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Best Of 2010

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Best Of :: Food & Drink

Robert Sietsema's Top 10: No. 10
Momokawa

Momokawa has lain unnoticed for a long time, and if a Japanese friend hadn't enthusiastically recommended it, I might never have eaten there. There's no sushi, but the restaurant does offer a wealth of dishes like those served in Kyoto, situated 200 miles west of Tokyo, and once the country's capital. Included are many obanzai, which are the home-style dishes of that city. The homemade fish cake at this Murray Hill sleeper is stunning—a hamburger-size puck of coarse-textured (almost lumpy) sea-going material, carefully browned on the outside and served with a saucer of vinegary soy sauce. You might never go back to whole fish.

157 E. 28th St., New York, 10016
MAP
212-684-7830
Robert Sietsema's Top 10: No. 1
Mile End

This doesn't mean I'm forsaking my first love, Katz's pastrami, but the smoked-meat sandwich at Mile End is denser, redder, and offered in a sandwich that's just the right size for one person to eat, which means I don't have to go around looking for someone to share it with me. Spread mustard on it and add a sour pickle, and I'm in culinary nirvana. The cute and cozy premises of this Boerum Hill newcomer is another plus.

97 Hoyt St., Brooklyn, 11217
MAP
718-852-7510
Robert Sietsema's Top 10: No. 2
Yee Kee H.K. Style

A haystack of glistening vegetables sat before me: bright green garlic chives, pungent Chinese celery, carrots, woodsy mushrooms, onions, matchsticks of fried purple taro, and onions, all of it surmounted by the snap, crackle, and pop of crispy lo mein noodles. There wasn't a smidgen of meat, poultry, or fish anywhere to be found in the Farmer Special at Yee Kee H.K. Style. This unreconstructed empire of crunch at once telegraphs not only the poverty of a Chinese farmer's life, but also its vegetable bounty—in a way I've seen nowhere else but the city's fifth Chinatown. Did I mention it's supremely delicious?

1232 Ave. U, Brooklyn, 11229
MAP
718-336-2338
Robert Sietsema's Top 10: No. 3
Annisa

The restaurant rose like a phoenix after a devastating fire, and the food became better than ever, as if the near-death experience stimulated it to greater efforts. The pan-roasted farm chicken at Annisa from chef Anita Lo's original menu remains the best thing: a bird—surprisingly plump compared with the desiccated specimens found elsewhere—that has undergone a subdermal stuffing of pig foot, causing the skin to shine like the face of a nervous debutante at her first ball. The bird is scented with white truffles, too, making it hopelessly rich and satisfying.

13 Barrow St., New York, 10014
MAP
212-741-6699
Robert Sietsema's Top 10: No. 4
Sapthagiri

One of my favorite things to eat in the world is upma, a South Indian porridge that begins with plain cream of wheat, but then gets mutated like hell by the addition of such things as black mustard seeds, curry leaves, onions, ginger, and pistachios. Imagine my excitement at discovering that upma is incorporated into a dosa at Jersey City's all-vegetarian, mainly vegan Sapthagiri, with a wrapper made of crushed and fermented moong daal. Woo-hoo! The covering adds a grassy taste to the pesarattu upma, and the whole thing challenges your ideas of what to expect from Indian food.

804 Newark Ave., Jersey City, 07306
MAP
201-533-8400
Robert Sietsema's Top 10: No. 5
Meatball Shop

It was a brilliant move on the part of chef Daniel Holzman to take an Italian-American classic, the meatball hero, and make slight improvements to it, instead of transforming the fuck out of it so that it was no longer recognizable. He began by selecting really, really good bread, which yields soon after you chomp down, instead of resisting your teeth and squirting the balls out the end. He also used fresh mozzarella instead of the crap you find in most pizza parlors. The meatball hero at the Meatball Shop is memorably delicious, and enough like the original that it would pass as such with most meatball-hero aficionados—including myself.

84 Stanton St., New York, 10002
MAP
212-982-8895
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Robert Sietsema's Top 10: No. 10: Momokawa

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