Best restaurants of 2011
As the year comes to a close, TONY's Food & Drink team recalls the year's most memorable meals. What were yours?
Mon Dec 12 2011
Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz
Mari Uyehara, writer
Like many chroniclers of the New York dining scene, I assumed Taavo Somer—the architect-turned-restaurateur behind trendsetting Freemans and hobnobbing Peels—had churned out another comfort-food crowd-pleaser when he opened Isa last summer. But Somer and chef-partner Ignacio Mattos defied my expectations, choosing instead to champion a high-minded style of cooking they describe as "primitive modern": adventurous plates that look avant-garde but are executed using ancient techniques (fire!) and foraged ingredients. Mattos's stunning experiments delivered on their aesthetic promise when I dined there one early autumn night. A marrow-caramelized rib eye, accompanied by a scattering of charred onion petals and pickled horseradish shavings, was so tender, I sliced it with a butter knife. A meltingly soft slab of cod was a lush study in white, served alongside cauliflower florets sliced paper-thin and a puree of the vegetable. This thought-provoking food could have been served anywhere in the world—in a city known for boundary-pushing cuisine, like Copenhagen or San Sebastin, Spain. That I ate it right here in Brooklyn, in the orange glow of a wood-fired oven, made the meal all the more momentous. 348 Wythe Ave at South 2nd St, Williamsburg, Brooklyn (347-689-3594)