the same goes for the authentic tea rituals. Such attention to detail has gained Kyo Ya a cult following.

Another restaurant with its fair share of charm is il Buco, which started life as a rustic-looking shop full of antiques and curiosities. Arguably il Buco’s tapas-style dishes are the best you’ll find in NYC, but what il Buco doesn’t tell you off the bat is that underneath the main restaurant is a 200 year-old wine cellar that was once frequented by Edgar Allan Poe. Alain Ducasse himself stated what a delight it was to dine in the cellar, with its naked brick walls, whimsical chandeliers and floor-to-ceiling wine collection.

But what of the food, I hear you ask? Well, if there was ever an excuse to visit Aldea (not that excuses should come into the equation) it would be the Portuguese restaurant’s customised tasting menu. Based on your own preferences, the ingredients available to the kitchen on the particular day, and the whims of the chef, Aldea will whip up eight to twelve courses of food that you will find no counterpart to. What’s more, executive chef George Mendes, the curator to what’s just been put in front of you, will emerge from the kitchen post-meal to discuss things over.


Along similar lines, Chris Cipollone takes the idea of a customised tasting menu to another level. Before you eat, Cipollone (of Piora) presents you with his own version of a menu – rather than a piece of paper with a list of dishes and their respective ingredients, he’ll open his ‘chef’s chest’ full of the ingredients sourced from the local markets to be used for that day. Cipollone then explains how he might craft the contents of his chest into what you’ll be dining on, allowing for a better understanding of what it is you’re eating and how it was so scrupulously put together.

Where Piora is all about a good bite, Minton’s is all about a good beat. Known better for its music than for its food, Minton’s has been NYC’s Jazz mecca ever since the 1940s. That it may be, the dining experience is by no means to be sniffed at. Not when executive chef Alexander Smalls is ready for a chin wag as he presents to you the restaurant’s blue crab fritters and fried okra. As if that wasn’t enough, the lead vocalist on the night will come down from the stage to serenade you during the course of your dinner.

From truly authentic Japanese cuisine down to the finest detail to ultimate tasting menus catered directly to your desires, NYC has some of the best unique dining experiences we’ve seen in any city. The diverse cultures are rich, and the ways to enjoy them are flourishing.


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