Pity poor mushrooms — they’re rarely the star of a plate. Despite the abundant variety that chefs can access year round and their ability to be easily foraged in the wild — even by building-bound New Yorkers — mushrooms are often reduced to supporting players on top of a steak or in a sauce. So when a dish masterfully lets them shine, it’s worth celebrating.
At Bara (58 East 1st Street; 917-639-3197), chef Ian Alvarez combines his classic French technique with a love of Japanese flavors in a mix of roasted beech, oyster, king oyster, enoki, and cauliflower mushrooms. Soubise — traditionally made with cream, onions, and rice, but in this case with sake, short-grain rice, and onion — is set on the bottom of the plate, topped with the mushrooms and roasted sunchokes, all tossed in a bright dressing of lemon, sesame seeds, and pistou; a traditional French blend of garlic, basil, and olive oil.
The varying textures and subtle flavor differences from the mushrooms mean that each bite is somewhat unexpected — first meaty, then super sweet, then tangy, then rich, and then meaty again. Just when you think you’ve fallen for a particular varietal, like the somewhat firm heads of the tiny beeches or the feathery cauliflowers, another will stand out. In the cold of winter, the deep flavors of the roasted mushrooms and sunchokes linger long after the meal is over; in the warmer months, the dish feels brighter, the lemon and seasonal greens slightly more pronounced.
The Village Voice 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. To read about previous dishes, browse our 100 Favorite Dishes page.
Here’s our countdown up to now:
#93: Almayass’s Mante
#75: Ippudo’s Pork Buns
#66: Pulpo at Toro
#57: Lupulo’s Razor Clams