I’ve devoured Time Out’s 100 Best dishes and now, once again, I’ve been inspired to create my own list. These are the 100 dishes I have continued to think about since tasting them at some point in 2011. Look for another five dishes every few days. These are in no particular order.
NUMBER 80: GRILLED CORN at CAFE HABANA
The Mexican-style grilled corn at eternally crowded hot spot Cafe Habana (yes, it’s a Cuabn restaurant serving Mexican-style corn) has been a favorite of mine for years. It used to be a mandatory pit stop whenever I was in Soho. And it truthfully could have made my list any year. So I was pleased when I returned this year for a quick snack from the take-out area and the corn was just as good as ever.
You’re served the entire grilled, charred cob, which is then flecked with classic Mexican seasonings: chili powder, salty cotija cheese, and some lime juice to hold it all together. It can get a bit messy, but with flavors this bright and corn this sweet, it just doesn’t matter. Price: $2
|17 Prince Street (between Elizabeth and Mott Street)
NUMBER 79: POULET Á L’ESTRAGON at KAZ AN NOU
I would probably still have never been to Kaz an Nou if it weren’t for Time Out and their 100 Best list. That’s how I discovered this neighborhood joint (which doesn’t get nearly enough press) in Prospect Heights. It’s co-owned by Chef Sébastien Aubert, who used to cook at my first favorite restaurant discovery in New York, Ivo & Lulu. This place has a similar feel as that place once did with just as affordable, solid French-Caribbean cuisine.
Time Out gave a nod to their divine escargots, which come immersed in a flavorful curry butter. But the dish I keep thinking about is their surprising and bright poulet á l’estragon (smoked jerk chicken). It’s a unique and delicious take on jerk chicken. The seasoning was pleasantly intense and cooled down by the addition of a honey tarragon sauce and goat cheese. The entire dish had a wonderful smoky, charred flavor that made me think this tender piece of meat was actually pork. Chicken never tastes this good. Well, rarely. Thank you, Time Out! Price: $15
|KAZ AN NOU|
|53 6th Avenue (between Dean and Bergen Street)
Prospect Heights, Brooklyn
NUMBER 78: WEINER SCHNITZEL at CAFE KRISTALL
Believe it or not, I think weiner schnitzel is having a moment in New York. Or maybe I’m just finally discovering where to get it. I’m a big fan of Schnitzel & Things and I have yet to try the new Schnitz, but the best schnitzel I tasted all year was at the most surprising of places: a modern Austrian restaurant inside a crystal store.
Cafe Kristall is inside the fancy Swarovski store in the heart of glitzy Soho. And Chef Kurt Gutenbrunner is cooking up refined, grown-up Austrian fare, much like he does at some of his other critically acclaimed spots like Wallsé. The weiner schnitzel is absolute perfection. The greaseless fried veal cutlet melts in your mouth with just the right amount of breading. The tart and sweet lingonberries along with the fresh and cooling parsley potato salad make for tasty accompaniments. Let’s make schnitzel the new cupcakes! Anyone? Price: $21
|70 Mercer Street (between Spring and Broome Street)
NUMBER 77: SQUID INK & HOT SESAME OIL SOUP at KIN SHOP
I’m a big fan of Squid Ink pasta, but nothing about Squid Ink Soup sounds appetizing to me. Yet since it was my second visit to Kin Shop, the new Thai restaurant from Harold Dieterle, the original Top Chef, I figured I’d take the plunge.
And I’m sure glad I did. This was so much more than just a dramatic puddle of black squid ink. The soup itself was indeed rich, but not cloyingly so. It had a delicate earthy flavor that was complemented by some spicy sesame oil. And as I dunked my spoon into the soup, I discovered both crunchy snake beans and tender squid pieces that had been stuffed with moist chunks of brisket. I’m officially a squid ink soup believer. But maybe only if Harold Dieterle is making it. Price: $10
|469 Sixth Avenue (between West 11th and West 12th Street)
NUMBER 76: TOFU WITH GINGER SCALLION DRESSING at DANJI
Danji was one of my most surprising discoveries in a long time. We were looking for a quick bite before a show and discovered this sleek, hip modern Korean restaurant near the Theater District. This is not the place I was expecting to find a restaurant like this.
We ordered a handful of small plates and all were tasty, but what surprised me even more was that my favorite was the fried tofu. The deep fried tofu squares were so chewy and tender that I had double check that this was indeed tofu. It reminded me of mochi, which is my favorite topping at those DIY yogurt spots. The crunchy tempura flakes added a wonderful texture while the light ginger scallion dressing and slices of hot red peppers livened this up. Something that doesn’t happen too often in this part of town. Price: $7
|346 West 52nd Street (between 8th and 9th Avenue)
(212 ) 586-2880