restaurants
Sapa
43 West 24th Street
212 929 1800

Some restaurateurs are so creative, they single-handedly change a category of cuisine for all restaurants ever after, and Sapa does this for Vietnamese. Named for the town that inspired it, this jewel of a restaurant flies to the top of our list for being everything dining out should be. Though ingredients are classic (fish sauce, lemongrass, curry), the way they are used in even the most requisite of dishes would make a convert out of anyone who claims not to like Southeast Asian. Traditional pho (delicately sliced beef which cooks as the soup is poured on) has cubes of something fruity and indefinably sumptuous. Tiger shrimp summer rolls are explosions of freshness, and every aspect of the full six possible courses, from a roll bar (complete with every kind of fish sauce imaginable) to the steak which reminds owner Brian Matzkow of the street food he had in Vietnam to the passion fruit dessert (with fruit flown in from Israel), is layered in flavour and creative. The room, designed by AvroKo (who did Public), has delicate yellow lighting from walls of candles in Asiatic square holders reflecting on antique casement windows. In the front, Japanese trees separate the lounge naturally from the dining room which is further divided by a mossy island with orchids, and above, exposed concrete beams show the way the building must have looked 100 years ago. A staff that is the nicest and with the best restaurant- timing we’ve seen anywhere must take their cue from Thierry Mugler-clad Matzkow himself; sleek, hilarious and stylish, making instant old friends of visitors. Something worth writing home about. Especially if that home is Sapa, Vietnam.

$$

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