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.

In the last few years, a brand new cuisine has been created that I (and most of NYC) like to refer to as “hipster Asian.” There’s a definite kitschy, hipster vibe to these restaurants that are all located in trendy neighborhoods like Soho or Red Hook – unlike the no frills Asian joints located in ethnic enclaves in the outer boroughs. Also, many of these chefs are white Americans who have spent some time in Asia falling in love with the cuisine. Now they’ve brought it to us and these five dishes are an argument for why this city is better for it.

NUMBER 20: TOFU RIBBON SALAD at YUNNAN KITCHEN

Tofu Ribbon Salad at YUNNAN KITCHEN

Somewhere between a spicy pasta dish and a cooling herb-loaded salad, is this plate of tofu ribbons. Inspired by the Yunnan region of China, the food at this Lower East Side restaurant is hip, authentic, and delicious. The long strands of tofu in the salad have a nice toothsome chew and sop up the bright dressing of spicy chilies, sweet tangy red onions, and loads of fresh mint and cilantro. If you can’t decide between pasta, salad, or vegetarian food, this is the dish for you. Price: $11

YUNNAN KITCHEN
79 Clinton Street (between Rivington and Delancey Street),
Lower East Side
(212) 253-2527
yunnankitchen.com

NUMBER 19: MEE KROB at UNCLE BOONS

Mee Krob at UNCLE BOONS

I remember trying Mee Krob at one of my first Thai restaurant experiences in South Florida. Needless to say, the overly sweet and sticky fried noodles were a big disappointment. I always considered them something lost in translation. Now, husband and wife Matt Danzer and Ann Redding (she’s Thai) update that often sad appetizer into a dish of wonder at the critically acclaimed Uncle Boons. The crispy noodles here have a restrained sweetness that’s tamed with some tamarind sauce, dried shrimp, and peanuts. Dotted around the plate are fried fat creamy nubs of sweetbreads that bring back a richness to the fresh aromatic herbs. Maybe they do it llike this in Thailand, but certainly not in South Florida. Price: $15

UNCLE BOONS
7 Spring Street (between Elizabeth Street and Bowery),
Soho
(646) 370-6650
uncleboons.com

NUMBER 18: CHA CA “LA VONG” at POK POK NY

Cha Ca "La Vong" at POK POK

Andy Ricker is the ultimate purveyor of hipster Asian food. The chef grew up in Vermont and worked his way up in kitchens in this country and around the world. After travelling through Asia, he eventually opened perhaps the world’s first Asian hipster restaurant out in Portland, Oregon. That was Pok Pok, which now also has a vibrant location on the Columbia Waterfront in Brooklyn. It was there that I first tasted the Vietnamese Cha Ca “La Vong”, a dish of fried buttery catfish on top of vermicelli noodles, loaded with fresh herbs and lime. The fish itself was tender and bursting with sour and spicy flavors, while the bright herbal dill, mint, and scallions kept the entire bowl light and fresh. This is what hipster Asian food is all about! Price: $16

POK POK NY
117 Columbia Street (between Kane Street and Degraw Street),
Columbia Waterfront, Brooklyn
(718) 923-9322
pokpokny.com

NUMBER 17: KHAO SOI at PIG & KHAO

Khao Soi at PIG AND KHAO

Forget burgers, cronuts, or fried chicken. The dish of the year in New York in 2013 was probably khao soi. I had never encountered this classic Thai curry noodle dish before, but this year I saw it on more menus than I can count. My favorite rendition was at Leah Cohen’s funky Asian fusion joint Pig and Khao. Hers has a real depth of flavor with a range of spicy, sweet, sour, and smoky notes. A delicate broth of red curry and coconut milk holds springy egg noodles, pickled mustard greens, cilantro, shallots, and chunks of chicken. It’s all topped with an extra texture of crunchy freid noodles. Expect to see lots more khao soi in 2014. Price: $16

PIG AND KHAO
68 Clinton Street (between Rivington and Stanton Street),
Lower East Side
(212) 920-4485
pigandkhao.com

NUMBER 16: SMOKED WHITEFISH DONBURI at IVAN RAMEN SLURP SHOP

Whitefish Donburi at IVAN RAMEN SLURP SHOP

Ivan Orkin is a white Jewish guy from Long Island. However, he is also the owner and chef of an uber-popular ramen restaurant in Tokyo. This year, he brought his inventive and grown-up (and, let’s face it, hipster) ramen dishes to New York. I was very happy with what I tasted at the Slurp Shop counter in the brand new Gotham West Market. The smoked whitefish donburi is certainly not the first Japanese-Jewish fusion dish in this city, but it’s one of the most successful. This bowl of warm rice featured all the flavors I love – delicate and smoky crumbled whitefish paired with sweet and refreshing cucumbers with textured and salt-loaded salmon roe. Mixed in with the rice is bits of bonito, scallion, sesame seeds, and it’s all seasoned with a hint of sweet soy dashi. It’s a killer flavor experience. Price: $12

IVAN RAMEN SLURP SHOP
Inside Gotham West Market,
600 11th Avenue (between 44th and 45th Street),
Hell’s Kitchen
(212) 582-7942
ivanramen.com
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About the Author

Brian Hoffman is a classically trained actor who is now a full-time tour guide, blogger, and food obsessive. He leads food and drink tours around New York City, which not only introduce tour-goers to delicious food, but gives them a historical context. He also writes food articles for Gothamist and Midtown Lunch in addition to overseeing this blog and a few food video series, including Eat This, Locals Know, and Around the World in One City.

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