Vik Sohonie’s Travel Black Book

Diverse New York

DJ Vik Sohonie likes the mixed ethnicities and cuisines

Who: DJ Vik Sohonie, 28, founder of Ostinato Records, a music label which specialises in music from Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean. The Indian citizen grew up in the Philippines, Thailand and Singapore before moving to New York City, where he has lived for the past two years.

Favourite destination: New York City, New York

Why: New York is a special place, not only because of its abundant opportunities, but also because of its vast diversity.

It's a myth that New Yorkers are rough and aggressive. They are the most genuine, well-intentioned people I have come across and there is a dignity and charm to every interaction one has.

Favourite place to stay: Get an Airbnb and stay in Brooklyn or Queens. Bedford-Stuyvesant is a classic Brooklyn neighbourhood that gives you a glimpse into how most people in New York live.

Crown Heights, an area just south of Bedford-Stuyvesant, is also a great neighbourhood. It's home to New York's Caribbean community. A subway ride from there to Manhattan takes about 30 minutes.

Or stay in Queens, the most diverse borough in America with immigrant communities from everywhere in the world.

Favourite restaurant: Txikito (chi-kee-toe) (, a Basque restaurant in Chelsea which specialises in pintxos (pin-chos), the Basque version of tapas. The food is exquisite and a lesson in extracting the deepest flavours from the simplest of ingredients.

Get the marijuli, an amalgam of bread, serrano ham, anchovies and sweet peppers; txitxiki (chi-chi-ki), little chorizo hash baguette sandwiches; txipiron (chi-pi-ron) "Encebollado", squid ribbons; and txarripatak (char-i-pa-tak), a tendon and tripe stew.

A meal for two with wine and dessert wine - a must as the Basque dessert wines are masterpieces - costs about US$200 (S$281).

Favourite museum: The International Center of Photography ( in the Bowery neighbourhood of Manhattan hosts exhibitions from world-class photographers.

Favourite shopping destination: The area around Sullivan Street between the West Village and Soho is great for little treats. Chocolate stores, gourmet grocers, bespoke perfumes, tea and spices and even South African biltong (cured meat) are available.

Favourite bookshop: Argosy Bookstore ( in Midtown East is full of antique and vintage books and maps. The bookstore has out-of-print editions, first editions and a host of goodies for any lover of the written word.

Best place for breakfast: Barney's Greengrass (, an old-school Upper West Side Jewish-deli stalwart that has been open since 1908, serves bagels, caviar, eggs and massive platters of smoked fish. Smoked sturgeon is its speciality (US$39.50).

Best hidden find: St Vincent's Bakery in Flatbush (1621 Nostrand Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11226), south of Crown Heights. This bakery, run by a family from the little-known Caribbean island of St Vincent, specialises in spicy cod fish pies which are to die for and worth the trek. They blend the flavours of Western Europe, India and the Caribbean and cost about US$5 each.

Favourite New York neighbourhood: In Crown Heights, you feel like you're in Port of Spain (Trinidad) or Port au Prince (Haiti). The energy, vibe, music blasting from barbershops and people barbecuing in the streets transport you to some of the most beautiful countries in the Caribbean.

If you want an introduction to the food of Trinidad and Tobago, have a goat curry roti at Gloria's in Nostrand Avenue. It is a neighbourhood institution cooking up traditional street food.

The staff are warm and welcoming, the food is hearty and spicy - perfect for a bitterly cold winter day. Trinidadian food is a blend of Indian and African flavours, but Indian food dominates the culinary culture.

Get the goat curry with rice and peas, pumpkin and callaloo (a leafy green vegetable cooked in a spicy coconut cream) and wash it down with a seamoss (a nutty condensed milk smoothie that has many ingredients including seaweed).

This place is well priced and the portions are huge - a full meal and a drink shouldn't cost more than US$15. A goat curry roti is less than US$10. Be sure to ask for a side of tamarind sauce and pepper sauce.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on November 08, 2015, with the headline 'Diverse New York'. Print Edition | Subscribe