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.

I purposefully don’t put out a list of the 10 best restaurants because it would be totally unfair for me to judge. Unlike a well-paid (and reimbursed) critic, I’m not able to go to all the major restaurant openings. And if I do find myself at one of the hot spots, it’s unlikely I’ll be able to order the entire menu or visit more than once to check for consistency. So instead I think I can fairly choose specific dishes that made my eyes open, my stomach growl, and my tastebuds very very happy. Here are the ten best dishes I tasted in 2013.

NUMBER 10: PIZZA at JULIANA’S

Pizza at JULIANA'S

Everybody has heard of Grimaldi’s. Every travel book tells you to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge and then get in line for some classic NY pizza. But the travel books need to be re-written. This was the year that the original Patsy Grimaldi came back to the pizza world and opened up Juliana’s in the original Grimaldi’s location (the new owner of the namesake was forced to move up the block due to a dispute with the landlord). And the pizza at Juliana’s puts Grimaldi’s (and most other NY pizzerias) to shame. Here you can truly taste the trinity of flavors of coal-oven pizza: the sweet imported Italian tomatoes (not a sauce, mind you), the creamy homemade mozzarella, and that magical blistered dough. The name that everybody should be speaking from now on is Juliana. Price: $16/$19

JULIANA’S
19 Old Fulton Street (between Elizabeth Place and Front Street),
Dumbo, Brooklyn
(718) 596-6700
julianaspizza.com

NUMBER 9: BROWN BUTTER at ASKA

Brown Butter at ASKA

Most of the Nordic food I tried this year left me cold. Dishes are very complicated and usually end up on the bland side – there’s a reason other Europen cuisines rely on salt and butter. There were a number of highlights from the intense tasting menu at Aska, but the most impressive was the dessert. They married a brown butter mousse with spiced cardamom ice cream, contrasting it with exciting textures of toasted hazelnuts and a lavender-hazelnut powder. If all Nordic desserts are this exciting, I’ll happily to jump on the Nordic food bandwagon. Part of $79 or $125 Tasting Menu

ASKA
90 Wythe Avenue (at North 11th Street),
Inside Kinfolk Studios,
Williamsburg, Brooklyn
(347) 799-2946
askanyc.com

NUMBER 8: GRILLED SCALLOP at NETA

Grilled Scallop at NETA

Appetizers in pineapple shells or dessert in mango shells are nothing new, but I’m not sure I’ve ever been served scallops inside a hot scallop shell. Yet it’s one of the most popular and unforgettable dishes at Neta. Lightly cooked scallops and delicate sea urchin could be enough for this decadent dish, but the duo is topped with crisp mitsuba (wild Japanese parsley) and seasoned with garlic soy butter and a hint of lime. The ingredients (including that inedible shell) all work together creating a masterpiece of the sea. Maybe everything should be served inside scallop shells from here on out. Price: $18

NETA
61 West 8th Street (between Fifth and Sixth Avenue),
Greenwich Village

(212) 505-2610
netanyc.com

NUMBER 7: SWEET POTATO AND SAGE RAVIOLI at FRANKIE’S SPUNTINO

Sweet Potato & Sage Ravioli in Parmesan Broth at FRANKIE'S SPUNTINO

When I order a ravioli dish with sage, I expect the other flavor to be brown butter. Sweet, rich, and decadent. Frankie Spuntino showed me a different and possibly even better way. The favorite neighborhood Italian restaurant in both Brooklyn and Manhattan tones down the traditionally heavy dish and turns up the flavor. Their tender sweet potato stuffed pasta wrappers are floating in a light parmesan broth that was irresistible. Such a light broth, yet I had to slurp every bit to continue to get the essence of that cheesy flavor. Price: $16

FRANKIE’S SPUNTINO
570 Hudson Street (at West 11th Street),
West Village
(212) 924-0818
570 Hudson Street (at West 11th Street),
West Village
(212) 924-0818
frankiesspuntino.com

Photo courtesy of flickr.com

NUMBER 6: KAZANDABI at HAZAR TURKISH KABAB

Kazandibi at HAZAR TURKISH KEBABIt’s true that Hazar, way out in Bay Ridge, serves one of the best falafel sandwiches in the city. But they also make one of the most interesting and delicious desserts I tasted all year. Kazandabi is a Turkish pudding that translates to “burnt bottom milk pudding” and that gives you a good sense of this experience. Made with semolina, the milk pudding is not too sweet but creamy and cooling. It’s crowned with a thick, browned shell that protects a rich, caramely pudding beneath. Somewhere between a flan and a creme brulee, this is in a world of its own. Price: $4

HAZAR TURKISH KABAB
7224 5th Avenue (at 73rd Street),
Bay Ridge, Brooklyn
(718) 238-4040
hazarkabab.com

NUMBER 5: STEWED BEEF TENDON at TAKASHI

Stewed Beef Tendon Casserole at TAKASHI

Chef Takashi Inoue tames every single part of the cow to give up its flavor and its firm texture. The usually chewy tendon just falls apart in a crockpot stew that is better than any pot roast I’ve ever tasted. Swimming in a tenderizing bath of white miso, onions, and herbs, the fatty, rich beef tendon literally falls apart upon touch and gives more umami and meaty flavor than you could ever imagine. Price: $15

TAKASHI
456 Hudson Street (between Morton Street and Barrow Street)
West Village
(212) 414-2929
takashinyc.com

NUMBER 4: TAGLIATELLE WITH PROSCIUTTO DI PARMA at MARCO’S

Tagliatelle w/ Prosciutto di Parma at MARCO'S

Franny’s practically led the new farm-to-table movement in Brooklyn when they opened in 2004. They become most known for their exemplary thin-crust pizzas and Italian-style pastas. But they were also known as hipster central – a spot with great food and a casual ambiance. Well, this year they grew up a bit. The original Franny’s moved to larger digs further up Flatbush Avenue and in the original spot, owners Andrew Feinberg and Francine Stephens opened Marco’s. This new restaurant is much more mature with no pizzas in sight. Instead, the Italian-focused menu is clean, refined, and worth dropping a few dollars on. The seemingly simple tagliatelle pasta is eye-opening, cooked to a toothsome al dente, tossed with salty prosciutto di parma, garnished with rich parmesan, and dotted with balancing lemon. It’s both rich and light at the same time. And all grown-up. Price: $18

MARCO’S
295 Flatbush Avenue (between St. Marks Avenue and Prospect Place),
Prospect Heights, Brooklyn
(718) 230-0427
marcosbrooklyn.com

NUMBER 3: SPIT ROASTED SHORT RIBS at IL BUCO ALIMENTARI E VINERIA

Spit Roasted Short Ribs at IL BUCO ALIMENTARI E VINERIA

Every time I enter Il Buco Alimetari, I want to capture that extraordinary wood-burning smell on my tastebuds. It always fills my nostrils, but doesn’t always make it onto my plate. I finally ordered properly because the extra large short rib platter revealed smoke, fat, and lots of meat. Dramatic hunks of meat fall off the gigantic bone as soon as the plate touches the table. The pepper-crusted beef is perfectly marbled and features a crisp smoky char and rich fattiness that is balanced by bright celery slices, delicate green olives, crunchy walnuts, and a shower of fresh horseradish. All my senses leave happy! Price: $52

IL BUCO ALIMENTARI & VINERIA
53 Great Jones Street (between Lafayette Street and Bowery),
Noho
(212) 837-2622
ilbucovineria.com

NUMBER 2: MARBELLA’S FULL MOON at MANZANILLA

Marbella's Full Moon at MANZANILLA

A flavorful, delicious dish is exciting, sure, but when food is transformed into something magical and it tastes good, my mind is truly blown. That’s what happened at the end of a pretty good meal at Spanish chef Dani García’s Manzanilla. This unassuming dessert came to the table resembling a white sphere sitting on a mound of dirt-like crumbles. It was a beautiful presentation, but it wasn’t until my fork burst it open that the magic began. It cracked just like a soft boiled egg – revealing textures and colors that should be rich and eggy, not citrusy and sweet. But the yolk was made of tangy yuzu and mandarin, while the perfectly constructed white (membrane and shell) was made of white chocolate and vanilla mousse. And that mound of dirt? Walnut brownie crumbles, of course. This one will blow your mind and your tastebuds. Price: $10

MANZANILLA
345 Park Avenue South (at East 26th Street),
Flatiron District

(212) 255-4086
manzanillanyc.com

NUMBER 1: OMAKASE at ICHIMURA

Sushi Dinner at ICHIMURAThe best dish of the year was not a single dish, but a series of dishes. I was fortunate enough to enjoy the best sushi meal of my life at Ichimura, the hidden sushi bar inside David Bouley’s Brushstroke. Watching Chef Eji Ichimura grate the fresh wasabi, slice the shiny raw fish, and place it on the table in front of me was a treat. But savoring his aged fatty toro or his shima with a smoked eggplant shiso or any number of uni preparations was pure delight. And at the end of the omakase meal, when he asked me if I’d like any repeats (he meant sushi pieces), I could only think “everything.” I truly wanted to start again from the very beginning. Price: $160

ICHIMURA AT BRUSHSTROKE
30 Hudson Street (at Duane Street),
Tribeca
(212) 791-3771
davidbouley.com/brushstroke-main
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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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