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100 best New York restaurants: Creative Asian food

Thanks to David Chang and other chefs, boundary busting Asian dining has exploded. These days some of the best New York restaurants take cues from the East.

Photograph: Michael Harlan Turkell

100 best New York restaurants: Kuma Inn

Photograph: Marianne Rafter

100 best New York restaurants: Momofuku Noodle Bar

Photograph: Virginia Rollison

100 best New York restaurants: Momofuku Ssäm Bar

For generations, French culinary traditions dominated the haute cuisine kitchens of NYC. But over the past decade, as a fresh generation of chefs climbed the ranks, some of the best New York restaurants are now known for remixing the flavors of Japan, Korea, Thailand, China, the Philippines and beyond. Creative Asian restaurants are a favorite fixation of hip New York diners, who look to chefs like David Chang to reveal where we’re going next as a food-obsessed city.

RECOMMENDED: Full list of 100 best New York restaurants

Kuma Inn

Critics' pick

A clandestine second-floor location makes this dinner-only spot feel like a true find. Chef King Phojanakong channels his culinary pedigree (including stints at Daniel and Danube), along with his Thai and Filipino heritage, into elegantly presented small plates, such as an omelette studded with plump Washington Bay oysters, and hunks of seared ahi tuna luxuriating in a spicy miso vinaigrette. Desserts like the coconut ginger rice pudding, and a custardy twist on key lime pie made with kalamansi, might inspire you to keep your discovery close to your vest.

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Lower East Side

Momofuku Noodle Bar

Critics' pick

David Chang’s Momofuku juggernaut began at Noodle Bar, the chef’s first solo venture and the project that propelled him from East Village renegade to awards-circuit veteran. The place is as electric and outstanding as it has ever been. Noodle Bar made its bones taking the economic savior of college students everywhere—ramen noodles—and making them hot, duding up most of the bowls with sexy ingredients like poached eggs and pickled pear. But non-noodle dishes can also thrill. An excellent cold-smoked duck with quince-soaked mustard seeds exists alongside Chang’s democratized offal (“spicy honeycomb tripe”) and hall-of-fame pork buns. Those two-bite snacks, by the way—sandwiching fatty pork belly, hoisin sauce, scallions and crisp pickle slices—remain one of the best snacks in the city.

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East Village

Momofuku Ssäm Bar

Critics' pick

In the years since the 2006 opening of Ssäm Bar, chef and owner David Chang has added cookbook author (Momofuku), magazine editor (Lucky Peach) and—with the ascendency of his pastry chef Christina Tosi—even talent scout to his resume. To understand his astounding success and cult of personality, one need look no further than this perpetually buzzy restaurant, still a crown jewel of the East Village dining scene. Waiters hustle to raucous rock music inside this wood-paneled 50-seat space, ferrying platters of oysters and regional American hams, oozing pork buns, and daring offal dishes to tables still packed with food cognoscenti. Serious grub, like creamy fingerling potato soup with silky Hama Hama oysters, or a heaping bowl of chewy Korean rice cakes tossed with chunks of spicy pork sausage and Szechuan peppercorns, can be ordered well into the wee hours. Groups can arrange ahead for large format dinners, such as a spread of burnished rotisserie ducks or the infamous Korean bo ssäm (pork shoulder lettuce wraps) for which the place is named.

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East Village