As far as ethnic food goes, we like to think New York has at least one of everything in the world. Last time I counted, the city boasted around 140 distinct cuisines as represented by its restaurants, ranging from, say, the national cuisine of South Africa, to places that narrowly focus on a single region or even a single city in China. But sadly, there are cuisines we don't have, including Cambodian, Nicaraguan, the Etruscan lake-fish chowders and roasts of Tuscany and Umbria, Native-American cooking, North Korean, or the diet of ancient Rome, though we've had one place that took a stab at it in the past.
Other cuisines are in extremely short supply, causing devotees to spend hours on the subway seeking them out. Luckily, most are worth it. Here are the city's greatest "One-Offs": cuisines that are represented by only one restaurant. If you have info on examples we don't know about, please tell us in the comments.
DANISH: There is only one Danish restaurant in town. Aamanns-Copenhagen, specializing not in the challenging, partly foraged food associated with Noma's René Redzepi, but in the simple open-faced sandwiches called smorrebrod. Made on homemade rye bread of exquisitely fine texture, these feature ingredients like pork pate, pickled fruits and vegetables, preserved fish, horseradish, chicken salad, and caper-studded beef tartare, with all sorts of architectural tweaks that make these tiny sandwiches a joy to look at. 13 Laight St,; 212-925-1313.
LIBERIAN: As recounted in a recent Eater video, Maima Kamara is the Liberian-born executive chef of Maima's Liberian, and she whips up daily such sub-Saharan African delights as pepper shrimp, sweet-potato-leaf stew, and fufu. Her eponymous place is the only Liberian restaurant in the city, perhaps the only one in the entire country. There used to be one in Washington, DC, now shuttered. 106-47 Guy R Brewer Blvd; 718- 206-3538.
SLOVAKIAN: Uniquely representing for the earthy cooking of the Slovak Republic, sundered not too long ago from the Czech Republic as half of the former Czechoslovakia, tiny Korzo Haus on the southeastern edge of Tompkins Square is mainly a bar. But it offers a choice selection of eats, including beef brisket goulash, a toss of cheese and noodle-y fried dumplings called halusky, and, most amazingly, hamburgers embedded in langos bread dough and deep fried with condiments already applied. 178 E 7th St.; 212-780-0181.
LAOTIAN: This cuisine took an awfully long time arriving in New York, and then did so in upscale bistro from, rather than as the small hole-in-the-wall you might have hoped to find in Elmhurst or Hell's Kitchen. Nevertheless, there are many great things on the menu at Khe-Yo, like the curry noodles shown, already bursting with flavor and additionally furnished with plenty of extra aromatics and crunchies on the side. 157 Duane St.; 212-587-1089.
TUNISIAN: After the loss of the Upper West Side's late and lamented Epices du Traiteur, the only Tunisian spot is Nomad in the East Village, not to be confused with The NoMad. It offers agreeable takes on North African skewered meats and tajines, plus a few specifically Tunisian specialties such as the pastry called brik, here called a boureka. 78 2nd Ave.; 212-253-5410.
ICELANDIC: Hake with grilled cucumbers, heirloom carrots with burnt honey and purslane, duck confit with red seaweed, and boudin with Tokyo turnips and multiple mustards are only of the few adventuresome embroideries on traditional Icelandic cuisine via chef Ben Spiegel at Skal ("Bowl"), on a homely corner of Canal on the edge of Chinatown that I haven't tried yet. 37 Canal St.; 212-777-7518.
GUATEMALAN: There are legions of Salvadoran and a handful of Honduran restaurants in town, but only one Guatemalan, despite the presence of many grocery stores so identified in Brooklyn and Queens. But Tierras Centro Americans (aka Xelaju) is the only place I know of that mounts a full-blown menu, including such delights as the cold pork-and-radish salad called salpicon (shown). 87-52 168th St.; Queens, 718-206-1457.
KOREAN-UZBEKI: When Koreans were banished from Japan after the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-05, they were resettled in Uzbekistan by the Russians and immediately started cooking. The result is a fascinating hybrid cuisine. Though two locations for Elza Fancy Food are listed, the one in Brighton Beach is the only full-blown, sit-down restaurant, while the one in Bensonhurst is a very small deli. Thrill to the taste of some familiar but revamped Korean dishes, many now featuring wads of dill, including the kuksu shown here. 3071 Brighton 4th St.; Brooklyn, 718-942-4088.
AFRO-PANAMANIAN: Serving a wild mash-up of West African, Caribbean, Latin, and Jamaican food, Kelso Dining has been in Crown Heights since 1969. The cuisine dates from a time when workers imported from West Africa and Jamaica worked on the Panama Canal in the early 20th century, and the menu runs the gamut from Spanish-leaning escovitches to jerk oxtail to empanadas to ojalda (a free-form African fritter) to (gasp!) spaghetti and meatballs. 648 Franklin Ave.; Brooklyn, 718-857-4137.
SERBIAN: You might as well be in Belgrade at Kafana ("Café" in Slav), an East Village Serbian restaurant that reproduces the homestyle specialties of the Balkans, including a sopska (a cubed vegetable salad, gibanica (the Serb answer to mac-and-cheese), dimljena vesalica (smoked pork neck, shown),as well as cevapi (skinless, shot-gun shell sausages) made with a combo of lamb, beef, and a trace of pork. 116 Ave C; 212-353-8000.
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