Best new restaurants of the year
Don't-miss dining destinations.
Mon Mar 1 2010
This Portuguese eatery is a low-key stage for one of the city’s most original chefs: George Mendes. While the minimalist space is restrained, the food certainly isn’t. Tender baby cuttlefish is the centerpiece of a complex starter featuring coconut curry broth, sea beans, bonito flakes and mint. More-traditional fare also gets an haute spin. Beautiful garlicky shrimpalhinhoare finished with an intense shrimp-and-brandy reduction. Desserts strike the same rustic-refined balance. Among the simple pleasures: custard-soaked brioche served with pink-peppercorn ice cream and blood orange gele.31 W 17th Stbetween Fifth and Sixth Aves (212-675-7223, aldearestaurant.com).
The third project from Ken Friedman and chef April Bloomfield offers the most opulently fatty food in New York—served in medieval portions in a raucous lodgelike setting. You’ll wait an hour or more for a table, but once you’re seated, the gastropub delivers a near-perfect dining experience. A giant pig’s-foot-for-two entre is stuffed withcotechinosausage, breaded, fried, and doused in a mix of white wine and cream. The pork belly roulade is sweet, smoky and fragrant with red wine and apples. Desserts—like a warm sticky-toffee pudding spiked with Turkish coffee—turn the end of the meal into a Dickensian Christmas feast.Ace Hotel, 16 W 29th Stat Broadway (212-679-1939, thebreslin.com).
Bouley protg Cesar Ramirez makes the move to retail at this 5,000-square-foot gourmet grocery. While you can pick up everything from diapers to garbage bags, what’s most exciting is the menu of prepared foods created by the chef, including sushi, sandwiches and take-home meals.200 SchermerhornSt at Hoyt St, Brooklyn Heights, Brooklyn (718-243-0050, brooklynfare.com).
DBGB Kitchen and Bar
Even in a city awash in unruly menus, the one at DBGB—chef Daniel Boulud’s most populist venture—stands out for its kitchen-sink scope. There’s high-end junk food in the form of sausages (the best of the bunch is the Beaujolaise, infused with red wine, bacon and mushrooms). And there’s haute bistro fare like pink duck breast with boozy cherries andmarconaalmonds. The best way to get your head around the schizophrenic enterprise is to bring a large group and sample the range—including a sundae, layered with cherry-flavoredkriek-beer ice cream andspeculooscookies, for dessert.299 Bowery at E Houston St (212-933-5300, danielnyc.com).
Cult restaurateur Gabriel Stulman (Market Table) tends to this cozy hot spot like an old-fashioned tavern keeper. The whole enterprise reflects his generous spirit—from the breezy service to the well-curated flea-market decor to the thoughtful pricing. Sweet chilled lobster with a side of aioli is a modest indulgence at just $10. A pork shank, simply accompanied by a salad of baby arugula, capers and lemon is crisp on the outside, tender and fatty within. Joseph Leonard could have been nothing more than another low-key neighborhood haunt. But when paired with good, simple food, an endearing reception goes a long way.170 Waverly Pl at Grove St (646-429-8383, josephleonard.com).
Owner Robert De Niro swapped his train-wreck trattoria, Ago, for this blockbuster replacement helmed by chef Andrew Carmellini (A Voce). Carmellini’s bold family-style fare is best enjoyed as a bacchanalian banquet. A single charred octopus tentacle served with tangy romesco won’t last long in the middle of the table. Nor will the chef’s ravioli—as delicate as silk handkerchiefs and oozing pungent robiola. Locanda is the rare Italian restaurant with desserts worth saving room for: Try the rich, crumbly brown-butter plum cake.377 Greenwich Stat North Moore St (212-925-3797, locandaverdenyc.com).
The restaurant, which is new to the Gramercy Park Hotel, hasn’t absorbed any attitude from its snooty surroundings (the velvet-rope Rose Bar is just across the lobby).Instead, expect Meyer’s trademark warmth and impeccable service—reservations seated on time, spills covered up between courses, napkins refolded when you get up from the table.The menu, self-consciously regional, offers exceptional facsimiles of dishes specific to Rome—carbonara, braised tripe and suckling pig, among others. To ensure authenticity, Meyer dispatched his chef, Nick Anderer (Gramercy Tavern), to the city on a research trip. Just like his boss, Anderer fell for the ancient capital, and brings to his food an almost academic devotion.The portions are just as they would be if you were dining in sight of the Trevi Fountain, sized so you can eat like an Italian and settle in for a four-course Roman meal. The antipasti are designed to precede small plates of pasta, which are followed by a meaty main course.Gramercy Park Hotel, 2 Lexington Ave at 21st St (212-777-2410, maialinonyc.com).
Chef Michael White’s shrine to the Italian coastline seems conflicted between its high and low ambitions. Lofty items include an unorthodox starter of cool lobster with creamyburrata;basic platters of raw oysters seem better suited for a fish shack. Seafood-focused pastas are the meal’s highlight: We loved thesedanini(like ridgeless rigatoni) in a smoky cod-chowder sauce with potatoes and speck. But desserts—like a chocolate-hazelnut Kit Kat—confirm a split identity that a little editing could easily fix.240 Central Park Southbetween Seventh Ave and Broadway (212-582-5100, marea-nyc.com).
Keith McNally’s lovingly restored Minetta Tavern may be the first iconic restaurant of postmillennial New York. The place is as buzzy now as it must have been in its 1950s heyday, yet the food is as much of a draw as the scene. To start, there are roasted bones oozing sea-salt-kissed marrow and calamari stuffed with creamybrandade.Excellent meaty mains include a blackened veal chop surrounded by crisp sweetbread nuggets. Minetta’s prices are reasonable, with the notable exception of a $26 Black Label burger. But the sandwich—as tender and fatty as foie gras—is worth every penny.113 MacDougal Stbetween Bleecker and W 3rd Sts (212-475-3850, minettatavernny.com).
This second project from chef King Phojanakong (Kuma Inn) is as much an achievement as its Manhattan predecessor. The enticing Southeast Asian menu is full of beer-friendly shareable plates (though it’s BYO for now), like crispy chicken drumettes with first-rate condiments including fish sauce and vibrant hot peppers. The chef also has a deft hand with seafood: Wok-roasted Manila clams submerged in a funky, fermented black-bean sauce was the best dish we tried. In a city chockablock with forgettable Asian restaurants, Umi Nom’s memorable food makes it a gem in an unlikely ’hood.433 DeKalb Avebetween Classon Ave and Taaffe Pl,Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn (718-789-8806, uminom.com).
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