It’s kind of a favorite pastime for food writers to predict the new wave of dining trends for the coming year. And we have to say, our picks for 2013 wound up being pretty on the money, namely Gochujang surpassing Sriracha (could Korean food be any hotter right now?) and the unlikely return of Roast Chicken (Rotisserie Georgette, hello!). So we’re eager to see if we prove every bit as accurate with our forecast for 2014, from a proliferation of single-concept restaurants to a growing obsession with Filipino fare.
The Rise of Rabbit
Although chicken is sure to remain just as popular going into 2014 (it’s the raison d’ etre at Rotisserie Georgette and the just-opened Mountain Bird, and plays a starring role in dishes at Charlie Bird and Kingside), rabbit is making a serious play for this year’s protein du jour. You’ll find the delicate wild game commingling with Snails in a best-selling Paella at Toro, flavored with Apple Cider and tucked into a savory Pie at The Peacock, a refined new British restaurant, and presented as a trio at Glasserie in Greenpoint, in Kebab-style chunks drizzled with Tahini, as a Roasted Leg paired with Pickled Vegetables, as well as in an oniony Stew, served with piles of buttery, flaky Flatbread.
The Spread of Single Concept Dining Spots
You’ll find utterly excellent biscuits at restaurants all over New York (like Peels in the East Village and Egg in Williamsburg, just to name two). And yet, people went nuts over the baked offerings at Empire Biscuit, the city’s first dedicated shop, which sandwich fillings like Ham and Egg, Fried Chicken, and Oxtail Brown Sugar Jelly. So much so, that the 24-hour eatery had to shut down for a week just to restock. And even though the crowds have just begun to trickle in at Tacquitoria, which specializes in creatively-filled rolled and fried tacos, they’ve already wrangled a heavy-hitting investor; Iron Chef and successful restaurateur Marc Forgione.
Filipino Fare at the Forefront
New York is undoubtedly in love with Southeast Asian food, and Filipino cuisine is the city’s newest darling. The buzzy Pig & Khao (from Top Chef’s Leah Cohen) was the first big Phillipines-inspired opening of the year, serving pork-centric plates, like Curry Rice Salad with Minced Pork, Grilled Pork Jowls, Crispy “Pata” Pork Leg and Filipino Pork Head. It was followed by the traditional and affordable comfort food at Papa’s Kitchen in Queens (get the Chicken Adobo), Veksler’s in Brooklyn, whose chef trained under Cendrillon and Purple Yam’s Romy Dorotan, and the upcoming Lumpia Shack Snackbar in the West Village, selling savory Spring Rolls and the vibrantly colored shaved ice dessert known as Halo-Halo.
Brooklyn Cleans Up Its Act
It’s often lamented that Brooklyn doesn’t even begin to compete with Manhattan when it comes to fine dining, and that even its most acclaimed restaurants are too small, too rustic or too twee. Well, that may be changing now that the team behind borough darling, Battersby, has just opened Dover, which is double the size of their original Smith Street spot. The seafood-focused eatery also offers a 7-course tasting menu, currently featuring Scallop Crudo with Buttermilk, Tajarin Pasta with Black Truffle and Brown Butter, and Ribeye with Peanuts and Mint. Corton’s perennially posh Paul Liebrandt ushered in the destination hotel restaurant this year with the decidedly upscale, The Elm (try the Garden, 40 different vegetables presented in a two-person cocotte), and other respected Manhattan chefs like Tertulia’s Seamus Mullen are expected to follow suit. Watch for his upcoming farm-to-table eatery in the Pierhouse, a massive new development overlooking Brooklyn Bridge Park.
Cauliflower is the New Kale
Not that we expect those omnipresent Kale Salads to vacate restaurant menus any time soon. But the sturdy, meaty cauliflower appears poised to give the vitamin-packed leafy green a real run for its money this year. Check out the Tacos stuffed with Roasted Cauliflower, Mixed Grains and Curried Crema at Salvation Taco (tasty enough to please even the most hardened carnivore), the rustic Cauliflower Gratin at new farm-to-table mecca Telepan Local, and the surprisingly sprightly salad of Cauliflower, Raisins, Cilantro and Chilies at ABC Cocina. And it didn’t escape our notice that three of the recipes in our recently published cookbook, the “Brooklyn Chef’s Table” thoroughly embrace the cabbage; the Buffalo Cauliflower at Thistle Hill Tavern, the Cauliflower Salad at Mimi’s Hummus, and the Strozzapreti with Caramelized Cauliflower, Taggiasca Olive, Calabrian Chili, and Anchovy at Red Gravy.
Ancient Grains Reemerge
The widespread rejection of refined wheat and a growing obsession with superfoods has recommitted diners to wholesome ancient grains, like millet, barley, amaranth and spelt. And restaurants are making every effort to incorporate them in great tasting, good-for-you dishes. There’s the Grain Salad at Betony, a multi-textured, nutty mélange accented by Labne and Sprouts, which incidentally is one of chef Bryce Shuman’s personal favorites. There’s the Green Farro at The Heath (owned by the creators of the interactive play, “Sleep No More”), plated with Grilled King Trumpet Mushrooms, Pickled Chanterelles, Chestnuts and Red Mustard Greens and another Farro Salad, this one with Mint, Parmigiano and pistachios at Charlie Bird. And chef Laurent Kalkatour offers a delectable Quinoa Tagliatelle at Atrium Dumbo; grain-based Pasta topped with Toasted Quinoa and bathed in a Cauliflower Cream Sauce. Two trends in one!