Slideshow: Max's Best New York Bites of 2012

Muslim Lamb Chop at Fu Run
Muslim Lamb Chop at Fu Run
You can expect a full review of Fu Run, a northern Chinese restaurant in Flushing, early in 2013. Robyn has sung its praises for years, and between the two of us we've eaten there about a dozen times—it's one our favorite restaurants in the neighborhood. The crown jewel of the meal is this ridiculously good rack of lamb ribs, which are braised until fall-off-the-bone tender, crusted with cumin, sesame, and chili, and deep fried. They're one of the best ways to eat lamb in this city. Hell, they're one of the best ways to eat in this city at all. Yelp page »

[Photograph: Max Falkowitz]

Lamb Segar Hummus at Bab al Yemen
Lamb Segar Hummus at Bab al Yemen
This Yemeni restaurant in Bay Ridge makes some seriously delicious Middle Eastern food well worth the trip. A can't-miss order: a pile of chopped lamb on a cloud of buttery hummus. The lamb is rich with cinnamon, cumin, and coriander, and remains tender beneath its crackly crust. Skip the fork and dive in with flatbread. Read more »

[Photograph: Robyn Lee]

Laap Meuang at Pok Pok
Laap Meuang at Pok Pok
I refused to talk to anyone during my first visit to Pok Pok until every plate we ordered was licked clean. I was busy, you see, and if you've been there you probably understand. This food is, to quote Chef Andy Ricker wildly out of context, "the holy grail of holy shit." (He's actually talking about how awesome he thinks Chinese food is—sorry, Chef.) The offal-enriched pork laap is the holy grail of New York's spicy chopped meat salads, the kind of dish to make you grin like a child while sucking down beer to tame the fire. Read more »

[Photograph: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt]

Spanakopita at Boubouki
Spanakopita at Boubouki
I live in Greek-run Astoria, and as such take my spanakopita pretty seriously. Your spinach better taste fresh, your phyllo crisp, your feta funky. So it's with some chagrin that I admit that my favorite spinach pie comes not from my neighborhood, but from the Essex Street Market on the Lower East Side. Specifically Boubouki, Rona Economoum's tiny-but-full-of-heart Greek treats stall. The crust on this pie is shatteringly crisp, and the spinach within is a feathery and light as can be. Read more »

[Photograph: Robyn Lee]

Braised Veal Tails at Enoteca Maria
Braised Veal Tails at Enoteca Maria
You can practically trip off the Staten Island ferry and land on Enoteca Maria's doorstep. And it's well worth the boat ride for a taste of the constantly changing menu cooked by real Italian grandmas. The best bite of my night: these unctuous, tender braised veal tails with peas. And that's the dish: veal bits, peas, braising juices. Some lemon if you want. But for all its simplicity, it's the best braise I've eaten in quite some time, with a sauce that got swiped up with every scrap of bread we could find. Read more »

[Photograph: Max Falkowitz]

Old Fashioned Doughnut at Peter Pan
Old Fashioned Doughnut at Peter Pan
2012 became the year I finally made it to Peter Pan—shameful, right? But I've tried to make it up to the doughnut shop by going back as much as I possibly can. Because once you taste a fresh glazed old fashioned from this Greenpoint institution, the question is never, "do I want a doughnut right now," but rather, "how many Peter Pan doughnuts can I eat this very second?" Read more »

[Photograph: Max Falkowitz]

Cevapi at Ukus
Cevapi at Ukus
Ukus is a small, charming burektorja in Astoria that makes some solidly tasty burek, but it's the cevapi that really get me going. The little minced kebabs are impressively juicy and fragrant with garlic and the smoky char of the grill. They come stuffed in a thick chewy pita with kaymak (a clotted sour cream), ajvar, and raw onions on the side—a piece of Balkan heaven. Read more »

[Photograph: Max Falkowitz]

Cháng An Dòu Huā at Biang!
Cháng An Dòu Huā at Biang!
You can't talk about important restaurant openings of 2012 without talking about Biang! in Flushing, a clean, modern restaurant that draws the neighborhood's conservative eaters, American-born Chinese youth, and far-traveling gastrotourists together under one roof. The noodles are, of course, excellent, but it's the soft tofu laced with chili oil, black vinegar, and pickled greens that really comes into its own at this flagship of the Xi'an Famous Foods empire. It's that much cleaner and balanced. And it costs all of $2.50. Eat it. Read more »

[Photograph: Robyn Lee]

Little Italy Lard Bread Antipasto Mozzarella Melt
Little Italy Lard Bread Antipasto Mozzarella Melt
I went through something of a lard bread phase this year, and what a good phase it was. The best part, without a doubt, was the creation of this sandwich hack: Parisi Bakery's lard bread split open and toasted, then stuffed with fresh mozzarella and chopped antipasto salad from DiPalo's around the corner. It's Little Italy greatness in sandwich form—messy to be sure, but one of the standout sandwiches of the year.

Major props to Erin for turning these ingredients into a lardzanella salad as well. It was the best salad. Read more »

[Photograph: Robyn Lee]

Mapo Tofu at Mission Chinese Food
Mapo Tofu at Mission Chinese Food
Okay, so you saw this pick a mile away. And yeah, it's one of the most obvious choices on the menu. But while the pepper greens soup, West Lake rice porridge, and catfish a la Sichuan have all made me swoon, this dish is what seals the deal for me, what makes me think it's okay to wait two hours for dinner in a restaurant waiting area the size of my bathroom. New York is a better place to count Mission Chinese Food among its restaurants, and tofu remains in debt to Chef Danny Bowien for the creation of this dish. Read more »

[Photograph: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt]

Lamb Dumplings at Savor Fusion
Lamb Dumplings at Savor Fusion
We'll have to call these Dumplings in Memoriam, as the Savor Fusion food court has closed without encouraging signs of reopening. But while it was open, these dumplings were some of the best in Flushing. James Boo, who tipped me off to them, describes them so eloquently you should just read his post instead. But in brief: tender yet chewy skins with some of the sweetest, most fragrant lamb I've ever tasted. You'll be missed, lamb dumplings. Read more »

[Photograph: Max Falkowitz]

Chicken Tinga Taco at Tortas Neza
Chicken Tinga Taco at Tortas Neza
It's rare to find chicken tinga worth a damn, but at the Tortas Neza truck in Corona, I like it even more than the excellent carnitas. Though Neza is best known for its mammoth tortas, they were out of the bread on my visit, so I settled for this taco. The tortilla is nice, but really just a vehicle for this incredibly moist and deeply flavored pulled chicken, so warming and spicy and sweet that you can't help but think it's some other tastier meat in disguise. Read more »

[Photograph: Max Falkowitz]

Special Hyderabadi Dosa at Ganesh Hindu Temple Canteen
Special Hyderabadi Dosa at Ganesh Hindu Temple Canteen
Yes, a quarter of the items on this list can be found in Flushing. But this may be the least expected of the lot. Walk down Kissena Boulevard for a bit and you'll reach a suburban Indian community that's home to the Ganesh Temple and its excellent underground canteen. The dosas here are the finest you'll find in the five boroughs, and this one, with its pungent filling of puréed herbs and green chilies, is extra special, though not for the faint of heart. The Ganesh Temple wasn't a 2012 discovery, but after hunting around for the city's top dosas, this bite was a happy reminder of how favorably it compares to New York's other Indian dining destinations. Read more »

[Photograph: Max Falkowitz]

Tohu Thohk at the Burmese Food Fair
Tohu Thohk at the Burmese Food Fair
I got to visit two great Burmese food festivals in Queens this year, and the best bite at both came in the form of this chickpea-based tofu dish. The slightly sweet nutty custard is sliced into thick matchsticks and dressed with fish sauce, fried garlic, chilies, and herbs. Mellow and comforting but full of flavor and textural interest, it's a dish that you don't think much of until you realize how much you've been thinking about it. I could eat this for breakfast every day. Read more »

[Photograph: Max Falkowitz]