Our Best of NYC 2014 issue divulges more than 350 things that we love about this city. More than 100 of those are related to food and drink, including our Best New Restaurant. In order to bestow that award, we had to first cull a short list of our favorite places to have opened in the last year. And because each restaurant on there is a place at which you should have a meal, we’ve whittled things down to this, our 10 best new restaurants in NYC in 2014.
10. NoMad Bar, 10 West 28th Street, 347-472-566
Lauded barmen Leo Robitschek and Chris Lowder preside over a massive selection of craft cocktails at this boozy annex to Daniel Humm and Will Guidara’s NoMad restaurant. Vaulted ceilings and an arched centerpiece bar command the room, which looks like a castle library turned neighborhood pub. Impeccable service and buttoned-up bar food (including an epic foie gras and truffle chicken pot pie), combined with giant vertical punches called cocktail explosions, solidify this ritzy watering hole as one of the city’s best nights out contained to a single location.
9. Han Dynasty, 90 Third Avenue, 212-390-8685
Last fall, New York got its first outpost of this burgeoning Philadelphia chain, a mostly Sichuan (and Cantonese- and Taiwanese-influenced) concept slated to mushroom into 100 locations in short order. This city is often skeptical toward outsiders, but it welcomed owner Han Chiang with open arms; neighbors pack booths and tables of this bare-bones establishment for fiery, peanut-sauce-coated dan dan noodles and sizzling woks of chile-stung chicken and beef. It’s easy to overlook the appetizer section when there are so many worthy dishes on a menu, but don’t miss the chicken wings — they’re fried so crispy they’re almost feathery, then tossed with spicy pepper.
8. Narcissa, 25 Cooper Square, 212-228-3344
John Fraser says it was years after he opened Dovetail on the Upper West Side that he finally achieved what he set out to accomplish, and in the process of doing so, his style evolved significantly. But now that he’s clarified his philosophy, which is vegetable-forward and Californian, he’s taken on the challenge of executing it downtown at Narcissa. At the younger sibling, the chef is playing more with produce-oriented dishes, though his work with meat, which he prefers to treat as a garnish rather than a banished ingredient, is also excellent. Fraser’s pastry-bound carrots wellington is practically iconic at this juncture; you’d do well to order his lamb and crudo, too.
7. Box Kite, 115 St. Marks Place, 212-574-8201
This aromatic venture operates from a demitasse East Village space that seats 10 and dispenses caffeine late into the night. But after 6 p.m., the counter stools become front-row seats to a multi-course tasting menu. Chefs Serena Chow and Dave Fisher now carry the torch that burned so brightly under Justin Slojkowski and Dave Gulino, who rightly garnered tremendous buzz and eventually grew out of the über coffee shop’s dollhouse kitchen. It remains to be seen how long the next duo will stick around; per owner Cora Lambert, “we will be regularly bringing in up-and-coming chefs to design tasting menus and pop-up in our space for short-term events.” If Box Kite winds up functioning as some kind of progressive training ground, we’re all for it.
6. Bâtard, 239 West Broadway, 212-219-2777
The tiny Sarah Palin in us is shouting, “Drew, Baby, Drew!” after restaurateur Drew Nieporent’s triumphant redo of the storied West Broadway space that, for 22 years, was home to his downtown pioneer, Montrachet. After a successful run with progressive champion chef Paul Liebrandt at Corton, the dining room’s been imbued with a sense of approachable warmth that harkens back to the room’s heyday under David Bouley. Austrian chef Markus Glocker turns bread-baking into a communal experience, with kitchen staff coming together to shape the restaurant’s complimentary loaves, and his prix fixe — available in two, three, and four courses — offers one of the best deals in unpretentious downtown fine dining.
5. Claudette, 24 Fifth Avenue, 212-868-2424
Sit at the wide white marble bar here and you might mistake the nearby Washington Arch for the Arc de Triomphe. Named after a French matriarch whose recipes also find their way onto the menu, this breezy corner restaurant from the Bobo and Rosemary’s team serves nimble Provencal food cooked by chefs Koren Grieveson and Wade Moises. Their dishes are vibrant, from small plates like ratatouille tarts to whole roasted dourade and chicken tagines. A large selection of wines fall in the $30 to $50 range, and Seth Liebman’s aperitifs are light yet bracing, utilizing an array of bitter spirits.
4. Glady’s, 788 Franklin Avenue, 718-622-0249
Inspired by living in Crown Heights, Michael Jacober was compelled to serve Caribbean food after first opening Glady’s as a New American restaurant. And like other fine-dining expats who’ve become immersed in cuisines that excited them, he’s applying his expert knowledge and focus into details like importing fresh green wood from Jamaica for a wood-burning oven that’s used to slow-cook jerk chicken, pork, and lobster. Glady’s may be rare proof that gentrification isn’t always a four-letter word.
3. Bunna, 1084 Flushing Avenue
Vegan Ethiopian sounds a little like an outer-borough concept deserving of an eye roll. It’s not. Despite the fact that it’s underrepresented in America, vegan Ethiopian food doesn’t deviate from tradition: An Ethiopian religious custom includes fasting and forgoing meat on holidays, and it’s from the canon of dishes prepared during that event that Bunna’s menu is culled. If you’ve eaten Ethiopian food before, many of the offerings here will look familiar — owner Sam Saverance says that recipes for Ethiopian vegetarian dishes are usually vegan, which means you’ve eaten renditions of the chickpeas, lentils, and greens on Bunna’s menu at other Ethiopian restaurants in the city. But Bunna does them better, imbuing each stew with deeply nuanced flavor and plenty of spicy berbere. Your best bet here is to order the feast for two (or three or four), which nets you all nine hot and cold dishes on the list. You should also toss in an order of the spicy, crispy lentil sambusas and, perhaps, the butecha selata — a kale salad mixed with red onion, cranberries, and butecha, a sort of chickpea flour stuffing — if you’re feeling extra hungry. Bunna recently launched brunch, where you can use fried flat bread to sop up a fava bean stew or a vegan scramble. This was also our Best Ethiopian Restaurant of 2014.
2. Huertas, 107 First Avenue, 212-228-4490
Huertas chef and owner Jonah Miller noticed New York City was short on places that translate the Spanish dining experience — a lively traipse through bites and booze that unfolds spontaneously, with diners accepting tapas as they fly out of the kitchen over many hours of drinking. That’s what the front of his restaurant channels, with well-crafted Basque-style pintxos — some traditional, some New Yorkified — served dim sum-style to groups huddled in booths and at counters. The ambitious young chef wanted to flex his culinary creativity, too, though, and so he installed a five-course tasting menu in his back room. This constantly evolving set of dishes exhibits Spain’s famous modern whimsy. That Miller’s writing a feverish love letter to the Iberian Peninsula gives this place extra soul, and that, more than the excellent food, is what’s going to keep you coming back. That soul also made Huertas our Best Spanish Restaurant of 2014.
1. Tuome, 536 East 5th Street, 646-833-7811
Thomas Chen honed his knife skills and tended burners at Eleven Madison Park and Commerce, and now he’s putting lessons learned behind those storied lines to work at Tuome, his East Village restaurant, where he’s turning out “ingredient-driven refined food with Asian influence in a casual setting,” he says. It’s hard, however, to get a feel for what to expect food-wise from the menu, which is loaded with familiar-looking dishes: There’s a watermelon-and-ricotta salad, for instance, and octopus with fingerlings. There’s even kale, sort of — it’s tucked into a rice dish at the bottom of the menu. But for all the trendy ingredients, what actually hits the table is full of surprises, because Chen has a penchant for giving dishes unusual twists. That watermelon-ricotta salad? Coated in crunchy puffed farro to become a light summer refresher. The fingerlings beside the octopus turn out to be a foamy espuma, added to the plate tableside. And the kale, well, it goes into a banana-leaf pouch with sticky rice and lap cheong, that piquant Chinese sausage. Those twists add extra delight to an expertly executed meal, one that takes the familiar and turns it truly exalted.