Best NYC Tastes of 2017
2017 was a very strange year in the world of food. It started out incredibly boring, with fast casual restaurants and big Japanese chains taking over the city. And has ended unsteady and downright disturbing, with allegations of sexual harassment exploding in what seems to be every facet of the food industry and country as a whole. I honestly feel more uncertain as a person than I ever have before. Which is probably why I've leaned towards comfort food this year with big bowls of ramen, spicy chili oil wontons and other hearty, homey dishes dominating much of my time dining out.
Union Square Cafe reopened at the end of 2016 and has been my go-to place for spicy, carrot studded Candele Pasta while their sister cafe Daily Provisions actually took the spot for best new restaurant of 2017. This may seem like an odd choice but it had everything I needed this year; incredible crullers for breakfast, inventive sandwiches for lunch and a quiet, relaxing environment for grabbing an evening espresso or quick glass of wine.
There were a few sad closings this year including Portuguese restaurant and beer bar Lupulo which made my "Best Of NYC Tastes" list last year and long time favorite Temple Bar where I celebrated countless moments over the years. Of course when one door closes another one opens and the wonderful Nur came into Gramercy bringing incredible Middle Eastern flavors in the form of Grilled Octopus, Smoked Eggplant and freshly baked Kubaneh.
The NYC beer scene continued to grow with great spots like Interboro, Folksbier and Fifth Hammer opening in the boroughs while Suarez, Equilibrium and Hudson Valley Brewing took over the upstate scene. Meanwhile Gowanus favorite Other Half expanded with the opening of a huge tap room bringing in new business to the surrounding area which will definitely be a factor in the culinary landscape for 2018.
Onto the Best NYC Tastes of 2017:
Best Bar Dish- Mussels at The Office
This splashy new bar from Alinea's Greg Anchatz opened in the Mandarin Hotel this year with sky high expectations and the prices to match. Although the cocktails have yet to live up to the price tag, the mussels completely hit the mark. These big, juicy PEI Mussels arrive in a glorious tureen designed by Oscar de la Renta with thick chunks of smoked bacon, whole cloves of garlic and leeks. It's as rich, buttery and ostentatious as the bar itself; which is to say it's phenomenal.
Best New Dumplings- Yaso Tangbao
This unassuming storefront sandwiched between Papa Johns and Hibachi Grill Express in Downtown Brooklyn has surprisingly become the best new dumpling joint in NYC. Everything from their plump Pork Soup Dumplings and Braised Beef Noodle Soup to the Chili Oil Wonton's are made fresh onsite and insanely delicious. Look for this place to explode onto the Midtown lunch scene when they open their first Manhattan outpost in 2018.
Best Reason to Have a Pretzel for Dinner- Nur
Jerusalem Bagels studded with sesame seeds, Syrian pancakes and fresh baked Kubaneh are just a few of the beautiful baked goods from Chef Meir Adoni and Gadi Peleg of Nur. This cozy Middle Eastern spot packs a ton of flavor into its specialties like the Palestinian Beef Tartare with sheeps milk yogurt, Grilled Pita Lamb Kebabs and Smoked Trout Date Doughnuts. But don't leave without trying the best dish of all; fire roasted Eggplant Carpaccio served with feta, dates, pistachios and rose water. It's a creamy smokey dish that will turn any eggplant hater into a believer.
Best New Ramen- Tan Tan Ramen at Momosan
Chef Morimoto's ramen spot opened in Midtown spring of 2016 but it wasn't until 2017 that Mr. T and I got to try out this amazing new place. Everything from the soy marinated Tuna Poke to the Braised Pork Belly Bao are incredible, but it's the Tan Tan Ramen that invades my dreams at night. A creamy blend of of coconut curry, ground pork, red miso and aji tama with all the rich, porky goodness of a tonkotsu but with a spicy nutty kick.
Best Veggie Dish- Sunchoke at Atoboy
Chef Junghyun's more casual, affordable sister restaurant to Jungsik had a lot of standout dishes this year but the clear winner was the Sunchoke with oyster mushroom, black truffle and orange. It's simple in composition but the natural citrus flavors of the orange and earthy black truffles combine for an explosion of flavors not found anywhere else.
Best New Cocktail Bar- ROKC (Ramen Oysters Kitchen Cocktail)
This tiny little spot tucked away in Hamilton Heights may look unassuming from the front, but inside they're crafting up some of the best drinks in the city like the Thai Tea made with cachaca, condensed milk and absinthe. It tastes every bit as delicious and refreshing as a regular Thai Iced Tea but with a flaming top and a cute quail egg on the side with an extra shot of liquor.
Best Reason to Get out of Bed in the Morning- The Cruller from Daily Provisions
This cruller from Chef Daniel Alvarez begins with French pastry dough that's blended with butter, eggs, honey and meringue to create an eggy custard like interior similar to a canelle. It's then fried to a golden brown and topped with cinnamon sugar, sweet maple or a classic sugar glaze (my favorite). It's impossibly light yet incredibly rich and will forever change the way you look a traditional bakery cruller.
Runner Up- Black Sesame Kougin from Patisserie Chanson
I absolutely love anything black sesame and these Kougins may be my favorite yet. Flaky, golden strands of pastry brushed with butter and sugar then stuffed full of sweet, nutty black sesame seeds. The top makes a satisfying little crackle when pulled apart which makes the whole experience that much better.
Best Happy Hour- Negroni Sessions at Dante
This West Village cafe went through a major renovation, changing from a casual coffee house to a sleek new restaurant and bar. It now holds a spot on the Worlds Best Bar list and hosts my favorite happy hour of all time- the Negroni Sessions. From 4:00-7:00 each day Dante offers twelve different variations of this classic cocktail from the creamy orange Negroni Frappe to the caffeine infused Coffee Swizzle. Each drink is just $9.00 making it a dangerously affordable and delicious way to spend the evening.
Best Chocolate Chip Cookie- The Triple Chocolate Chip from Besfren
There are so many great chocolate chip cookies in NYC it's almost impossible to stand out among the greats like Levain, City Bakery and Jacques Torres; but somehow Koreatown bakery Besfren did just that this year with their famous Triple Chocolate Chip Cookie. This monstrous confection is thick and soft in the middle, like it's fresh from the oven, with crunchy brown edges and a TON of classic bittersweet chips, dark chocolate and milk chocolate squares. The dough has a buttery brown sugar flavor that pulls it all together.
Best Fancy Lunch - Gotham Bar & Grill
Gotham Bar and Grill certainly isn't new. This place has been open since 1984 with Chef Alfred Portale earning countless accolades from Michelin, James Beard, Zagat and a stunning run of five three star reviews from the NY Times. Dinner is still pretty heavy on the wallet but come for lunch where the gorgeous dining room, fantastic service and fabulous food can be enjoyed for just a fraction of the price. This quintessential New York City spot is just getting better with age.
Best New Restaurant- Daily Provisions
I never thought a cafe would be my favorite restaurant of the year but Daily Provisions has created the perfect formula for fantastic dining all day long. In the morning, fluffy Egg Sandwiches dressed with Berkshire bacon, avocado & tomato jam and smoked gouda with sausage come flying out of the kitchen to a jam packed audience. Midday classic comfort foods like Griddled PB&J's and Chicken Milanese Sandwiches dot the menu. Then dinner time arrives and the small space is usually quite serene with locals picking up Rotisserie Chicken to go and a smattering of folks enjoy some wine and hearty Sunday Sauce Lasagna. There's no white linen tablecloths, no amuse bouche; just great food being served by some incredibly friendly staff who always seem to remember your name. This is exactly what I needed in 2017.
Best of the Rest 2017
Best Slice- Rizzos Fine Pizza
Best Local Beer- Equilibrium DHop2
Best Brunch- Blacklock (London)
Best Bread Service- Gabriel Kreuther
Best Black Truffle Experience- Le Rabassier (Brussels)
Best Comfort Dish- Candele Pasta at Union Square Cafe
Best Menu Revamp- Torst