The complimentary starter has become a hallmark of the Torrisi-Carbone partnership—salty nubs of parmigiano regiano, see-through slices of country ham—but the bread-and-butter service at their Gallic-minded newcomer is the best one yet. The exceedingly fresh, fragrant flatbread, humming with North African za’atar, is buttery on its own, but that won’t stop you from schmearing on the soft, herbed sheeps-milk fromage blanc that accompanies the bread. Free.
For Joe Ng’s whole duck, the devil is in the details: Cooking to order so moisture isn’t lost in reheating, precision carving so no holes are left in the skin and blasting the beast with air to separate the skin from the meat. The bird is blanched in starch-and-sugar water for skin that’s delectably crispy with a gorgeous deep-caramel tone. Even the delicate pancakes are handled with care, rolled out in pairs that separate upon steaming for a perfectly springy texture. Top each duck roll with crispy frizzles of fried leeks, fresh cucumbers and scallions, and chase it back with a silky shot of duck consommé—Chinatown has got some serious duck competition. $78.
There’s no shortage of gussied-up ice cream sandwiches in New York, but Antonio Barros Biagi’s sunny scoop shop slings one of the dreamiest in town. Stuffed with your gelato of choice— white-chocolate–bergamott, say, or goat cheese kissed with anise and orange peel—the buttery, airy brioche is made by esteemed bakeshop Bien Cuit and comes in three flavors (traditional, orange-blossom and chocolate-chocolate-nibs). Warmed inside a custom coccinella press, the bun arrives hot and crusty, with the velvety gelato left undisturbed inside its seal. It plays hot and cold but you won’t mind one bit. $8.
At no point while eating the wafer-thin, mushroom-paved round at Danny Meyer’s Roman pizza temple will you miss the sauce. Hell, you’ll likely not even realize that it’s lacking the customary slick of red. That’s because distinguished dough puncher Nick Anderer layers his lightweight, ember-fired crusts with oozing, sharp fontina, red onion shavings, a touch of fragrant thyme and and the woodsy one-two punch of roasted chanterelles and maitakes. Pizzaiolas of New York, take note: this is how you do a mushroom pie. $18.
Crunchy isn’t a beet’s typical characteristic, but at this Standard Hotel dining room, John Fraser coaxes new personality out of the humble, deeply-hued vegetable. Basted in orange oil with a brush made of fresh thyme, the beets are roasted low and slow (up to five hours) for a smoky, charred casing yielding to a tender, pulpy center, the rootsy analogue of good steak. A spoon’s swish of horseradish cream shrewdly plays up the meatiness, while wedges of golden beet, pickled cucumber and a splash of dill oil brighten the palate. $15
Is it a waffle? A pancake? A Japanese latke? Whatever the hell you want to call it, Ivan Orkin’s scrapple waffle is one of the most blog-busting dishes of 2014 and deservedly so. Gleefully greasy, the crispy-on-the-outside, gooey-on-the-inside griddled square—built with buckwheat, chicken liver and pork shoulder—offsets its meatiness with sweet maple syrup and the vinegary pop of charred cabbage and pickled apple. $12.
First daters may hesitate before ordering Sal Lamboglia’s heady linguine at Andrew Carmellini’s lively NoHo pasta bar, but the mere scent of it on a nearby table is a siren’s call. The beauty of this dish lies in its simplicity: Not one, but four sliced garlic cloves sautéed in olive oil with a touch of spicy pepperoncino is tossed with a bundle of al dente linguini, with toasted breadcrumbs and fresh parsley clinging lustily to each strand. Order one to share and your first date conundrum: solved. $14
Of all of Markus Glocker’s intricate, thoughtfully composed plates at this Tribeca fine-diner, the best is the most simple. An unassuming slice of white bread is reincarnated as the lovechild of crème brûlée and good French toast, its melted-sugar shell shattering beneath a fork’s prongs and giving way to a rich, almost custardy interior. A cannelle of brown-butter ice cream melts at the mere touch of the sugar-coated wedges—straight-up food porn. $55 for tasting menu.
A golden, glistening tongue of sea urchin is the litmus test of a next-level sushi den, and at his swank West Village raw-fish haven, Daisuke Nakazawa passes with flying colors. A tray of spiky sea urchins is presented tableside for the picking and scooped fresh into a thin, crinkly shell of high-grade Tokyo Bay nori. The milky Santa Barbara uni is as buttery in texture as it is hue, whispered with the clean musk of the sea. MP.
Deep-fried fowl was in top form this year, but only one battered bird could reign as king of the coop: the ambitious flapper Top Chef alums Jeff McInnis and Janine Booth crisp up at their Alphabet City spot. The Pennsylvania Amish country chicken is brined in sweet tea spiked with paprika and cayenne for 24 hours, giving it a distinct sweetness amplified by the dusting of dehydrated lemon powder the bird gets when it’s pulled golden and crunchy from the pressure cooker. A drizzle of Tabasco honey happily keeps that salty-sweet tug-of-war going. $18 for a half chicken, $35 for whole.