Chef Harold Dieterle has moved into a narrow space on E. 13th Street. Illustration: Naomi Otsu

Welcome to Grub Street’s rundown of restaurant recommendations that aims to answer the endlessly recurring question: Where should we go? These are the spots that our food team thinks everyone should visit, for any reason (a new chef, the arrival of an exciting dish, or maybe there’s an opening that’s flown too far under the radar). This month: a portal to Seoul on the Lower East Side, seafood-heavy Italian in the Village, and a Thai train car in Fort Greene.

Curry Mee (Park Slope)
Park Slope is flush with standard-issue burger sports and middling Thai takeout. One thing it’s lacked is a decent place for Malaysian dishes like nasi lemak. That void has been filled by Curry Mee, which opened a few steps down the street from Masalawala and Sons. There’s a serviceable (if not quite spicy enough) version of its namesake dish, which will more than satisfy locals who don’t want to go to Chinatown or Elmhurst. An easy meal can be made out of the ong choy, fishy, spicy sautéed water spinach; a bowl of coconut rice with plenty of ginger-scallion sauce; and the appetizer called “crunch okra.” Cut into long segments and very lightly battered, its texture is true to its name, and the snack was enthusiastically approved by both a Southerner and Midwesterner raised on okra. Bonus points for the backyard, where you can sip some Singha in the heat. —Chris Crowley

Sukh (Fort Greene)
A friend — recently returned to the city after a year in East Asia — was the first to tell me about a restaurant in Fort Greene that stood toe-to-toe with anywhere she ate in Thailand. It doesn’t look it from the outside, necessarily, a nondescript space on Fulton Street, but inside feels like a Thai train car, with wood paneling, deep leather booths, curtained windows, and luggage in overhead storage. Start with the hor mok, savory branzino curry custard topped with crab; and the spicy green-papaya salad. Whole branzino was impressive, laden with peppercorns and chiles, and the pad Thai is served with a tender cut of grilled chicken. Warm taro custard with a scoop of coconut ice cream is a perfect finish. Whenever I return, the restaurant will likely have a liquor license, which the owners expect to receive this summer. —Edward Hart 

Cafe Mado (Prospect Heights)
While it’s unlikely you took your kids for the tasting menu at Oxalis, they’ll fit right in at Cafe Mado, a new all-day café inhabiting the space on Washington from the same owners. Tables and chairs have turned to benches and a coffee bar, white walls have been painted hunter green, and — most notably — the host stand is in front of the solarium, centering the sunny glass-bricked room as the main event. The food has been similarly de-complicated: Sorana beans and ramps, fries coated in herbes de Provence, the rolled pasta known as pici with beans and mint. That last dish melts into itself — perfect for sharing with a toddler — while the brown-butter spinach was nice for both adults and children trying to get their veggies in. —Zach Schiffman 

Kisa (Lower East Side)
Choice is a privilege and a burden. Going out every night, scanning menus, furrowing my brows judiciously, making decisions: Sometimes a critic wants a night off. I was grateful, on one of those nights recently, to find my way to Kisa, on a busy corner of the Lower East Side, which looks, to all appearances, like a portal to Seoul, 1986. All of its signage is in Korean, rustily oscillating fans are bolted to the walls, as are framed family photos (I thought I spotted a dol) and a little crackly cuboid TV set on a high shelf. “Kisa” is short for kisa sikdang, or “driver’s restaurant,” and is fashioned after the 1980s diners that catered to South Korea’s fleet of taxi drivers, grabbing meals between shifts. This kind of scenography can grate on you quickly, but the food at Kisa is good, filling, cheap(ish), and — to the point above — limited. There’s no menu, just a placement. Every diner has (and must have, per restaurant policy) a set consisting of a protein, banchan, rice, and soup. There are four choices (spicy pork jeyuk, beef bulgogi, bibimbap, and squid), and no menu — just a placemat listing each. I gobbled down the pork over chopstickfuls of rice, sipped a rust-colored, tofu-dotted soup with a terrific anchovy-ish heat. Among the banchan were good kimchi, soy-cured shrimp, jiggly mungbean noodles, and (alas, my favorite) skewers of rice cakes alternated with little Vienna sausages in a sticky-sweet sauce. Washed it all down with Korean lager, paid the check that arrived unbidden ($32, no matter what main you pick). Why shouldn’t it? There was nothing else to order, and nothing else to eat, save one thing: a sweet, milky, mini-cup of coffee (or cocoa) from the vintage drink machine by the door, to be fed with a quarter gifted to you with the bill. Off into the night, then. Taxi! —Matthew Schneier

Il Totano (Greenwich Village)
This is the strangest dining room in New York: narrow, low-ceilinged, and devoid of windows, with walls bathed in a wild shade of deep-sea blue. Pastel-shell lights on the walls make the whole thing feel like a Memphis Design submarine and the cartoon-themed cocktails — “I’ll have the Rainbow Brite,” said the influencer sitting one table over — aren’t helping. So why recommend it? Because the food seems to have been cooked in a different, much more normal restaurant. Harold Dieterle’s seafood-heavy Italian menu is grown-up in all the right ways: Slices of bluefin tuna ring a puck of sharply vinegared caper caponata, shavings of kanpachi are swimming in passion-fruit broth, bucatini con sarde is filled with plump, silver bites of fish, and a filet of crisp-skinned, “dry-aged” branzino is a nice match for a dice of olives on top and a pool of not-too-thick tonnato sauce. I sat in the back room, but I’d suggest trying to grab one of the yellow café tables outside; you’ll miss the outrageous décor, but this is food that wants to be eaten al fresco. —Alan Sytsma 

Muteki Udon (Park Slope)
Udon means many things at this new spot on Flatbush Avenue. The first night I went, I was offered a complimentary dish of fried matcha udon crackers to snack on with my sudachi shochu and tonic, but they’re available on the menu as an appetizer topped with salmon, ikura, and spicy mayo. For the main event, Muteki serves a consummate bowl of noodles in hot bonito broth with tempura, but heartier options abound, like curry broth with ground pork, or dry udon with shaved beef in a sweet sukiyaki sauce. Having these noodles cold, which preserves their endlessly toothsome texture, is a different revelation, as they are in the tuna yukke udon garnished with thick slices of marinated sashimi, seaweed, and radish. In addition to the homemade noodles, the distinctive tall-wide bowls in a rainbow of iridescent colors are made by staff in the restaurant as well, though they send them out to be kilned. —Tammie Teclemariam

See All