At Lupulo (835 Avenue of the Americas, 212-290-7600), the follow-up to acclaimed modern Portuguese restaurant Aldea, camera-friendly chef George Mendes takes a decidedly more relaxed approach, eschewing fine dining and tasting menus in favor of punchy recipes meant to pair with the many beers, wines, and cocktails prepared at the restaurant’s massive U-shaped bar. As such, many dishes — like grilled sardines and piri piri chicken — pack aggressive, bold flavors and sport rustic presentations. Which is why the chef’s ethereal razor clam salad feels like a cooling reprieve, as bright and refreshing as a freshly poured pint.
Rather than serve them whole in their namesake blade-like shells, Mendes chops up the clams so that they resemble plump, briny mini-marshmallows. The chewy bivalves get tossed with a trio of cucumbers: raw slivers, crescents of quick-pickle, and charred nuggets, the fruit’s sweetness multiplied thanks to the searing heat of the restaurant’s wood-burning grill. Anointed with sprigs of dill, which help accentuate the clam’s meatiness with verdant savor, it’s an elegant dish, and one that almost wouldn’t feel out of place at Aldea. That it can be enjoyed in Lupulo’s convivial dining room with a glass of vinho verde makes the offering that much sweeter.
Fork in the Road is counting down to our Best of New York City issue in October. We’re combing the city every day, one dish at a time, to guide you to the most delicious food in NYC. These are our 100 Favorite Dishes for 2015, in no particular order, save for the top 10.