The 20 Best New York City Dishes of 2015

Korean tortilla española at M. Wells Steakhouse
Korean tortilla española at M. Wells Steakhouse
Zachary Feldman, the Village Voice

Another madcap year of NYC dining comes to a close. Here are nineteen dishes (and one meal) I couldn’t stop thinking about — and that I hope to taste again sooner rather than later.

The 20 Best New York City Dishes of 2015
Bradley Hawks

20. Beef rolls, Kottu House (250 Broome Street, 646-781-9222)
Godamba roti, the flatbread Sandya De Silva chops up for her namesake dish at Kottu House, also deep-fries sensationally. The chef, who serves up Sri Lankan street-food gems with her son, Chelaka Gunamuni, from a jewel-box storefront on the Lower East Side, rolls the roti and fills their crisp shells with ground beef, shredded vegetables, and fragrant curry before dropping the bundles into hot oil. Hot sauce comes with an order of the enlightened Hot Pockets, but throw down a few extra bucks for the house sambals. The raw onion and coconut condiments deliver chile-spiked fireworks.

The 20 Best New York City Dishes of 2015
Zachary Feldman, Village Voice

19. Caramel mille-feuille, Vaucluse (100 East 63rd Street, 646-869-2300)
Oh, you like fancy, huh? At the Altamarea Group’s latest venture, Alina Martell complements Michael White and Jared Gadbaw’s unabashedly buttery, savory French cooking with a cadre of grown-up and posh sweets. Her mille-feuille sandwiches gorgeously light lemon-inflected cream between layers of flaky puff pastry. That caramelized shell, plus sweet milk ice cream on the side and a deeply flavored caramel drizzle on the plate, render this classic dessert contemporary.

The 20 Best New York City Dishes of 2015
Bradley Hawks

18. Indian aster salad, Gui Lin Mi Fen (135-25 40th Road, Queens; 718-939-2025)
Noodle soups, a signature of the southern Chinese city of Guilin, get top billing here, but I kept going back for tastes of this salad of finely diced tofu and herbaceous Indian aster. When cooked, the plant has a texture similar to boiled tea leaves, with a grassy finish. And while it arrives looking like lawn clippings, the chilled appetizer — with its bouncy bean curd cubes — makes for a refreshing counterpoint to the warming noodle soup.

The 20 Best New York City Dishes of 2015
Zachary Feldman, Village Voice

17. Korean tortilla española, M. Wells Steakhouse (43-15 Crescent Street, Queens; 718-786-9060)
Chef Hugue Dufour and his wife, Sarah Obraitis, the trout-farming owners of this charmingly wacky steakhouse built inside a former auto body shop — are well suited to brunch, a meal that can simultaneously cause and soothe hangovers. The duo added the indulgent weekend meal earlier this year, with stupendous results. This inverted and dressed-up frittata made me chuckle and then woke me up with explosive pockets of kimchi and blood sausage, the eggs stained a Seussian purple from Okinawan sweet potatoes.

The 20 Best New York City Dishes of 2015
Zachary Feldman, Village Voice

16. Fisherman’s okonomiyaki, Bar Goto (245 Eldridge Street, 212-475-4411)
Okonomiyaki popped up a lot this year, and nowhere did I enjoy the Japanese comfort food more than at veteran barman Kenta Goto’s tastefully appointed drinks lair, which slays with a combination of thoughtful, fun cocktails and righteous bar snacks. The savory pancakes — made with grated yam and cabbage and served in rectangular cast-iron pans — arrive wearing artful squiggles of Worcestershire-like sauce and Kewpie mayonnaise. My favorite (with a shout-out to the wonky sun-dried-tomato-and-cheese version) is the Fisherman’s okonomiyaki, a friendly assemblage of perfectly cooked rock shrimp, squid, and octopus. Sprinkled with wispy bonito flakes, it eats like the drunk-munchies of Aquaman’s dreams.

The 20 Best New York City Dishes of 2015
Zachary Feldman, Village Voice

15. Cobia al pastor, Cosme (35 East 21st Street, 212-913-9659)
Tacos al pastor are having a moment in NYC, with industry professionals using the pork-and-pineapple dish as a point of inspiration for pizza and even beer. At Cosme, Enrique Olvera’s progressive Mexican restaurant in the Flatiron, chef de cuisine Daniela Soto-Innes translates the hearty recipe into a gorgeously balanced plate of spice-rubbed cobia with chile-pineapple purée, cilantro, and paper-thin pineapple slices. Reimagined in Soto-Innes and Olvera’s hands, the rough edges of this street food are softened into something elegant that hits on both a referential and a guttural level.

The 20 Best New York City Dishes of 2015
Bradley Hawks

14. Fig & olive dessert, Timna (109 St. Marks Place, 646-964-5181)
Nir Mesika cooks with an erratic but overwhelmingly successful creativity and isn’t afraid to take risks seasoning assertively. Although a porcini dessert perplexed me, his take on the Israeli rosewater pudding called malabi was the best kind of contemplative dessert — one that’s hard to stop eating. Salty dehydrated olive crumbs offset the sweetness from rose syrup and a mound of yuzu custard layered with black mission figs, fresh berries, and shredded halva — a symphony of fresh fruit, brightness, and brine.

The 20 Best New York City Dishes of 2015
Bradley Hawks

13. Sunchokes with gruyère-cider foam, Wassail (162 Orchard Street, 646-918-6385)
At Jennifer Lim and Ben Sandler’s Lower East Side cider bar, chef Joseph Buenconsejo cooks with confidence and plates with whimsy. In these vegetable-mad times, this lovely bowl of sunchokes stuck out for its clever and seamless oscillation between cold and warm ingredients. Cider-spiked gruyère foam obscures tender and crisp cooked sunchokes. A top layer of shaved sunchokes, arranged like reptile scales, balances the rest of the dish’s deep, nutty elements.

The 20 Best New York City Dishes of 2015
Zachary Feldman, Village Voice

12. “Fuckin’ Mackerel” dip, Whit’s End (97-14 Rockaway Beach Boulevard, Queens; no phone)
Fine-dining expat Whitney Aycock runs a very particular kind of pizzeria out in Rockaway Beach, with occasionally flexible operating hours (check Instagram) and a menu littered with profanity. An avid fisherman, the chef aggressively smokes his catch behind the restaurant, taming the oily, locally caught bluefish or mackerel (depending on what's in season) and producing a stunningly rich and pungent appetizer. Forget toast points — Aycock stacks a pyre of char-speckled pizza-dough breadsticks next to the dip. Topped with a puddle of imported olive oil, chopped scallions, and cracked black pepper, it’s well worth the money you’ll have to drop in your swear jar.

The 20 Best New York City Dishes of 2015
Zachary Feldman, Village Voice

11. Herbie’s International, Ivan Ramen (25 Clinton Street, 646-678-3859)
Ivan Orkin put this throwback sandwich on his L.E.S. lunch menu after a friend mentioned eating the original in Canarsie at Herbie’s International, an offshoot of Catskills restaurant Herbie’s in Loch Sheldrake. Both of those places are long gone, but Orkin’s kitschy regional excavation yields gustatory pleasure. The kitchen piles thin slices of sweet and tender Chinese-style barbecued pork into a miso-garlic toasted hero roll and serves the bulky sandwich with sinus-clearing Chinese mustard, shiso-spiked citrus slaw, and syrupy roasted-garlic duck sauce.


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