Best Small Plates - 2013
After garnering attention, acclaim, and the occasional raised eyebrow at the original incarnation of Isa, Ignacio Mattos and his entire crew were unceremoniously let go, and one of the best chefs in the city was suddenly a free agent. At the recently opened Estela, Mattos has finally found the audience he deserves while cooking food that's as uncompromising as we've come to expect with some insightful, focused edits. The majority of the menu is small plates, including a beef tartare that, like the one at Isa, utilizes the earthiness of sunchokes. In this case, shards of the tuber provide crunch and contrast to sweet, caviar-like elderberries. Quail is presented in dramatic fashion, with head and claw intact. Former Blue Hill at Stone Barns sommelier Thomas Carter oversees an extensive wine list that belies the restaurant's one downfall: It really ought to be larger, so that more of us can enjoy it.