When Thomas Romero, executive chef at Acme in New York City, is looking for a nutritious meal, he often turns towards Japanese or Korean dishes. He’s intrigued by the unique treatment of ingredients in these cuisines, which he applies to his own cooking that’s focused on seasonality, sustainability, and quality. “I always feel really good after eating a Japanese or Korean meal,” he says. “The food feels healthy, nourishing, and revitalizing.” So, he’d target these midtown spots for a healthy progressive meal:
Start with a modern take on Korean food at this small-plates restaurant, along with some wine. Romero recommends pairing the spicy yellowtail sashimi with crispy potato flakes or the shrimp and scallion pancakes with a glass of Riesling.
This casual spot is more suitable for a single course. Try the ohitashi, which is spinach in dashi broth with chrysanthemum petals. “To me, broths and soups are comfort food. I tend to go for the more unusual items on a menu, where the chef gets to show their best ideas,” says Romero.
Romero suggests ending the night at this authentic Korean restaurant with the hae mool jungol, or spicy seafood casserole, which includes a wide variety of seafood as well as tofu in a spicy red broth. “It’s a big dish, so split it between two or three people,” he says.
Los Angeles chef Nyesha Arrington looks to the city’s different neighborhoods, cultures, and cuisines to inspire the menu at Native. Deeply familiar with the Westside—she’s been there for 16 years—some of her favorite spots are within a five-minute walk of her restaurant. Her ideal progressive dinner includes the places where she always runs into neighbors and friends; here’s what she suggests.
Start the night with a glass of wine at Esters, a wine shop/bar/restaurant where Arrington says the staff is extremely knowledgeable and welcoming. “There’s a great community feel to the restaurant.” Order a cheese or charcuterie board or any of the other highly shareable menu items, and enjoy everything on the patio.
Next, have an appetizer from what Arrington describes as a “very Southeast Asia meets California” menu, which has a big focus on seasonal ingredients. She loves the spicy wontons and the green papaya salad.
For your main, head to Arrington’s own Native, where she recommends the mushroom spaghetti, which includes wild foraged mushrooms, local burrata cheese, snow pea tendrils, and a pile of bright greens on top. “It’s like salad meets pasta,” she says. And if you’re ready for dessert instead, try the banana cake, a combination of caramelized overripe bananas, blackstrap molasses, coconut milk, brown sugar, and brown ale, all topped with a ginger-y sauce, whipped creme fraiche, and toasted almonds. “It’s great for people who don’t love sugary-sweet desserts,” she says. “It’s just a little sweet, with amazing textures.”
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