Now that I’ve eaten my way through somebody else’s list (Time Out New York), I’m ready to compile my own 100 spectacular things I’ve tasted in 2012. Look for another five dishes every few days.
NUMBER 65: KUNG PAO PASTRAMI at MISSION CHINESE
Some might call them gimmicky foods, but I find them exhilarating and exciting. We all know what fried chicken and burgers taste like, but when somebody comes in and re-invents the food you think you know so well, it’s game changing. Of course, success is always varied and it takes some mighty smart and talented chefs to get these wacky combinations just right.
Danny Bowien burst onto the NYC food scene when he opened his Lower East Side outpost of his San Francisco hit Mission Chinese. The food is mostly Szechuan-influenced but with lots of original and inventive touches. The explosive Kung Pao Pastrami combines the spicy flavors of Chinatown with the smoky, garlicky beef of the Jewish Lower East Side. Loaded with roasted peanuts, peppers, celery, lots of spicy chili, and that amazingly tender pastrami, this is a mind-bogglingly good dish. It’s just amazing nobody thought of it before. Price: $12
|154 Orchard Street (between Stanton and Rivington Street),
Lower East Side
NUMBER 64: CHICKEN ‘N’ UBE WAFFLE at MAHARLIKA
The word Maharlika translates to warrior or noble and that’s a fitting term for what the East Village neighborhood spot is doing for Filipino food in this city. Aside from serving their takes on classic dishes like balut and sisig, they’re also reinventing the wheel here. Seriously. Who could imagine a take on chicken and waffles that includes purple yam, coconut caramel, and anchovy butter?
Well, thankfully the food warriors at Maharlika did just that. It’s always available on the brunch menu and sometimes as a special at dinner. The crispy and tender fried chicken rests on a dark blue waffle that has been made with the yuba (sweet purple yam) and garnished with some strong, tangy anchovy butter. Salty, sweet, sour, and earthy are the flavors that reveal themselves and with a drizzle of that sweet sweet caramel syrup, you’ll feel like the warrior. Price: $17
|111 First Avenue (between East 6th and East 7th Street),
NUMBER 63: RENDANG BURGER at MASAK
A staple of Malaysian and Singaporean food, beef rendang is a curry dish I have enjoyed before. Stewed beef falls apart with flavors of coconut, turmeric, ginger, and lemongrass. Now imagine those flavors and sensations but as a burger.
Masak’s burger is not for the faint of heart. It’s a thick 8 ounce patty under a huge brioche bun served not with fries and ketchup, but rather pickled vegetables and housemade chili sauce. The beef itself is a wonder, blended with Pat LaFrieda brisket and the aforementioned rendang curry flavors, topped with crunchy coconut flakes and some cheddar cheese. It’s a juicy, exotic, and flavorful burger that was most unexpected. Price: $14 (extra for cheese, bacon, fries)
|432 East 13th Street (between First Avenue and Avenue A),
NUMBER 62: THE SPRUSSELS FROM BRUSSELS at WAFELS & DINGES
The wafeleurs and wafelettes at Wafels & Dinges never cease to amaze me. As Thomas DeGeest’s waffle empire expands even as you read this (their first brick and mortar store will open soon), they continue to introduce waffle specials and experiments.
The most memorable one for me this year was their Sprussels from Brussels waffle. I thought it was a joke when I first heard that they were shredding brussels sprouts and mixing them into the waffle batter. Turns out, it was invented as part of brussels sprout competition (who knew there was such a thin?) and it was so good that they introduced it to the menu. The first bite was so strange that I had to keep biting. Somewhere between savory and sweet (it’s topped with maple syrup), this is a toasty, sweet, earthy, vegetal experience. It works as a snack or a less sweet dessert. It’s a brilliant combination that truly changes the game on the waffle experience – for vegetable lovers and haters alike. Price: $5
|WAFELS & DINGES|
|Multiple Truck and Cart Locations,
Follow on Twitter: @waffletruck
NUMBER 61: PORK STICKY BUNS at NORTHERN SPY FOOD COMPANY
SADLY, NORTHERN SPY FOOD CO. IS NOW CLOSED.
This one totally played tricks on me. The pork sticky buns are exactly as described, yet I could not get past the fact that they looked like sweet breakfast cinnamon rolls. And they sort of were, but not exactly.
Served at brunch or dinner, these savory concoctions are perhaps the most unusual bite I took this year. I discovered them thanks to Time Out’s newest list and I’m eternally grateful. Instead of cinnamon and sugar, these yeast bombs are baked with flecks of braised pork from Flying Pigs Farm and glazed with maple-dijon mustard and a parsnip buttercream. So bizarre (and delicious) that I had to reach for another. Price: $7
|NORTHERN SPY FOOD COMPANY|
|511 East 12th Street (between Avenue A and Avenue B),