Five New York Dishes You Should Go Eat Right Now
Kate Krader is Bloomberg Pursuits' Food & Restaurants Editor. She's constantly eating (follow her at @kkrader on Instagram to see her global culinary adventures), and eating well. But what are her absolute favorite dishes lately? To find out, read on.
Fall is prime time for restaurant openings around New York.
Which means two things: first, that exciting chefs are trying new things, and Big Apple diners have the absurd privilege of sampling the best of what they have to offer.
But second, it also means that the amount of bad, mediocre, and trend-driven food available in the city increases exponentially. It can be hazardous for someone who goes out to eat at least five times a week, with a focus on new places, as I do. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, New York City had an estimated 20,783 restaurants in 2016. With dozens more opening this fall alone, even trying to keep up is a fool's errand.
But let's set aside all the weak poke out there, and focus on the monumental cooking that's being done. This season, I’ve sampled outstanding dishes that will look familiar—and ones that have unpronounceable or even unfortunate names. Here, the five dishes that took my breath away that I'd love for you to try as soon as you can.
Shrimp Scampi With Buttered Noodles, the Loyal
At the new Loyal, a sexy, dark, brasserie-style place across the street from the atrocious Caliente Cab Company, chef John Fraser wants people to chill out and eat. “It isn’t a place to genuflect in front of a kitchen altar,” he says. “I consider this ‘post-foodie.’” Fraser tweaks cult favorites in surreptitious ways; for example, the "Loyale With Cheese" (note the Pulp Fiction reference) is a two-fisted burger accompanied by crispy duck fat tater tots. But as appealing as that is, my recommendation is to get the shrimp scampi. To amp up the classic, Fraser adds shrimp stock, the Japanese fish stock dashi, and cured garlic to the white wine butter sauce, rounding out the tang. Instead of harsh chili flakes, he throws in Aleppo peppers, which have a richer heat; they also turn the sauce a pretty red. The shrimp—large but not so large that they’re mushy—have a roasted, golden exterior. Tableside, your server spoons the buttery spicy sauce over noodles. “For the perfect interface, every bite should include shrimp, sauce, and noodles,” observes Fraser. Accordingly, each tangle of pasta is plated with enough crustaceans to meet your needs.
Honorable Mention: Ice Cream Sundae. As part of the Loyal’s push-the-classics-further approach, Fraser has rolled out an over-the-top ice cream sundae service. It comes with a giant whipped cream charger (whipped cream “accidents” are not unusual) with a candy store’s supply of garnishes, from homemade marshmallows and candied nuts to Reese’s Pieces, gummy bears, Twizzlers, and candied fennel seed sprinkles. 289 Bleecker Street.
Caviar Hand Rolls, Uchu Kaiseki Bar
Anyone who has sat at the elite Brooklyn Fare counter understands how supremely simple the luxe cooking of Samuel Clonts can be. Past a barely marked door on the Lower East Side, and adjacent to Eiji Ichimuru’s sushi bar, Clonts presides over a tiny, eight-person counter at Uchu Kaseiki Bar. The $200 kaiseki meal contains 10 or so courses; there’s the option of cocktail, sake, and wine pairings that might include whiskeys that rarely leave Japan. A tray of Hokkaido sea urchin is served over fresh tofu, decorated with flowers from the rooftop garden, and there’s dry aged A5 Miyazaki Wagyu Sando beef on Japanese milk bread. Even among those dishes, the caviar hand roll stands out. Clonts runs a square of nori over a portable hibachi grill, then wraps it around plush rice, sourced from Yamagata. He adds a mound of Golden Osetra caviar to the roll and hands it across the counter; it’s still warm except for the bursting fish eggs. “I have had rolls and sushi that combine multiple high-end ingredients like toro, Uni and caviar, but I wanted to create a piece that truly highlighted the caviar by itself,” says Clonts. 217 Eldridge Street.
Tlayuda With Skirt Steak al Carbon, Modelo Onions, and Stinky Crema, Claro
Claro is broadly a Mexican restaurant; specifically, it’s a Oaxacan one with a compact list of dishes that most people won't recognize. Chef T.J. Steele produces memela (a dense, toasted corn cake), and yellowfin tuna with chapulines (crispy grasshoppers). He makes glorious moles, including one darkly flavored with spices and nuts that adorns tender beef cheeks. Yet the singular dish is tlayuda, which I’d never heard of before and still can’t pronounce. Essentially, it’s a gorgeously-laid-out quesadilla. At the base is an earthy, extra-large corn tortilla, brought to life on a grill. It’s topped with black bean purée and thick chunks of charred skirt steak marinated in chili and black pepper. To that, add sweet onion slices that have been cooked way down in Modelo beer and house pickled chiles with heat to balance the fatty meat. The crowning shot is something Steele calls “stinky crema”—Mexican soured cream that’s been cut with Gorgonzola so it’s got a funky cheesy intensity that should make regular sour cream very jealous. 284 3rd Avenue, Brooklyn.
Lobster Cappuccino With Butternut Squash and Lobster Dumpling, Aldea
“Lobster cappuccino” isn’t a dish you plan to fall in love with when you first hear about it. It sounds like the one relic from the 1980s that no one should revisit. Still, the superstar chef team of Laurent Gras and George Mendes have one on the menu for their weekly dinner series, taking place in Mendes’s minute, Michelin-starred Aldea. It’s transportive, even if it should just be labeled “soup.” (The 11-course, $185 per-person dinner runs Monday nights through Oct. 30.) Gras, who was called “ounce for ounce, the best chef in the world” by Momofuku’s David Chang, has been making this dish since he cooked at Alain Ducasse in Paris. The version at Aldea is luscious but contains almost no cream. Instead, Gras and Mendes enrich the intense lobster broth with a purée of butternut squash that simultaneously sweetens and thickens the seafood bouillon, as well as a splash of Cognac. Into the soup, the chefs unleash light, chewy quail-egg-size dumplings made from lobster and scallops. They’re topped with chunks of yet more lobster meat, happily sailing around the bowl. 31 W. 17th Street.
G.Z. Dog, PDT
Chef-designed hot dogs arrived on the menu at PDT a few months after the quintessential speakeasy opened its (telephone booth entryway) door in 2007. Not all PDT’s hot dogs are created equal—the Hummer Grilled Veggie Dog with hummus would not make this list. But the newest one, from TV chef Geoffrey Zakarian, is gorgeous, at least culinarily speaking. It’s lavished with bits of pastrami that Zakarian smokes in-house at his Times Square restaurant Lambs Club on West 44th Street, for sandwiches made tableside. Zakarian saw a use for the leftover pastrami bits and bobs. “It occurred to me that the spiced edges of our pastrami, which I always eat, could be minced up to make a great beef condiment. And so the pastrami dog was born,” he says. To make it a complete deli-style experience, the juicy dog is slathered with spicy mustard and pickles, plus horseradish aioli and caramelized onions to take it over the top. Also notable: $1 of the $7 price tag goes to the hunger organization City Harvest; Zakarian is chairman of the City Harvest Council. That same hot dog is also available at Lamb’s Club. 113 St Marks Place.