For the fourth year in a row, I present the 100 most exciting dishes I’ve consumed during my food adventures around the five boroughs. Look for another five dishes every few days.
That poor little chicken has gotten a bad reputation for so long. Most of us know chicken in this country from overly processed, dry, bland preparations. But if done right, the clucker can take on lots of flavor and be a nice source of protein. There are chicken dishes in this city that change the game on what we know about poultry. Here are five from this year.
NUMBER 40: SHREDDED HUDSON VALLEY CHICKEN at NIGHTINGALE 9
My childhood lunch box often contained a lackluster sandwich of egg, tuna, or chicken salad. Mom was good enough to mix some crunchy celery with the mayonnaise from time to time, but she forgot the mint leaves, shredded cabbage, fried onions, and peanuts. Chef Robert Newton, however, adds those things and more to his Vietnamese-inspired chicken salad which features tender poached chicken shreds along with the previous ingredients and a shower of spicy red chiles. The dressing was bright and tangy, but had a sweet herbal finish. If only my Mom was Robert Newton! Sure, that would have been strange, but I would have had the best lunch box in school, Price: $12
|345 Smith Street (between Carroll Street and 1st Place),
Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn
Wafels & Dinges has been serving Belgian waffles in New York since 2007. And while they’ve topped the sweets with Belgian specialities like spekuloos and Nutela, it wasn’t until this year that they gave us a version of the most popular American combination: chicken and waffles. Except the big yellow truck (and now café in the East Village), put a European spin on the Southern favorite. Instead of frying the chicken, they stew it into a vol-au-vent sauce with cream, mushrooms, and herbs. Sandwiched between two savory herby waffles, it’s the perfect way to warm up before a waffle dessert. Leave it to the Belgians to show us how its done. Price: $10
|WAFELS & DINGES|
|15 Avenue B (at East 2nd Street),
|Various Mobile Truck and Cart Locations
NUMBER 38: IKE’S VIETNAMESE FISH SAUCE WINGS at POK POK NY
Sure, some people call tuna the “chicken of the sea” but aside from that absurd reference, it’s rare to think of chicken and fish as a likely pairing. Excpet of course when fish sauce comes into play. The uber-popular Pok Pok burst onto the NYC food scene with their signature chicken wings. Glazed with a mixture of umami-loaded fish sauce, garlic, and red pepper, the caramelized and tender chicken wings are sticky, sweet, spicy, and finger lickingly delicious. Price: $15
|POK POK NY|
|127 Columbia Street (between Kane Street and Degraw Street),
Columbia Waterfront, Brooklyn
NUMBER 37: THE REV. AL SHARPTON at AMY RUTH’S
While Wafels & Dinges might have re-invented the chicken and waffle, Amy Ruth’s has perfected it. Most people don’t think of this as being a New York dish (it’s huge in the South and on the west coast), but it really gained popularity in Harlem during the 1920’s and 30’s. To taste perhaps the city’s best version, you got to head up to Amy Ruth’s for their amazingly moist breaded and fried chicken sitting on top of a warm and soft waffle. Drizzles of maple syrup and the addition of butter is the way it should be eaten. It’s an American original. Just like the Rev. Al Sharpton. Price: $11.45 ($1 extra or white meat)
|113 West 116th Street (between Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard and Malcolm X Boulevard),
NUMBER 36: CHICKEN at GWYNNETT ST.
Apiary, Barbuto, Nomad. Those are the restaurants whose names come up when talking about the city’s best roast chicken. May I please add Gwynett St to the list? The white meat is brined and smoked with hay ash, which gives the meat a very smoky, meaty flavor. It almost tastes like ham. And it’s as moist and tender. An artistic plating with perfectly composed and executed seasonal vegetables (I got rutabaga, dehydrated onion rings, and pineapple slivers) complements the wonderful and surprising chicken. Price: $27
|312 Graham Avenue (between Ainslie and Devoe Street),