The sandwich called King Patacon at the café called King Patacon
It was a tough call which 11 dishes astonished me the most last year. Here are 10 more candidates that nearly make the grade, in no particular order.
King Patacon at King Patacon (above) — Substituting rounds of green plantain that were sat on by an elephant and then fried instead of bread, and then making a very gloppy sandwich with pulled pork, greenery, tomatoes, and Russian dressing, the thing is a bitch to eat, but supremely tasty. 42-19 102nd Street, Queens, 347-242 2430
Meat Ball at Taiwanese Specialties — Despite the fact that this wiggly dish is the last thing you’d label a meatball, that’s what it’s called on the English menu at Taiwanese Specialties, a place that specializes in the home-style cooking of the island. The jellylike matrix is studded with bits of meat and pickled veggies, and it’s really fun to eat. 84-02 Broadway, Queens, 718-429-4818
Grilled Sardines With Pickled Lotus Root at St. Anselm — Studded with peppercorns, laked in oil, the fish are striped like prison window bars and sided with perforated rounds of pickled lotus root, making one of the world’s most perfect flavor contrasts — yet also not one you would think of right off the bat. 355 Metropolitan Avenue, Brooklyn, 718-384-5054
Short Rib With Spaetzle at Heartbreak (closed) — Rue the day that Heartbreak closed — just after receiving a coveted food award. The city was thus deprived of an amazing hunk of short rib, cloaked in a gravy darker than midnight, with spaetzle poking up through the gravy like the larvae of some delectable insect.
Pig Ear at Allswell — According to most authorities, pig ear is best cut in strips, poached or sautéed, and used in a salad, or cut up small and put in fritters. Not so at newcomer Allswell, where an entire ear is fried to gummy crunchiness, and it’s gonna take several friends and you to finish it, and even then you risk being so full you can’t continue with the meal. 124 Bedford Avenue, Brooklyn, 347-799-2743
Steamed Mashed Pepper With Winter Melon at Hunan Kitchen of Grand Sichuan — The red you see in the picture is mashed pickled red chili, which sheds its color and heat into the poaching broth surrounding the swatches of winter melon, which has the texture and color of honeydew, but none of the sweetness. 42-47 Main Street, Queens, 718-389-8100
Light Beef Soup at Uptown African Restaurant — Laced with fragrant palm oil, and only slightly fiery in the mouth, this light soup really can be eaten as a soup, but tastes all the better when a mash or fufu is provided for dipping. Every part of the cow can probably be found therein if you fish long enough. 13 East 175th Street, Bronx, 347-879-6889
Gesztenye Pure at Andre’s Café — Forget about chestnuts roasting on an open fire, or those chestnut sellers outside St. Patrick’s Cathedral: The most exalted use of castanea is in this Hungarian extruded pudding, topped with a cloud of whipped cream. Yes, it looks like a bowl of worms. 1631 Second Avenue, 212-327-1105
Cow Foot Soup at Sol de Quito — Tweaked with scallions and cilantro, the rich broth is mobbed with gooey globs of cow foot, including plenty of rubbery skin and integument at this comfy Bushwick Ecuadorian. This is a wonderful soup for texture freaks. 160 Irving Avenue, 718-417-4174
Scotch Egg at Jones Wood Foundry — Who the hell invented this thing? A boiled egg, evenly coated with sausage to resemble an even larger egg from some prehistoric animal, then crumbed and deep-fried. We are deep into gutbomb territory here, my friends. 401 East 76th Street, 212-249-2700