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"Creative Ethnic"

I have a project during an upcoming food trip to NYC. I've been asked to write about new , up and coming trends and think the "creative ethnic" riff might be the one.

Seems that with Mission Chinese, Pok Pok, Empillon Cochina, Acme, Barrio Chino, Red Farm, etc, (and I am by no means a NYC restaurant expert!) these are the hot places for the moment.

What do you all think? Is this worth writing about? Is it a relevant culinary trend?

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  1. I wouldn't call Pok Pok "creative ethnic". They are doing more authentic takes on relatively rare regional Thai fare... Maybe Kin Shop if you are looking for a place doing a spin on Thai food.

    1. I think what you're actually looking for is Ethnic Food Made by White People.

      Yes, it's a trend. Whether it's an unmitigated boon is a matter of some debate.

      http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/30/din...

      6 Replies
      1. re: Bob Martinez

        More like Ethnic Food Made FOR White People. Danny Bowien and David Chang aren't white.

        1. re: Humbucker

          Danny Bowien is a Korean born kid who grew up in Oklahoma. How would give him special insight into Sichuan cuisine?

          Chang is is shapeshifter. He's never specialized in Korean food and the chefs who cook for him are Caucasian.

          I guess I'm reacting to the idea that Asian food isn't sufficiently interesting unless some white guy spreads a little pixie dust on it. I'm not knocking either Bowien or Chang but they sure aren't Asian chefs cooking their native cuisine.

          1. re: Bob Martinez

            Not all the chefs who work at Momofuku restaurants are Caucasian. Tien Ho is probably the most notable example (Vietnamese, also from Houston). Peter Serpico is of Korean descent but adopted so his last name is not obviously Asian. There is also Marian Mar of Momofuku Milk Bar. There are some more in the kitchens that I have seen as well whose names I don't know.

            1. re: kathryn

              That's so funny. I didn't know Peter Serpico was asian!! I hadn't seen a picture of him and assumed he was Italian or something.

              1. re: kathryn

                Maharlika has a Hispanic cooking Filipino food ( and does a good job) , Michael White yeah , he's white ,, but anyway he isn't italian and sure can cook italian. Brooklyn Fare's Hispanic chef prepares many Japanese style dishes, 2nd Ave Deli used to have Chinese chef, But back to the original poster project... tapas is in, bahn mi for sure, izakaya like Blue Ribbon, Filipino gaining some popularity ( Kuma Inn, Maharlika, Ippudo, Food Trucks, Lotus Blue ( different style Chinese), Kaiseki ( kyo ya, kajitsu,) Jungsik ( new gourmet korean ), Anjappar ( southern indian),,,

          2. re: Bob Martinez

            That's exactly the article I've been looking for! Thank you.

          3. The Momofuku restaurants have been doing this for some time now. Most notably Momofuku Ssam and Ma Peche. Less so at Momofuku Noodle and Ko, IMO.

            1 Reply
            1. re: kathryn

              Who cares who prepares the food as long as it is good? And what is authenticity anyway? All things change and evolve and that's what makes life and food interesting. If you want classic "fill in the blank" cuisine then go to that type of restaurant. If you are in the mood for a different take on a cuisine that's fine too. I like it all as long as it is well-prepared and tastes good. I don't think someone of Asian decent should only cook Asian (which is bizarre to say as Japanese, for example, is not like Thai) any more than I think a Caucasian should only cook "Caucasian" (which, last time I checked is not a style of cooking). Get over all this "racial"/ "ethnic" determinism and focus on the food.

            2. Is Danish "ethnic" to you (by the way, it is to me: everything is "ethnic")? Acme, to my knowledge, serves new Nordic food.

              I think the word you're looking for is "fusion." Either that or "Americanized x, y, z."

              8 Replies
              1. re: Pan

                By "ethinic" I'm just talking food from other cultures. I've heard this is the big trend at the moment, and don't care who the chefs are as long as their cooking is interesting.

                1. re: adrian

                  Well, in a sense, it's ALWAYS been the trend. America is the "melting pot" after all, and NYC moreso than most cities - French, Italian, Mexican, Scandinavian, Dominican, Chinese, Japanese, Korean... with the exception of "American Traditional" restaurants, pretty much everything is "ethnic" - and much of it creative, at that.

                    1. re: adrian

                      This doesn't have to do with a particular restaurant but I think the overall (and best) trend is that more "high end" ideas are trickling down to fast food/cheaper restaurants and quicker due to the internet. Molecular gastronomy at a burger joint?

                      Cheaper restaurants are starting to use sous-vide and other techniques.

                      Also another trend is going backwards and towards the slow movement. Restaurants which have their own pickles. I know these ideas are not "new" but they still aren't prevalent as much as they could be. Zucchini pickles on hamburgers are amazing.

                      Sidenote: Pok Pok is okay and their chicken wings are less than okay.

                      1. re: quddous

                        When I was young, cheaper restaurants (and my Mom's kitchen and airplanes) were the ONLY places that used sous vide.

                        1. re: Sneakeater

                          Haha!! Hilarious. I guess your mom was ahead of her time.

                      2. re: adrian

                        So you would be similarly interested in "Nouvelle German" (whatever that may be), say, or new Scottish-Irish dishes (whatever *that* might also be)?

                    2. re: adrian

                      ...and by "other cultures" you mean...what, exactly?

                  1. There's already a word - fusion. Chefs like Puck and JG have been doing this for a long time. I'm sure they taste good to people who don't know what the really good underlying authentic cuisine tastes like. I personally avoid those restaurants. I looked at Kin Shop, Mission Chinese, and Red Farm's menu and I'm not the least bit interested. On the other hand, I'm interested to see how good Hakkasan really is.

                    6 Replies
                    1. re: Worldwide Diner

                      Many people who enjoy the authentic, underlying cuisines, also enjoy interpretative takes on them. Especially if they are unpretentious and stick to the original sensibilities.

                      1. re: Worldwide Diner

                        They might also taste good to people who DO appreciate the underlying cuisines.

                        If you only want to eat "authentic" cuisine, then using only your hands, sharpened sticks and rocks, catch small game and forage for vegetation.

                        1. re: Worldwide Diner

                          I also fail to see how Hakkassan is any more authentic than Mission. Caviar and truffles are about as authentic Chinese as pastrami.

                          1. re: sgordon

                            Uh, fish eggs and smelly mushrooms have been part of Chinese cuisine for a long time. :-)

                            Ditto "truffles" as a generic class of fruiting bodies of subterranean mushrooms.

                            Now if you specified the roe from wild sturgeon in the Caspian and Black Seas only; or the fruiting bodies of Tuber melanosporum gathered from France only - then that might be different.

                            1. re: sgordon

                              One can cook caviar and truffles in Chinese cuisine. They're just ingredients. Chinese people have never limited themselves as to what they can use to cook. Pastrami is already cooked and it's not Chinese. Pastrami thus can't be Chinese. When Jews make Chinese food, they don't call it Jewish food. When someone cooks Jewish food, it shouldn't be called Chinese either.

                          2. Thinking aloud here, but I like to think of the food trend now as "neo-fusion", or maybe "borderless" cooking. To me, fusion implies a conscious effort to bring different cuisines together, and those separate cuisines are still labeled as the starting point. Now, customers and people who work in the food industry are more educated about ingredients and ways of cooking around the world. I like it when chefs cook what they like but draw from a much wider palette than usual The food at Masak and Silk Road Tavern are some examples which I've tried and enjoyed. Maybe new ways of labeling this cuisine will evolve.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: chowmeow

                              How about "they're-starting-to-got-it-right fusion".

                            2. "Creative Ethnic" is a silly, misleading way to talk about food. Don't ever use this term without quotation marks.