241 Church Street, 212-925-0202

Downtown’s hottest new restaurant features Jean-George Vongerichten’s retooling of the Chinese canon, just a stone’s throw from Chinatown and thrice as expensive. Reasons to go: beautiful staff, the 50-foot communal table, Peking duck, shrimp fried rice, tuna tartare dotted with Asian celery and soy tapioca, excellent wine list, eggplant with X.O. sauce. Reasons not to go: scallion pancakes, egg roll with apricot sauce, “liquid chicken” dumplings, crackling pig, “tan tan” (dan dan) noodles, and the sinking feeling you’ll get when you pull out your wallet at the end of the meal. $$$


323 Greenwich Street, 212-431-1112

In Dinner Rush, Danny Aiello is the proprietor of an Italian restaurant founded by his mother. Though only recently opened, Gigino’s served as the movie set. Diners will recognize the layout, especially the stairs that descend to the office, where much of the action takes places. Local regulars who realize that the restaurant as described in the movie would never be located in Tribeca still flock to this comfortable spot for its tasty elegant appetizers and big plates of steaming pasta. The rich mushroom risotto is always on the money, and so are the pizzas, especially diavolo, thin crusted and topped with eggplant, goat cheese, and hot-pepper puree. $$



575 Hudson Street, 646-638-2900

Papillon flitted away, to be replaced by Café Topsy. Thought you hated English food? Topsy may change your mind, offering impressive reworked Brit standards like cottage pie, fish and chips, shepherd’s pie, and a delicious dark hunk of brisket braised in Guinness, with an errant shot of balsamic providing extra flavor and sweetness. Other dishes reach across the channel for inspiration, including a singularly uninspiring rendition of pork rillettes and the vastly preferable “topsy’s coddler,” a very Alsatian heap of smoked meats cooked in sauerkraut. The limited dessert menu is similarly distinguished. $

(new) DJERDAN #3 L

221 West 38th Street, 212-921-1183

Sojourning to Astoria or Pelham Parkway is no longer necessary where Bosnian bureks are concerned. These fantastic flaky phyllo pies—stuffed with cheese, meat, or spinach—are now available in Manhattan’s garment district. Trouble is, at this location they reheat them in the microwave, decreasing your culinary delight substantially. Either ask to have the burek served at room temperature, or carry out a $4 wedge and find your own oven. Or go for the wonderful goulash, a heap of tender veal chunks laved in a light paprika gravy and deposited on enough rice to provision a small army. ¢


30 East 13th Street, 212-366-9299

Forgoing the flotilla of free small dishes called pan chan, which you might not have been too fond of anyway, DoSirak offers what it calls “simple good Korean food,” and I can’t argue with that assessment. The soups are a particularly good deal (under $10), running from the unspicy but rib-sticking beef short rib to the searingly spicy pork and kimchee. The crock-seared rice salads known by the musical name bib bim bop are often thrust into the wood-burning oven at the rear of the restaurant, a vestige of pizza parlors past. $


509 East 6th Street, 212-777-5920

The menu aims very high and achieves its goal at this expensive East Villager. We were knocked out by a wild- mushroom soup laced with truffle oil flaunting a heap of crunchy dried mushrooms in the middle, a lobster bruschetta incongruously employing little toast points like an English tea snack, and off-the-bone beef short ribs in a rich brown sauce with steamed leeks and pomegranate seeds. The lack of tablecloths, the gleaming polyurethane on wooden surfaces, and the dim candle illumination reinforce the feeling that you’re cargo in a ship’s hold. $$$


1 Fifth Avenue, 212-995-9559

Ultra-thin-crust pizzas are the forte of this casual joint in the former Clementine’s space, now done up to look like an Italian railroad station—in the front part, at least. The pies run the gamut from the conventional (margherita made with bufala mozzarella) to the unusual (house-cured lard strips scented with rosemary). The menu goes way beyond pizzas, though, including cold pungent vegetable preparations, cured meats and fish, salads, bruschetta, and a fritter of the day. The wine list is exclusively Italian and fills three pages. Don’t miss the olive oil gelato for dessert, sprinkled with sea salt. $$


37 Spring Street, 212-274-0008

Add this to your list of strange snackeries: a futuristic space that specializes in rice pudding, with a merchandising style that befits an ice cream parlor. Twenty-one flavors are available, from the tastes-almost-normal cinnamon sling to the actively oddball “surrender to mango with lime.” Most flavors tend to be overstated and garishly colored, and servings are expensive ($4.50 for eight ounces), though so rich you could easily share one with a friend. Just try to agree on a flavor! Best part: the reusable lidded plastic bowl and pudding scoop that come with each serving. It’s like a Tupperware party! ¢

14TH TO 42ND


303 Lexington Avenue, 212-481-1999

Though Rare puts on hipster airs, it’s really just a dining room in a revamped traveling-salesman hotel. The specialty is burgers, ranging from the standard flame-grilled “classic” with multiple topping choices to theme burgers like the surprisingly delicious “the Mexican,” topped with great guacamole and spicy bean paste. Others feature a seed-crusted salmon fillet that can be topped with a fried egg, and a lentil vegetarian patty that didn’t do anything for me. Appetizers are skippable; instead concentrate on sides and the double-size desserts. $



17 East 48th Street, 212-355-3345

This venerable establishment was where many New Yorkers learned to love top-drawer sushi, and the excellence of the raw fish still puts it among the top five in town. The traditional pecking order of sushi chefs is preserved, and even the bargain set assortments prepared by underchefs are sterling in quality and style. Best on a revisit was the “dream box”—an assortment of tiny bowls presented in a wooden matrix, each featuring a dollop of sushi rice topped with delectable morsels: yellowtail, river eel, salmon roe, homemade omelet, and cubed belly tuna, flavored with a medley of rinds, leaves, and sauces. $$


1143 First Avenue, 212-371-0238

Replacing Sushihatsu, this newcomer bids to become one of the top sushi bars in town. The raw fish is excellent, both traditional choices and “new style” sushi of the type promulgated by Nobu and its imitators. From the former category we enjoyed perfect toro sashimi, tender belly tuna shot through with fat like blocks of pink marble; from the latter, horse mackerel sushi topped with a mound of seared garlic salt, a perfect complement to the fish’s strong flavor. Cooked entrées like salmon teriyaki and pork katsu were a disappointment, competently rendered but with no special flair. Best part: open till 3 a.m. $$



665 Vanderbilt Avenue, Prospect Heights, 718-783-3400

Heralded by a feature in the Times Wednesday food section, Aliseo’s success was a fait accompli, even though the diminutive restaurant lacks a proper kitchen and a full menu. The wine list is unique in its emphasis on reds from the Marches in Italy, and the cured meats are superlative—though the cheeses often lag. And even though there are, astonishingly, no pastas, the four main courses offered each evening are often wonderful, sometimes including a simple fennel-stuffed suckling pig, and a weird but workable cuttlefish-and-artichoke stew. Best part: free sparkling water. $$


1377 East New York Avenue, Brownsville, 718-342-5850

This establishment is an eats beacon in a downtown Brownsville increasingly dominated by fast-food chains, and one of the rare local Jamaican places to produce jerk pork. The handsome nuggets are grilled over charcoal and doused with a distinctive homemade sauce. Though the regulars seem to prefer the oxtails, we scarfed an excellent goat curry, damper and hotter than most, served over rice and peas. Also admirable was the copious side of mac and cheese, with lots more cheese than you’d expect. Chef Shorty qualifies as one of the most painstaking cooks in town. ¢


533 Nostrand Avenue, Bedford-Stuyvesant, 718-783-6109

Though no writer has yet unearthed the history of this amazing institution—most agree it’s an ancient Jewish deli that’s been reverently preserved as the neighborhood has become mainly Caribbean—there’s no disagreement about the excellence of its brisket. The cut has been slow-roasted so that it develops a caramelized edge and intensely flavorful meat, a lovely shade of brown. Sliced thin, heaped on rye bread, and then doused with a gravy made from the juices, it’s one of Bed-Stuy’s greatest taste sensations, especially if you spring for the overstuffed size, which will set you back $8. ¢


40-15 Fifth Avenue, Sunset Park, 718-972-3756

This new Ecuadoran is illuminated entirely with neon; the fierce, life-size shark at the end of the room is penned in by a red lasso of it. Though Andean favorites like roast pork and peanut-sauced tripe are available, the heart of the menu is seafood and ceviches. The version of the faddish marinated fish salad offered here is more like a tart cold soup, the tasty broth laced with purple onions and topped with crunchy corn nuts to remind you of the pre-Columbian origins of this dish. Don’t miss the imported black clams, which tint the broth a lovely shade of slate gray. $


530 Driggs Avenue, Williamsburg, 718-388-6607

Though the name suggests a Portuguese place, Fada is a French bistro specializing in the vegetable-intensive provender of Provence. The dining room affects a raffish air, and the menu runs from shareable combination plates called assiettes to refreshing salads, such as a salade frisée that features smoked duck breast in addition to lardoons, to main courses voluminous enough to stand alone as your evening meal. Recommended entrées: steak frites featuring a thin sirloin sided with mounds of glistening fries, and an aioli garni of cod and homemade mayonnaise accompanied by legions of steamed vegetables and a handful of snails. Open for breakfast. $$


249 Empire Boulevard, Prospect-Lefferts Gardens, 718-282-2000

If you ever wondered what Grenada looks like, Pysne’s is your place. This handsome new restaurant is lined with color photos of the tiny nation, and regulars use them as a point of reference while trading stories of island life. The pan-Caribbean menu includes brown stew chicken, goat curry, a couple of fried fish, oxtails in a deep brown sauce, and BBQ chicken; sometimes there are also uniquely Grenadan specialties like oil down, cow heel souse, tanya log, and an especially delicious and African-leaning callaloo—fresh taro leaves stewed with hot pepper sauce. The macaroni pie (mac and cheese) is also commendable. ¢



72-32 Broadway, Jackson Heights, 718-898-5500

Offering dramatic views of the intersection of Broadway and Roosevelt Avenue from its second-floor dining room, Bombay Harbour has revitalized Indian food in Jackson Heights. In addition to the standard Mughal menu, it dabbles in Goan cuisine—via the marvelous chicken xacuti—and other southern-leaning cooking styles, deploying bales of curry leaves and shotgunning dishes with black mustard seed. Dhaka Hazi’s biryani, dotted with chewy bits of goat, reprises a Bangladeshi street-food favorite. Avoid the appetizers, with the exception of samosa chat and tandoori mixed grill. $


224-15 Linden Boulevard, Cambria Heights, no phone number

Invoking the name of the world’s most famous jerk destination (Boston Beach, near Port Antonio, Jamaica), BJP specializes in flame-cooked chicken and pork well slathered with jerk spices and tendered with three sauces—sweet, pepper, and jerk. A combination of the latter two is preferred, but the well-charred chicken tastes fine without them. Depending on the cook’s whim, there may be oxtails and stewed chicken, and traditional breakfasts like saltfish and ackee. On the day we visited there was also an excellent vegetarian red-bean soup rife with manioc and finger-shaped dumplings. ¢

(new) INCA’S

120-20 Queens Boulevard, Kew Gardens, 718-263-6767

Sit in the wraparound dining annex, which offers splendid views of the Boulevard of Death, and enjoy the Afro-Peruvian jazz ensemble on weekend evenings. The menu of this most ambitious of Andean restaurants also features Argentine parrilladas, but stick with the ceviches and, especially, the hard-to-find sierra fare: tender veal-heart brochettes called anticuchos, the bread-thickened and turmeric-yellow chicken stew aji gallina, and potatoes a la Huancaina, a cheese-sauced casserole that perfectly demonstrates the co-equal contributions of Indians and conquistadors to Peruvian food. $$


102-03 Northern Boulevard, Corona, 718-426-7818

While Ecuadoran ceviches are soupy, Peruvian specimens are more like seafood salads, drenched in lemon juice and topped with pickled purple onions. La Pollada makes great Peruvian ceviches, including an octopus rendition that achieves brilliance via olives and olive oil, and a fish ceviche that shares a plate with a mound of fried calamari, offered with a choice of chile sauces. Fried seafood also excels, especially jalea, a humongous mound of ocean creatures atop planks of yuca, with some salad strewn here and there. Finally, there are the toothsome chicken dishes suggested by the name (La Pollada means “the brood”). $


31-14 Broadway, Astoria, 718-204-8968

Cynics contend there’s no great Greek food left in Astoria. Today we encountered evidence to the contrary. After eyeballing the iced display of fish, we made our way into the spare skylit interior and noshed on a very garlicky skordalia and an abundant beet salad while waiting for our sea bass to cook. It arrived 20 minutes later, grilled over charcoal and singed on the edges, flooded with olive oil and herbs, every bite sweet, salty, and smoky. It was altogether the best grilled fish I’ve had in ages, visits to the ultra-pricey Estiatorio Milos in midtown included. $$


69-46 Myrtle Avenue, Glendale, 718-386-3014

This German restaurant may indeed be 100 years old. It certainly looks like it with its dark wood decor and ranked beer steins. The name translates to something like “the communal table” and the restaurant anchors the dwindling German communities of Ridgewood, Middle Village, and Glendale. The standard schnitzels, wursts, and tangy-sweet sauerbraten are here evoked in superior renditions, and peripheral dishes of oxtail salad and homemade headcheese provide a certain culinary kinkiness. Best of all, though, is an amazing take on steak tartare. $



767 East 137th Street, Bronx, 718-585-8086

This ancient German bar and café in the shadow of the Bruckner Expressway used to be open only in the afternoons. Under new owners, it recently extended its hours and expanded the menu to include the usual bar food, from hamburgers to jalapeño poppers to chicken parmigiana heros. In the recesses of the menu the old Teutonic stuff still lingers—a pair of bratwursts sided with sauerkraut, say, or a choice of veal cutlets with or without sauce. Look up from your meal, and the dark wood paneling, bric-a-brac, and beer signs might cause you to postulate: “Geez! I must be in Milwaukee.” $


772 East 149th Street, Bronx, 718-585-5164

Founded a half-century ago by three guys from the Italian island of Ponza, 50 kilometers south of Rome, Venice reflects the island’s culinary heritage with splendidly prepared seafood. Best of all is a conch (scungilli) salad, generously heaped over lettuce, tomatoes, and pickled vegetable giardinera. Also don’t miss the succulent baked clams, stuffed with bland bread crumbs that don’t interfere with the taste of the bivalves—which are scintillatingly fresh due to the proximity of the Hunts Point Market. Pizzas are another strong point, Neapolitan style with a perfect mix of crispness, good cheese, and piquant tomato sauce. $