Westchester residents are fortunate to have dining options from a variety of cultures and countries. Whether it be a dish from a region you’re already familiar with, from a country you’ve dreamed of visiting, or a mouthwatering morsel you saw on a cooking show — dishes from Morocco to Croatia to Tibet can be found here. If it’s your first time visiting and you’re unfamiliar with the cuisine or the culture, don’t be shy about asking questions. The restaurant owners from these seven gems are eager to have guests immersed not only in the food but also in the lands from which they came.
It’s a family affair at this Port Chester restaurant: Owner Nordine Archbani is front-of-house and wife Soumia is the chef. “We don’t consider the people who dine here our customers; we treat them as if they’re our guests and coming to our home,” Archbani says. The welcoming atmosphere is the perfect complement to the Moroccan cuisine that is center stage. “People really aren’t sure what Moroccan food is; I like to talk to them about the complexities of the spices and the length of cooking time to get tenderness in our meats,” says Archbani, who underscores that those spices don’t mean the food is “spicy,” i.e., hot. He says the flavors of such ingredients as ginger, turmeric, cumin, paprika, and saffron enhance the dishes rather than overpower them. The spiciest item on the menu, harissa shrimp, has a small kick but is not overwhelming. Other appetizers to sample include a fromage cigar, which is rolled phyllo filled with goat cheese and herbs, and Argana Flavors, a combo dish with hummus, falafel, and harissa olives.
The entrées highlight the aromatic flavors of Morocco. Such dishes as slow-cooked short rib with dried apricots and prunes, sprinkled with fried almonds and sesame seeds, and half a free-range chicken with preserved lemon, herbs, and green olives, will have your mouth watering as soon as they’re placed on the table. There are several vegetarian dishes, including a vegetable tagine, a Moroccan staple. Don’t miss the bastilla au lait dessert, with layers of pastry phyllo, orange-blossom pastry cream, and roasted almonds. The highlight of the evening is the tea service, which really makes customers feel they’re guests in a Moroccan home. The mint tea is poured into glasses, with a ceremonial flourish from a beautifully designed silver teapot.
325 N Main St, Port Chester; 914.612.4440; arganarestaurantbar.com
Traditional appetizers include marinated anchovies and a steamed-octopus salad served with capers, red onions, and potatoes.
The most amazing whole fish I ever ate was when I visited Split, Croatia. When I want to relive that dining experience, I head to New Rochelle’s Dubrovnik. The restaurant pays homage to the country’s seafood-forward cuisine, but there are also delicious meat dishes and vegetarian pasta options. Dubrovnik’s outdoor wood-burning oven offers a way of traditionally cooking the fish, says general manager Matija Zarak. The process, gradele, “supplies the fish with a nice, smoky flavor.” Adding to the restaurant’s authenticity, the fresh fish is brought tableside to customers, with a brief description of each. “It makes it easier for customers to come to their decisions when they learn about what they’re selecting,” Zarak says. The main word that people should think of — in the best possible way — when they think of Croatian food, he notes, is “simple.” The cuisine uses a lot of olive oil, herbs, and garlic, and the dishes aren’t prepared using complicated recipes. Traditional appetizers include marinated anchovies and a steamed-octopus salad served with capers, red onions, and potatoes. Soup lovers have their choice from a fish broth, a vegetable soup, and a chicken broth with Croatian grits dumplings — a traditional dish from various parts of the country. On any given night you might find black bass, golden snapper, or orada. Meat dishes include deliciously roasted Cornish hens and lamb chops. At Dubrovnik, you can sample orahovac, a walnut liqueur; grappas; even pelinkovac, an herb liquor described as originally being a stomach medicine. For dessert, indulge in a palacinke, a Croatian-style crêpe, with a choice of such fillings as rose hip jam or Nutella and ice cream.
721 Main St, New Rochelle; 914.637.3777; dubrovnikny.com
If you missed Oktoberfest these past two years, fear not. You can head to the recently opened beer garden at Nadine’s in Yorktown Heights. Opening the outdoor space during the pandemic, Christian Schienle, Nadine’s owner, says, “The beer garden has become a big hit.” The cozy restaurant was already popular for its traditional take on German specialties. Predictably (and rightfully so), Schienle says, “Our most solid dish is the jägerschnitzel,” which are thin chicken or pork cutlets. Here, the dish is served with brown mushroom sauce and red cabbage and spätzle on the side. “In Austria, it’s practically a crime to put sauce on this dish,” Schienle laughingly says.
The cozy restaurant was already popular for its traditional take on German specialties.
Other favorites include a meat-lovers’ Butchers Plate — featuring smoked pork, weisswurst, frankfurter, bratwurst, sauerkraut, and boiled potatoes — and a trio of sausages, served with sauerkraut. For appetizers, customers can go traditional, with herring, sour cream, and onions; upscale, with a foie gras terrine; or hark back to beer-garden fare, with a hot pretzel with mustard sauce. Nadine’s serves daily specials that range from rindsrouladen, a beef roll stuffed with pickles, onions, and bacon, to a hearty bouillabaisse. In winter months, game items get added to the menu. In addition to the beer list, which of course features a good selection of German beer and ones from neighboring countries, you can sip cocktails with a decidedly European bent. There are elderberry flower and violet liqueurs, and a hot, spiced wine that is perfect during the winter. Leave room for dessert: The warm apple strudel with ice cream is perfectly executed.
715 Saw Mill River Rd, Yorktown Heights; 914.962.4298; nadinesrestaurant.com
With dishes such as chikhirtma (chicken soup), mtsvadi (charcoal-grilled meat with roasted potatoes and a special plum-based dressing), and the addictive adjaruli (open-faced cheese boat) on the menu, you’ll know from the moment you enter this Mount Kisco restaurant that the small country of Georgia goes big with flavor. Spices such as tarragon, coriander, and thyme add aroma to each dish. There are sauces made from different types of plums, along with vegan and vegetarian dishes featuring walnut paste.
Inga Duignan, co-owner of the restaurant with her brother, Giga Jankarashvili, says the restaurant has become a destination both for those familiar with Georgian food and those looking to try it for the first time. “We’re happy to walk customers through the menu and provide lots of descriptions.” She notes that in Georgia, each province has its own preparations, so you may see a dish cooked in a garlic cream sauce and another one cooked in an herb-and-tomato sauce. Cold appetizers include pkhali rolls, with eggplant, zucchini, and sweet pepper with walnut paste; hot dishes include potato khinkali — potato dumplings with fried onions and yogurt sauce. Leave room for dessert, including The Glacier, Georgian yogurt with honey, honeycomb, and pomegranate, or the recently added Georgian napoleon. Duignan says it consists of puffed, crispy dough and special cream and that one piece is more than enough for four to share.
In addition to the food, don’t miss the flavors of qvevri — amber wine that is made in a unique clay vessel, chacha (grape vodka), or the Georgian lemonade. The restaurant recently started hosting Caviar/Chacha/Champagne weekends — for special occasions or just because you’ve made it to the weekend.
26-28 Main St, Mount Kisco; 914.864.1666; badageonigeorgiankitchen.com
The original Yorktown Heights restaurant brought the taste of the Himalayan regions of Nepal, Tibet, and India to Westchester, now with three sites at which to savor this cuisine. G Nuru Sherpa, CEO/founder of the Himalaya Restaurant Group, says when he first moved to the area, “nothing compared to what I grew up with, so I decided to bring the flavors of home here.” Sherpa notes when he was growing up, “we didn’t have refrigerators to store food, so we went to the garden every morning to pick vegetables.” Jewel of Himalaya prides itself on bringing that commitment to freshness to its dishes. Ginger and garlic are the two most used ingredients in the food, says Sherpa, and there are the flavors of fenugreek seeds (used in such dishes as dal) and curry, which he notes can come from anywhere from Thailand to Bhutan. “I tell customers that if they’re looking to make a comparison, our food is generally more subtle and lighter than Indian food.”
“I tell customers that … our food is generally more subtle and lighter than Indian food.”
There is a variety of soups to start your meal with, including the traditional thukpa soup, with handmade noodles and vegetables. The dumplings, or momo, which Sherpa says are examples of street food, come either in soup or as appetizers — chicken, beef, or vegetable. Vegetarians can also feast on samosas or veg pakora — a mix of vegetables and mashed potatoes dipped in tempura batter and deep-fried. Dishes such as chicken jalfrezi, chicken cooked in fresh onions and Himalayan herbs, and the korma dishes, served in a creamy cashew nut and almond sauce, will have you reaching for the various breads on the menu to sop up the last bits of sauce. Hungry midday? The lunch special Nepali thali, with a choice of beef, chicken, mutton, lamb, or vegetables, is served with dal soup, rice, house-made pickles, vegetables, and rice pudding.
34 Triangle Ctr, Yorktown Heights; 914.302.2886; 751 Central Ave, Scarsdale; 914.874.5506; 266 S Main St, Newtown, CT; 914.304.9383; himalayarestaurantgroup.com
This Yonkers storefront space turns out hearty food, with an emphasis on sharing. Jenelyn Berbano, co-owner, says the communal dining space recognizes the significance of family meals in the Philippines. “Eating together as a family is very important in our culture.” She adds that the cuisine is best explained as “a tweaking of both Spanish and Chinese food.” The seasoning most used is adobo — a combination of salt, garlic, and other savory spices — and many of the dishes feature fish sauce and soy sauce. Berbano says the restaurant’s claim to fame is its barbecue and that one of its signature dishes is the crispy pata, a deep-fried, crispy pork hock. Berbano notes that every island in the Philippines has its own specialty and that the menu at Hapag reflects that. She points to chicken inasal, grilled chicken marinated in vinegar, calamansi (lime) juice, ginger, garlic, and lemongrass, which is very popular in her hometown. “When customers ask for advice on ordering, we ask them what type of flavors they like and what sounds interesting to them,” Berbano says. Referring back to the importance of families eating together, Berbano says many of the restaurant’s dishes are prepared family-style, ideal for groups to share and sample different items. One dessert item ideal for sharing is the halo-halo, a shaved-ice sundae layered with sweet milk, assorted jelly, sweet beans, and topped with ube (purple yam) ice cream, and flan. There’s also a cassava budin on the menu, a Filipino classic dessert of bread pudding made with yucca.
1789 Central Ave; Yonkers; 914.652.7773
Calling itself a Mediterranean-Persian restaurant, the food at Shiraz Kitchen honors both its Middle Eastern roots and the similarities it shares with Turkish and Greek cuisines. Owner Reza Parhizkaran notes that the variety of spices found in the dishes, including saffron, turmeric, cardamom, and ginger, “are used with a gentle touch, to enhance the flavors of the food.” Ingredients such as fresh and dried fruits, with such pairings as the sweetness of apples with the tartness of plums, pomegranates, and sweet and sour cherries, add further complexity to the meat, chicken, and fish dishes. Appetizers such as Fresh Herb, which is mint, basil, tarragon, scallion, feta cheese, walnut, and red radish, is representative of the emphasis on freshness and simplicity, says Parhizkaran. Served with bread, customers traditionally make wraps with the herbs and cheese. “This is something that is found in every home in Iran,” Parhizkaran says. There are several eggplant appetizers, stuffed dates, and pita. For entrées, there are slow-cooked stews, such as the popular celery stew with chicken, celery, parsley, and mint. There is a variety of kebabs to choose from; fish dishes are well-represented too. Specialty rices are must-haves, including the shirin, with the winning combination of orange zest, pistachio, and almond. For dessert, there is saffron ice cream — vanilla ice cream seasoned with saffron and rose water — or try the Persian Love Cake, a gluten-free selection with almond flavoring, lemon glaze, and dried rose petals.
83 E. Main St, Elmsford; 914.345.6111; shirazkitchen.com