Food

Our 10 Best West Village Restaurants, 2012 Edition

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Uniting egg and eggplant, possibly for the first time — the sabich sandwich at Taïm

Despite a plethora of overpriced and pretentious restaurants, the West Village is still one of the damned best places to eat in the city in nearly every price range. And here’s the list to prove it. Note that there are many fine restaurants that didn’t make the list — but we’ve decided to confine ourselves to 10 only and not wimp out on our duty to choose boldly.

10. Petite Abeille — Great beers and wines, killer fries, discount grilled lobsters, a memorable hamburger topped with pancetta, and, especially, moules frites, have long been the mainstays of this unassuming Belgian café, along with a playful sense of restaurateuring and a sidewalk seating area. Watch for the recurring daily specials for steep discounts. 466 Hudson Street, 212-741-6479

9. Taïm — This Israeli spot with little seating — though there are benches and walls to perch on all around it in fine weather — first shocked the dining community by offering falafels in three flavors, but the excellence of its entire all-vegetarian menu soon became apparent, and its sabich sandwich (at the top of the page) became a citywide fave. 222 Waverly Place, 212-691-1287

8. Annisa — Chef Anita Lo’s long-running project has only gotten better over the years, and feasting there on miso-marinated sable with crispy tofu, broiled mackerel with garlic fried milk, or — pièce de résistance — a white-truffled roast chicken with slivers of pig foot tucked under its skin feels like dining on a cloud. 13 Barrow Street, 212-741-6699

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7. Corsino — From tiny ‘ino (still a great place) an empire grew, and this is its finest evocation, a totally under-the-sonar Italian restaurant with reasonable prices that neighborhood types rarely mention — they want to keep it to themselves. Better than all the expensive Italian pretenders that have lately sprung up in the West Village, and far more chill. 637 Hudson Street, 212-242-3093

6. Malatesta — Comparatively cheap pastas and wood-oven flatbreads via a rollicking crew from the southern part of Emilia-Romagna in a louche Christopher Street setting — what could be better? Wines by the glass and a panna cotta that’s the town’s finest are added lures, at this mainstay decorated with Italian pulp-fiction covers. 649 Washington Street, 212-741-1207

5. Mary’s Fish Camp — Once the still-good Pearl Oyster Bar and Mary’s were equals, but Mary has pulled ahead with a startling culinary breadth, including the excellent fish tacos shown above, demonstrating a versatility and experimental attitude that you’d never expect in a seafood spot. The crowd is convivial in this oft-packed gem, so go very early, very late, or at lunch. 64 Charles Street, 646-486-2185

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4. EN Japanese Brasserie — This hulking Nipponese brasserie excels at small dishes of both an authentic and an invented sort — in a memorable setting that makes you feel like you’re dining in a haunted forest. The once-a-month family meal served in the front barroom has become the stuff of legend, and don’t whatever you do miss the fried chicken, the homemade tofu, anything featuring mackerel, or the chawan mushi topped with truffles shown above. 435 Hudson Street, 212-647-9196

3. I Sodi — Chef and owner Rita Soda is a culinary maverick, a former apparel executive so passionate about Tuscan food that she sources ingredients including olive oil from her own farm north of Florence, and seemingly presides over this intimate spot at all times. Are there really two of her? 105 Christopher Street, 212-414-5774

2. Rockmeisha — Sporting an unlikely ’60s wrestling theme, this authentic izakaya offers a head-scratching collection of Japanese and American dishes, nearly all of them excellent, so that they almost distract you from the sake and beer selection. The single choice of ramen in an enthralling pig-foot broth reminds you of what ramen once was, and the grilled sardines (above) are the most perfect in town. 11 Barrow Street, 212-675-7775

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1. John’s Pizzeria — Somehow, like some sort of biblical miracle, the coal that fires the 900-degree oven keeps getting delivered, the dough keeps rising, the excellent mozzarella keeps getting thrown on, and the perfect pies keep emerging, slightly charred, perfectly cooked, and delicious in every way, and even Kesté, a good Naples-style place across the street, can’t match it. John’s is a national treasure. 278 Bleecker Street, 212-243-1680

After the snowfall

Check out the 2010 version of this list.

Note: Fatty Crab and Fatty ‘Cue were not considered for this list, because I’m friends with the chef. Other than those, all restaurants from The west side of Sixth Avenue to the Hudson River, from Houston Street to 14th Street, were considered.

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