The 20 Best New York City Dishes of 2015

The 20 Best New York City Dishes of 2015
Bradley Hawks

10. Khinkali, We Are Georgians (230 Kings Highway, Brooklyn; 718-759-6250)
These dumplings from the Caucasus aren’t quite as soupy as Shanghai’s delicate, glutinous soup-concealing jewels, but they’re no less fun to eat, and these are my favorite in town. Co-owner Marina Maisuradze-Olivo stuffs her sturdy skins with pork and veal; it’s up to you to add the hot-pepper condiment known as ajika, which fairly buzzes with coriander and blue fenugreek.

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

9. Georgia white shrimp, Wildair (142 Orchard Street, 646-964-5624)
So many of the small plates at Jeremiah Stone and Fabian von Hauske’s funky wine bar are fun to share, but none more than a bowl of shell-on, olive-oil-poached shrimp. Unsheathe the briny creatures from their shells and snag some of the accompanying cilantro and celery garnish on the way up to your mouth. When’s the last time you wiped your shrimp hands clean before taking a swig of pét-nat, Champagne’s lightly effervescent, often cloudy cousin?

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

8. Pastrami and eel sandwiches, Harry & Ida’s (189 Avenue A, 646-864-0967)
Chef Will Horowitz’s obsession with preservation techniques has never been more keenly focused or better presented than at his rustic apex delicatessen, which he opened with his sister Julie Horowitz this past summer. At the small but well-stocked East Village shop, live eels are plucked from a tank, killed, and smoked. You can take the slippery bastards home or let Horowitz and his team tame them in an otherworldly sandwich layered with smoked butter, maple sauce, and a spiced relish made from parsnip, onion, and horseradish. The justly famous pastrami sandwich, first sold at sister restaurant Ducks Eatery, delights here as well, with fatty and supple smoked meat sassed with dill and buttermilk-pickled cucumbers.

The 20 Best New York City Dishes of 2015
Bradley Hawks

7. Sardine tostada, El Rey Coffee Bar & Luncheonette (100 Stanton Street, 212-260-3950)
Of the many fresh and refreshing small plates on the dinner menu (launched this past winter) at Nick Morgenstern and chef Gerardo Gonzalez’s quirky café, an open-faced fish sandwich beguiled me most. Gonzalez arranges meaty, oily, smoked Portuguese sardines over a crunchy corn tortilla slathered in whipped Greek-yogurt butter. Brightened with shaved radishes, carrots, and carrot-top salsa verde, this fragrant, vibrant tostada eats like a Vogue Battle on the palate.

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

6. Lamb coppa pizza, Bruno (204 East 13th Street, 212-598-3080)
What started as an off-menu nightly special at Justin Slojkowski, Dave Gulino, and Demian Repucci’s stark East Village pizzeria eventually became a menu mainstay. And for good reason: The talented kitchen team melds barnyardy lamb coppa, béchamel, sheep’s-milk cheese, fennel, and tomatillos. Such rambunctious toppings might otherwise inundate more subtle crusts, but the nutty, caramel-brown dough that Slojkowski and Gulino mill in-house is a perfect foil to the onslaught of strong flavors.

The 20 Best New York City Dishes of 2015
Bradley Hawks

5. The entire Kitchen Table menu (more or less), at Empellón Cocina (105 First Avenue, 212-780-0999)
This past spring, chef Alex Stupak renovated Empellón Cocina, the most ambitious of his three Mexican restaurants, and reopened with a semiprivate dining area overlooking his kitchen. There, the New England native serves extended menus ($95 for 10 courses at 6 p.m., $165 for 22 courses at 8 p.m.) that amount to some of the most ambitious and original cooking in town, Mexican or otherwise: cerebral and interactive; elaborately composed yet altogether relatable. I won’t soon forget squash with chilmole, an obsidian sauce made from pepper ashes; the choose-your-own salsa adventure; or Stupak’s cheeky inverse al pastor with a swatch of melting pig fat layered over spiced and caramelized pineapple. For those who yearn for the restlessly creative chef’s return to his pastry roots (and who lament the loss of Cocina’s briefly offered dessert tasting), the Kitchen Table is where to find his particular brand of sweet sorcery, like white sesame and black mole sorbets. Beverage pairings are some of the most affordable of their kind ($30 and $50, respectively), likely because you’ll swig micheladas and frozen margaritas. What other tasting menu lets you do that?

The 20 Best New York City Dishes of 2015
Bradley Hawks

4. Tum kanoon, Chiang Mai (293 Van Brunt Street, Brooklyn; 646-858-5185)
The porky salad of shredded jackfruit stirred with curry and tomatoes that Kanlaya Supachana and Sirichai Sreparplarn served at their welcoming pop-up had me wondering why northern Thai cooking isn’t more prevalent in NYC. The chefs anoint their heady mash with slivers of fatty pork belly and fried hibiscus blossoms and pile crisp pork rinds on the side. Mixed up into one lush, piquant, crunchy salad, it will ruin you for all other meat salads — even the fiery, sour larbs of nearby Isan.

The 20 Best New York City Dishes of 2015
Bradley Hawks

3. Squid ink strozzapreti, Faro (436 Jefferson Street, Brooklyn; 718-381-8201)
In a former Bushwick warehouse, Kevin Adey cooks some seriously provocative pasta from house-milled grains. His knobbly, hand-rolled squid ink strozzapreti have remarkable heft and chew and are tossed with shreds of olive-oil-poached skate wing that coat the noodles like a maritime ragù. A topping of pumpkinseed breadcrumbs adds a pervasive nutty crunch. You’ll never yearn for lobster mac-and-cheese ever again.

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

2. Wild sesame soup, Oiji (119 First Avenue, 646-767-9050)
Do you like tahini? OK, do you love tahini? You probably should have deep-rooted feelings about sesame seeds (or wild sesame, a/k/a perilla seed) before ordering Brian Kim and Tae Kyung Ku’s outrageously rich and slightly bitter wild sesame soup. Missing the heaviness of other nut soups like West African peanut-based maafe, this velvety purée is silken and almost airy. The chefs ladle the beige and burnished liquid over tender oyster mushrooms, black truffle, and chewy coins of rice cake for a truly impactful and comforting bowl.

The 20 Best New York City Dishes of 2015
Bradley Hawks

1. Baked potatoes, Mekelburg’s (293 Grand Avenue, Brooklyn; 718-399-2337)
Alicia and Daniel Mekelburg’s baked potatoes redefine the staple comfort food as an affordable luxury. You’ve never seen spuds so glamour-shot ready, their creased and cracked salt-baked skins split down the middle and stuffed with lavish fillings. One oozes raclette and wears a crown of sour cream, pickled peppers, and double-smoked slab bacon; the other supports flaky smoked sablefish under a cloud of crème fraîche and a gargantuan quenelle of briny caviar. The rest of the menu has thrills aplenty (from monstrous porchetta and NOLA-style BBQ shrimp sandwiches to a “Mek-Muffin” brioche breakfast sandwich featuring more of that slab bacon). Still, in a million years (and hundreds of meals over the course of this one), I never thought I’d be dreaming about baked potatoes.



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