A deceptively simple-looking dish with impressive flavor. House-cured salmon was stuffed with shrimp, jicama, roasted peppers, guacamole and plantain chips, with a yogurt sauce on top. The roasted red peppers added a great touch of sweetness and smoke, which balanced well with the saltiness of the fish and the creamy textures of the guacamole and yogurt.
Mexicue: Green Chili Mac and Cheese
Mexicue uses cotija cheese along with cheddar and jack for the salty/sweet/creamy balance we love. An optional burnt end beef chili topper added even more smoky depth.
The Wren: Steak Tartare
Chef David Mawhinney intentionally kept it simple with this tartare to “showcase the intensity of the meat”. Pat LaFrieda beef was seasoned just with some Dijon, a bit of scallions, cornichon, salt and black pepper. “We have so much char on the sourdough bread, so it pairs well with the Scotch we’re drinking”.
Macondo: Arepa Reina
Stuffed with chicken, avocado, cilantro and lime, these arepas were fluffy with a savory, bright filling.
The Taverna Di Bacco team
Chef Maurizio Crescenzo has my new favorite chef name. I haven't been to Taverna di Bacco yet, but after his braised pork belly knocked our socks off, it's on the top of my list. If you've been, drop some comments down below, please and thank you.
Taverna Di Bacco: Pork Belly
Want a pork belly that’s soft, fatty (but not overwhelmingly so) and with a savory crust boasting fresh sage, rosemary, and thyme? Chef Maurizio uses the previous night's fire to braise the pork belly in his brick oven for three hours on a low heat, then finishes it for an hour in a gas oven to get the gorgeous top salt-and-pepper char.
Pig and Khao: Pork Jowl Watermelon Salad
Layers of flavor we adored in this dish from Chef Leah Cohen. With chicharron, toasted rice and chili-lime sauce, it had everything you want in a few bites—one of our favorite plates of the night.
Pala: Variety of vegan, gluten-free and "regular" pizzas
Chef de Cuisine Gigio Palazzo sent his team with a generous variety of pizzas to satiate any allergy-ridden or gluten-free eaters: Vegan Mushroom with Daiya Cheese; Gluten-free Zucchini and Goat Cheese; Mushroom and Sausage; Butternut Squash and Pancetta; Arancini risotto balls. All pies had their delightfully thin crust and toppings that were both light and substantial.
wd-50: Popcorn Soup
Chef Wylie’s team doesn’t make a simple soup. And we were so thankful they don’t. This soup was the epitome of balance; sweet but not too sweet, creamy but not too creamy.
Here’s what it takes: they pop fresh corn, make a stock out it, blend it, steep it for about an hour, emulsify it with some butter, and add salt to taste. Then they make a second stock from the tamarind and reduce it until it’s almost a syrup, which is used to then braise brunoised jicama so that it gets a bit tart and buttery and sweet and salty at the same time. Then they make a shiso oil of poached shiso that’s soaked overnight and strained. They top the final soup off with popcorn powder, which is popped popcorn that’s passed through a very fine-holed strainer.
Kuma Inn: Lechón Tacos
Chef de Cuisine King Phojanakong took this whole roasted pig seriously, serving it alongside some charred tomato and Thai chile salsa and pickled red onions.
Co-Op Food and Drink
It took a team to get these smoky/sweet scallops out. Here they get a final drop of emulsifying oil.
Co-Op Food and Drink: Taylor Bay Scallops
It was the smokiness of the bacon dashi in tandem with the acidic pickled ramps that set this dish apart. Chef James London uses a “really hard core smoked bacon from Tennessee”, which he smokes a little bit more for extra smoke, and then uses it for the dashi. Wow.
Cafe Cortadito: Camarones Havana Vieja
The generous slice of plantain was the base for this sweet / salty / spicy combo topped with a sauce of peppers, onions, garlic and a little white wine. It was a hearty plate, and we had no problem devouring the whole thing.
Mercadito: Ceviche Mixto
A ceviche sweetened with a little passion fruit and Serrano chili totally elevated the mix of fresh octopus, shrimp, and mahi mahi. In a world of bland ceviches or those that rely far too heavily on citrus, this was a very sweet and spicy addition to our happy ceviche-devouring family.
L’Apicio: Polenta with Pork Meatballs
We’re never going to complain when Chef Gabe Thompson brings out his polenta. The pork meatballs, bacon and shaved Parmesan set the dish over the edge in regards to salty, meaty richness. Salute to this dish.
Yunnan Kitchen: Braised Beef Rolls
Looking at this beef you’d have no idea how meltingly soft it is. Chef de Cuisine Travis Post braises the beef in wine, ginger, garlic and sweet spices, then lets it cool in the broth before slicing it thin. The star anise and black cardamom in the braise brought out an incredible warmth made perfect for spring by the balance of cool mint and cucumber. Keeping this combo in mind for rooftop potlucks.
Porchetta: Porchetta Crostini
Porchetta the way you want porchetta to be. End of story.
Goat Town: Smoked Whitefish Crostini
Chef Kelly Hughett uses both hake and trout, which she cures separately before smoking over apple wood. After that she flakes it and cooks it down with onions, shallots, fennel, three different types of dried peppers, a little sherry vinegar, and “it just goes by itself after that”. The combination of peppers cooked down with sweet onions and shallots brought so much flavor to the smoky–salty fish, and the layer of fennel bulb in the mix and fronds on top lent an earthy element.
Goat Town: Goat-less White Fish Crostini
Here’s a bit of history from Chef Kelly: "Gotham means 'Goat Town' in Dutch. The term Gotham wasn’t coined by Batman. It was coined by Washington Irving, who wrote a lot about this area of New York when, literally, a lot of goat farmers were here. So he literally said, 'This is Gotham.' The original founders of our restaurant decided it would be something clever to bring to the forefront. It’s not that we’re a goat-centric restaurant. It’s a kind of fun, literary reference.”
Chef Wolfgang Ban and Co. of Edi and the Wolf
Technically representing the East Village, Chef Wolfgang (Edi and the Wolf and newly opened The Third Man) team dished up braised short ribs.
Edi and the Wolf: Braised Short Rib
Chef Wolfgang’s short ribs “just melt… it just melts”. Topped on a crouton with horseradish cream, sweet and smoky bell peppers and fresh horseradish.
Blue Ribbon Sushi Isakaya: Assorted Hand Rolls
We had a spicy tuna and yellowtail roll, both of which contained clean, subtle fish, lightly warmed and perfectly slightly-sticky rice and a thin, melting seaweed wrapper.
The Meatball Shop: Pork Pibil Ball
"Inspired by Rick Bayless and made by our own in-house Mexican chef", chef de cuisine Daniel Sharp premiered some new balls. "It's really kind of simple. It's a chayote paste that's diluted in lime juice and stewed in pork. We took that meat, beat it up a little bit, mixed it with some other pork and masa flour so it tastes like a tortilla, and roast them off. And they're delicious." Simple, yeah.
The General: Chinese Chicken Taco
Chef Hung's taco blew us away—slightly sweet and crunchy, with a sweet chile soy sauce, guacamole, cilantro and shredded romaine, it was another solid showing by a chef who packs some serious flavor punches into even the most traditional dishes.
Paulino's: Antipasto Table
This abundant table had way too many things you’d want to eat: pizza topped with anchovies, olives and onions; marinated anchovies and peppers (I’m a sucker for anchovies); an assortment of crostini including bacon jam with chicken liver mousse, sweet peas with ricotta and house-made baba ganoush; oven-roasted vegetables and assorted meats. What we did sample was excellent. If only we could have that spread at our disposal at will.
Leadbelly: Barcat Oysters
Barcat oysters from the Chesapeake Bay. After stuffing ourselves full for the evening, we had to go back for one more clean, cold oyster.
Gemma: Seared Yellow Fin Tuna
With Tuscan beans and an olive oil and citrus, this plate was a schooling in simplicity and warmth.
Zoe: Fried Chicken Biscuit with Orange Marmalade
We know this is for Serious Eats, not Drinks, but the Sweet Pea Vodka Cocktail just paired so perfectly with the killer fried chicken biscuit that we had to give it its share of the spotlight. They puree sweet peas, then add lemon juice, simple syrup, a little vanilla extract and vodka. It's different, in a "bring it on spring" way.
Sugar Sweet Sunshine Bakery: Banana Pudding Shots
Chef de Cuisines Debbie Weiner and Peggy Williams brought the sugar with an assortment of mini cakes and puddings. Chefs from other tables were coming by to snatch the Banana Pudding and Chocolate Chip Pudding shots for their tables, and after inhaling the creamy, fluffy pudding with a slightly nutmeg-y flavor, we got why.
Peels: Mini Sausage Dogs
On a fluffy/sweet brioche bun with spring vegetable chow chow and spicy mustard, chefs Jason Debriere and Preston Madson provided what might have been the most classically comforting dish of the night. Now only if they served these at Yankee Stadium…
Pok Pok Phat Thai: Phat-Thai Thamadaa
We'd miss Pok Pok Wing if the renamed and refocused Phat-Thai Thamadaa from Pok Pok Phat Thai wasn’t so damned delicious.
The thin rice noodles are cooked in rendered pork fat with tamarind, fish sauce, palm sugar, peanuts, dried tofu, dried shrimp, radish, eggs, garlic, chives, bean sprouts and chili powder. No trace of the over-sweet flavor and too-sticky texture that is the signature of most of its contemporaries. And, we're promised, you can still get the wings in the Brooklyn location.
Our apologies to Mulberry Project—we were so stuffed at this point in the evening we simply devoured on the Hamachi Crudo, did a happy eyebrow-raised head-nod, and swigged down a drink. The "Southside’s Revenge" was bracingly delightful, with Cazadores Tequila sinking lightly into a fresh lime, house-made cucumber agave syrup, yellow chartreuse, and orange bitters bath, topped with a fresh bay leaf. We understand why mixologist Scott Fitzgerald is on the map.
Northern Spy Food Co.: Pickled Pork Trotter
This was the last thing we tackled last night, and we're so glad we decided to sink one more in. The dark, crispy kale developed in flavor as it melted into the rich pork trotter and radish.