Gael Greene: NYC’s Best Dishes of 2015 

blt steakFirst, a confession. I must admit my love affair with L’Amico has made it harder to fall for just any pom, duck, and berry. Maybe I’m just imagining everything is so good. It was July when I first discovered The Vine, a wine bar in the rear of the Eventi Hotel on Sixth Avenue. It was there that chef Laurent Tourondel was secretly testing ideas for what would be the menu at L’Amico, the restaurant he planned to open after Labor Day. I went every Saturday all summer and made everyone share a blistered pizza or two and, inevitably, the fritto misto of calamari and shrimp with fried herbs and lemon wheels.

For years the French-born Laurent had wanted to cook Italian. And L’Amico would be it. I was already hooked on deeply flavorsome pizzas, the garlic knots, the veal and pork meatballs al forno with house-made bread oozing garlic, the pipe rigati pasta with veal  shoulder Bolognese.

No polite, proper, everyday well-cooked chicken could compare to the dramatically lemony bird emerging from one of his two wood-burning ovens. Of course the marinated skirt steak would be perfect. Tourondel is the BLT Steak Guy, after all.

It Isn't Easy to Name the Best Dishes of 2015 ,gelatoAnd when it comes to pastry chef Xavier Goiz’s rendition of Laurent’s gelato dream, I must seem gaga. I insist everyone I take (or who takes me) to L’Amico join me in tasting one, if not two, of what I call the dancing lady duos – a neat little hill of just-made pistachio with orange marmalade and chocolate-gianduja or black cherry amaretto piled half-and-half into a footed metal goblet and delivered wearing a just-baked pastry crisp like a sunhat. Already melting. With a classic ice cream shovel Laurent imported from Italy. Please don’t tell me about your diet. Click here to read my L’Amico BITE. 849 Sixth Avenue between 29th and 30th streets.

After all that mea culpa, I am now going to try to choose the OTHER best dishes I’ve eaten this year, listed in no special order. In some cases, I won’t be able to choose just one dish, or even two. But you must be aware of this frailty if you’ve been reading my musings for a while.

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It Isn't Easy to Name the Best Dishes of 2015 , lupulo chickenI will actually cite another favorite chicken: George  Mendes’ chicken piri piri charred over the embers at Lupulo, where only an occasional   companion is brave enough to join me in a swig of its high voltage piri piri sauce.  Mendes uses his Portuguese mother’s marinade. “Vinho verde — a spritzy white wine — with olive oil. Paprika, sliced onions, garlic, and bay leaf.” It comes with very good fries. All summer, favas tossed with blood sausage and morels was another don’t-miss (although the green and yellow beans that replaced the favas two weeks ago — Mendes was nowhere in sight — were shockingly undercooked and, of course, morels won’t reemerge for a while). 835 Sixth Avenue corner of 29th Street.

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It Isn't Easy to Name the Best Dishes of 2015 , vaualuseThe generous side of leek, turnip and broccoli gratin at Vaucluse, where Michael White, aka Chef Bianco, detours from his Italian odyssey to cook French, is reason enough to order Duck à l’Orange for two. Here the bread is all baked below, butter churned in house. Lemon peels are branded with a “V.” Order the excellent “White Label Burger,” an aged blend of brisket and short rib under a melt of fontina in a house-baked roll with tomato jam, and you’ll get to taste the unique, not-at-all-crisp but thrillingly good French fries. 100 East 63rd Street between Park and Lexington avenues.

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martaAs wild as I am for L’Amico’s pizza, I discovered my favorite this year at Marta. Chef-owner Nick Anderer’s pizza is blackened too, but thin and crisp, curling along the edge, Roman-style. Marta’s patate alla carbonara pie, layering chunks of cured pork jowl, black pepper, pecorino, and egg on sliced potatoes, is wonderfully over-the-top — a must for me. But the menu is much more ambitious. Share sausages or ribs barbecued on the grill. 29 East 29th Street between Madison and Park avenues in the Martha Washington Hotel.

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timnaThere is a parade of unique pleasures at Timna, starting with soft, sweet bread baked in a terra cotta pot with labane alongside. The remarkably tender and smartly tricked-out octopus cured me of a recent attack of indifference-to-octopus. 109 St. Marks Place between First and Avenue A.

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batardI was sulking because Bâtard chef-partner Markus Glocker had dropped the extraordinary lamb for two that was New York’s best dish of the year in 2014 (and  not only on my list). Cheerleader partner Drew Nieporent severely scolded me for not appreciating the chef’s obsession with evolving the menu. I returned a few weeks ago and ordered the Mangalista pork for two with its promise of loin, cheeks, ‘nduja sausage, Brussels sprouts, and smoked lentils. It had a fine grandmother aura a bit like the lamb, though not as stunning. My favorite dish that evening was the barley risotto with roasted green garlic and mignonette. 239 West Broadway between White and Walker streets.

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chomp chompA Malaysian pal took over the ordering at Simpson Wong’s Chomp Chomp, a homage to Singapore hawker food. Our mouths were soon radiating from the pungent shrimp paste of the fried chicken wings with Chinese celery. I can’t really choose a favorite – perhaps crunchy cereal prawns meant to drag through a homemade chili sauce or “carrot cake.” It’s not carrot at all, but fried daikon cake with shrimp, Chinese sausage, and chive. I can’t imagine a return chomp without both.7 Cornelia Street between West 4th and Bleecker streets.

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polo barRalph Lauren’s Polo Bar fantasy amuses me. The light is wondrously cosmetic. The Lauren-dressed staff can’t stop saying “good evening,” “yes,” “thank you,”  and “hurry back.” So far, I seem to be able to score a table (early in the evening, blizzards, and summer weekends are recommended for walk-ins). All summer, I missed my favorite dish, the ranch house chili with a pecorino biscuit. But like Ralph, I have a weakness for corned beef on rye with mustard and a side of coleslaw. I will probably never pay $200 for the double bone-in rib-eye for two from Ralph’s Colorado ranch, but I’ll make dinner of a shared wedge and a burger, with the kitchen’s surprisingly good frites. 1 East 55th Street between Fifth and Madison avenues.

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Gael Greene: NYC's Best Dishes of 2015 You might not expect the food at Clocktower in Ian Shrager’s Edition Hotel to be this good. But that’s as lame as expecting a gorgeous blonde to be dumb. Yes, the Rockwell design is dramatic. The photographic collections are very grand. The pool table is purple. The crew has that original Royalton look. And chef Jason Atherton comes from London, blazing Michelin stars. Forget these prejudices. Start with luscious Alaskan king crab with dashi gelee or dressed crab with crispy uni, apple batons, and lemon puree. Share the rare duck à l’orange flying flags of fennel and endive, or the remarkable bone-in, 40-day dry-aged 20 oz. strip with Béarnaise sauce. 5 Madison Avenue, entrance on 24th Street, 2nd floor.

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Gael Greene: NYC's Best Dishes of 2015 Does J.J. Johnson at The Cecil turn out my favorite macaroni and cheese? Yes, if only it didn’t keep shifting in size from generous to chintzy and back when he knows I’m in the house. Recently the menu got a major makeover and some dishes emerged with more ingredients than necessary, but even overdressed, the grilled hibiscus St. Louis ribs with blue cornmeal haunt me. 210 West 118th Street on the NW corner of St. Nicholas Avenue.

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Gael Greene: NYC's Best Dishes of 2015 A thick cut of Tasmanian sea trout in a soupy mix of trout roe, ponzu, and grated raw nagaimo stands out from the Kaiseki opening at Shuko. Trout and trout roe on crisp trout skin with a few grains of seaweed salt is another genius whim I remember. I’m not sure what was in my cognac cocktail but that — and the sideshow of watching Jimmy Lau organizing beds of Santa Barbara sea urchin — definitely turned up my sensory focus. 47 East 12th Street between University and Broadway.

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TO SAVOR AND SEE MORE 2015 FAVORITE DISHES – from Prova, Little Park, BLVD Bistro, Lincoln Ristorante, Florian, and Untitled PLEASE CLICK HERE AND SCROLL DOWN.

Photos may not be used without permission from Gael Greene. Copyright 2015. All rights reserved.

 

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1 Response

  1. Anneke V W Felske says:

    so glad to read Gael Greene again!!!

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