As the new Time Out New York Food & Drink team, we’ve spent 2019 eating and drinking our way through the five boroughs. We've gone undercover to review restaurants that were hits (Il Fiorista, Teranga, Golden Diner, Llama-San, Katagiri and Pata Paplean), spots that were just good (Yin Ji Chang Fen, the new Sahadi's at Industry City and Porcelain), and, certainly some that could use more fine tuning (See: Night Music and HaSalon). We’re always on the lookout for the next best dish (or drink) from new and old spots alike to share with you.
Yes, it’s impossible to hit every restaurant (no, we haven’t tried every single nostalgic slice shop that opened this year) and 12 months of dining and drinking out almost every night means some meals are just a blur. But from Crown Shy’s orange satuma ice cream to Teranaga’s red palm fufu, these are the dishes that made the past year tastier than ever.
Scallop ceviche, $22
Chef Erik Ramirez’s luscious scallop ceviche arrives in a pool of milky leche de tigre with hints of earthiness from Japanese black sesame. It’s Nikkei cuisine—a combination of Peruvian and Japanese flavors—taken to a new level.
→ West Village (llamasannyc.com)
A former chef at Sik Sak in Turtle Bay, Orhan Yegen opened the new Turkish hit, and the resounding breakout dish was the pillowy, soul-nourishing beef dumplings in cooling yogurt with garlic.
→ Astoria (thelokanta.com)
Orange satsuma ice cream, $10
We’re not ones to order dessert, but Renata Ameni’s creamsicle-tasting ice cream—outfitted with a toasted marshmallow beret—is one of the best scoops we’ve ever tasted.
→ Financial District (crownshy.nyc)
Eel, $25 (small)
The eels, which are imported live from Japan, are perfectly cooked over a charcoal grill. While they’re presented in a tiny bento box of rice, it’s big on flavors—smoky, sweet and salty all at once.
→ Little Italy (unaginyc.com)
Mezze, $25 per person
The impressive array of Middle Eastern–inspired dips, salads and spreads surrounding a fluffy flatbread is as much a feast for the eyes as the taste buds.
→ Nomad (lamlonyc.com)
The Vegetalian, $14
At this modern greasy spoon, the most remarkable bite is an ode to the Italian sub made with garlic confit, lettuce, tomatoes and yuba (tofu skin), which is charred to perfection.
→ Two Bridges (goldendinerny.com)
New Delhi fried chicken, $28
A classic fried-chicken recipe is difficult to improve upon, but this Indian version is full of complex notes, from fragrant curry leaves to the cooling mint chutney. It left us craving more.
→ East Village (baarbaarnyc.com)
This vegetarian spin on the diner classic had us dreaming of the roasted maitake mushrooms with sauerkraut, peppadew peppers, melted Swiss cheese and special sauce between toasted caraway-rye bread.
→ Soho (westbourne.com)
Cauliflower okonomiyaki, $10
At this new French-yakitori spot where dishes rarely go above $10, there’s one that keeps us coming back: the vegetarian rendition of the Japanese pancake, smothered in Kewpie mayo and hazelnuts.
→ Prospect Heights (maisonyaki.com)
Egg coffee, $8
At the more casual follow-up to Hanoi House, regional Vietnamese specialties extend to this traditional coffee. Made with egg yolk, it tastes like a richer (and better) eggnog.
→ East Village (hanoisoupshop.com)
The egg sandwich, $10
We loved to switch up our brunch spots, for fear of flavor monotony. That was until we met Hunky Dory’s absolutely perfect (and well-priced) egg sandwich, and we haven’t looked back since.
→ Crown Heights (www.hunkydorybk.com)
Veggie jhol momo, $9
Everything from the cheese naan to the “khana set” is worth trying at this Nepali restaurant in Queens. But the perfectly sweet and saucy momo dumplings are the real charmer on Seneca Avenue. Even though it’s marked as an appetizer, the eight momos in the order are plenty for a main course, too.
→ Ridgewood (whileinkathmandu.com)
Red palm fufu, prices vary by bowl
At the fast casual Teranga, you can mix-and-match side dishes to create your own bowl-based meal. Look out for the fufu, a spongy ball of pounded plantain that you’ll want to dip in the slightly sweet peanut sauce.
→ East Harlem (itsteranga.com)
Boat noodles, $5
One slurp of the boat noodles, and we were transported to Thailand. A steaming bowl of broth enhanced by the crimson of pig’s blood, with silky noodles, bits of ground pork, a slice of liver and a smattering of herbs could have come straight from a streetside cart in Bangkok. We only Pata Paplean served its soups every day of the week.
Sweet potato baked in seaweed bread, $35
701West is chef John Fraser’s crown jewel restaurant complete with a roving Champagne trolley. There’s one dish available on the prix-fixe menu we keep thinking about (and it’s available a la carte): a sweet potato baked in seaweed bread.
→ Times Square (701westnyc.com)
Jaew hon, $40-$50
Jaew hon is a Thai-style hot pot rarely seen in New York. At Somtum Der’s new Red Hook location, you can easily feed a party of two to three people as you dip pristine cuts of pork beef or fresh vegetables into a bubbling cauldron of broth (don’t forget the dipping sauces to amp up the spice level).
→ Red Hook (somtumdernewyork.com/redhook)
Crab khachapuri, $22
Georgian hachapuri is a bubbling fondue pit with brined sulguni cheese and a bright yolk that gets mixed together. Tzarevna makes the dish its own with a sourdough crust that’s fermented in-house; in the crab version, there’s a playful addition of adjika—a Georgian style paste made with nuts and spices—giving the delightful effect of Old Bay seasoning.
→ Lower East Side (tzarevna.nyc)
Crab Pockets, $6.95
The fast-casual arena is crowded these days, but chef JJ Johnson’s rice bowls at FieldTrip impressed us this year. Just as memorable were the Crab Pockets, basically a better version of what you’d get from your favorite Chinese takeout but with a generous helping of crab with garlic-herb cream cheese inside a perfectly crispy wonton.
→ Harlem (fieldtripnyc.com)
Pickled herring, $8
Here, the Danish version of pickled herring is served with capers, dill, periwinkle-onion slices and Korean purple radishes with kaleidoscopic lines, all on seeded rye bread from She Wolf Bakery. The dish’s sour-and-sweet balance makes the small fillets as easy to eat as a handful of Swedish fish.
→ East Village (smornyc.com)
And don't forget we brought some favorites to our very own market:
Our editor-curated market debuted earlier this year with the best of the city under one roof. From the Mr. Taka Ramen’s slurp-able bowl of noodles to Breads Bakery’s popular chocolate babka, it was like finding our magazine coming to life in Dumbo. (Full disclosure: Lamalo is from the team behind Breads Bakery, which is also open in Time Out Market New York.)