Best East Village restaurants

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  • Photograph: Lizz Kuehl

    100bestTopTenbrindleroom2

    Duck confit poutine at Brindle Room

  • Photograph: Jeffrey Gurwin

    ippudony1

    Ippudo NY

  • hearth1

    Hearth

  • hechoendumbo

    Hecho en Dumbo

  • ilbuco2

    Il Buco

  • Momofuku Ssm Bar

    Momofuku Ssm Bar

  • Photograph: Marlene Rounds

    motorino5

    Motorino

  • Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz

    vandaag80704

    Vandaag

  • Photograph: Jeff Gurwin

    Escargots with persillade custard

    DBGB

  • yerbabuena08

    Yerba Buena

Photograph: Lizz Kuehl

100bestTopTenbrindleroom2

Duck confit poutine at Brindle Room



Chef Jeremy Spector's polished East Village eatery provides a refreshing change of pace from the comfort-food trend. From a selection of small plates we enjoyed an inspired take on poutine: fries topped with duck gravy, cheese curds, shredded duck confit and crackly skin, a great match for local beers like Keegan's malty Mother's Milk. A cod entre offered a neat rectangle of flaky fish over verdant vegetables—fava beans, asparagus, green onion. With chefs dumbing down all over town, Brindle Room offers something audacious: well-executed international fare that's mature and refined without being stuffy. 277 E 10th St between First Ave and Ave A (212-529-9702, brindleroom.com)

DBGB
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 and marcona almonds. 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-flavored kriek-beer ice cream and speculoos cookies, for dessert. 299 Bowery at E Houston St (212-933-5300, www.danielnyc.com)

Hearth
The East Village needed a Hearth—an upscale yet relaxed place that wasn't just another surprisingly good ethnic hole-in-the-wall. Skirting the small-plate trend, the hearty fare is big, rich and flavorful. Roasted and braised domestic lamb with lamb sausage, buttercup squash and chanterelle mushrooms is an excellent version of lamb three ways, and roasted sturgeon with prosciutto, sweet potatoes and sage is a novel treatment of this luxurious fish. There is a small hearth in the restaurant, but the real warmth comes from the staff, which takes pains in helping you pick the right dish, and is equally interested in finding out afterward what you thought of it. 403 E 12th St at First Ave (646-602-1300, restauranthearth.com)

Hecho en Dumbo
Beyond bulging burritos and fussy upmarket cantinas, New York's Mexican options were once pretty bleak. But Hecho en Dumbo brings new life to the genre, with serious cooking and a rollicking atmosphere. Chef Danny Mena's menu includes beautifully creamy cold hearts of palm soup and an epic spin on carnitas: gorgeously blistered Berkshire shoulder and ribs alongside confited skin and roasted belly. For dessert, try pillowy almond cake with intense spiced-chocolate ice cream—one of the most sophisticated Mexican sweets in New York. 354 Bowery between Great Jones and E 4th Sts (212-937-4245, hechoendumbo.com)

Il Buco
The old-world charm of well-worn communal tables, dangling copper cookware and flickering lamps may help explain why a 14-year-old restaurant is still tough to get into on a Saturday night. Seasonal produce shapes the menu of executive chef Ignacio Mattos (Chez Panisse, Spotted Pig). Dunk the warm country bread in Umbrian olive oils produced exclusively for Il Buco. You'll have no trouble finding a wine to match your meal; Il Buco's list is one of the city's best. 47 Bond St between Bowery and Lafayette St (212-533-1932, ilbuco.com)

Ippudo NY
This sleek outpost of a Japanese ramen chain is packed mostly with Nippon natives who queue up for a taste of "Ramen King" Shigemi Kawahara's tonkotsu—a pork-based broth. The house special, Akamaru Modern, is a smooth, buttery soup topped with scallions, cabbage, a slice of roasted pork and pleasantly elastic noodles. Avoid nonsoup dishes like the oily fried-chicken nuggets coated in a sweet batter. Long live the Ramen King—just don't ask him to move beyond his specialty. 65 Fourth Ave between 9th and 10th Sts (212-388-0088, ippudo.com/ny)

Momofuku Ssm Bar
Chef David Chang's latest feels like two restaurants fused into one: a Korean Chipotle, and a self-aware joint serving designer ham and pricey platters. Waiters hustle to noisy rock music in this 50-seat space, which feels like Megu compared with its predecessor's crowded counter dining. Chefs create concoctions priced to sample, including the wonderfully fatty pork-belly steamed bun with hoisin sauce and cucumbers, and the house ssm (Korean for "wrap"), which might be the finest burrito in the city. Chang flirts with watch-your-wallet territory: $115 for a 32-ounce rib eye and $180 for a hog butt feeding six to eight, served with a dozen oysters. 207 Second Ave at 13th St (212-254-3500, www.momofuku.com)

Motorino
The East Village branch of chef-owner Mathieu Palombino's Williamsburg Neapolitan pizzeria offers a shorter menu and sells pies by the slice. 349 E 12th St between First and Second Aves (212-777-2644, motorinopizza.com)

Vandaag
Northern European fare is underexposed in NYC, but this trailblazing bistro and bar makes a strong case for its appeal. The minimalist interior sets the scene for cutting-edge cocktails from barkeep Katie Stipe, who uses unusual ingredients (beer, jenever) in tipples like the beautifully balanced Turf War (aquavit, Lillet, maraschino juice, orange bitters, absinthe). Chef Phillip Kirschen-Clark (wd~50) offers great small bites to match—bright seasonal pickles, crisp bitterballen (meaty croquettes) and crunchy sweetbread nuggets served with a lush Concord grape dipping sauce. Even without a pastry chef, the sweet treats (like warm caramel wafers) deliver an inspired finale. 103 Second Ave at 6th St (212-253-0470, vandaagnyc.com)

Yerba Buena
Serious cocktails and sultry candlelight set the tone at this elegant Pan-Latin eatery. Toloache chef Julian Medina's distinctive fare includes a Cuban sandwich, expressed as a delicate pizza and topped with a crumble of suckling pig; the same meat stars in a delicious entre with habanero salsa, cracklings and yuca puree. Desserts—including the city's 10,000th molten chocolate cake—stumble toward convention, but thankfully, the rest of our expert meal ensures that this is a worthwhile spot. 23 Ave A between 1st and 2nd Sts (212-529-2919, www.ybnyc.com)

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