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.
20. PICADITAS DE JAIBA at HECHO EN DUMBO
Hecho en Dumbo has nothing to do with a lovable little elephant, but in fact refers to the neighborhood where this Mexican gastropub was first created. They’ve since moved to the East Village, but their philosophy of refined, seasonal Mexican food in a drink-happy setting remains. We sat at the Chef’s Table and had a pretty memorable meal.
We started with these picaditas de jaiba, which are little corncakes of flavor. On top of the firm buttery patties, sits a delicious salad of fresh jumbo lump Dungeness crab meat tossed with a gently biting jalapeño oil and topped with ripe avocados. A squeeze of lime brings out the brightness and lightness. These small bites are too easy to gobble up regardless of the neighborhood. Price: $8
|HECHO EN DUMBO|
|354 Bowery (between 3rd Street and Great Jones Street)
19. PASTRAMI RUSS at RUSS & DAUGHTERS
You know I’m a big fan of the pastrami sandwich. I’ve spent months searching for the best version of the deli staple. That meaty, smoky goodness is a heart attack that’s more than worth it. But wait a minute, a pastrami sandwich minus the meat? Why would anybody do that?
If you’ve ever been to Russ & Daughters in the Lower East Side, you’ll understand. This is a classy old-time shop that specializes not in smoked meat, but rather smoked fish. If you want the hard stuff, you’ll have to go next door to Katz’s. But they make a pastrami sandwich here that rivals the classic version. You get to pick your bagel of choice for the Pastrami Russ, but trust me when I say you need to order it on pumpernickel. Not only will you get the approval of all the guys behind the counter, but these are the flavor combinations that make the most sense. With a generous schmear of mustard, crisp sauerkraut, and the freshest smoked salmon you’ll ever taste, you won’t miss the actual meat for a minute. And you may live a little longer. Price: $10.45
|RUSS & DAUGHTERS|
|179 East Houston Street (between Allen and Orchard Street)
Lower East Side
18. CHIMBORI JALWA at TAMARIND TRIBECA
Crab cakes tend to be the same everywhere you go. Aside from the bread crumb to crab meat ratio, most versions are pan fried, served with citrus and an aioli of sorts. The chimbori jalwa appetizer at fancy Indian restaurant Tamarind Tribeca was unlike any crab cake experience I’ve had before.
The colorful tower of meat was loaded with plenty of sweet lump crab meat and tinged with some Indian spices, ginger, and garlic. It had a restrained hint of curry with lots of balanced sweet (tamarind) and spicy (chile) flavors. Served on a bright spiced tomato sauce with scattered scallions and corn kernels, it was complex and delicious. And made for my new favorite crab cake in the city (just beating out Del Frisco’s baked version from last year’s list). Price: $15
|99 Hudson Street (between Leonard and Franklin Street)
17. PIKE QUENELLES at MILLESIME
Millesime really is a little gem: a hidden, French brasserie that can work as a relaxing cafe or a fine dining seafood restaurant. It’s located above the bar in the Carlton Hotel and it will transport you to Paris. And not just because of the ambiance, but because of the expertly prepared seafood and classic dishes. Take the pike quenelles, which are made in the style of Jean-Louis Dumonet. I don’t know much about this old French chef, but I do know he made some amazing quenelles.
You don’t see quenelles too often in New York, especially not like these. The delicate little dumplings are absolutely delectable, so soft and tender in a rich tomato lobster butter sauce that begged to be sopped up. Reminiscent of an airy seafood sausage, they fell apart like a buttery soft matzo ball of the sea. Très bien! Price: $14
|92 Madison Avenue (between 28th and 29th Street)
Inside the Carlton Hotel
16. TOSTA MATRIMONIO at TERTULIA
The new Spanish tapas hotspot Tertulia is more than just a bar for celebrity watching. It’s one of the best restaurants of the year. Truly any of the dishes I tried could have made my Top 100. The fried eggplant was spectacular, as was the sliced acorn-fed Iberico ham, and I haven’t even mentioned the tender as sin ribeye. But the one dish that blew everything out of the water were the little anchovies that inconspicously lay on heavenly toast points.
They’re referred to as both “tosta matrimonio” and “black and white anchovies.” The two meaty fish (the black are cured and the white are pickled) are simply halved and arranged on a toast-bed of sweet roasted tomatoes, creamy tangy sheep’s milk cheese, and a generous drizzle of aged balasamic. The dish is a perfect example of balance and brightness with the sweet cheese and tomato pairing perfectly with the salty, acidic anchovies. And amazingly, the delicate dish don’t even taste fishy. Maybe that’s why so many celebrities come here. Price: $9
|359 Sixth Avenue (between Washington Place and West 4th Street)