After a lawsuit, renovation, and rebranding, Sesamo has officially taken the place of Crispin’s at W52nd Street and 10th Avenue. Sesamo co-founders Nikita Levitan and Sabrina Gao filed the lawsuit against their previous partner, Crispin Mejia. They accused him of a series of problematic behaviors, including sexual harassment, repeatedly showing up to work drunk, and serving expired food. Taking a sharp turn away from Crispin's, the new Sesamo features an entirely different menu. “The new brand launches with an Asian-influenced Italian menu with many old Crispin’s favorites but with fresh and new Asian twists, " Gao said. She added that Sesamo also offers a unique drinks menu, including a brand new Asian fusion cocktail program with some first in NYC offerings, such as boba tea cocktails. Another beautiful feature of Sesemo is its 80-foot mural created by Selwyn Senatori back in 2018. The Dutch artist created the artwork depicting a champagne celebration with a “Feed Me Love” bubble to celebrate the opening of Decimo Ristobar. Though some of the mural has been painted over, the rest that remains adds an air of festivity to Sesamo's exterior. This story was adapted from the W42ST articles, "Crispin’s Becomes Sesamo as Partners Sue Hell’s Kitchen Chef" and "Hell’s Kitchen has Lost an Outdoor Dining Shed — but Regained a Mural. "
We stopped in for an early lunch at Dumpling Man. After hearing from a bartender down the street that the dumplings were “oh so good, ” we had to find out for ourselves. The menu was simple and concise, yet complex in the flavorful concoctions you could pack into your dumpling. One of us ordered a mixture of pork and chicken, and another had the vegetable one. The dumplings arrived – the juicy meat steamed perfectly within the browned casings, and the veggie choice, filled with tofu and mushrooms was delicious as well. As everyone ate their savory dumplings, we were entertained, watching the deft hands of the chefs roll out dumpling dough that would soon be filled, steamed or fried, then eaten by the next lucky customer.
Richard Ho is Californian at-heart. He is from San Gabriel Valley, where he grew up eating his mother’s Taiwanese food. Ho Foods seeks the excellence of the home-cooked Taiwanese meals he experienced as a child, including his well-known beef noodle dish. Beef noodle shops, Richard explained to the Manhattan Sideways team, are like pizza shops in Taiwan, but they were not necessarily always popular. In fact, beef noodles were originally soldier food that ultimately became a large part of the Taiwanese diet. Growing up in the LA-area, Richard never felt that he experienced any Americanized version of culture or food, but rather was able to be immersed in pockets of culture hard to find elsewhere. When he first moved to New York in 2007, he worked as a manager at Blue Ribbon Sushi, but found while living here that no one made Taiwanese food like his mother did. So, Ho Foods was born in January 2018, with a curated menu that feels like his home. The idea? Take simple, classic comfort food from his youth and translate it into a restaurant setting. The staff works like a home as well - everyone cooks, everyone cleans, everyone serves. Each member has “kind of been a friend” - they met through mutual connections or college. Richard has been surprised by the passion they have taken to learning about Taiwanese culture, whether that be cooking techniques or even the language. Christian, a member of the staff at Ho Foods, is so confident in his pronunciation of dishes that people often assume he fluently speaks Mandarin. When we asked Richard about why he chose 7th Street and how it has been working out, he told us that he feels connected to the building. A friend previously lived there and even wrote their name in the cement before he came, so it felt a little like he had been there before. He enjoys his location in the East Village, calling it "not-so-obvious. " In addition, he has found that there is a loyal Taiwanese community wanting to support each other, and in search of places that celebrate and capture their culture;. And, through this endeavor, he has realized the extensive, and sometimes unlikely, connections people have to Taiwan. Laughing, Richard went on to say that he has encountered a number of Polish customers who claim the Taiwanese beer he serves reminds them of one from Poland. Richard’s perspective on the business is in many ways simple. A focus on comfort, taste, and family-like service is always a safe bet. His philosophy comes from an opinion that "Life is just better when there’s food between two people. "
Trendy, immense, packed at any hour and serving intriguing Pan-Asian food, Tao has been a sensation on 58th since opening its doors in 2000. Stepping inside, one cannot help but immediately feel transported to a different world. The interior design is exceptionally meticulous with beautiful calligraphy scrolls adorning the high ceilings, and a sixteen foot massive Buddha sculpture taking center stage down below. Despite the frenetic atmosphere, I have found Tao to be a fun restaurant to dine with friends and to enjoy an excellent meal.
The entrance to Sushi By Bou consists of wooden steps leading down to an unmarked doorway adorned with unchecked graffiti. Inside, the Manhattan Sideways team found a space that it is barely larger than one's average bedroom. The décor is an explosive battle between colorful Japanese designs and minimalist, mid-century modern designs. Four barstools sit in front of a counter, behind which works the American-born David Bouhadana. David, himself, is part of the allure: his looks and roguish irreverence evoke the archetype of the wisecracking best man at a wedding. The crisp Japanese quips that he often fires at the grim-faced guest chef working next to him, who often responds with a boisterous laugh, hint that David is as comfortable in that language as he is in English. Indeed, his omnipresent half-smile and conversational, thinking-out-loud tone show him to be truly at home behind the sushi counter. The obvious question is probably how David found himself there wearing a hachimaki headband. He is quick to respond to with a phrase that, coming from anyone else, would seem cliché - “I didn’t choose sushi, sushi chose me. ” In his case, this is simply a statement of fact: on his first day as an eighteen-year-old waiter in Boca Raton, the chef tossed him an apron, proclaiming, “Tonight, you make sushi! ” David found himself suddenly thrust into a new, fast-paced world, one that demanded not only the self-discipline and love of labor required to cope with a rigorous routine but also the drive to push oneself and to constantly improve on yesterday. As it turns out, he had what it took, and he soon found himself on a one-way-trip to Japan. Studying under his sensei’s wing, he was quickly accepted by the local talent as he developed his own techniques and hand movements. His master, whose life was saved by American medicine, gave David a mission along with the tutelage: to repay the west by teaching them about sushi. “Sushi is an educated food, ” he explained to us as he rapidly prepared uni. “The more you know, the more you’ll enjoy it. ” According to David, western appreciation for food cannot compare with that of Asian cultures. “Food is simply more important in Asia, ” he claimed, describing how food in the Far East is in tune with even the turning of the seasons. He calls his somewhat educational approach "Sushi for the People. " It’s not inexpensive, as $50 will earn one an omakase selection, which in this case is a spread of twelve sushi types that David called the "New Basic. " However, David pointed out that compared to similar New York City fare, "it’s a steal, " and it complements the approachability David strives for. He elaborated by telling us that he also carefully selects guest chefs to be welcoming and approachable, deliberately avoiding the "tough angry chef. " He wants customers to feel encouraged to ask questions, which necessitates the intimate design of the restaurant. As for why he chose New York City, David thinks the accepting environment and pervasive mindset of equality will draw the type of person who is open to learning about other cultures. But he also chose the city for what he describes as a “wild, crazy, allure, ” a fast paced testing ground where one can come with nothing but become whoever they want. David chose sushi.
The owner of this amazing piece of property, Malina, has endless energy and is incredibly knowledgeable about all things related to Chinese culture and tradition. She is very involved in the arts in her native land, and travels back and forth between China and New York on somewhat of a regular basis. If fortunate enough to catch her in, striking up a conversation is well worth anyone's time. The concept behind her latest venture is great, and as soon as the red paint on the walls is dry - believed by the Chinese to keep the evil spirits away - and the menu set, the Yung family will open their doors. Once a part of the Chinese Cultural Society, the imperial loft is marked by its striking entrance, a pagoda of violet with a red iron door, followed inside by prominent murals - each sharing a piece of Chinese history. While the same family has owned the whole building for decades, the purpose of the space has changed over time. What was originally a teashop is now a community space for the arts. Upstairs, a grand room with beautifully embroidered chairs will be the site for comedy shows, live music, and birthday parties. Downstairs, where rows of tabletops display magnificent Chinese paintings, each with its own story, the owners envision an Asian restaurant. Further back, doors open to a garden. Decorative tiles cover the wall and a ring of brick outlines the entrance to a hidden Buddhist temple - simply awe-inspiring. The convertible and advantageous nature of the Imperial Loft makes it, as Malina's son-in-law, Kahli, expressed, "something you hold on to. "
“My parents were definitely not thrilled when I opened the restaurant, ” said Thomas Chen, executive chef and founder of Tuome. It didn’t matter that he had taken classes at the International Culinary Center or worked at restaurants as renowned as Jean-Georges, Commerce, and Eleven Madison Park. His parents, Chinese immigrants who had opened a restaurant to survive, believed that working as a chef was not the way to a better life. Since Tuome opened in 2014 to great critical acclaim, Thomas’ parents have started to come around. But no matter what they think of the restaurant, there is no denying the huge influence they have had on Tuome. According to Thomas, many of the menu items—including his personal favorite, chicken with gem lettuce—are modeled on the foods he ate as a child. Even the restaurant’s name is a tribute to his mother, who called him “Tommy” as a child, but pronounced it “Toe-me. ”Thomas has also taken culinary cues from the high-end New York restaurants where he started his career, and he describes Tuome as “American with Asian influences. ” A trip to Asia played an important role in his cooking style as well—he was especially inspired by the made-to-order dim sum in Hong Kong and the unique flavors of Thai food. I was eager to ask Thomas about his entrees, many of which require hours of preparation. The “Pig Out for Two, ” one of Tuome’s best-selling dishes, is cooked for fifteen hours in duck fat, while the veal and the egg tartare both take three hours to prepare. “We do sell out at a certain point, ” Thomas explained, “because we only have one convection oven and the amount of food we can produce is limited. ” But the restaurant has never had any catastrophes; a former accountant, Thomas has a system in place to predict how much food he will need on any given night. With its hip décor and intimate atmosphere, Tuome is perfect for a weekend date night. But Tuesdays may, in fact, be the best day to stop by, as Thomas tends to showcase off-menu dinner and dessert items at the beginning of the week. I asked him for a few examples and immediately regretted it—for the rest of the afternoon, I daydreamed about duck dumplings, summer sundaes, and Chinese beignets with goat’s milk caramel, fig jam, and red bean glazed ice cream. When I asked Thomas what he cooks at home, he smiled sheepishly. “I don’t really cook at home, ” he said. “Water bottles are the only thing in my fridge. ” Instead, he often goes out to eat at restaurants near his house, finding inspiration in their unique flavors and ingredients. Though he doesn’t live in the East Village, he decided to open a restaurant there because he was attracted to the atmosphere. “It’s a melting pot for different cuisines, ” he told me, “and the locals really appreciate good food in a casual setting. ” Tuome is also a favorite among foreigners—particularly tourists from France, Switzerland, and Hong Kong—who discover the restaurant online. On my way out the door, I asked Thomas about the challenges of owning a restaurant. The hardest part, he told me, is the lack of sleep—on a normal day, he arrives at Tuome around 1pm and doesn’t leave until 1am. But he loves experimenting with new ingredients and creating his own menu, and he is constantly searching for ways to improve the restaurant. And that is what he plans on doing in the near future: changing Tuome’s menu seasonally, mixing things up, evolving.