The Best Dishes Eater Editors Ate This Week, January 2022 – Eater NY

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Breakfast burritos, birria quesadillas, and more
The amount of excellent food available in New York City is dizzying — even during a pandemic — yet mediocre meals somehow keep worming their way into our lives. With Eater editors dining out sometimes several times a day, we do come across lots of standout dishes, and we don’t want to keep any secrets. Check back weekly for the best things we ate this week — so you can, too.
Birria trucks have been popping up all over Manhattan recently. Latest to arrive is Delicias Galindo, a green-and-red van with a Day of the Dead theme formerly parked in Corona. Now find it most days among the big box stores on Sixth Avenue in Chelsea. It whips up the whole range of Pueblan antojitos, but also features birria as a filling, and you can get a quesadilla ($8) tricked out in the state’s elaborate style — a giant masa wrapper folded like a taco over a huge quantity of the chile-braised beef, then decorated with refried beans, crema, and queso seco. The cup of consomé is an additional $5, and don’t forget to sprinkle the green salsa, which is hot as hell, on every bite. 20th Street and Sixth Avenue, Chelsea — Robert Sietsema, senior critic
The week’s second biggest dining surprise came from Speedy Romeo, who I learned sells breakfast burritos until 4 p.m. (The biggest surprise was finding out that they’re actually pretty good.) Nothing against this Bed-Stuy pizzeria, of course, but generally speaking, New York’s breakfast burritos can be pretty sad. A handful of exceptions have popped up in recent years — like Ursula, near me in Crown Heights, or Bordertown, a flour tortilla business in Greenpoint — and I’d argue that Speedy Romeo is one of them. The restaurant known for its wood-fired pizzas makes its chorizo burritos with potatoes, cheese, and exactly three eggs. It’s probably not the breakfast burrito you grew up eating — unless that version was also made with Provel — but it does its job faithfully, packing a full meal into a flour tortilla for around $12. 376 Classon Avenue, at Greene Avenue, Bed-Stuy — Luke Fortney, reporter
I estimate that I consume corned beef hash just once or so every year, though every time I devour the nourishing diner staple, I wonder why I don’t order it more often. Such was the case on a recent Saturday, where a companion and I found ourselves at a packed Westway Diner — with a line snaking out the door. I can’t say whether my fine hash ($14.09) was better or worse than other versions I’ve sampled, but what I liked was how the short order cooks placed my eggs directly over the coarsely chopped, reddish-mixture, so that every bite resulted in equal parts oozy yolk, silky potato, and salty cured beef. It was a study in soft breakfast textures, nothing more al dente than oatmeal. I’m going to order this more often. 614 Ninth Avenue, near 44th Street, Hell’s Kitchen — Ryan Sutton, chief critic
The move at Anton’s is to order the angel hair francese for the table. Treat it as a side, basically — the impossibly light, breadcrumb-smothered pasta has just the right accent of lemon and butter, and might feel a little insubstantial as a main. Instead, it’s a great enhancement to the restaurant’s other excellent dishes, whether it be the assertively charred strip steak with sweet melted onions, or the crispy seared (and caper-tastic) sea bass. Sceney Anton’s didn’t have a misfire when visiting with a group of friends pre-theater over the weekend — the (sadly not 25 cent) martinis were ice-cold, and there were plenty of festive ways to kick off the meal, whether a waiter was theatrically pouring amontillado in a cup of warming chicken broth, or the four of us were fighting over who’d get the last slice of the carpaccio-thin sliced round roast with grated horseradish. But it’s that delicate pasta that I’m ready to race back to order and share with a new group of friends on my next visit. 570 Hudson Street, near West 11th Street, West Village — Missy Frederick, Eater Cities Director
If ever there was a chance for me to prove my dedication to the restaurant beat: Last Friday — the night of the, ahem, snowstorm Kenan — I took the C Train, transferred to the PATH, and then jumped out in Hoboken to take a bus to Jersey City. I was there to dine at Corto, an almost movie-set-cute, Italian restaurant in the Heights with an open kitchen and a painting of a tuxedo-clad man holding a bowl of noodles. Corto is BYOB, so I first stopped by a bottle shop conveniently located two blocks away called Riverview. With a chilled red — made chillier by the dropping temperatures — in tow, I was finally ready to pick from one of their several rotating pastas. I chose to get cozy with this plate of cavatelli, served with caramelized cabbage and anchovy bread crumbs. Oh, and don’t skip out on the cheesecake, one of the best slices I’ve had. 507 Palisade Avenue, near Bowers Street, Jersey City — Emma Orlow, reporter
Hunting down the newly open Sin Kee stall in the Queens Crossing Food Hall is worth navigating what feels like a corn field maze (pro tip: ignore the address and walk up a set of stairs on the 138th Street side closer to 38th Avenue). Even before we arrived, my friend and I had already decided we had to try the chai tow kueh, a radish cake cooked with pork lard and eggs ($8). This popular Southeast Asian street food didn’t disappoint as we unfolded the paper wrapper and the steam hit us with a comforting aroma of sweet soy, chiles, and stir fried eggs. It’s popular at breakfast, which the food stall will offer next month, but I would order this anytime of the day. 136-20 38th Avenue, between Main and 138th streets, Flushing — Bao Ong, editor
Cantonese preserved meats, known as siu laap, refers to a collection of air-preserved pork, ducks, and sausages, often seen hanging in the window of restaurants to invite your admiration and patronage. In the middle of the last decade, Hong Kong cafes appeared in Chinatown and its fringes, offering specialties that included siu laap selections over rice, and the same meats made into steamed, over-rice dishes called bo zai fan, in addition to noodles and soups. King’s Kitchen was one of the best, appearing in 2015 and quickly becoming a neighborhood favorite (there’s another location in Sunset Park). For $8.50, one can select any two preserved meats, which are then sliced and spilled over rice, along with a barbecue sauce made from the drippings. Bok choy is provided as a side dish, and diners may request goeng jung, a salty and gingery scallion relish. 92 East Broadway, between Forsyth and Allen streets, Chinatown — Robert Sietsema, senior critic
Last week I wrote about the incredible, aromatic cardamom bun at La Cabra, the first U.S outpost of the heralded Danish coffee roaster. The truth is, of course, that I probably could have penned an ode to any number of Jared Sexton’s baked goods, from his modern quince tart to his pitch perfect pain au chocolat. I was particularly taken by the sesame-topped ham and cheese croissant, though, for similar reasons that I loved the famed kardemummabullar: for its intoxicating perfume. Sexton manages to infuse the savory fragrance of the ham deep inside the dough, so even the pork-free areas of the pastry smell of heady swine. It’s as if the kitchen atomized the crisp, light croissant with eau de ham. I could easily eat two of these for a light breakfast — with a nice Ethiopian pour over. 152 Second Avenue, near East 10th Street, East Village — Ryan Sutton, chief critic
While bopping around Queens for a forthcoming breakfast burrito map we’re working on, I stopped by Cemitas El Tigre in Woodside. I’d remembered that Robert had recommended the restaurant as having one of the city’s best fried chicken dishes, so I decided to give it a go myself. He was right: Their fried chicken cemita ($10.95) comes with perfectly-crispy chicken, layered with crunchy pickled red onions, avocado, black bean puree, Oaxacan cheese, lettuce, and tomato, with a thick swipe of mayo on a seeded bun. It’s a behemoth portion, best split between friends (especially if you’re you have a breakfast burrito in your other fist). This cemita is definitely getting filed away as a contender for favorite NYC sandwiches. 5-14 48th Avenue, near 46th Street, Woodside — Emma Orlow, reporter
A confession: When given a choice, I’ll use a fork and knife to eat my pizza (at least I’m never running for mayor of NYC). It’s the same story with wings, and I’ve been known to use chopsticks for popcorn. For this hate-to-get-my-fingers-dirty eater, the breakfast burrito ($7.50) at G’s Coffee Shop was perfect. A thin omelet lined the cushy flour tortilla wrapper to encase the right amount of spicy chorizo, smooshed home fries, melted cheddar cheese, ripe avocado, and just enough salsa so the whole thing wasn’t a wet mess. The burrito was filling but not unwieldy or bursting at the seams like a Chipotle one on steroids. In fact, it was so good that I used my hands to devour the entire order. 634 West 207th Street, at Cooper Street, Inwood — Bao Ong, editor
In some ways, Dept of Culture reminds me of Taqueria Ramirez. The two restaurants — one a Nigerian tasting menu spot, the other a bite-sized taco counter — are nothing alike by the way, except for one thing: “You want to tell everyone, but also no one,” as I wrote in this column shortly before Taqueria Ramirez fully opened, then took off, last summer. It’s the same deal here: You think that everyone should be eating at Dept of Culture, probably tonight, but you also want to be able to make a reservation without too much fuss, which even a week after opening, is starting to get more complicated. The restaurant’s calling card is a three-course menu ($60), which for the most part is served at a communal 12-seat table. It’s the kind of place that makes you forget you have a phone — or an Instagram, or a food writing job — and though everything was wonderful, this low-lit octopus slathered in lip-numbing yaji seasoning is the only photo I took. 327 Nostrand Avenue, near Quincy Street, Bed-Stuy — Luke Fortney, reporter
Covering openings can be a tricky business because we’re reporting on ideas that have yet to bear out. A chef may talk up what they hope is a hit dish, or what kind of vibes they want to manifest in the dining room, but that’s not always how it plays out in real life. Shukette, however, is not one of those places. Chef Ayesha Nurdjaja said over the summer that controlled chaos would rule the place, with diners loudly bantering over tables cluttered with dips and breads and skewered meats. That’s exactly how the restaurant has unfolded. On an otherwise sleepy Wednesday night, I squeezed in at the packed bar overlooking the open kitchen, and ripped apart chunks of frena ($8) — a sphere of puffy, crispy-bottomed bread dimpled with glistening orbs of cooked garlic cloves — while watching Nurdjaja slip extra tastes and bites to customers who were lucky enough to sit near where she was stationed behind the bar. From my vantage point, it looked like she has accomplished exactly what she set out to do, and so I’m perhaps not-so-artfully stretching this best dish entry into an appreciation post for overall energy and experience. Also, start your meal with the frena. You won’t regret it. 230 Ninth Avenue, near West 24th Street, Chelsea — Erika Adams, deputy editor
Well, it finally happened. I ordered the $600 king crab at Wu’s Wonton King this past week, a rite of passage no one living on a journalist’s salary should be allowed to participate in and from which there’s no coming back. “I’ll never not do that again,” a friend at our table said, and sadly, I have to agree. This Manhattan restaurant sets its king crabs loose on your table for one last squirm, before taking them into the kitchen and turning them into three family-style dishes: garlicky steamed legs, crusty fried crab with chiles, and my favorite of all, this fried rice laden with chunks of egg and shellfish. Does it really cost $600? Actually, no. Sometimes it’s more, as the restaurant’s crabs are priced at over $50 a pound. Don’t order this with any fewer than 10 people: It’s simply too much food and, well, you do the math. 165 East Broadway, at Rutgers Street, Lower East Side — Luke Fortney, reporter
In a closet of a space next to the Horseshoe Bar and facing Tomkins Square Park, C&B is a bakery and breakfast spot of such renown that a knot of patrons appear midmorning and vie for spots in the shed outdoors, even though there’s no indoor seating. Apart from loaves of bread, rolls, and pastries, the place is famous for its opulent breakfast sandwiches, of which my favorite features chorizo. This is not any Spanish sausage link, but a very thick patty with a depth of flavor not found at too many other places. The roll at first appears to be a compact sourdough variety, the eggs damply scrambled and sagging from the sandwich. To make up for a lack of cheese — god help us, it’s gloppy enough — there are several slices of ripe avocado protruding like green tongues. The sandwich ($12) is memorably tasty and voluminous, such that you’ll want to return the next day for another, but be forewarned that eating it requires a jaw that opens as wide as Freddie Mercury’s. 178 East Seventh Street, between avenues A and B, East Village — Robert Sietsema, senior critic
I’ve long been a fan of the Fly in Bed-Stuy, the chicken-centric natural wine bar by Nialls Fallon, Nick Perkins, and Leah Campbell, but somehow I’d never made it over to Cervo’s, their hip Iberian wine spot in Manhattan. We all have holes on our resumes! I finally corrected that oversight and swung by well after 10 p.m. on a recent weeknight. As the kitchen wrapped up service and as the speakers played hip hop tunes, I snacked on fried oysters, crisp shrimp heads, and best of all, bomba rice with bottarga and rock shrimp ($18). The resident chefs cooked the grains until they displayed a risotto-like creaminess; the rice flaunted speckles of black pepper for heat and squirts of lemon for tang. Those rock shrimp, in turn, released strategic doses of oceanic sweetness. I’ll definitely try to put this place into my regular eating rotation, especially with such a nice selection of sherries. 43 Canal Street, near Ludlow Street, Lower East Side — Ryan Sutton, chief critic
It recently occurred to me that I had gone what can only be described as a criminally long time since I could last remember having pasta in an Italian restaurant setting. On a recent night, I headed out to Ammazzacaffè, a restaurant that I had long been meaning to check out, to set the record straight. The garganelli bolognese ($22) — an all-time favorite pasta shape for me — is exactly what I needed on a blustery, winter night. Ammazzacaffè’s cozy, dark-wood interiors were perfect for a date spot that felt intimate but not scene-y. I definitely also want to come back when it gets warmer to bring a group to gather around the cute, picnic table-filled backyard. 702 Grand Street, near Graham Avenue, East Williamsburg — Emma Orlow, reporter
I was so happy to see Vietnamese spot Nón Lá back up and running yesterday after the family-run business temporarily shut down when owner Ronny Nguyen suffered a health emergency at the end of last year (the family started a GoFundMe to help with medical bills here). I swung by and picked up a takeout bowl of the ca kho to, or clay pot salmon ($18) — a necessary shield to combat last night’s stark, chilly weather. Generous chunks of salmon, lined with luxuriously fatty fish skin, floated alongside slices of onion and red and green bell peppers in a dark broth that tasted both sweet and savory thanks to the caramelized soy sauce in the clay pot. By the time I finished eating, I had forgotten all about the bone-chilling cold outdoors. 128 East Fourth Street, near First Avenue, East Village — Erika Adams, deputy editor
While walking along Chinatown’s Canal Street last week, I popped into Tai Pan Bakery, intending to buy some roast pork buns for a weekend indoors and ending up with so much more. It’s easy to happen here, walking through the store with a plastic tray and a set of stainless steel tongs, clawing at pastries as you go. Best of the haul was this sandwich, priced around $3 for a heaping slab of fried fish with a squiggle of mayonnaise and a few leaves of lettuce hiding underneath — just the right amount to balance out this potentially too-heavy dish. The fish, flakey and flavorful, still had some crisp to it when I made it back to my home a half-hour later, where this photo was taken. 194 Canal Street, near Mott Street, Chinatown — Luke Fortney, reporter
Ha’s Đặc Biệt caused a sensation when it assumed a residency along with fellow pop-up Kreung Cambodia last summer at East Williamsburg’s Outerspace, scored an overwhelming hit, and promptly closed. Now collaborators Anthony Ha and Sadie Mae Burns have appeared again on the Lower East Side with a new version of their peripatetic pop-up featuring a similarly enticing and challenging Vietnamese menu that runs to nine dishes, including a wonderful rice porridge called chao ca ($16). Thinner than Chinese congee, the broth explodes with flavor, including perfumey red birdseye chiles, chopped shallots, and fresh green herbs. The center of attention is commanded by monkfish liver and kimme-dai — a pinkish plank of a fish also known as goldeneye snapper. The effect is stunning, and you don’t so much slurp the rice soup as explore it, with different flavors in every spoonful. 70 Forsyth Street, between Hester and Grand streets, Lower East Side — Robert Sietsema, senior critic
Alex Stupak, after months of pandemic-related delays, finally opened Empellon Taqueria on Waterline Square, a little nook on the Upper West Side adjacent the Hudson. I’m still mulling over how this evolving empire fits into the city’s thriving modern Mexican scene; the Midtown Empellon continues to draw in diners with trompe l’oeil avocados and other avant-garde sweets, while the Taqueria concept mixes both contemporary and traditional influences. But less academically, I had a very nice meal at this new space not too long ago. I liked the coarse carrot chorizo tacos, but I really enjoyed the tender lamb barbacoa tacos for their straightforwardness. They tasted precisely how slow-cooked and shredded lamb should taste — funky and sweet — while the ample jus didn’t sog up the sturdy corn tortillas. A pair of mezcal margaritas helped quell the mild heat. Perhaps I’ll test drive the crunchy bean flautas on a return visit. 645 West 59th Street at Freedom Place South, Upper West Side — Ryan Sutton, chief critic
As New Yorkers ogled the winter’s first snowfall last week, I was more enamored by the dusting of powdered sugar on this Viennese apple strudel ($4.75) from Chocnyc, by far my favorite neighborhood bakery. The crispy, tissue paper-thin strudel dough resembled an overstuffed burrito filled with tart apples that reminded me of the fall months that feels like forever ago. But the rum-soaked raisins, toasted cake crumbs, and walnuts brought back fresh memories of holiday celebrations in the past month and made a case for being an idyllic comforting winter dessert. It’s a no-frills pastry that’s familiar and timeless — like an American apple but more old world with with its European roots. Unlike the short window that a snowfall in NYC is actually appreciated, however, every bit of this strudel was savored to the last bite. 4996 Broadway, between West 212th and 211th streets, Inwood — Bao Ong, editor
After spotting discounted NYC Winter Lantern Festival tickets held in Snug Harbor, my friends and I drove out to Staten Island — albeit without first checking the weather. Damp and cold without umbrellas, we decided chase the enchanting outdoor light show with a visit to the knockout Lakruwana, one of several local Sri Lankan restaurants. Though there’s also a buffet option at Lakruwana, we opted for a la carte. The resounding crowd favorite was the lamprais — a dish made with basmati rice, eggplant, fish cutlet, fried egg, and cashew nut curry with pork, served in a banana leaf — that, according to the menu, is a 300-year-old recipe. It was just what we needed to warm up our bellies. 668 Bay Street, at Broad Street, Stapleton Heights — Emma Orlow, reporter
Over the past couple of particularly freezing days, I have found myself keeping an eye out for restaurants that are having some real fun on the takeout front. While reading through our Eater 38 lineup recently, I was reminded of Ethiopian restaurant Bunna Cafe and its overflowing platters that they modify for takeout in pizza boxes. The beyaynetu feast for two ($45) comes with bouncy rolls of injera and nine cups of veggies treated with expert care, including herb-y mushroom tibs, a selata mixed with crunchy kale and studded with sweet dried cranberries, and shiro, a stewed mix of ground chickpeas that we drizzled with daata ($2) a fiery Ethiopian hot sauce that I highly recommend adding to your order. We rolled out the injera in the pizza box, piled on the heaps of colorful veggies, and dug in. It was exactly the upleveled takeout that I was looking for to fuel a warm night in. 1084 Flushing Avenue, near Knickerbocker Avenue, Bushwick — Erika Adams, deputy editor
Three months ago Salma appeared in the East Village, named after a woman commemorated in a poem on the restaurant’s website, and joining a raft of other Lebanese businesses in the neighborhood, including Balade and Au Za’atar. All the usual elements of Middle Eastern cuisine are on its menu, including pita sandwiches, bread dips, kebabs, and casseroles, but of particular interest is this expansive appetizer platter ($24.50), which can fully feed two or three when treated as a shared late-afternoon snack washed down with pots of mint tea or Lebanese coffee. The assortment includes falafel, torpedo-shaped kibbe filled with ground beef, stuffed grape leaves, hummus with a reservoir of chickpeas, an eggplant moussaka, a fattoush salad, yogurt sauce, and plenty of razor-thin pitas, perfect for scooping up small portions of food. 351 East 12th Street, between First and Second avenue, East Village — Robert Sietsema, senior critic
Eating in Flushing more often was toward the top of this year’s list of resolutions, and unlike my ambitions to exercise, get eight hours of sleep, etc., I started things off strong with a trip to Guan Fu. This Sichuan restaurant right off Roosevelt Avenue is home to a prize-winning bowl of boiled fish ($23), a favorite of New York Times critic Pete Wells and apparently most of the restaurant, as the oversized dish (upper right) could be found on most tables. I came expecting a lip-numbing broth, based on the number of red chiles and peppercorns bobbing about, but I ended up puckering, packed as it was with bits of pickled cabbage. It’s an easy contender for our best soups map, and a delightful way to kick off another year of New York eating. 39-16 Prince Street, near Roosevelt Avenue, Flushing — Luke Fortney, reporter
One of my (fully-vaxxed) friends had just moved back to New York from London when a bout with COVID robbed her of her sense of taste for about week, so after she recovered I did my best to show her and her husband a good time at a nice fancy restaurant. As luck would have it Stefano Secchi’s noodle palace, Rezdôra, had a same-day cancellation for the outdoor patio, so I snagged the reservation. No surprise: We ate very well, sharing seven small pasta plates among the four of us. I could go on about any of them but I was particularly enamored with the bottone del cacciotore ($28). Secchi stuffs little button-shaped discs with a powerful puree of guinea hen; garnishes each one with a slice of black truffle; and finishes it all off with a touch of sweet saba. The portion was small, but with earthy and gamey flavors this outsized, you only needed a few bites. 27 East 20th Street, near Broadway — Ryan Sutton, chief critic
It’s been on my mind for awhile to try out chef Hong Thaimee’s takeout and delivery operation Pad Thaimee, and last night, in the final hours of our holiday break, felt like a necessary moment for some warm, spicy noodles. I ordered the pad kee mao ($15) on the strength of the ingredient list alone — rice noodles tossed with makrut lime leaves, chili jam, Thai basil, a top-secret sauce, and a dusting of young peppercorns — and, as promised, the noodles arrived fast, hot, and coated in tingling, well-balanced layers of spicy goodness. The end result was a fun little heat-packed party of a takeout box, and the tacky, chewy, sauce-slicked noodles disappeared in about 10 minutes. 116 West Houston Street, between Thompson and Sullivan streets, Greenwich Village — Erika Adams, deputy editor
The gut-busting serving of spicy chicken with cold noodles ($12) at Burp Bowl is something I’d order in the middle of summer — or a balmy December day. I was looking for a quick meal when I came across what seemed like a run-of-the-mill riff on peanut noodles common at Chinese-American takeout spots. But this overflowing bowl of carbs was a surprise: The bouncy noodles were covered in just the right amount of the nutty sauce. A generous portion of chile-slicked cubes of chicken was a nice contrast to the cool slivers of cucumber. It all disappeared within 15 minutes before I could contemplate taking leftovers home. Still, I walked out of this tiny four-table restaurant happily full and not weighed down. Note to self: Don’t wait until summer to order this dish again. 134 East 27th Street, between Lexington and Third avenues, Kips Bay— Bao Ong, editor
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