Dec 14, 2016
The 20 Best Dishes (Ok, Make that 24) We Ate in 2016
In fear of diminishing the impact of our best restaurants list, it bears saying that the “best dishes” designation is far from a consolation prize. It speaks volumes that—after breaking down our year into literally hundreds upon hundreds of individual consumables—these are the items that we not just fondly remember eating, but still actively, continuously crave, from B’klyn Burro’s legit Mission-style burritos, to Tygershark’s tofu-gorged crocks of soondubu.
B’klyn Burro’s Chile Relleno Burrito: We may be hot on Cali’s tail when it comes to tacos, but they’ve still got us beat on burritos, mostly. Opened by a San Fran expat, B’klyn Burro currently serves the best damned tortilla cylinders this side of the Mission, densely packed with stuffed and fried-to order chilies rellenos, as well as rice, beans, pico de gallo and fresh avocado slices in lieu of guac, all of which are evenly distributed throughout.
922 Fulton St., Clinton Hill
Tygershark’s Soondubu: While gonzo selections at this surf shop/coffee shop/Korean seafood restaurant sound thrilling on paper (corn fritters with faux crab, salmon roe and charred scallion crema), Tygershark truly excels when it stays the course with Korean classics—i.e. this consummate take on soondubu—a fresh tofu stew bobbing with shell-on clams and grill-singed slips of bulgogi, in a blazing, chili-stained broth.
581 Vanderbilt Ave., Prospect Heights
Hail Mary’s Hot Fried Sasso Chicken: It’s not so much a question of whether you can handle the heat of this finer diner’s fried chicken (although it’s plenty potent, being brined in gochujang, dry-rubbed with bird chilies and Szechuan peppercorns, and then finished with lashings of chile-infused oil). It’s if you can stomach the presentation—as the poultry pieces arrive with fingernailed talon still attached. We say grin and bear it, because in a food year so thoroughly glutted with endless permutations of hot chicken, Hail Mary produced one of the very best birds.
68 Greenpoint Ave., Greenpoint
Barano’s Vongole Pizza: It seems Barano may have fallen under many a diner’s radar this year, owing to a certain other Southern Italian, pasta-slinging, Manhattan vet-helmed wood-burner just across Williamsburg. Yet in addition to nailing his requisite piattinis, primis and secondis, pizza proved owner Al di Meglio’s true ace in the hole (he hails from Rubirosa, after all). Showcasing dough crafted over the course of three days, you can’t miss the New Haven-referencing clam pie, scattered with breadcrumbs and gobs of housemade mozzarella, and served with its own set of shears.
26 Broadway, South Williamsburg
LaRina Pastificio & Vino’s Lemon Gigli: Another substantial sign that the pendulum swung firmly back in flavor of gluten this year was this pasta-fixated restaurant, offering 10-odd noodle options like lemon-imbued, rosebud-shaped gigli, whose conical centers prove ideal for sucking up lush duck ragu mopped with pecorino di fossa and thyme.
387 Myrtle Ave., Fort Greene
Win Son’s Oyster Omelette: While we have no compunctions in namechecking a deep-fried fried donut filled with ham, pineapple and jalapenos (the so-called nutritious sandwich) as our favorite dish, it was just edged out by Win Son’s elegant Taiwanese oyster omelet, riddled with Goose Point bivalves and crumbles of heritage pork.
159 Graham Ave., East Williamsburg
Sunken Hundred’s Seaweed Cheetos: Not to take anything away from this Welsh boite’s eloquent, beyond-rarebit menu of lamb jus-sauced razor clams and laver-roasted hake, but it’s hard to top the drama of their brilliant gratis bar snack — free-form squiggles of warm, fried sourdough puffs, naturally salted with the coast-lined country’s most naturally abundant ingredient: seaweed.
276 Smith St., Carroll Gardens
BK Jani’s Seekh Kabab: Paper plates are part of the considerable charm of BK Jani—which evokes a year-round Pakastani backyard party with portions of certified halal Pat LaFrieda beef kababs riddled with 17-some odd spices, and sided with dollops of mint chutney and raita, a flaky paratha, and an assortment of grilled, seasonal veggies.
276 Knickerbocker Ave., Bushwick
Hart’s Lamb Burger: We were tickled by the eccentric interpretation of surf-and-turf at the Mediterranean-surveying Hart’s, namely, a lean and grassy lamb burger, wainscoted with a piquant row of marinated white anchovies (which bleed their brackish oils into the meat with every bite).
506 Franklin Ave., Bed Stuy
Cheeseboat’s Cheeseboat: Consider this Georgian newcomer a full-on assault on carb counting, as it’s wholly devoted to hyper-regional breads, from Ossetia’s potato-padded khabizgina, to Svaneti’s crumbly, corn-based chvishtari, to the infamous Acharuli khachapuri—i.e., cheeseboat—a tapered dough cauldron brimming with molten dairy, truffle oil and sunbursts of raw egg.
80 Berry St., Williamsburg
Sauvage’s Pike with Mountain Vegetables: You can’t blame chef Lisa Giffen’s inherent frustration at being overshadowed by dollar oysters at Maison Premiere. And she’s gleefully broken free of her raw shellfish shackles at the bar-resto’s little sibling, Sauvage, by honoring wild-growing ingredients of all sorts—such as crisp-skinned planks of pike paired with foraged vegetables (spring means fiddleheads and morels) and lapped in sour beer sabayon.
905 Lorimer St., Greenpoint
f.o.b.’s Chicken Adobo: While this eatery’s unusual conceit is Filipino bbq (favoring grilled skewers over saucy, long-simmered stews) no self-respecting Pinoy restaurant would eschew chicken adobo. So thank chef Armando Litiatco’s dad for f.o.b.’s succulent dark-meat version: vinegar-soaked segments cooked to completion the day before.
271 Smith St., Cobble Hill
Denizen’s French Onion Soup Toast: For his third Brooklyn restaurant, an older and wiser John Poiarkoff has elected to forgo his grab bag of finicky chef flourishes, and let cheese shine. Not to say he’s not having fun with elevated wine bar bites like deconstructed onion soup, featuring sturdy blocks of toast amassed with braised oxtail gravy and creamy coils of timberdoodle.
88 Roebling St., Williamsburg
Sally Roots’ Ackee and Salt Fish: Granted, everything tastes better after a shot of “all the rums.” But you don’t need to be two sheets to appreciate Sally Roots’ johnny cakes, swollen with a sauté of reconstituted cod and pods of Jamaica’s beloved national fruit.
195 Wyckoff Ave., Bushwick
Bunsmith’s Spam and Cookie Butter Bun: What likely began as a gimmick (hey, it caught our attention) actually proved a revelation—turns out speculoos and spam (pulverized spice cookie spread and tinned pork product) are next-gen peanut butter and jelly.
789 Franklin Ave., Crown Heights
Peaches Shrimp & Crab’s Shrimp with Comeback Sauce: This Marietta makeover handily won us over with lavish plateaus of seafood, but the kitchen can take more credit for fabulously snappy fried shrimp liberally cloaked in comeback sauce (a bewitching chili-mayo amalgam favored in Mississippi).
285 Grand Ave., Clinton Hill
Bon Chovie’s Fish and Chips: Bitter as we are that this Smorgasburg offshoot is decamping to Bay Ridge for Clinton Hill—replacing what could have been one of our favorite new restaurants, Cynical Schnauzer—we’ve got to give it up to their impeccable fish (ample slabs of cod veiled in gossamer beer batter) and chips (skin-on russets, specked with Old Bay), proving a canny counterpoint to tougher sells like their eponymous fried anchovies.
7604 3rd Ave., Bay Ridge
Black Walnut’s Shishito Salad: When defined as a mixture of vegetables tossed in dressing, this dish could loosely qualify as salad. Yet it’s the furthest cry possible from rabbit food, considering the roughage portion includes blistered shishito peppers and crushed, fried sunchoke puffs, and the sauce is essentially a basil-enlivened mayonnaise.
140 Schermerhorn St., Boerum Hill
Cape House’s Celery Root Patty Melt, Guadalupe Inn’s Trompito al Pastor, Ichiran’s Tonkotsu: Since you’ll find three of our favorite dishes in the span of a single block, we thought we’d save a bit of roundup real estate (thus making room for even more distinguished 2016 eats!) by rolling them up into one. Though Bushwick’s Cape House specializes in belly clams (our preferred bivalve) they also happen to serve the borough’s most persuasive new veggie burger, sculpted not from portobellos or grain patties but gruyere and caramelized onion-spackled celery root. Across the street, Guadalupe Inn’s carve-it-yourself cone of al pastor is our idea of a share plate, but if you’re out with pals, you’ll need to part ways after joining the lines at Japanese import, Ichiran, so you can effectively commune in your concentration room with a bone-rich bowl of tonkotsu.
1 Knickerbocker Ave., 2 Knickerbocker Ave., 374 Johnson Ave., Bushwick
Emmy Squared’s Emmy Pizza, The Chinese Club’s Manchurian Vegetable, Bar Omar’s Seven Vegetable Couscous: Since we’ve already played fast and loose with our “20 Best” rules, might as well double down with this trio of notables, mere steps away from each other on Grand Street. Emmy proved its hip to be square with their Detroit-style, frico-crusted pies (go with the namesake, a late-night booze buttress of mozzarella, banana peppers and ranch). The Chinese Club’s uniquely Indo-Chinese Manchurian vegetable (a trio of carrot-freckled orbs in a sea of ginger-forward brown gravy) may not have been the year’s prettiest dish, but we were happy to abandon our camera phone for an extra-large spoon. And French expat, Bar Omar, translated beautifully to Williamsburg—Brooklyn’s own little Paris—especially since founder Omar Guerda schooled the kitchen on the execution of his famous couscous, sand-fine pebbles of semolina draped in an Algerian stew of chickpeas, tomatoes and squash.
208 Grand St., 364 Grand St., 188 Grand St., Williamsburg
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