New York

Chef Kwame Onwuachi at Lincoln Center
Chef Kwame Onwuachi. All photos courtesy of Tatiana, by Kwame Onwuachi

Dish By DishNew York

With Tatiana at Lincoln Center, Kwame Onwuachi Comes Home to New York

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With the opening of Tatiana, a 70-seat restaurant located inside New York’s David Geffen Hall at Lincoln Center, Kwame Onwuachi has finally come home.  

For me, it’s entirely unique and special,” Onwuachi says. “I grew up in this city. I sold candy a few stops away from Lincoln Center on the subway. I thought it would be an amazing homecoming to be able to do this.”

The chef, who first gained fame on Top Chef in 2015, and proceeded to pen a best-selling memoir, Notes From a Young Black Chef (2019), grew up in New York — in the Bronx specifically. While he saw success in D.C., most recently at his highly acclaimed Afro Caribbean restaurant Kith/Kin (where he’s no longer involved), Tatiana marks Onwuachi’s first brick-and-mortar restaurant in his own hometown.   

“I wanted to get back in the restaurant industry, but I also wanted to pay homage a little bit to my nostalgia and my childhood, and what better way than to evoke my family, you know, and more specifically, my sister?” he says. “We grew up together in the Bronx, and we’ve eaten our way through the borough, and there’s been a lot of inspiration from that. And telling the story of New York, you know, the people who made New York, through my culinary lens is how this [restaurant] came to be.” 

To develop the menu for Tatiana, which he describes as bearing “a lot of Afro Caribbean influence with the New York undertone,” Onwuachi says he thought most about what made him and his sister happy as kids: Italian rainbow cookies, Nigerian egusi soup, oxtails, rice and peas, and bodega sandwiches. Here he explains five signature dishes from the menu, in his own words. 

1. Egusi Soup Dumpling

Black bass, Nigerian red stew, pickled pearl onion | ($19)

“Egusi soup is made up of melon seeds that are ground and cooked with palm oil and onions and garlic and chiles and iru, which is a fermented bean, and then we add some chicken stock and some greens and let that stew down. It’s normally eaten with fish, or goat, or chicken, but we’ve made it with black bass and stuffed it into dumpling and we serve it with this red stew, or sauce, that’s like a mother sauce from Nigeria called obe ata dindin, or Nigerian red stew.

“All the dumplings are made in house with a Hong Kong-style pleat,” Onwuachi says. “I wanted to create these dumplings in dumpling form for eatability and it’s just something different and unique.”

2. Honeynut Squash Piri Piri Salad

Persian cucumber, seasonal grapes, crispy quinoa | ($28)

“We make a piri piri dressing which is kind of like South African hot sauce and then we whip honeynut squash into that and then we have a salad in the center of the plate that’s this array of fall and winter vegetable and fruits and then crispy quinoa.

“It was definitely inspired by Nando’s piri piri chicken — it was something I ate a lot in D.C. and have always been recreating this dish and adding more and taking things away and trying to hone it as much as I can.

“The honeynut squash is in season now and I thought it was something that would highlight that time that we’re in right now with the ingredients available.”

3. Braised Oxtails

Rice and peas, Thumbelina carrots, chayote squash | ($54)

“The oxtails are marinated in jerk and curry and brown sugar and then roasted. And then they’re braised in a chicken stock with garlic, ginger, scallions, thyme, and allspice. And then that’s cooked low and slow, and we reduce that liquid and then glaze the oxtails with that liquid, and then serve it with chayote squash and carrots. And then we have rice and peas on the side, which is like a traditional Jamaican rice dish, with coconut milk and aromatics. It’s really very tasty.

“Oxtails are just so unctuous, sticky, you know, and gelatinous. I think that they’re just a really fun dish just to eat. And it’s something that we ate once a week growing up; my mom, my dad, everyone would make it. At Tatiana, it’s the way that I make it, but the flavors are very similar.”

4. Short Rib Pastrami Suya

Wagyu short rib, caraway coco bread, melted red cabbage | ($61)

“It’s a whole short rib that we braise for four to five days, and then we coat in a pastrami spice, and then we cook it low and slow. Then we slice it and dust it with suya spices and serve it with caraway coco bread and serve it bone in, but sliced, with melted cabbage and mustard sauce. We source the short ribs from Pat LaFrieda. It’s an homage to New York delis, but I wanted to put suya on it. [Suya] is a West African dish of roasted meats with this yaji spice that made with grains of paradise, peanut, ginger, garlic, and chiles.”

5. Seafood Boil

King crab, Middleneck clams, black bass, andouille | ($67)

“The seafood boil is a dish that I grew up eating at these little seafood shops. In the Bronx, you can go and pick out the fish that you want, and then they will cook it up for you however you want. There’s snapper, there’s crab and shrimp and scallops … you just point out what you want to pick out, and you say I just want to boil it, or I want to fry it, so this dish is very indicative of those places. My favorites are shrimp, crab, mussels, snapper, scallops — those are all my favorite things.

“So, our dish has scallops and razor clams and black bass and king crab and potatoes and andouille sausage, and it’s all coated in this really rich garlic butter sauce.

“It’s served in this big earthenware dish with seaweed all around it, so after you eat your clams or whatever. You can just put the shells on the side of the plate. Some of the seafood has been seared, some of it’s been steamed, and then it’s put in that garlic sauce.”

A Closer Look at Tatiana, by Kwame Onwuachi

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Tatiana’s cuisine is best described as “Afro Caribbean with a New York undertone,” says Onwuachi.

Photo courtesy of Tatiana, by Kwame Onwuachi

Onwuachi with members of the staff from Tatiana outside David Geffen Hall, where the restaurant is located.

Photo courtesy of Tatiana, by Kwame Onwuachi

Tatiana was designed by Modellus Novus.

Tatiana was designed by New York-based architecture firm Modellus Novus, led by Preeti Sriratana. The design was inspired by New York’s 1980’s music and art scenes and pays homage to places like San Juan Hill, a once-thriving Black and Brown neighborhood that was razed to make room for Lincoln Center.

Photo courtesy of Lincoln Center and Modellus Novus

Massive cloud-like pendants that hang in the dining room are meant to represent Onwuachi’s daydreams of one day becoming a chef.

Photo courtesy of Lincoln Center and Modellus Novus

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Tatiana is open from 5 to 9 p.m. on Tuesdays and Wednesdays and from 5 to 10 p.m. on Thursdays through Saturdays.


Deanna Ting is Resy’s New York Editor. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter. Follow Resy, too.