It’s always a daunting task to pinpoint our favorite restaurants at the end of each year. But 2013 brought in such an unprecedented slew of truly notable openings that we couldn’t even contain our borough-wide picks in one single list… so we didn’t. Did you not get the memo about surprise success, Piora and its Korean-Italian mashup menu (we swear it’s delicious), or Richard Kuo’s new hip Bowery spot, Pearl & Ash and its killer drinks? How about New York Sushi Ko and its blow your mind omakase? No problem. Here’s our top ten to put on your must-try list for 2014.
Is there any doubt that Korean food is having a moment in New York? Former Tenpenny chef Chris Cipollone went on a two-week reconnaissance mission through the country for inspiration with his Piora partner, Simon Kim, before opening their one-of-a-kind, West Village eatery. The result is a mashup menu of fantastically delicious Korean-esque dishes, that still bear Cipollone’s Italian influence, like Barbecued Octopus with Fermented Pepper, Basil and Pine Nuts, Rohan Duck with Jujube, Black Garlic and Farro, and Bucatini with Dungeness Crab, Maitake Mushrooms and Chiles.Read More
New York Sushi Ko
Admittedly, this Lower East Side sushi spot didn’t get nearly as much press as some of the splashier openings this year. And the laid back vibe is a whole lot more rock and roll and irreverent than what’s usually expected at high-end Omakase restaurants (tattooed chef John Daley has been known to play reggae over the sound system, and even let an expletive or two slip during dinner service). But there’s no denying Daley’s formidable technique (he honed his skills working at Masa and 15 East), or the saline perfection of his meticulously sourced fish, showcased in courses like blowtorched Goldeneye Snapper, Mackeral Tartare with Saba, and a progression of velvety Uni.
This was a banner year for tireless restaurateur Michael White, who ushered in 2013 with The Butterfly, a stylish cocktail bar and supper club, and is closing it out with the recently launched Ristorante Morini on the Upper East Side. But it’s Costata, the contemporary Italian steakhouse he opened in May, that’s truly set itself apart from the pack. Yes, you can get staples, like Creamed Spinach and Fried Potatoes to accompany your 44-ounce Tomahawk Ribeye, but this is a Michael White eatery; go with half orders of al dente, hand cranked pasta, a delectable crudo or two (or three), like Razor Clams with Fennel and Soppressata, and unusual steakhouse sides, the likes of Romanesco with Salsa Verde or fantastic Fried Artichokes.
Whatever your stance is on Spring Pea Guacamole, one thing’s for sure; the Latin offshoot of farmers market-focused ABC Kitchen was another triumph for Jean-Georges Vongerichten and his talented counterpart, chef Dan Kluger. The imaginative menu is divided under descriptors, like “Light & Bright,” “Golden & Crispy,” “Masa & Tortillas,” and “Rice,” and by all means, order a bite or two from each. Particularly memorable dishes include Shaved Fluke with Green Chili Dressing, Gooey Spicy Ham and Cheese Fritters, Savory Glazed Short Rib Tacos with Habanero Relish and Frizzled Onion, and Arroz Con Pollo with Crackling Skin and Lemon Zest.
Molecular mad scientist Wylie Dufresne revealed a subdued side this year with Alder in the East Village, helmed by his longtime chef Jon Bignoli. That’s not to say there aren’t plenty of quirky culinary flourishes on the menu, namely the Rye Pasta, a pastrami sandwich reimagined as a bowl of noodles, and New England Clam Chowder, crowned with oyster crackers made out of actual dehydrated oyster. But many of the dishes are just, well, simply delicious dishes, like Grilled Octopus plated with smoky Chorizo and Sweet Potato, and Spiced Bratwurst with Apple Mustard and Turnip Mash.Read More
Having risen to the executive sous chef position at the esteemed Eleven Madison Park, Bryce Shuman already proved that he had serious chops in the kitchen. But could he spearhead his own successful restaurant, worthy of his mentor’s praise? The answer was a resounding yes, as Betony handily won over not just Daniel Humm and Will Guidara (both of whom are frequent dinner guests), but New York Times reviewer Pete Wells. The critic bestowed three stars on Betony for its impeccable service, noteworthy drinks program, and of course, Shuman’s thoughtful yet refreshingly unfussy dishes, like fork tender Grilled Short Rib paired with smoky Romaine and Sweetbreads, and succulent Poached Lobster perfumed with a sheath of fresh Dill.
Richard Kuo did his bit to further the New Nordic boom in Brooklyn at the Scandinavian pop-up, Frej, before moving to the Bowery to open the globetrotting Pearl & Ash. Born in Taiwan, raised in Australia, and trained at wd-50, the inventive chef now experiments with ingredients from all over the map, resulting in dishes, like Fluke with Pomegranate, Sunchoke and Kaffir Lime, Pork Meatballs with Shiitake, Bonito and Soppressata, and Sweetbreads with Sherry, Hearts of Palm and Morcilla, that can be ordered in half or full sizes for either a progressive tasting experience, or a standard three-course meal.Read More
With a menu of over 60 items, there were bound to be a couple clunkers at the Meatpacking District outpost of Boston’s beloved Toro. But for the most part, chefs Ken Oringer and Jamie Bissonnette have managed to hit all of the right notes with their Barcelona-inspired tapas, like Serrano-wrapped Rabbit Paté with Mostarda and Squid and a Farm Egg prepared a la plancha, or larger, luxurious feeds, like crunchy-bottomed Paella Valenciana with Shrimp, Mussels, Chorizo and Clams.Read More
If you’re a wine-o, you’ll want to familiarize yourself with this consistently packed SoHo hangout. There’s a 100-strong wine list with bottles from tons of independent winemakers and they’ll let you turn any bottle on the menu into a half bottle (try the 2003 Domaine Francois Raveneau Butteaux, Chablis Premier Cru). While New York generally doesn’t take kindly to strangers, you might say Charlie Bird and its James Beard-nominated chef Ryan Hardy (formerly of The Little Nell in Colorado) are the exception. The eatery boasts funky interiors, inspired by New York street art and music and a menu of refined new Italian comfort foods, like Razor Clam Crudo with Chilies & Fennel, Straciatella Cheese Toast with Pickled Chanterelles, and an exemplary Roast Chicken accompanied by a “Crispy Bit” Salad; fried nubs of bread tossed in chicken jus.Read More
Williamsburg’s loss became Nolita’s gain when Ignacio Mattos was unexpectedly let go at Isa, decamping to Manhattan to open Estela (with partner Thomas Carter), a sexy wine bar and Mediterranean small plates spot. Mattos still displays some of the whimsy he became known for at the idiosyncratic Isa, but his food is notably more streamlined, purposefully edited, and much more mature, like a creamy Burrata enlivened by a Salsa Verde, or an international appetizing platter of sorts featuring Egg Salad, Boquerones and Bottarga, improbably deposited on Matzo.Read More