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The Best New Restaurants of Summer 2013

costataSummer tends to be slow season for buzzy restaurant debuts, but New York sure had a bumper crop of notable openings this year.  Here are a few of our favorite new additions to the dining scene, from Michael White’s Costata in SoHo to Paul Liebrandt’s The Elm in Brooklyn and even Bunker, a Vietnamese eatery from an Eleven Madison Park alum in Queens!

ZZ's Clam Bar

ZZ's Clam Bar
169 Thompson Street
Greenwich Village,New York 10012
(212) 254-3000

Just months after opening their old-school Italian joint, Carbone, the Major Food Group team have laid further claim on Thompson Street with this 12-seat raw bar, located only steps away.  While Mario Carbone and Rich Torrisi’s newest venture was originally advertised as a sandwich shop, it’s more of a gussied up raw bar with creative crudos, the likes of Spot Prawn Ceviche with Fried Shrimp Heads, Lobster Crudo with Coconut & Chili, and Shimagi Tartare with California Caviar and Ricotta.  Lest we forget the head-turning cocktails as well as the superior oysters and clams.

Costata

Costata
206 Spring Street
Soho,New York 10012
(212) 334-3320

The first out of the gate among an anticipated slew of new Michael White restaurants (shortly followed by The Butterfly, a supper club and cocktail bar), Costata imparts a delicious Mediterranean bent on the classic steakhouse format (Costata means Ribeye in Italian).  Instead of a Blue Cheese-topped Iceberg Wedge, start with a Romaine Cacio e Pepe or Bone Marrow Panzanella Salad, followed by a Tagliata-style NY Strip with Puttanesca Butter, and a side of Farroto or Artichokes alla Giudea. Next up… Ristorante Morini on the Upper East Side, a higher-end counterpoint to White’s popular SoHo trattoria, Osteria Morini!

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Estela

Estela
47 E Houston Street
Nolita,New York 10012
(212) 219-7693

Ignacio Mattos may have been unexpectedly let go from Isa last spring, but he landed on his feet this summer with Estela.  Located in a narrow space above the Nolita dive bar, Botanica, Mattos concentrates his efforts on small bites that pair perfectly with wine (there are over 100 bottles, from the Huet ‘Le Mont’ Sec from Vouvray in France, to Frontón de Oro Tintilla from the Canary Islands in Spain).  Instead of the occasionally overwrought fare Mattos favored at Isa, look for straightforward but tasty dishes, like Blood Sausage Croquettes, Cockles with Garlic Scapes, and Calamari à la Plancha with Charred Onion and Romesco Sauce.

Betony

Betony
41 W 57th Street
Midtown West,New York 10019
(212) 465-2400

Eleven Madison Park alums generally go on to do great things, and the streak certainly hasn’t been broken by Betony.  Bryce Shuman’s dishes are thoughtful without being too fussy (Grilled Short Rib with Romaine and Sweetbreads, a gorgeous Poached Lobster Tail perfumed by a sheath of Dill) while GM Eamon Rockey oversees the beverage program, turning out some of our favorite cocktails of the summer.  Love the frosty Orange Julep with Rye Whiskey, Oleo Saccharum and Orange Bitters, and the Orgeat and Sherry Vinegar-laced Desert Shandy!  And even if you don’t have a sweet tooth, you’ll appreciate this gratis parting gesture… a Frozen Chocolate Stout Macaron, a Pink Peppercorn Caramel Chew and a Dried Cherry & Pistachio Divinity.

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Charlie Bird

Charlie Bird
5 King Street
Soho,New York 10012
(212) 235-7133

This restaurant may lack the instant name recognition of its other summer compatriots (after all, it’s hard to stand out in a group that includes Michael White, Paul Liebrandt, Rich Torrisi and Mario Carbone), but that’s precisely what’s made it such a satisfying, under-the-radar find.  The name is inspired by jazz legend Charlie Parker, and the cool and casual space is decorated with street art and boom box photos, but the fare tends towards rustic, seasonal Italian.   Enjoy exemplary plates of pasta (Chitarra Nero with Calabrian Chilies, Anelloni with Rapini and Suckling Piglet Sausage), and an especially intriguing wine list, including a section called “Shameless Plugs,” which features bottles from their wine-making friends.

Ippudo Westside

Ippudo Westside
321 W 51st Street
Midtown West,New York 10019
(212) 974-2500

In a city that actually has quite an assortment of legit Ramen restaurants (Momofuku, Ganso, Totto and Chuko, to name a few), the pristine noodle bowls at Ippudo are widely considered to be the best of the bunch.  So the opening of its new Midtown outpost was a pretty big deal… one-upping the original East Village location with an 11-seat ramen room, a lounge area, and a 20-foot ramen bar.  In addition to menu favorites like pork bone Tonkatsu (which tastes slightly different owing to the addition of Dashi, a bonito and kelp-infused broth), you’ll find specialty items, like Crab Meat-stuffed Wontons, Sea Urchin Toast, and even the world’s first gluten-free and vegan Shojin Ramen.

Khe-Yo

Khe-Yo
157 Duane Street
Tribeca,New York 10013
(212) 587-1089

There’s no shortage of Southeast Asian food in New York nowadays, although much of it is grounded in the cuisines of Vietnam or Thailand.  So the very fact that this new Tribeca restaurant serves Laotian fare (not to mention that it’s owned by Iron Chef Marc Forgione) makes it particularly noteworthy.  The kitchen is run by Forgione’s longtime chef and Laos-native Soulayphet Schwader, who has taken some of his favorite childhood dishes and reimagined them through the use of local, top-quality ingredients.  Early standout dishes include Lemongrass-infused Berkshire Spare Ribs with Crushed Long Bean, Whole Grilled Black Bass with Tamarind Peanut Sauce, Fluke Laap (traditionally a minced meat salad), and Pork Jowl Red Curry with Fairytale Eggplant.

The Elm

The Elm
160 N 12th Street
Brooklyn,New York 11249
(718) 218-7500

Who would have thought it… one of Manhattan’s native sons (Corton’s infamously ostentatious chef, Paul Liebrandt), fleeing the world of fine dining for the relentlessly rustic and reclaimed climes of Williamsburg?  Not that he’s resigned himself to Heritage Beef Hamburgers and wood-fired Pork Chops.  Located in an entirely modern, floor to ceiling-windowed space in the boutique King & Grove Hotel, Liebrandt stays true to form with forward-thinking French dishes, like “Flavors of Bouillabaisse” with Halibut, Mussel, Orange Confit and Fennel Blossom, and “Kiev Style” Chicken, a trio of Garlic Butter-stuffed Chicken Breast, tiny Chicken Thigh Croquettes, and Chicken Tempura Wings.  And even though the flashy hotel restaurant is commonplace in Manhattan, it’s an entirely new concept for Brooklyn.  Just imagine Paul Liebrandt preparing your poolside snacks and room service!

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Luksus

Luksus
621 Manhattan Avenue
Brooklyn,New York 11222
(718) 389-2525

Need any more proof that beer is having a moment?  Exhibit A: the craft brew mecca Torst, which employs a glass enclosed control panel to calibrate nitrogen mixes, and adjust the compression of each tap.  Exhibit B: its recently opened adjunct tasting menu restaurant, Luksus, from chef Daniel Burns of Noma, The Fat Duck, and Momofuku.  So with a pedigree like that, don’t expect Beer-Battered Deep-Fried Pickles.  Instead, food pairings run to Raw Razor Clams with Marrow, Powdered Vinegar-dusted Ham Chips, and Braised Little Gem Lettuce with grilled pea broth, roasted mushrooms, mint oil and a soft boiled egg.  A serious beer program and seriously good food is why we’re pumped about Luksus.

Bunker

Bunker
46-63 Metropolitan Avenue
Queens,New York 11385
(718) 386-4282

If Brooklyn has become an unexpected haven for classically trained chefs, it’s even more surprising to find them currently popping up in Queens.  EMP’s Jimmy Tu is behind this diamond-in-the-rough eatery in Ridgewood, inspired by the street food of Vietnam.  And although Tu uses a few elevated ingredients, the dishes themselves remain refreshingly straightforward and traditional — like Summer Rolls with Shrimp, sweet and sour Papaya Salad, and Bun Cha Ca, a faithful take on the famed, Hanoi favorite with seared Turmeric Salmon with Vermicelli Noodles and Dill.  The space is also without pretense… a wall of bamboo poles, a ficus in a rice bag-covered pot, and forks and chopsticks delivered to the table in dented metal cans.

One Comment

  1. Hi, I going to NYC in May to celebrate my daughter’s 30th birthday. What do you suggest for a neighborhood restaurant that isn’t too big or fancy but with good American or Italian food. We love good food and a cozy memorable experience .

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