If Time Out New York can do it, so can I. I’ve been inspired and satiated by Time Out’s 2009 Top 100 list and look forward to conquering their 2010 list very soon. But from now until the end of the year, I present my own Top 100 Dishes of the year in reverse order. Look for another five dishes every few days.

20. ROASTED ORGANIC CHICKEN at APIARY

Unless it has some really interesting preparation, comes on top of a salad, or it’s on Time Out’s list, I won’t usually order chicken at a nice restaurant. It just seems like the boring choice and it’s like an overplayed record. How many times do I need to taste chicken?

I get the same incredulous reaction at my new restaurant, Apiary, when customers ask me for a recommendation and I tell them the chicken. But I assure them (and you) that this is no ordinary chicken.

Chef Scott Bryan’s techniques seem quite simple, but you realize his mastery when tasting the food. The chicken has a well-seasoned skin that tastes like its been battered and fried (without the actual oil), the meat inside is incredibly moist, juicy, and plump. It may be the most tender chicken I’ve ever tasted. And where do all those flavors come from?

The gigantic portion, rich and silky mascarpone polenta, peas and carrots, and a touch of thyme jus seal the deal. And make this homey, rustic chicken well worth ordering. Price: $22

APIARY
60 Third Avenue (between 10th and 11th Street)
East Village
(212) 254-0888
apiarynyc.com

19. CHICKEN PITA SANDWICH from TONY “THE DRAGON” DRAGONAS

I’ve eaten lots of chicken from street carts. Late night post-drinking binges, quick cheap lunches on the go, and as research for the Food Cart Tours I’ve been giving with Urban Oyster. That’s how I discovered the legendary Tony “the Dragon” Dragonas cart.

It’s parked on 62nd Street near Madison Avenue, which is a little off the path of our food cart tours. But you know me, I’m pretty thorough when it comes to food research. I had read about how juicy his chicken was, but I never expected anything quite like this.

The first clue that this is something special is that it actually looks like pieces of chicken breast. He doesn’t chop it up into indistinguishable meat chunks. It also must be marinated in some special crack sauce with garlic and peppers. It takes a few minutes for him to slice it up, plop it on a toasted pita or on top of some yellow rice, and before you know it, you’re experiencing the freshest, most tender, and delicious chicken you could possibly find on the street.

With its wonderful smoky, chargrilled flavor and succulent plump texture, it’s no wonder that local chefs have tried to get his recipe.  A squirt of tzatziki sauce and some crunchy onions and lettuce round out this perfect iconic New York food: the street meat. Price: $5

TONY “THE DRAGON” DRAGONAS
SW Corner of 62nd Street and Madison Avenue
Upper East Side

18. RAVIOLO AL UOVO at MAIALINO

Although I think he needs to slow down with the whole Shake Shack expansion, Danny Meyer continues to open wonderful restaurants with warm ambience, gracious service, and expertly prepared food. Maialino was a big opening this year and it was Danny’s first foreray into Italian food. And along with Chef Nick Anderer, he’s created a very comfortable and inviting Roman-style trattoria.

The word rustic is an understatement here and most of the food is really good. The most interesting and memorable dish I tasted is called the Raviolo al Uovo. And it basically means egg ravioli. And while we’ve all heard about egg pasta, this egg is stuffed inside one big ravioli.

The dish comes out and the first thing you want to do is break it open like a soup dumpling, let the yolk seep out the sides, and then soak up the perfectly tender ravioli with your newly made sauce. If that wasn’t enough, the plate (pre-egg explosion) features a rich brown butter ricotta sauce that brings out a bit of sweetness. The garnish of sage is perfect and shows some restraint. I however did not show any restraint when served this handsome and delicious appetizer. My apologies, Mr. Meyer. Price: $15

MAIALINO
2 Lexington Avenue (between North Gramercy Park and 22nd Street)
Inside the Gramercy Park Hotel
Gramercy
(212) 777-2410
maialinonyc.com

Photo Courtesy of: toastnjams.wordpress.com

17. DEVILED EGGS at FORT DEFIANCE

There’s a very funny moment on my Bar Mitzvah video where the camera catches me discovering an hors d’oeuvre that looks creamy and sweet. It was my first experience with deviled eggs and for whatever reason, at 13, I decided that they were gross.

I’ve tried them many times since and they’re still not my favorite. But after tasting the ones at Fort Defiance, I can safely say that they’re the best deviled eggs I’ve ever had. These were spicy and sweet with a delicious tangy bite and a fun poppy texture from mustard seeds. Each bite revealed something else. I loved discovering all the other ingredients: celery salt, Dijon mustard, lemon juice, and greek yogurt (which I think makes these the smoothest, creamiest deviled eggs ever).

Fort Defiance in Red Hook is a colorful and warm neighborhood spot and they have converted a once discerning 13 year-old Bar Mitzvah boy into a deviled egg lover. Price: $3

FORT DEFIANCE
365 Van Brunt Street (between Sullivan Street and Wolcott Street)
Red Hook, Brooklyn
(347) 453-6672
fortdefiancebrooklyn.com

16. SLOW POACHED FARM EGG IN A JAR at THE MODERN

I used to work in the Bar Room at The Modern (the high end restaurant attached to the MoMA). And I truly loved the food there. I’ve never worked in a place where I could honestly say to customers, “Everything is good.” I think people are still skeptical of that response when asked for a waiter’s favorites, but here it’s really hard to choose favorites. Everything is great.

But one dish that I really could never get enough of was the slow poached farm egg in a jar. Now I’m not a huge fan of eggs (yolks especially) to begin with, but when you add butter poached lobster, sea urchin froth, and any number of rotating crunchy root vegetables (currently, it’s crosnes), you’ve made me a convert. And bonus points for presentation: the whole thing is served in a mason jar that made all the tables look over when somebody had it delivered.

I used to guarantee people that if they like eggs and lobster. there’s no way they wouldn’t like this. Only one person ever challenged me and it was because she was scared that the egg wasn’t scrambled. Here it’s slow poached and runny so it has a soup-like consistency (that’s why we always served it with a spoon), but better than any egg drop soup you could ever dream up. Price: $20

THE MODERN
9 West 53rd Street (between Avenue of the Americas and Fifth Avenue)
Inside the Museum of Modern Art
Midtown West
(212) 333-1220
themodernnyc.com

Photo Courtesy of: crumbs-nyc.blogspot.com

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About the Author

Brian Hoffman is a classically trained actor who is now a full-time tour guide, blogger, and food obsessive. He leads food and drink tours around New York City, which not only introduce tour-goers to delicious food, but gives them a historical context. He also writes food articles for Gothamist and Midtown Lunch in addition to overseeing this blog and a few food video series, including Eat This, Locals Know, and Around the World in One City.

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