Roast Pork at Kien Tuong
I didn't expect to become a regular when I walked past Kien Tuong, but I was a sucker for the neon pig sign they had hanging out from. So I went in and waited in line, which turned out to be a good thing, because I could see what everyone else was ordering. The majority of folks went for roast pork, sliced to order from loins hanging in the window. I was planning to bring the first container back to the office, but by the time I had walked one measly block, the pork had disappeared, and I was the culprit. I couldn't help it. This was supremely succulent and juicy roast pork, with a delicious, sweet, caramelized edge.
Kien Tuong: 83 Chrystie Street, New York NY 10002 (map); 212-966-2878
Bialys from Hot Bread Kitchen
Bialys are a dying art, even in New York.
Most bagel bakeries in NYC just make their bialys out of bagel dough, and bialy aficionados will recite chapter and verse about how wrong that is. So when I bought six bialys at Hot Bread Kitchen and saw how puffy they were, and tangle of caramelized onions in the middle, I thought they were so promising I ate one right there on the spot, with nary a toaster in sight. It was delicious, everything you would want a bialy to be. And when I did toast one at home in our ancient Black and Decker toaster oven, I knew I was falling in love with bialys all over again.
Pizza Cotta Bene
When Kenji came back to the office one December afternoon he came bearing unexpectedly delicious gifts, slices of various kinds of pizza from Pizza Cotta Bene. The regular slice had a crust with a crisp exterior and chewy, fully baked interior; the margherita slice used imported Italian tomato fillets and locally made mozzarellla from Lioni; and the grandma, regular Sicilian, and sfincione slices all had me planning my next visit to Gowanus.
Pulled Pork at Rack & Soul
When I think about ordering from Rack & Soul my thoughts immediately turn to Charles Gabriel's wondrously delicious fried chicken. My wife Vicky is partial to R&S's pulled pork, courtesy of consulting pitmaster John Wheeler from Mississippi, and I must admit she has made me a convert. More Tennessee (one of Mississippi's neighboring states) in style than North Carolina, it is tender, porky, and just smoky enough, with lots of irresistably chewy, sweet bark (outside meat) that contrasts beautifully with the tender inside meat. Yes, the sauce is sweet, but the meat is so good you can go ahead and skip it if you want to.
Affogato at Grom
You can make an affogato from any of the three kinds of hot chocolate Grom make and any flavor of gelato. I recently had the dark hot chocolate with a scoop of "crema de Grom." As you're eating, it changes consistency and flavor: five minutes in all the ice cream has been melted by the hot chocolate except one little spoonful. On a cold day it is one of NYC's truly serious
Patty Melt at Burger Heaven
Sometimes only a patty melt will do, but it has to be a good, well-executed patty melt to pass muster with me. At the Burger Heaven, every element was done as it should be: the juicy patty was medium-rare as ordered, the rye bread was toasted and lightly buttered on the outside, the slice of melted American cheese was lovingly draped over the burger, and the grilled onions were tender, almost succulent.
Steak at Prime Meats
When Carey and I took the Washington Post's Tim Carman to Prime Meats to have a burger, we were surprised and delighted when Tim ordered a strip steak as well. When the steak came to our table, perfectly cooked with just enough char, we immediately noticed the distinctive funky, minerally smell of dry-aged meat; we knew we were in for a treat. I think the waiter told us the steak had been dry-aged for six or seven weeks, and we could all taste every day over 21. Dare I say it, a steak at Prime Meats is at least the equal of the porterhouse we've all been eating for a hundred years at Peter Luger's.
Smoked Salmon and Foie Gras at Le Bernardin
The most delicate smoked salmon imaginable is seamlessly draped over a thin layer of foie gras on the thinnest piece of toasted baguette I've ever seen. Each forkful is a bite of rich, satiny, creamy, and crunchy food heaven. It is certainly one of Eric Ripert's most brilliant and original creations, and that's saying something.
Squash at Balaboosta
I admit it, I'm not a squash lover by nature or habit, so you can imagine how shocked I was when I took a bite of Einat Admony's squash side dish at Balaboosta, with a complex sweet glaze featuring a housemade tahini sauce mixed with honey, rice vinegar, and soy sauce. It shows her Israeli roots, her classical training, and her knowledge of what's delicious.
Kale Salad at Ouest
Usually I thumb my nose at people who opt to start with a mere salad at a really good restaurant, but the kale salad at Ouest has me rethinking my bias. It was a neat pile of crisp kale, pine nuts, apples and breadcrumbs, and bits of Pecorino Romano, so good it barely needed the perfect vinaigrette that it was dressed with.