You may have heard: New York City has a whole lot of good restaurants. And I visited a lot of them this year, which makes it really hard to pick just 10 dishes out of the dozens I was lucky enough to try. On a different day I might come up with a different list, but here we are today, and here are 10 things I thought were utterly and distinctively delicious, and which I highly recommend:
- Saffron lasagna at Hearth. Light and lemony, two words you may never have heard associated with lasagna before. I have no idea how they do it, which means I'm just going to have to keep going back there and ordering the lasagna over and over until I figure it out.
- Shaved frozen foie gras with lychees at Momofuku Ko. For the price, some people would rather have white tablecloths and attentive waiters. I'd rather have a backless stool, my elbows up on the bar, and a heaping helping of this just-exactly-rich-enough indulgence. (Honorable mention, same meal: pretzel panna cotta. WHOA.)
- Patatas bravas at Tia Pol. These are straight-up traditional tapas, perfect potato chunks slathered in spicy sauce and garlic aioli. Nearly fistfought my dining partner for more than my share. A mere eight bucks.
- Sorbets at Per Se. No, I've never eaten in the dining room, but of everything I've had in their (a la carte menu) lounge, a sampling of four sorbets knocked my proverbial socks most clearly off. The olive oil rendition in particular. Amazing.
- Mushrooms al forno at A Voce Columbus. It is very hard for me to order anything that is not pasta at Italian restaurants in general, and A Voce in particular, but this appetizer of a few perfect roasted mushrooms with just enough creamy sauce and a sprinkling of roasted hazelnuts rewarded me for my restraint.
- Frascatelli alla Romana at Union Square Cafe. And then... there are the days when the restraint goes out the window. Crrrrreamy and gorgeous. With just a touch of sweetness from Greenmarket corn. But I'm not going to lie to you -- it's mostly cream.
- Lobster Roll at Luke’s Lobster. Actually, the shrimp roll, lobster bisque, and lobster roll are all things I'd pass up a much fancier meal for, but as lobster rolls go in NYC, you're not going to find one more purely lobsterrific, and you're certainly not going to find one this good for $16 ($16 with soda and chips, and they're awfully good soda and chips.)
- Short rib huarache at Distrito (no link because their site has music, sorry!). I don't get back to Philly nearly often enough, but when I do, if I don't make a pilgrimage to Capogiro and at least one Garces restaurant, it's a personal failure. I have the short rib huarache (flatbread) every time we go, but my 2010 huarache was the best of them all, because it was eaten sitting in THE CAR. (If you've been to Distrito, you know what I mean; if not, suffice to say there is only one table at Distrito that is actually inside a vehicle.)
- Ricotta pancakes at Maialino. Oh, Danny Meyer, Danny Meyer. Did you need to go and open up another restaurant for me to get fat in? Well, okay. If you insist. Just keep the pancakes coming.
- Black Label Burger at Minetta Tavern. I will put up with a lot for a good burger. A high price tag for the burger itself. Indifferent wine that ratchets up the overall tab even more. A hyped-up restaurant that clings to its cool. And this burger? Is absolutely the best burger in New York, accompanied by equally powerful and irresistible fries. If Shake Shack is your blue jeans (strong, consistent, ready for every day), and the lamb burger at the Breslin is a nice sport coat, this burger is your tuxedo.
Tomorrow: equally delicious, non-restaurant miscellany!