Category Archives: BRIAN’S 100 Best ’14
Come back every Wednesday for another funny, informative video documenting my inept food adventures.
As we put 2014 to bed, I one more time dream about the ten best dishes I tasted throughout the year. You can read more about each dish here or you can just watch this video and revel in my gluttony.
Looking back on 2014, I present the most memorable and greatest dishes of my year.
I can’t believe 2014 is practically over. It was fun while it lasted. And this year I really got a great taste of some new, hot restaurants in addition to dishes from classic New York institutions that I should have visited a long time ago. Here are the top five dishes I tasted this year:
NUMBER 5: SEA URCHIN GUACAMOLE at ÉLAN
SADLY, ÉLAN IS NOW CLOSED.
Asian-influenced guacamole really sounds like a mash-up gone horribly wrong, but in the capable hands of veteran chef David Waltuck, it is simply marvelous. Waltuck returned to the city this year with élan and brought his refined French technique together with unexpected flavors. The sea urchin guacamole adds a briny, rich layer to avocados that most taco joints would only dream about. Greaseless and light taro chips make the perfect vessel for a creamy guacamole that is dotted with sweet soy sauce and bright wasabi, along with the piéce de résistance: tongues of luxurious sea urchin. Price: $19
|43 East 20th Street (between Park Avenue South and Broadway),
NUMBER 4: GRILLED SHORT RIB at BETONY
SADLY, BETONY IS NOW CLOSED.
My birthday dinner this year was a huge blowout at Betony, which has reinvigorated the Midtown dining scene. It’s both fancy and high-end, but without too much stuffiness and if you play your cards right, you could get out of the restaurant without taking out a second mortgage. The dish I’m raving about now is one that most critics praised last year. Chef Bryce Shuman sous vides then grills a giant fatty beef rib, so it has both a masterful tenderness and a smoky crisp exterior. As perfect as the meat was, it’s heightened by its accompaniments which includes the greatest smoked mashed potatoes I’ve ever tasted. I wish it was my birthday all year long. Price: $40
|41 West 57th Street (between Fifth and Sixth Avenue),
NUMBER 3: ESPECIAL ADOBADA at LOS TACOS NO. 1
Forget kale salads or fried chicken, this was the year of Mexican food. There’s even now a bona fide high-end Mexican restaurant (Cosme) in New York selling NY strip tacos for $35. It’s supposed to be excellent, but for now, I’m going to stick with cheap and unfussy Mexican food. And this year, I discovered the best Mexican that Manhattan has to offer. Los Tacos No. 1 is nestled inside Chelsea Market. And here they are not only preparing impeccable tacos, but they are also deep frying a quesadilla. It’s called their Especial and can be stuffed with any filling, but I urge you to try the adobada (marinated pork and pineapple). Once you try this, you’ll have no interest in saving up for an expensive Mexican meal. This is all you need. Price: $5 ($6 with filling)
|LOS TACOS NO. 1|
|75 Ninth Avenue (between West 15th and West 16th Street),
Inside Chelsea Market,
NUMBER 2: MILLE CRÊPES at LADY M CAKE BOUTIQUE
A cake boutique sounds ultra-fancy and intimidating, but don’t let it scare you away. Because Lady M is making one of the most interesting and mind-blowingly delicious treats in the entire city. The cake/crêpe hybrid known as a Mille Crépes means “thousand layers,” but all you really need are twenty. Each delicate layer of eggy pastry is cemented together with whipped cream and composed into a light, but decadent dessert with a perfect caramelized crown. If this is a cake boutique, I want to try everything on. In my belly. Price: $7.50
|LADY M CAKE BOUTIQUE|
|36 West 40th Street (between Fifth and Sixth Avenue),
|41 East 78th Street (between Madison and Park Avenue),
Upper East Side
|The Plaza Food Hall,
One West 59th Street (between Fifth and Sixth Avenue),
NUMBER 1: BEEF RIB at HOMETOWN BAR-B-QUE
I’m such a barbecue snob. I often tweet out remarks about very popular barbecue joints in the city that just don’t live up to my standard. I can never say that about Hometown. This place makes the best I’ve tasted in New York. It’s worth the trek out in Red Hook to splurge on their gigantic beef rib. I’m normally a fan of pork ribs, but this mammoth features a blackened crust of peppercorns and spices protecting a neverending slab of buttery meat and sweet fat. It almost feels like a smoked meat marshmallow. And it’s my favorite dish of the year. Price: $25/pound
|454 Van Brunt Street (at Reed Street),
Red Hook, Brooklyn
SADLY, INDESSERT IS NOW CLOSED.
Sort of like a hybird of bubble tea and rice pudding, the Purple Rain is something brand new. Focusing on classic Chinese flavors and sweet soups, InDessert is a must-visit for anyone with a sweet tooth. This drink doesn’t go over the top with that sweetness, but instead concentrates on texture. The blended drinks has a creamy sweetness from a coconut milk base, but each sip reveals black sticky rice or soft. chewy sago. I dare you to take just one sip. Price: $4.75
|1 East Broadway (at Oliver Street),
Alleva Dairy is one of the city’s gems. Among the touristy red sauce joints in Little Italy, the authentic Italian shop has been making fresh mozzarella daily since 1892. The large cheeseballs are as clean, fresh, and buttery as anything you can expect to sink your teeth into. Wrapped around a salty piece of prosciutto, or on a piece of toast with sundired tomatoes, this cheese is absolute perfection. Price: $7.99/pound
|188 Grand Street (at Mulberry Street),
Looking back on 2014, I present the most memorable and greatest dishes of my year.
In years past, I’ve done a full two month countdown of all 100 of my favorite dishes. This year, I decided to just focus on and give praise to the ten most memorable dishes of the year. I’ll still put out a complete 100 Best list, but for now, I’m going to cut right to the chase. So here are the ten best dishes I consumed in 2014.
NUMBER 10: SCRAMBLED EGGS at GATO
You might think anybody can scramble some eggs, but celebrity chef Bobby Flay shows us how it’s really done. This year, he proved he was more than just a pretty face with his hit Spanish restaurant Gato. The food is actually quite good and the most impressive is a seemingly simple plate of fluffy breakfast food. The eggs are tossed with butter, creme fraiche, and goat cheese and drizzled with chives and hot sauce. They seduce you atop some grilled toast smeared with tomato confit oil and spicy almond romesco sauce. I’ll admit these are a far cry from what ends up on my homecooked breakfast plate. Price: $14
|324 Lafayette Street (between Bleecker and East Houston Street),
NUMBER 9: THICK-CUT SMOKED BACON at KEENS STEAKHOUSE
I just wrote about this dish last week, but I’m sure it will never leave my memory. This classic steakhouse cooks up a legendary and memorable mutton chop, but nothing is as good as their thickly sliced pork belly fat. It has a perfect layer of both caramelized fat and flavorful meat that is blessed with a lick of sweetness and a subtle smokiness. This is one to eat with a knife and fork. It’s like a giant and juicy bacon steak. Price: $14
|72 West 36th Street (between Sixth and Fifth Avenue),
NUMBER 8: CARROTS WELLINGTON at NARCISSA
Vegetables have been front and center this year and nobody has used them better than Chef John Fraser at Narcissa. The hip restaurant turns out exceptional vegetable dishes that are disguised as meat. Case in point: there is no beef in this wellington. A golden buttery puff pastry hugs glazed and roasted carrots in addition to a sprinkling of a surprisingly umami-laden espresso and walnut crumble. It’s decadent and tender ensuring that the phrase “Where’s the Beef?” never comes to mind. Price: $24
|21 Cooper Square
(corner of 5th Street and Bowery),
Inside The Standard Hotel
NUMBER 7: CHEESECAKE at EILEEN’S SPECIAL CHEESECAKE
The cheesecake debate in New York continues. Rich, concrete-like NY-style cheesecake or creamy, fluffy Italian-style cheesecake. I know where I stand – right in the center with Eileen’s. At this old-school Soho joint, Eileen Avezzano bakes cheesecakes in all sorts of traditional and interesting (like chocolate bourbon) flavors, but you get a true sense of her brilliance in the plain version. With a smattering of graham crackers around the edges, the center effortlessly walks that difficult line between sweet and tangy, rich and light, delicious and more delicious. Price: Full Cakes range between $12.50-$40/Mini-Tarts are $3.50
|EILEEN’S SPECIAL CHEESECAKE|
|17 Cleveland Place (at Kenmare Street),
NUMBER 6: FALAFEL SANDWICH at MURRAY’S FALAFEL
I never would have guessed that my favorite falafel in NYC would belong to a tiny, modest little place in Stuyvesant Town that nobody seems to have heard of. Murray’s Falafel has the best falafel I’ve tasted in the city The greaseless, crunchy orbs give way to a light, tender interior that has all the flavors of herbs and chickpeas you want from this Middle Eastern specialty. Pita bread is loaded with one crunch bomb after another, while tahini and a bright, spicy green hot sauce bring the sandwich to life. I urge you to check this place out right now. It’s a true undiscovered gem. Price: $6.95
|261 First Avenue (between 15th and 16th Street),
Forget bacon and eggs. The breakfast served at this homey Japanese restaurant includes a soup, a piece of seasonal fish, and alternating sides. Not to mention rice and pickled vegetables. It’s a delightful and cleansing way to start your day. Price: $12
|150 Ainslie Street (between Lorimer and Leonard Street),