Best of NYC®

Best Of 2012

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Best Of :: Food & Drink

Best French
Morgane

For decades, relatively authentic French bistros dominated the mid-priced dining scene in many New York neighborhoods, from Greenwich Village to Cobble Hill. With the invasion of Naples-style pizzerias, tapas bars, and Thai restaurants, that has changed as old-guard bistros have become a rarity, and the word "bistro" has been more loosely applied. A few old-timers remain, and new places such as Morgane have opened, swimming fiercely against the current. The menu remains traditional, including beet salad with goat cheese, French onion soup, an impeccable oyster service, steak Béarnaise, and a nice chicken tagine. Sit and enjoy the food in the shady backyard if the weather allows. 340 Bedford Avenue, Brooklyn, 347-599-0699, morganerestaurant.com (11211)

340 Bedford Ave., Brooklyn, 11211
MAP
347-599-0699
Best Balkan

The countries that lie along the eastern side of the Adriatic have a fascinating cuisine—centered on bread dips, salads, and grilled meats—but one that is rarely savored by outsiders. Younger sister of the Hell's Kitchen fave Kashkaval, Balkanika features not only cheeses, charcuterie, and dips that run from baba ghanoush to the red-pepper paste called ivar, but also Balkan main courses that originate in a half-dozen countries: cevapcici (skinless ground-beef sausages), moussaka (a meat casserole that treats potatoes like noodles), guvech (a red wine stew of beef and vegetables), and dolma (stuffed peppers). As an added bonus, the place doubles as a wine bar, showcasing bottles from Turkey and former Yugoslavian republics at bargain prices. 691 Ninth Avenue, 212-974-0300, balkanikanewyork.com (10036)

691 9th Ave., New York, 10036
MAP
212-974-0300
Best Cambodian
Num Pang Sandwich Shop

Although it's true there's virtually no Cambodian food in New York, that's not an absolute. There is a place in Greenwich Village that specializes in sandwiches something like Vietnamese banh mi, but made according to Cambodian culinary principles, and that place is Num Pang Sandwich Shop. While it began life three years ago with a slender number of fairly predictable sandwiches, the menu has evolved considerably since then, and now one of the place's most interesting features is sandwiches concocted by gastronomes like Mario Batali and Floyd Cardoz, so there's always something off the wall among the choices. (A portion of the proceeds from these is often donated to charity.) Further branches have been and will be popping up around town. 21 East 12th Street, 212-255-3271, numpangnyc.com (10003)

21 E. 12th St., New York, 10003
MAP
212-255-3271
Best Catskillian
Kutsher's Tribeca
Liz+Barclay

The mountainous area surrounding Liberty, New York, known as the Borscht Belt, was for decades a center of Jewish-American vernacular cooking at its many resort hotels. Now the excitement of those vast comfort food buffets has been channeled in a bistro setting at Kutsher's Tribeca, partly owned by a family that operated a hotel of the same name. The food is gussied-up Jewish, including fine house-cured pastrami, a revamped matzo ball soup with extra farmers' market veggies, and schmaltz (chicken fat) used in the recipes. Yes, there's chopped liver—made with both duck and chicken organs. And, if you're one of those people who never liked gefilte fish, Kutsher's version is more like French quenelles. 186 Franklin Street, 212-431-0606, kutsherstribeca.com (10013)

186 Franklin St., New York, 10013
MAP
212-431-0606
Best Chinese (Hipster)
Mission Chinese
Liz Barclay

The hands-down hit of the season this past summer was Mission Chinese, a San Francisco transplant helmed by a Korean-American who grew up in Oklahoma. As if that's not random enough, the menu wildly incorporates regional Chinese, Japanese, and American elements. But even more important than the fusion lessons we all enjoyed was the level of spiciness, which was totally balls-to-the-wall, and the semi-subterranean premises saw herds of hipsters who'd barely touched chiles before slurping down mouthfuls that contained chile oil, dried chiles, green chiles, and Sichuan peppercorns, often in the same bite. 154 Orchard Street, 212-529-8800, missionchinesefood.com/ny (10002)

154 Orchard St., New York, 10002
MAP
212-529-8800
Best Chinese (Northern)
Yi Lan Halal

Sure, there are plenty of halal Chinese restaurants in town (such as Brooklyn's No Pork Halal Kitchen), but they all basically serve a Cantonese menu with the swine cut out. By contrast, Yi Lan Halal slings the food of the Muslim population of northern China, which also conforms to the dietary standards of observant followers of Islam here. That means plenty of Silk Road influences, including thick, puckered dumplings that might almost be mistaken for Uzbek manti, shredded pitas stir-fried with vegetables, and the elusive "hand-torn lamb": big knuckles of mutton matched with miniature red dates in a savory broth that the waitress replenishes as you ladle the stew from the bubbling chafing dish. 42-79A Main Street, Queens, 718-886-3622 (11355)

42-79A Main St., Flushing, 11355
MAP
718-886-3622
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Best French: Morgane

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