The Village Voice's Ten Favorite Dishes in New York City
The Village Voice searched the five boroughs to find the best of breakfast, lunch, dinner, and everything in between. And here they are: the ten dishes you'll want to put on your must-eat list this year. Before you know it, you'll revisit these New York City gems over and over again, savoring each and every bite.
We shared our first ninety favorite dishes in no particular order, but these shining top ten have won their hard-earned spots thanks to their innovation, attention to culinary detail, and (of course) taste.
10. Bar Goto's Okonomiyaki
After nearly a decade entertaining thirsty patrons at some of the city’s swankiest and most esteemed watering holes, barman Kenta Goto has finally struck out on his own. Years in the making, Bar Goto (245 Eldridge Street, 212-475-4411) showcases its owner’s talents with a selection of expressive and elegant cocktails. He infuses vodka with mushrooms for bloody marys and riffs on the Tom Collins using Calpico, a Japanese milk soda. Chef Kiyo Shinoki oversees the food menu, delivering lighter fare like yuzu-pepper pickles and celery treated with seaweed and sesame, as well as more recognizable bar fare including burdock-root fries and miso-hot-sauce chicken wings.
Chief among the kitchen’s offerings are Shinoki’s okonomiyaki, savory Japanese pancakes made with grated yam and cabbage and delivered in rectangular cast-iron skillets. The five highbrow flapjacks served here come in winning combinations like mushrooms and leeks and chicken and pork belly. And while you can indulge in classic Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki, griddled with a layer of yakisoba noodles in the batter (along with a satisfying mix of pork belly and rock shrimp), don’t miss out on the “Fisherman” and “Grilled Cheese” versions. The former adds an oceanic feast of octopus, calamari, and shrimp, while the latter melts together cheddar, parmesan, and gruyère with lush, piquant sun-dried tomatoes.
Every pancake gets doused in Kewpie mayonnaise and tangy Worcestershire-like okonomiyaki sauce and arrives with bowls of shaved bonito flakes and diced pickles meant for scattering across the top. It all amounts to some of the city’s most refined bar food and best drunk munchies, the pancakes simultaneously crisp, fluffy, and dense with hearty flavors.
9. Peasant's Risotto
Frank DeCarlo built his kitchen with his bare hands and his wood-fired ovens brick by brick. At Peasant (194 Elizabeth Street; 212-965-9511), his rustic Nolita restaurant going fifteen years strong, the seasoned chef and a small crew cook a lineup of traditional — and, in many cases, ancient — Italian recipes learned through his time spent cooking throughout the country. From his roiling furnace and rotisserie, he produces thin-crust pizzas topped with spicy peppers and chile-spiked salami and lasagnas layered with tomato-braised goat or shredded rabbit and béchamel, while his burners are reserved for classics like risottos served in wide, shallow dishes.
Accoutrements for the wondrously soupy and creamy grains change seasonally. Sometimes they hold porcini mushrooms, sometimes asparagus; sometimes peas and shrimp. Our favorite version is DeCarlo’s squid ink risotto, the black rice dotted with plump whole cuttlefish. Red and yellow cherry tomatoes, basil, and edible flowers add pops of color and bright, fresh flavor to the dish’s earthy richness. Peasant’s wood-fired items, like head-on squab and crisp-skinned suckling pigs with potatoes simmered in milk, are arguably its biggest draw, but the risottos — offered in portions large enough to share — illustrate why the restaurant hasn’t missed a step.
8. Empellon Cocina's Cucumbers
For the past four years, pastry chef turned Mexican-cooking savant Alex Stupak has wowed diners with his creative take on this complex cuisine, delving deep and playing with flavors, techniques, and textures both familiar and unconventional. At Empellon Cocina (105 First Avenue; 212-780-0999), the most formal and experimental of his three establishments, he’s tinkered with his dining-room menu numerous times and even installed a chef’s counter in the back of the restaurant that entertains four select guests with a procession of ingenious bites served in two seatings.
If you can’t snag a reservation for the wild ride taking place in back, several dishes on Cocina’s main menu offer similarly evocative highs. One such plate is Stupak’s surreptitiously intricate jumble of cucumbers. Sitting in a puddle of black-cumin-spiked buttermilk, the raw and pickled cucumbers chill out under a dusting of lemon ice squirted with lime-basil oil (referencing the Mexican snow cones known as respados). The refreshing, sour granita, tangy and spicy dairy, and gently sweet vegetables conspire to generate a composition that feels far more nuanced and luxurious than cucumbers have any right to be — yet it’s something that would also feel right at home alongside a michelada.
7. La Vara's Gurullos
Jewish- and Moorish-influenced Spanish flavors pervade at La Vara (268 Clinton Street, Brooklyn; 718-422-0065), Alex Raij and Eder Montero's spot located along a sleepy residential Brooklyn street. Whether seated alongside exposed brick or beneath the massive tree that juts into the tiny outdoor seating area, diners enjoy the couple’s evocative and often hearty plates, like cumin-spiced half-chicken and bricks of shredded lamb served with scallions. But we were also delighted to find out that Spain has a pasta tradition.
Hailing from the southeastern city of Murcia, gurullos are airy and hand-rolled stubby semolina noodles poached in milk. Sometimes flavored with saffron, the pasta is, at La Vara, drenched in grassy goat butter and seasoned with bright, lemony sumac. For an extra barnyardy taste, you can (and should) get this primo pasta with the addition of ground goat meat — the animal’s usual gaminess is only hinted at, while its richness and texture bolster the rest of the ingredients on the plate.
6. Gui Lin Mi Fen's Noodle Soups
Flushing overflows with all kinds of no-holds-barred dining experiences boasting ample (and occasionally too much) spice and gluttony. Which is why the neighborhood’s blessed to have a place like Gui Lin Mi Fen (135-25 40th Road, Queens; 718-939-2025) situated off the vibrant community’s main thoroughfare, where diners can indulge in a slow-cooked regional delicacy with a subtle approach to complexity.
The specialty here, springy and thin mi fen rice noodles floating in soup, arrives at the table deconstructed — but it’s no modernist touch. Hailing from Guilin, a city in southern China, the dish presents starch and soup separately in deep bowls. Sip the pristine stock, a cloudy and only slightly oleaginous elixir made from chicken, pork, and beef bones simmered for twelve hours. Don’t forget the noodles in the other bowl. They sit in pungent soy marinade and come topped with simply prepared meats like fresh-killed poached chicken, thinly sliced brisket, and deep-fried pork belly. After you’ve tasted each separately, combine them into one seriously fortifying soup. Smoked pork makes a compelling accoutrement, its streaks of fat melting into the elixir, and the vegetarian “Good Friends” version plays nice with peppery bamboo shoots, mushrooms, pickled green beans, cilantro, scallions, and roasted soy nuts.Next Page
Get the Food & Drink Newsletter
Our weekly guide to New York dining includes food news and reviews, as well as dining events and interviews with chefs and restaurant owners.