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Best of NYC

Spicy Food NYC

Spice Kings
January 17, 2013
By , NYC Contributor

Hunted to virtual extinction during the microwave era, spice has ridden the foodie wave back to American palate. New York, as always, leads the charge and has added a stunning array of herbs and spices to its kitchen cabinets. Winter offers yet another reason to indulge – the warmth they create within, along with the boost to the immune system. Get the right combination of spices, and watch things get aphrodisiacal very quickly. So if you’re feeling in the mood, bring a date to any of these Galavante favorites.

Kittichai

As anyone who’s been to Thailand knows, Buddhism is sexy. Kittichai doesn’t just know it, but shows it, with a New York touch. From the moment the two glass doors are parted, the restaurant seduces you with a jazzy groove and illuminated jars of floating orchids and lotus flowers. The real pop, though, is in the menu, steeped in cilantro, chili, tamarind, and galangal dressing. Start with the tuna tartare with chili vinaigrette and follow with the pan-seared mahi mahi with toasted red curry. If any space remains for dessert, try the pandanus sponge.

60 Thompson St., 212-219-2000, kittichairestaurant.com

Ilili

The tale of Ilili (“Tell me”) is all about chef Philippe Massoud, who fled Lebanon as a 14-year-old refugee and landed in America. Here, he became a “culinary archeologist,” reviving and re-inventing the ancient cuisine of the Orient. This means lots of mint, za’atar, tahini, sumac (Massoud’s favorite), and Aleppo pepper. Move from the Kibbe Naye to the pizza-like lahmajeen, before taking on the lamb kebab, and always with a glass of Arak.

236 Fifth Ave., 212-683-2929, ililinyc.com

Toloache 82

Some of Manhattan’s best south-of-the-border cuisine is north of the Midtown border. At Toloache 82, the kitchen turns out stellar yuzu-spiced ceviche and tacos with Oaxaca-sourced Guajillo, Mulato, and Pasilla chiles. The showpiece, though, is the Mexican truffle, a delicious corn fungus known as huitlacoche. Try it first in the quesadilla, then in the Hongos y Nopales. Chase it with the Mezcalita de Piña, a smoky, cilantro-agave-flavored cocktail rimmed with chile-powder.

166 East 82nd St., 212-861-4505

(Photo courtesy of Ilili)