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The Best NYC Restaurants of 2016

fowler-and-wells-3From Keith McNally and Tom Colicchio, to April Bloomfield and Jose Andres, there’s no question that the New York City restaurant scene was dominated by heavy hitters this year (who else could be expected to afford such massively exorbitant rents?).  And yet, a duo of perennially in-the-wings talents finally found their way onto the mainstage (we’re talking Dan Kluger and Floyd Cardoz), while other, newer names established themselves as culinary forces to be reckoned with; including Frederik Berselius (of Aska) and Greg Baxtrom (of Olmsted) as well as American in Paris Daniel Rose, who took the city by storm with SoHo’s truly phenomenal Le Coucou.

Le Coucou

Le Coucou
138 Lafayette St
Little Italy,New York 10013
(212) 271-4252

Daniel Rose got a hero’s welcome when he finally returned to America from an extended sojourn in Paris (where he opened the renowned seasonal bistro, Spring).  Who would have believed that he’d never cooked professionally on his home turf?  Not the steady crowds at the stunning Le Coucou, who’ve flocked to the cavernous SoHo space for highly refined French specialties, like Tête de Veau Ravigotée (fried veal head with eggs and capers), Pike Quenelle bobbing in lobster sauce, and Tout le Lapin; featuring mustard-slathered, slow-roasted hind legs, liver-stuffed saddle medallions, and a broth culled from the front legs, chest and belly.

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Loring Place

Loring Place
21 West 8th St
West Village,New York 10011
(212) 388-1831

Dan Kluger is largely responsible for the success of a number of Jean-Georges Vongerichten restaurants over the past years, having served as executive chef at both ABC Kitchen and ABC Cocina (not to mention a number of out-of-state establishments).  So an independent breakout project has certainly been a long time coming, and the just-opened Loring Place has already proved well worth the wait — serving locally-sourced fare firmly rooted in Kluger’s native New York, including housemade Whole Wheat Bread with Hudson Valley butter, Chopped Salad with goat feta and market vegetables, and wood-fired Pizza with dates, mozzarella, bacon, chilies, and butter ribbons of radicchio.

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Olmsted

Olmsted
659 Vanderbilt Ave
Prospect Heights,New York 11238
(718) 552-2610

How do you break free of the increasingly snoozy farm-to-table label?  Source an impressive number of ingredients from your very own backyard.  Working with an edible grab bag constructed by Atera horticulturist Ian Rothman, chef Greg Baxtrom (also an Atera vet) devises dishes as impeccably fresh as they are mind-bogglingly inventive; kudos to Crawfish Boil Crackers, Carrot Crepes draped over littleneck clams, Charred Onion Chawanmushi and an ethereal Frozen Yogurt dessert, dribbled with lavender-scented honey.

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Aska

Aska
47 S 5th St
Williamsburg,New York 11249
(929) 337-6792

Michelin has only recently allowed Brooklyn establishments into its hallowed club — and then, only at the one-star level (save for the extremely high-end Brooklyn Fare).  Which makes Fredrik Berselius’ few-month-old, New Nordic Aska erupting straight out of the gate with a two star-nod an accomplishment indeed — so save your dollars ($215 of them) for a rarified, 19-course experience of chamomile-smoked shrimp, reindeer lichen cooked in chanterelle cream, and scallops bathed in elderflower brown butter.

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Augustine/Fowler & Wells

Augustine/Fowler & Wells
5 Beekman St
New York 10038
(212) 375-0010

Since both Beekman Hotel restaurants perfectly represent their proprietors body of work (we’re talking Keith McNally and Tom Colicchio, respectively), declaring which is “best” is relative; you’re bound to prefer the new addition to whoever’s canon generally speaks to you more.  The French brasserie Augustine is pure McNally — a fantasia of tile and stained glass, with a luxe menu of Le Petit Aioli, Steak Frites and Duck a l’Orange (not to mention an indulgent burger, cloaked in single malt scotch-braised onions and comte cheese).  And Fowler & Wells — an ode to old New York — is unadulterated Colicchio; rustic yet refined with plush banquettes, plenty of gleaming, exposed brick, and meat-and-potatoes fare, such as Sweetbreads with brussels sprouts, Dry Aged Sirloin “Rossini,” and Rabbit Schnitzel, over roasted lemon and garlic confit.

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Paowalla

Paowalla
195 Spring St
Soho,New York 10012
(212) 235-1098

Did you know that Dan Kluger was Floyd Cardoz’s first sous chef, during the latter toque’s star-making turn at Danny Meyer’s elevated Indian Tabla?  So what eloquent timing it is, that both men (who’ve long served as MVP’s at other people’s restaurants) finally struck out on their own this year; Kluger with the aforementioned Loring Place, and Cardoz at the Goa-influenced Paowalla.  While you’ll find notable signatures like grain-crusted fish, the glory here is the breads; think Aloo-Ghobi Parantha, Cheddar Cheese Kulcha and Bacon Naan, paired with mint cilantro, spicy chili and tomato kalonji chutneys.

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Le Coq Rico

Le Coq Rico
30 E 20th St
Flatiron District,New York 10003
(212) 267-7426

Roasted chicken has experienced a city-wide renaissance, but nowhere is poultry treated with more reverent respect than at Le Coq Rico; a Flatiron outpost of the Montrachet favorite.  Patrons actually receive their own pamphlets, explaining the difference between whole-roasted Catskill Guinea Fowl, Brune Landaise and Plymouth Barred Rock, but all bits of the bird are considered equally important.  Try the Offal Platter with apple and heart brochettes, glaced wings, liver on horseradish toast and spiced croquettes, or an “Eggz option;” we highly recommend En Meurette, with bacon and mushroom in a reduction of red wine.

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Le Turtle

Le Turtle
177 Chrystie St
Bowery,New York 10002
(646) 918-7189

The Lower East Side’s ultra-modern Le Turtle is a haven for beautiful fashionistas (it’s owned by Taavo Somer after all, the design-minded proprietor of Freeman’s and the former Isa).  Yet the restaurant values substance as well as style, proffering an imaginative French menu of Mackerel Crudo with almond milk and pickled persimmon, Kohlrabi Bisque afloat with smoked cabbage, mustard seeds and bits of cured lamb belly, and Sasso Chicken for Two, arrayed with brussels sprouts, green apples, and a yeast and goat cheese.

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Nix

Nix
72 University Pl
Greenwich Village,New York 10003
(212) 498-9393

John Fraser has been innovating with veggies long before it became a “movement,” and he’s taken his penchant for produce to the next level at Nix.  While his flagship restaurant, Dovetail, famously ushered in the Meatless Mondays menu, fully half of the offerings at Nix are totally vegan (not to mention uncompromisingly delicious), such as Roasted Sunchokes with tofu goddess dressing, Cauliflower Tempura tucked in steamed buns with pickles, and a Three Grain Stir-Fry tossed with market vegetables and chanterelles.

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Pasquale Jones

Pasquale Jones
187 Mulberry St
Little Italy,New York 10012
(917) 472-7230

What the still-popping Charlie Bird is to pasta (Tagliatelle with corn ragu!  Cavatelli tossed with saffron and kale!) its little sibling, the white hot Pasquale Jones, is to pizza; stoking its wood-guzzling ovens with classic Neapolitan rounds strewn with high quality (but none too precious) toppings; think mozzarella di Bufula, wild Sicilian oregano, prosciutto di parma and fans of black burgundy truffle.

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