Once again Time Out New York released their Top 100 Dishes of the year and once again, I’m going to eat my way through every one. And no price point or subway delay will stop me. In no particular order, here’s my take on their Top 100.

I’ve been eating a lot of brunch lately. It’s sort of a cliched meal in this town and not one I’m usually attracted to. The lines can be out of control and I’m not willing to wait an hour or more for some eggs and pancakes. Yet in the last few weeks, we’ve discovered going to brunch later (like after 2 or 3) is easier and some modest places out there make tasty, worthy versions of bacon and eggs.

I wouldn’t call Maialino one of those modest places, but I still love it. I had been here a few times for dinner and feel a connection to it since it’s run by Danny Meyer (who owns The Modern, where I used to work). And I’ve read good things about their brunch, but considering they’re a hot spot and attached to a fancy hotel, I figure the odds of getting in speedily for brunch were next to none.

So we made a reservation for a Sunday afternoon. The restaurant was a little slow (it was a holiday weekend) and we were quickly brought to a table in the well-lit back dining room.

The decision was tough, but we erred on the side of having too much food. We started with an incredibly moist Olive Oil muffin, while barely  resisting all the other pastry options.

For eggs, I got the Cacio e Pepe, which is a play on a cheese and pepper pasta dish and these eggs were awesome. They were soft scrambled so they resembled a porridge, with pecorino cheese and loads of fresh cracked black pepper. It was creamy and rich with a wonderful earthy spice. I’m not a big fan of eggs in general, but these are game changing.

The side of bacon is what I always hope bacon to be. It was crispy, salty, and smoky. There was a good layer of fat that added tons of porky flavor, but it wasn’t unctuous in any way. It was like candy. The ricotta pancakes were also a standout. Incredibly fluffy and not too sweet, the ricotta cheese and strawberry rhubarb jam were a perfect complement.

Sadly, our least favorite dish was the Time Out list item. That doesn’t mean it was bad, but it just didn’t live up to the previous masterpieces. The Pesce Spada Affumicato was Chef Nick Anderer’s take on a classic NY breakfast: lox and cream cheese. Instead of the usual salmon or smoked white fish, he used slices of smoked swordfish with some nice crusty bread points and a scoop of creamy robiolina cheese, which puts any cream cheese to shame. The fish (which was lighter than lox) had a mild smoky flavor. The components were all fresh and light, but I thought the fish was sliced a little too thin. It was hard to get much sense of the flavor, especially when loading everything else on the toast.

Regardless, brunch at Maialino was a huge success – just as good, if not better, than the hearty Italian dinners I’ve had there. This is a special afternoon out that is affordable enough to be a habit. No wonder I’ve been eating so much brunch lately. I’ve discovered the best spots.

Would Maialino’s Pesce Spada Affumicato make my Top 100 of the year? Other brunch items most definitely would, but this was an interesting version of smoked fish and cream cheese that just fell short of all the other masterpieces on the table, so it gets a 7 out of 10.

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