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Summer’s Best Corn Dishes

Summer may be winding down, but things are just getting exciting where corn is concerned.   The golden yellow, white and even bi-color husks of sweet corn are popping up at Greenmarkets, and in restaurants all over the city.  We sampled the city to find the best corn dishes in New York, from the Chilled Corn Soup at Blue Hill to the Sweet Corn Panna Cotta at Esca.  Right now is the perfect time to get your corn fix, so check out our list to see where you can get the ultimate taste of summer…

The Chilled Corn Soup at Blue Hill
Address: 75 Washington Pl., at 6th Ave. 
Phone: (212) 539-1776
The epitome of farm-to-table dining, Blue Hill’s menu is brimming with seasonal ingredients. In fact, many come directly from the lush fields of Chef Dan Barber’s family’s farm upstate, the Stone Barns Center in Pocantico Hills.   You can head north and eat at Blue Hill at Stone Barns or just head down to the West Village for a taste of summer.  There’s plenty to sample, but our favorite dish on the menu right now is the Chilled Corn Soup appetizer.  Sooth and creamy, it’s cleverly complemented by shitake mushrooms, pickled eggplant and chervil.  For a real tribute to the best of summer’s bounty, follow that up with the Smoked Oak Pasta, which also features sweet corn, or the Potato and Ricotta Gnocchi with pork belly, shiitake mushrooms, baby zucchini, and fresh tomatoes.

The Sweet Corn Panna Cotta at Esca
Address: 402 West 43rd St., btwn. 9th & 10th Aves.
Phone: (212) 564-7272
When you think of Esca, you think of fish, of course.  That’s the name of the game at this midtown seafood temple.  But we’re just as taken with the many ways Esca is serving corn right now.  Where to begin? How about roasted on top of a salad, mingled with littleneck clams, or as a garnish on top of fish.  We haven’t gotten to dessert.  Pastry Chef Tracy Obolsky has proved that corn can hold its own in the dessert department:  She’s used it to make a Sweet-Corn Caramel gelato, a Buttered Popcorn gelato, and most recently, a Sweet Corn Panna Cotta.  Her summery twist on the classic Italian dessert is exceptional; the corn custard light, airy, and sweet.  It’s topped with a salted caramel drizzle, candied popcorn, and a few tart blackberries — a dreamy summer dessert.

The Lobster and Avocado Chilled Corn Soup at Raoul’s
Address: 180 Prince St., btwn. Thompson & Sullivan Sts.
Phone: (212) 966-3518
Raoul’s is a New York institution dating back to 1975 when two brothers came over from France and opened the doors to this little bistro.  The brothers Raoul still own the place along with their families, and the Soho bistro is aging gracefully.  The service is still first-class, the atmosphere unapologetically laidback, and the servers unapologetically French.  To us what matters most is the food, like Steak au Poivre with Pommes Frîtes or the Artichoke Vinaigrette.  On a recent visit, we discovered a new sadly seasonal dish that we wish we’d find on the menu all year round: The Chilled Corn Soup.  White corn soup to be specific.   They distinguish their version of this summer staple by adding Nova Scotia lobster, cubed avocado, and radish sprouts.  It’s a delicate mix of sweet and savory, and if you ask us, the ideal dish to linger over as you take in the iconic decor, complete with nudes, jazz portraits, tin ceiling, and intriguing clientele.  (Don’t forget to head upstairs to the fortune teller after dinner.)

Mexican-Style Grilled Corn  at Café Habana
Address: 17 Prince St., at Elizabeth St.
Phone: (212) 625-2001
Few things things are more satisfying come summertime than freshly grilled corn on the cob. Picking up an ear with both hands and gnawing away is, well, one of life’s simplest summer pleasures.  Our favorite way to eat it is Mexican-style and Café Habana has one of the best renditions in the city on their menu.  This Soho luncheonette has roots in Mexico City (it was inspired by a storied lunch joint there), which guarantees they’re serving up authentic eats.  Their grilled corn is served warm, dusted with chili powder, rolled in melted cojita cheese, and drizzled with some fresh lime juice.  And with a price tag of less than $5, you can afford to pair your corn with one of their famous Cuban sandwiches, and a mojito or two.

The Lobster and Asparagus Corn Soup at The Little Owl
Address: 90 Bedford St., at Grove St.
Phone: (212) 741-4695
What looks like an unassuming, corner restaurant in Greenwich Village has been packing in diners for over seven years and counting.   They come for the perfect combination of deceptively simple Mediterranean food  served in a notably quaint and casual setting.  There are a few signature dishes on the menu, like the gravy meatball sliders (these are a must) and the pork chop, but where chef Joey Companaro’s genius really shines through is in his seasonal specials.  His corn soup is warm, creamy, and robust.  For lunch, Campanaro serves it with crispy asparagus, but go for dinner and you’ll get the added bonus of some lobster meat mixed in for good measure.  There are only ten tables in the entire place, so make sure to snag a reservation soon before the corn soup disappears from the menu for good.

The Sweetbreads with Sweet Corn Esquites at Empellon Cocina
Address: 105 1st Ave., btwn. 6th & 7th Sts.
Phone: (212) 780-0999
Alex Stupak’s follow up to his taqueria, Empellon Cocina forgoes tacos altogether, raising the bar on traditional Mexican cuisine by injecting modern twists.  Instead, he’s revamping moles, elevating guacamole, and changing the way we look at chicharonnes.  His interpretation of a classic Mexican street snack known as Esquites is a perfect example.  At the center of the dish are sweet corn kernels, lightly seared in lard before being tossed in a mix of cotija cheese, arbol chiles, and an epazote mixture.  Crispy sweetbreads and thinly sliced baby radishes lend it some texture, while a lime-spiked mayo helps balance out the spiciness of the dish.  It may sound like there are a lot of competing flavors here, but with a bed of corn at the heart of the dish, it’s surprisingly harmonious and dangerously delicious.

The Chilled Corn Veloute at Apiary
Address: 60 Third Ave., btwn. 10th & 11th Sts.
Phone: (212) 254-0888
Apiary turned four earlier this month and they have lots to celebrate, not the least of which is chef Scott Bryan’s presence in the kitchen. The man’s cooked everywhere from Gotham Bar & Grill to Veritas and Le Bernardin.  Apiary offers up sophisticated cooking without the fuss and hefty price you often associate with such a pedigreed chef.   There’s tons of seasonal finds on the menu, like a roasted beet salad with almonds, the blackberry financier, or a Chilled Corn Veloute.  The secret to this corn soup is a few drops of chorizo oil, injecting a smoky, spicy dimension to the broth.  Then he lightens up the whole dish with a generous garnish of fresh tarragon.

The Charred Corn Off the Cob at Market Table
Address: 54 Carmine St., btwn. Bedford & Bleecker Sts.
Phone: (212) 255-2100
Market Table fits right in with the vibe of the West Village: It’s airy, comfortable, and chic.  But the menu finds its inspiration from chef Mikey Price’s childhood on his family farm.  With a love of creating simple dishes, he focuses on infusing as much flavor into each plate as possible.  We love what he’s done with one of his seemingly straightforward sides, the Charred Corn Off the Cob.  Chef Price first cuts the kernels off the cob before grilling them.  That way each nub gets equal access to the heat and an equal share of the chili powder, Parmesan cheese, and freshly squeezed lime juice mixture that he tosses on top.  The Parmesan doesn’t mask the corn, allowing the focal point of this seasonal dish to be the pile of blackened sweet corn.

The Sweet Corn Kakiage at Sushi Samba 7
Address: 87 7th Ave., at Barrow St.
Phone: (212) 691-7885
It’s not every day you find a restaurant that successfully fuses Japanese, Brazilian, and Peruvian cuisines, but at Sushi Samba, that’s exactly what you’ll get.  The resulting menu is full of unexpected and rewarding dishes that somehow work.  For summer, we’re obsessed with their Sweet Corn Kakiage this summer.  They mix corn kernels in with the tempura batter and then toss small spoonfuls into the deep fryer, resulting in sweet, crunchy corn fritters.  They finish the dish off with a little touch of shichimi, black truffle sauce, and lime zest.  It’s one of the most original ways we’ve seen corn used around the city, making this a must try dish for summer.


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