Kenji's Top 8 Bites in New York From 2012

[Photographs: J. Kenji Lopéz-Alt]

Only after putting together my list did I realize that a full seven out of eight of the very best bites I had in New York this year were from East Asian restaurants. Not a single burger or pizza on the list!

Does that mean that I didn't have any awesome burgers or pizzas this year? Certainly not. But it does indicate perhaps a trend in the New York dining scene. We saw the opening of at least one authentic Sichuanese restaurant (Legend in Chelsea) and one very inauthentic-but-still-delicious one (Mission Chinese). A Northern Thai restaurant run by a Northwesterner (Pok Pok) and a sit-down branch of one of my favorite cheap regional Chinese eateries (Biang!). Two Masa alums branched out to bring ultra high-grade sushi to folks unwilling or unable to spend $400 a head (Neta), and great ramen made its way all the way up to Harlem (Jin Ramen).


Meanwhile, I discovered that vegan food can be amongst the most exciting stuff in the city when executed with care, quality ingredients, and a sense of place. My dinner at Kajitsu was the most memorable meal of the year, perhaps in several years.

As for the lone non-Asian dish? The sea urchin spaghetti at Marea, which has become a strong contender for my favorite pasta dish in the world, right up there with the Sheep's Milk Ricotta Gnudi at the Spotted Pig.

Check out the slideshow above for a closer look at all eight dishes.