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 15: OYSTERS at UPSTATE
Believe it or not, New York’s biggest resource at one time was seafood. I’m talking seafood straight from the East River! Sadly, centuries later any fish you might find in Manhattan’s waters also comes with a serious flavor of contaminant. While these five seafood dishes are all prepared in NYC, thankfully the fish comes from waters elsewhere.
Historically, one of the most famous river-dwellers in New York Harbor was the oyster. The awesome craft beer bar Upstate specializes in a rotating list of varieties from the west and east coast (not NYC). Always fresh (this place doesn’t even have a freezer), the oysters are plump and clean (whether they’re briny, creamy, or cucumbery) and pair nicely with well-made beer. The best part is every day they offer a Happy Hour which snags you 6 oysters (your choice) and a pint of a local craft brew for $12. Those prices also make me think of old New York. Price: $2-$2.25 (Happy Hour 5-7)
|95 First Avenue (between East 5th and East 6th Street),
NUMBER 14: HAMACHI CRUDO at APIARY
SADLY, APIARY IS NOW CLOSED.
Perhaps I’m a bit biased, but I think the food Scott Bryan is putting it out at Apiary is some of the best and most underrated in the city. It’s amazing it doesn’t get more press. He has been written about by the likes of Anthony Bourdain (and many in the industry respect him), but the Chef likes to keep a low profile and so it seems does this restaurant. I should know – I work there!
I rave to customers about the hamachi crudo, but not just because I want hefty tips. I want people to experience its clean and distinct flavors. Slices of shockingly fresh yellowtail are brushed with olive oil and lemon. The fish, which is cut thick for a full meaty experience, is then topped with a salad of avocado, jalapeños, hearts of palm, and upland cress. Each component brings its own texture and flavor making you wonder why this food doesn’t get written about more often. Price: $15
|60 Third Avenue (between 10th and 11th Street)
NUMBER 13: UNI LOVER at WASAN
This is the year that I became a full-fledged uni lover. Perhaps I was inspired by Wasan’s sea urchin dish or perhaps I just discovered many places that are preparing the delicacy with fresh ingredients and innovative techniques. This is just the first of three sea urchin dishes that will be appearing on my 100 Best list this year.
Wasan is an out-of-the-way restaurant putting playful twists on Japanese food with caring service and modest prices. It doesn’t get better than this uni-heavy bite. Creamy chunks of the sea urchin is draped on a surprising sea urchin-flavored potato chip. A drizzle of spicy peanut garlic oil intensifies all the rich, briny flavors. It’s the true expression of a decadent and pleasurable ingredient. Price: $12.50
|108 East 4th Street (between First and Second Avenue),
NUMBER 12: SEARED SCOTTISH SALMON at SOTO
SADLY, SOTO IS NOW CLOSED.
If anybody questions whether food can be art, this dish at Soto will solve the debate. This beautifully composed small plate made me hesitate with my chopsticks before taking a bite. Once I did, it wasn’t long before the white plate was a blank canvas once again.
The delicate salmon, garnished with black truffle salt, is barely seared giving off a wonderful smoky flavor. Squares of sweet miso mustard gelée is awe-inspiring bursting with flavor. And an accompaniment of sesame-tossed cresoon greens is a perfect foil. The dish with flavors of the sea and the earth is a study in restrained decadence and artful food. Price: $16
|357 Sixth Avenue (between West 4th Street and Washington Place),
NUMBER 11: SUSHI DELUXE PLATTER at YUBA
Of course freshness is a factor, but I always thought sushi was sushi. It wasn’t until I watched the documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi and had an enlightening meal at Yuba, that I discovered there was more to raw fish than meets the eye.
Ordering a deluxe platter enables the Masa-trained chef to offer up more exotic fish than tuna, yellowtail, and salmon. Alongside some of the usual, he includes fish like amber jack, silver shad, and goldeneye snapper. Every piece is prepared with precision (some seared, some topped with fish roe) and all have rice at the perfect temperature, the freshest seafood, and deep pleasurable flavors. This is truly one of the best sushi platters I’ve ever experienced. Price: $28
|105 East 9th Street (between Third and Fourth Avenue),