As the trend toward fusion cooking continues increasingly to blur the lines between cultures, it was only a matter of time before a restaurant emerged that billed itself as a purveyor of world cuisine. That restaurant opened four years ago. Fittingly, it is located across from the United Nations. Its name is the UN Plaza Grill.
No restaurant menu can reasonably hope to cover every cuisine of the world without becoming encyclopedic and unwieldy. Sensibly, this one touches on only a few high spots. The Middle East and North Africa, for example, are represented by mezze and kefta meatballs, Japan by sushi, India by samosas, Italy by a couple of pastas. Think of the restaurant as Epcot New York.
The business of dining is transacted in an impressive space. Giant truncated cones that emit a purple glow descend from the distant ceiling, bathing the room in a soft light. A wall of windows along one side provides views of the U.N. headquarters. Opposite is a floor-to-ceiling mural of four white tigers glowering menacingly out at diners who meet their gaze. The painting is a holdover from the previous restaurant tenant, Megu, but it makes a great conversation starter if you’re here on a first date.
So does the porcini and white mushroom soup, served ceremoniously in an individual tureen under a dome of handsomely browned pastry. You puncture the dome with the back of your spoon, releasing a fragrant cloud of steam. The tuna pizza is another diverting starter. Slices of the raw fish are shingled over a crisp pita that has first been slathered with avocado crème and is ultimately dotted with capers, red onion, black olives, and serrano pepper, the entirety drizzled with teriyaki sauce. The layout of the dish appears designed to conjure up thoughts of work for members of the General Assembly who dine here.
Pot stickers come four to an order — perfect for non-combative sharing. The dumplings are filled with morsels of tender beef, scallions, and shiitakes. You dip them in ponzu sauce and eat. Grilled lemons provide tantalizing hints of tangy smoke to an accurately cooked branzino fillet.
The restaurant provides three different steak options, including a filet mignon au poivre. Don’t expect to find cream or butter in the sauce because the restaurant is kosher. A bone-in center-cut ribeye arrives rosy at the core, as requested. This is rich meat so use the accompanying béarnaise sparingly.
Desserts won’t win any awards for originality, but they’re good for what they are. A warm apple tart on puff pastry is served with the de rigueur melting ball of good vanilla, and a whimsical hemispherical chocolate mousse cake will bring a smile to your face.
Price range: $16 to $39 for starters, $38 to $90 for main courses, and $14 for dessert.
UN Plaza Grill, 845 United Nations Plaza (First Avenue bet. 47th & 48th Sts.), 212-223-1801, is open from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday. Closed Friday and Saturday.