Slideshow: Kenji's 8 Best Bites in New York From 2011

Kra Pao Moo Korb  From Zabb Elee
Kra Pao Moo Korb From Zabb Elee
At Zabb, they do it right, with almost medicinal-tasting fried Holy Basil, plenty of chili, crisply fried cubes of pork belly that retain a juicy, fatty center, and a bit of Thai-style oyster sauce to add sweetness and round out the complex flavors.

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Italian Cold Cut Sandwich From Best Pizza
Italian Cold Cut Sandwich From Best Pizza
I may be occasionally prone to hyperbole, but this is quite seriously the best Italian cold cut sub I've had anywhere. A perfectly balanced stack of pepperoni (from Biellese), mortadella, hot and sweet salami, and sharp provolone sliced thin and piled just right on top of dressed shredded romaine lettuce and thin-sliced red onions. It's served on a sesame hoagie roll baked at Roberta's. The kicker is the thin strips of pickled eggplant that sport plenty of punch.

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Tears in Eyes from Legend
Tears in Eyes from Legend
Slippery chunks of tofu-like bean cake sauced with a roasted chili and black fermented soy bean sauce was one of the tastiest at this excellent Sichuan restaurant (and not nearly as hot as its name would imply).

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The Lamb Burger and Thrice Cooked Chips From The Breslin
The Lamb Burger and Thrice Cooked Chips From The Breslin
Not falling into the shove-it-full-of-aromatics trap that so many inferior lamb burgers fall victim to, the burger here is nothing but lamb and salt. Perfectly cooked every time, insanely juicy with the intense grassy funk of a well-seared, well-fatted lamb chop, it dribbles and drips as you eat it in the most glorious way. Toppings are kept simple with just a few thin slices of salty feta cheese and red onion. At first you might be afraid that the sturdy roll is going to overwhelm or crush the meat, but it all works out in the end—this lamb is tough enough to fight back. It's no wonder there's a constant parade of them coming off the grill.

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Fried Duck Egg and Ramps From The Spotted Pig
Fried Duck Egg and Ramps From The Spotted Pig
One of the best reasons to look forward to all-too-brief ramp season. A knockout plate of food—and not only because ramps get us so excited. They're done extraordinarily well here, the slender greens amply salted and oiled and picking up a good char, the duck egg runny and molten, all topped off with an anchovy-butter emulsion; even the bread is perfectly suited, it too salted and charred and olive-oiled. It reminds us that the Spotted Pig can make vegetable dishes just as indulgent-seeming as its fattier, meatier ones.

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Manaouri Cheese & Fig Sandwich From The Smile
Manaouri Cheese & Fig Sandwich From The Smile
The bread is toasted sourdough from Amy's, with a nice mild tang and a compact crumb that takes well to toasting—good structure, but not so tough or cracker-like that it presses on the soft fillings of the sandwich. Inside you'll find a thick slab of manaouri—a creamy, ricotta-like cheese made from the spent whey of Feta production—a cheese that Executive Chef Melia Marden gained a taste for during childhood vacations in Greece. It's got a distinct saltiness that goes well with the sweet smear of fig preserves it's paired with, along with a few leaves of arugula. I could take or leave the drizzle of truffle oil the sandwich is finished with, but it wasn't a deal-breaker. It's always surprisingly pleasurable when a few carefully chosen, humble ingredients can make for such seriously delicious food.

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