Opened in 1992 and originally located on the Upper East Side, Oceana moved to 49th Street in 2009. The Livanos family sowed the seeds for the glorious Oceana long ago when they ran a diner and realized their ambitions to develop it into something more. Having worked hard to make their dreams a reality, Oceana continues to pride itself on the freshness of its food and makes a point to have direct relationships with the fish mongers and farmers. Although some have called Oceana the Mecca of seafood, the restaurant's menu is notably diverse. The executive chef, Ben Pollinger, takes to the broad reaches of American cuisine and mixes elements of different dishes together, often in an unexpected way. The Manhattan Sideways team eagerly sampled a few of the marvelous dishes, including the Copper River Sockeye Salmon Crudo, featuring pickled ramps, parsley oil, and Amagansett sea salt, and the Sea Scallops Ceviche that is topped with peaches, ginger, and cinnamon basil. I was pleasantly surprised by the incredible vegetarian dish that the chef also prepared - Summer Squash & Cranberry Bean Salad, consisting of zucchini, gold bar and pattypan squash, pignoli, purslane and drizzled in lemon vinaigrette. Absolutely delicious. The last member of the Oceana team that we were introduced to was their wine director, Pedro Goncalves. Pedro, who began working at Oceana in 2001, makes a concerted effort to develop drink pairings to accompany the delectable food menu. Standing near the white marble bar, he proudly told us that Oceana has 1100 wine listings and 600 spirits. He went on to report that with forty-seven different gins, Oceana has one of the largest selections of in the city. "There is something to fit every personality, " Pedro said.
If the sight of a regular lunch rush doesn’t convince you to try La Bellezza Pizzeria, then their pitch-perfect, classic New York slices will. After a trip in to try their signature pepperoni and tomato slices (a well-seasoned combination of cheesy, crunchy and savory, the Bellezza team has mastered the elusive sauce-to-cheese ratio), we got a chance to check in with the Dedvukaj family who have operated the East Midtown pizza joint for the past 23 years. Founded by Bronx-based Marko Dedvukaj, son Frank Dedvukaj — who started slinging slices in the shop at just 20 years old — took over the business so that, as Marko put it, “I can focus on the most important job of all — spoiling my grandkids, ” he told us, surrounded by visiting family members, some of whom also used to work at La Bellezza. As groups of grateful office workers filed in and out of the intimate storefront for a slice of pizza or La Bellezza’s famous chicken parmigiano hero — “at one point we were voted the #1 Chicken Parm on Yelp” Frank told us, he added that the biggest change he’s seen in business is a post-COVID slowdown of daytime visitors to the block. “The area is quieter, ” said Frank, noting that they still maintain a set of loyal regulars. “We’re still here! ”
La Maison du Chocolat is a sophisticated example of a delectable chocolate shop. Everything sold inside its doors is made in Paris, with the exception of the ice cream that includes ingredients from France but is prepared on site. The day that Manhattan Sideways stopped by, we met Brigitte who has been working here since 2010. A knowledgeable chocolate connoisseur, Brigitte shared La Maison's history. We learned that Robert Linxe, the founder was originally from the French Basque Country, but acquired much of his craft while attending school in Switzerland. He went on to run a successful catering service in Paris for twenty years before deciding to pursue his true passion. At the time, chocolate was considered something to be saved strictly for special occasions; as Brigitte told us, people thought Linxe's enthusiasm for a shop devoted to chocolate was "crazy. " Nevertheless, Linxe was able to find an auspicious space in Paris with a wine cellar, which he used to make the delicacies and protect them from the damaging effects of the weather. In 1977, Linxe opened the doors and welcomed Paris to his specialty boutique. Within three weeks, all of the chocolate had been sold and Linxe was dubbed the master of ganache. And in 1996, over twenty years later, Nicolas Cloiseau, the highly acclaimed chocolatier and pastry chef joined the business continuing La Maison's coveted reputation. Brigitte stressed that the discussion of chocolate is akin to that of wine; expertise comes from reading on the subject, perhaps taking a course, and most importantly, much experience. Moreover, chocolate and wine may be enjoyed together when paired consciously. Chocolate always goes well with "a nice red wine, " Brigitte said. Quickly turning to the particulars, she added that milk chocolate is best paired with white wine and dark chocolate with port. Brigitte continued to enlighten us, saying with detectable fervor, "Good dark chocolate should not be bitter. " It takes approximately ten days to dry cocoa beans. Rushing this process, a common crime of many chocolate companies, results in this bitter taste. Brigitte made a point of showing us how to taste chocolate: smell it first and then let it melt in your mouth. After this incredible offering of chocolate wisdom, Brigitte presented us with a plate of small pieces of chocolate arranged deliberately in a circle. Beginning at forty percent, each successive piece around the circle had an increased concentration of pure chocolate. We continued to climb past eighty and concluded with a piece of one hundred percent pure chocolate. At this point, a natural thickness set in and the pieces lost all association with candy. Suddenly, each of us agreed, it felt as though we were appreciating chocolate, not as a beloved dessert or comforting treat, but as a wonder of the earth.
Matt Fox left the theater industry and joined forces with Enrique Crame III to realize the dream they shared of running a men's accessories boutique. In 2008, they began with an online business, which they used as a platform to present and develop their dandy style. Next, they had pop-up shops at places such as Onassis and The Blind Barber, before finally going on to establish their independent business in its current location on 49th. The duo have explored the trends of former eras, offering accessories that will appeal to anyone looking to make a snazzy statement or perfect their class act. Enrique also spoke of customers who come in searching for something to help them update their style or to simply refresh their habitual mode. Kerchiefs, bow ties and neckties in endless colors hang next to suspenders and a display of cuff links, while old-fashioned suitcases hold socks and belts. In addition to the beautiful collection of retro nouveau clothes, Fine and Dandy carries vintage toys and college pennants. The store also collaborates with artisan candle, soap, and cologne makers. One of the most impressive characteristics of the Fine and Dandy duo is their commitment to selling things made in the United States, with many of their products produced in New York. Matt and Enrique shared with me that in the few years they have been here, despite their tres petite space, this neighborhood is the "perfect spot" for them. And while observing them in action with the frequent customers stopping by, I appreciated the attentive service that they gave to everyone who came through their door.
Velvet the color of cranberries glides across the chairs and banquettes, and a red carpet leads to a prodigious portrait of the illustrious Lillie Langtry. A tribute to this quintessential celebrity, Lillie's Victorian Establishment is a restaurant and bar that rewinds time. Genuine photos, antiques, and political cartoons line the walls highlighted by stained glass from Milan, a four-hundred-year-old clock, and decorative carvings from Ireland. This historic collection commemorates the life of Lillie, an actress from the British Isle of Jersey who came to New York in the late nineteenth century to become a Broadway star.
A great shave, haircut and good company abound at family-owned and operated The Midtown Shave on E49th Street — where father-daughter duo Boris and Luda Mirzakandova draw on decades of barber experience that loyal clients call unparalleled. “I’ve been going to Boris and Luda for twenty years, ” said client Steve Elvin, in the chair on a sunny Monday morning for a quick haircut when we stopped by. “I wasn’t grey when I started going to them, but I don’t blame them for that! ” he laughed. “I’ve followed them to every shop and I’m so thrilled Luda’s gotten to open her own place. ”Luda and Boris, who immigrated from Uzbekistan to the US in 1992, told Manhattan Sideways that it “only took us 30 years or so” to found their own storefront. Boris, a lifelong barber who originally learned the craft as an apprentice back in Uzbekistan — “there were no barber schools, ” he explained — taught Luda the ways around a shaving kit before their family moved to New York. Once there, Boris, and eventually Luda both worked at barbershops around town, where their reputations as thoughtful, precise barbers kept loyal customers coming back. One of the first employees hired by the Art of Shaving, Boris was deemed their first-ever Master Barber — something that Luda adds is due to his careful technique. “People come in and say, ‘your father has the lightest touch — like a feather, ” she told us. “Clients are very loyal to him because once they’re found him, they stay — men don’t like change! ” When COVID-19 hit and many barber shops closed, Luda considered leaving the business altogether. “I would come home and call my dad and say, ‘I think it’s time to change my career, ’” added Luda. “He said, ‘No, you can't — you’re too deep in it. You love it too much. Why don’t you start something on your own — I can help you! ’ — and here I am today. ” Boris and Luda brought on one of their fellow barbers, Gabriel, and took over the space at New York Shave in East Midtown, a barbershop where Luda had worked previously before it shut down in the pandemic. “It took us about a year to get everything ready, but we’ve now been open since June 2022, ” she told us, adding that a grateful flock of longtime customers had migrated with them. Gabriel agreed, recounting a recent day where a client wistfully mentioned their favorite barber. “He said to me, ‘You’re so good, and it reminds me of a guy I used to see on 46th Street and Lexington named Boris…’” said Gabriel, “And I said, ‘He’s right behind you! ’” After over 50 years in the game, Boris said he was happy to maintain these kinds of cherished relationships — and perhaps, along the way, change the culture of beard shaving in America. “In my country, everybody went out to get a shave, ” he told us. “When I got here, nobody shaved! ”
For Hell's Kitchen locals, it's the former home of Pam Real Thai – but for sisters Sommy and Mo Hensawang, every detail of their new Thai restaurant LumLum evokes a childhood memory — right down to its name. “LumLum is slang from the Northern part of Thailand for ‘delicious’, ” explained co-owner Sommy, known as So. “It’s catchy and it’s a reference to where we grew up. ” So and Mo spent their childhoods in the central province of Ayutthaya, about 50 miles north of capital city Bangkok. Their mother and grandmother owned and operated a popular seafood restaurant called Khao Tom Tor Rung, known throughout the area for its high quality dishes and convivial, 24-hour atmosphere. “We grew up watching our grandma and mom run this restaurant, where it was a combination of some street food and some more traditional seafood classics, all served until the late hours of the evening, like a lot of restaurants in Thailand. They also had a karaoke bar, which is a popular feature in a lot of local restaurants, ” So said. So and Mo have now created their own version of their family’s restaurant, hoping to combine the lively, communal vibe of Khao Tom Tor Rung with the relaxed ambiance of their favorite beaches in Phuket and Hawaii. “Our decor is more like a combination of Phuket and Waikiki beach-style, ” said So. “We have bamboo lining the walls and the lighting fixtures, and posters of different places in both Thailand and Hawaii — we want to create a mix between Hawaiian and Thai culture. ”While the sisters shared decision making in regards to the space’s design, when it came to planning the menu, “Mo is the chef” said So. “All of the ingredients, all of the recipes are from my mom and grandma and from the area in Thailand that we grew up in, but my sister tests and prepares them, ” she added. “I mean, I can cook, but I'm not as good. She’s the best! ”There is an ease to working as a family unit, said So, who explained that their shared memories of their mother’s restaurant have helped the sisters work through what they want their own culinary legacy to be. “My sister supports me, and I support her, ” said So. “It’s how we grew up — we stick together, and are stronger together. ” After opening their first restaurant on the Upper East Side (the sisters took over Pro Thai Comfort Food on Lexington Ave and E101st St from a previous owner), both So and Mo found it an easy decision to set their next venture in Hell’s Kitchen. LumLum takes up the legacy of the much-beloved Pam Real Thai Food on W49th Street west of 9th Avenue, which closed at the start of the pandemic. While So moved to the city from San Francisco during COVID and didn’t get a chance to meet the team at Pam Real Thai, she was sad to hear of so many cherished neighborhood mainstays that had closed. “I have several friends who run businesses in the city who have had to shut down, it’s been really hard to see. ” But taking over Pro Thai was a completely different experience, said So, “since we had all of the knowhow and knowledge from the previous owner. ” With LumLum, “we had to start from scratch, ” but the two found no better place to do so than in Hell’s Kitchen. “There’s so much going on here — between locals and tourists, we knew that opening in this neighborhood would be a game changer, ” said So. The time was right, she added, to open a brand-new Thai restaurant with a focus on the region’s traditional ingredients. “We felt like we couldn’t find any entire restaurants like Khao Tom Tor Rung in New York City, specifically that served authentic Thai ingredients, ” said So. “I know that many restaurants say ‘Oh, this is authentic, our food is the real thing. ’ But we really take pride in our authenticity. For example, take Pad Thai — most restaurants use scallion, which you’d never find in Pad Thai in Thailand. We use dried shrimp, which is very hard to find here, as well as chives instead of scallion, which is traditional to the dish. ” She believes that attention to detail is vital to experiencing the region’s dishes as they were meant to taste. “We focus on the details — Thai green pepper and lemongrass instead of bell pepper in Drunken Noodles, the use of fish sauce, Thai herbs like tamarind — so that every dish is authentic to how we grew up, ” said So. Recipes with even more meaning are those like their grandmother’s Muk Tom Nam Dum soup, a squid and egg layered specialty that Mo and So are happy to pass on to new diners. “We want them to taste the memory, and our culture, ” So explained. Many locals have already ventured over, eager to try the Hensawang sisters’ family recipes. “We had a soft opening this week and we were already at capacity — I’m overwhelmed by the response, ” said So. “We’ve had people in the neighborhood come by during construction to ask us about opening, a bunch of our neighbors coming by to say, ‘We want to support you, we would love to come by. ’ People in the area never stop surprising me with how much they want to help and support local businesses. It’s beyond exciting. ” So attributes this loyalty to the city’s foodie culture, and both she and Mo are thrilled to join the ranks of the Hell’s Kitchen culinary landscape for years to come. “There are so many businesses in the neighborhood that have been here for years — a bakery that’s been here for 20 years, a restaurant that’s been on the corner for 10 years. We are so grateful for the community here, ” she said. “It’s New York — you can just feel the energy. ” This story originally appeared in W42ST. nyc on April 23, 2022 as: Sisters So and Mo Bring Delicious Real Thai Food Back to Pam’s Old Spot with LumLum