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Food trends in New York City 2013: Cheek-to-fin dining, crossbred dishes and more

Next-level bread and khao soi are having a moment. Here are the year’s top food trends.

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Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz

Khao soi is having a moment

All of a sudden, an obscure Burmese-influenced soup from northern Thailand is everywhere. In traditional khao soi—a Chiang Mai lunch specialty—pliant egg noodles nestle with stewed chicken legs in a bowl of turmeric-tinted curry, thick from lush coconut milk and a heavy chicken stock. It’s topped with a tangle of fried noodles and brightened by contrasting accompaniments, like fermented mustard greens and a lime wedge. Ready to slurp? Road test these bowls:

Uncle Boons Co-chefs and owners Matt Danzer and Ann Redding’s buzzy rendition features hand-rolled egg noodles and a side of chili jam. 7 Spring St between Bowery and Elizabeth St (646-370-6650, uncleboons.com). $20.
Pig and KhaoTop Chef-er Leah Cohen finishes her version with poached chicken thighs, and house-ferments the mustard greens. 68 Clinton St between Rivington and Stanton Sts (212-920-4485, pigandkhao.com). $16.
Pok Pok Ny Andy Ricker’s delicate broth is made from gingery curry paste and freshly squeezed coconut milk. 127 Columbia St between DeGraw and Kane Sts, Cobble Hill, Brooklyn (718-923-9322, pokpokny.com). $16.

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Photograph: Virginia Rollison

The dough also rises

Bread went big this year, with thoughtful new loaves taking the place of dull baskets. The humble starch has landed a spot at tasting-menu restaurants like Luksus, which serves a warm, gorgeous sourdough midway through the meal. And humdrum free bread plates have given way to indulgent rolls worthy of a price tag at downtown hot spots such as Pearl & Ash (which offers a smoky, moist loaf with maple-sweetened schmaltz butter) and Piora (where the triple-proofed monkey bread is accompanied by seaweed butter and peperoncini-rosemary lardo).

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Crossbred eats

The cronut isn’t the only mouthwatering bite mixing up influences. Other joints around town are also mashing different dishes together.

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Photograph: Loren Wohl

Cheek-to-fin dining

Timid eaters be damned, chefs aren’t hiding behind fish fillets, going whole beast instead. Jeepney and Do or Dine are serving deep-fried fish in impressive swimming form, while Chez Sardine plates a smoked salmon’s head with miso-maple glaze.

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Photograph: Krista Schlueter

Barbecue’s breakout year

A wave of smokehouses overrode New York’s onetime status as a sorry town for brisket and ribs. The impressive beef rib at Mighty Quinn’s and gut-busting Mess sandwich at SmokeLine are very fine representations of the new ’cue order.

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Photograph: Jolie Ruben

Chicken and waffles

Another Southern comfort staple also cropped up on menus around town. One Williamsburg restaurant, Sweet Chick, devoted itself to the form, to delicious effect.

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Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz

Japan’s next wave

New Yorkers are no strangers to Japanese food, but it really blew up this year, with a slew of new sake-soaked gastropubs , high-profile sushi joints and superlative ramen-ya . We feasted on tsukune at Ootoya, toro at New York Sushi Ko, and standout ramen bowls at Jinya and Ganso.

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Photograph: Dominic Perri

Nouveau Vietnamese

Riding the Southeast Asian wave, Vietnamese has started turning up in more modern restaurants. Per Se vets dish out delectable bites, like the crazy-good chicken curry, at Bunker, and Robert Newton puts his own spin on classics, like the delicate cha ca la vong, at Nightingale 9.

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Photograph: Jolie Ruben

Where there’s smoke, there’s fire

We called the wood-fired oven trend back in 2010, but this year chefs were infusing smoke into dishes in novel ways. Desnuda used a bong for its oysters, while Pearl & Ash scented flour in a stove-top smoker for its house bread.

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Photograph: Jessica Lin

Haute chips

Skilled chefs had a little fun this year with upmarket chip dishes. But it was molecular tinker Wylie Dufresne who really pushed the envelope with his Martin’s-roll chips, accompanying a purple pub cheese at Alder.

Barbecue, Japanese and Southeast Asian food rocketed to the forefront in 2013. But mini trendlets—like in-your-face fish dishes, and chicken and waffles—also surfaced at NYC restaurants. Check out the top ten food trends of 2013.

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