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gastrodamus

Your 2011 Standouts and Standbys

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It's that time of the year again. The critics are starting to release their lists, but I'd like to hear your highlights of the year; both old and new places.

Standouts for me in loose order:

Corton

Ciano

M. Wells (RIP)

Minetta Tavern

Maialino

Tertulia

Ushiwakamaru

The Dutch

Recette

What Happens When (Yeah, I know)

Fedora

Kin Shop

Corcoron Soba

Zabb Elee

Bab al Yemen in Bay Ridge

Forcella (even without a beer/wine license)

Wallsé

Parm

Honorable mention:

Saxon + Parole, Family Recipe, Fatty Cue in Bburg, Sauce, Sip Sak, Rubirosa, Calexico, Brooklyn Star, Edi & the Wolf, El Almacen, Miss Lily's

Wanted to like but didn't:

Lotus of Siam, Redfarm, 1 or 8, Ellabess, Leopard at des Artistes, Veselka Bowery, John Dory Oyster Bar (2nd worst experience of the year), LTO (the worst experience of the year)

Standbys:

Sorella, Degustation, Bohemian, Prune, Balaboosta, Cafe Katja

Overall it was a solid year to dine out; the best since 2004 according to Ryan Sutton. I'd love to hear your favorites.

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Agreed on Lotus of Siam and Redfarm - both huge disappointments.

Kin Shop I think has gone downhill, which is a pity because I had a truly terrific meal there six months ago. Dieterle's attention may be on his Brooklyn location now. Why must chefs always expand? (Rhetorical question.)

I greatly enjoyed Ciano as well. Great food, terrific wine selection. And a much cosier atmosphere than Beppe.

Zabb Elee I've posted about elsewhere - it certainly has its moments, but I don't think I've been able to order a well-balanced meal there yet.

I can imagine that John Dory Oyster Bar was a nightmare. I had an unexpectedly nice meal at the Breslin though - helped by the fact that I DJ'd at the Ace that night so staff may have treated me better than anonymous walk-ins (in itself inexcusable but a reality at scene places I'm afraid).

Ushiwakamaru I find to be surprisingly good for table service and the set meals (especially the nigiri plate), but the one time I ordered omakase at the sushi bar I was less than impressed. We may not have had the main chef - I will certainly give it another try, because these things can vary enormously.

The rest of my list:

Diner - never fails to satisfy, and frequently to amaze - the quality of both the ingredients and the preparations. If only they took reservations! The whole no-reservation thing in Williamsburg is annoying.

Fette Sau - the best barbecue in NYC in my opinion. That said, the no-reservation policy here is even harder to deal with, due to the ridiculous system of trying to get a table and get food at the same time, resulting in many people sitting and not eating while many others are circling holding trays of hot BBQ trying to pounce on table openings. A true duh moment in restaurant creation. That said the meat and pickles are unbelievable.

Totto for ramen on 52nd and 9th - yet another place you can't reserve, and I waited nearly an hour on a summer Sunday at 6 PM. But at least you expect that for ramen, and the red miso was off the chart delicious.

Raoul's - a standby for me for years. Probably my favorite steak frites in the city.

Prune - absolutely a standby, seconded. To the extent I actually think it's taken for granted - if this were a new restaurant, it would be even more packed.

L'Entrecote le Relais de Venise - rapidly becoming a standby for us. Cheap, unusual and very tasty. And I love places where there's no menu (cf. Marchi, Peter Luger (effectively), etc.)

Palm - the original one - you do have to order very carefully, I recommend the double strip for two (it can serve three), medium rare, and ask them to slice it in the kitchen. One of my favorite NYC spots.

Vandaag - I'm really happy about the renaissance of Northern European cooking in the city, and Vandaag does not pull any punches - plenty of sour, pickled and gin-friendly foods here. (Disappointed to hear that Aamanns Copenhagen will be revising the flavors of their smørrebrød "for American tastes," which I take to mean less bitter and more sweet.)

Momofuku Ssäm Bar - I continue to love this restaurant, and am glad that others have decided it's over because it's that much easier to get in. The pork buns of course, but also the country hams with red eye mayonnaise, the pickles, the lamb belly, the fish, the various changing specials on the menu.

Masten Lake - Another Williamsburg place, this one from the Roberta's people (which I still haven't been to) - on one visit shortly after they opened I though it was excellent - the cheese plate with chili sauce, the rock shrimp, the beans, the bread, the pasta - all superb & unusual. Very much a small plate type restaurant where you share, but they don't stint on the portions. They were just right.

Il Buco - the ultimate standby, if you're lucky enough to get a reservation.


Edited by patrickamory (log)

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Great rundown. Putting Totto Ramen, Masten Lake, and Palm on my list.

To add to what you said about Ciano, the sommelier put together a fantastic pairing for us. He kept it fun and loose and also introduced us to the pastry chef at the end of the meal. Those little things make such a HUGE difference.

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Overall it was a solid year to dine out; the best since 2004 according to Ryan Sutton. I'd love to hear your favorites.

I have to respectfully disagree with Sutton. It's telling that a lot of your list opened before 2011, and 2 of your 18 choices are now closed. Of those that DID open in 2011, the list is propped up by a sandwich place (Parm) and a pizzeria (Forcella). To pick the best item on your list (whichever you say it is) and compare it to 2004 is to show how far the industry has fallen since then.


Edited by oakapple (log)

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I have to respectfully disagree with Sutton. It's telling that a lot of your list opened before 2011, and 2 of your 18 choices are now closed. Of those that DID open in 2011, the list is propped up by a sandwich place (Parm) and a pizzeria (Forcella). To pick the best item on your list (whichever you say it is) and compare it to 2004 is to show how far the industry has fallen since then.

That's a very valid point. It was a good year at least for me because I never felt a shortage of decent options regardless of the opening date. What Sutton says about 2011 is unrelated, and I made it confusing by including the link.

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