Savory Vegetable Yogurt from Blue Hill
Blue Hill, the restaurant vegetables pray they go to when they die, has released a yogurt line now available at Whole Foods. Instead of the usual flavors like vanilla and strawberry they went for tomato and carrot. We enjoyed all four yogurt varieties, which are good for eating plain or for incorporating into savory dishes.
Biscuit Sandwiches at Jacob's Pickles
These messy-but-tasty biscuit sandwiches are built on buttery, tangy square biscuits, then smothered with fried chicken and mushroom gravy or runny eggs and cheddar. Big enough to share—with a pile of cheesy grits on the side of the chicken sandwich—they're sandwiches we haven't stopped thinking about.
Persian Stews at Taste of Persia
We loved the Persian home cooking at this stall inside a Flatiron pizzeria, from nubs of beef simmered with tangy quince to greens and kidney beans cooked to an appealing softness. You won't find many examples of Persian cooking like this in the city, so get going.
Lagman at Cafe "At Your Mother in Law"
This restaurant is a rare home for the cooking of Koreo Saram Russians who were uprooted by Stalin and forced to move to Uzbekistan and Kazahkstan during the 1930's. The chef is a Korean woman who speaks only Russian and cooks a fusion cuisine of east Asian, Uyghur, and Eastern European influences. One of our favorite dishes is this bowl of lagman, an Uzbek soup of gamey lamb and springy noodles in a light tomato broth scented with cumin and star anise. A mound of fermented chili paste gives a slight nod to the Korean fondness for heat.
Cafe "At Your Mother in Law:" 3071 Brighton 4th Street, Brooklyn, NY 11235 (map); 718-942-4088
Taro Shrimp Puffs at 88 Palace
A recent meal at 88 Palace reminded us why it's one of our favorite dim sum spots in Manhattan. This fritter is a rare find on dim sum menus: shrimp and sweet preserved egg wrapped in mashed taro and fried until crisp, a weighty but incredibly satisfying bite. We ordered a second helping.
88 Palace: 88 East Broadway, 2nd Floor, New York, NY 10002 (map); 212-941-8886
Carrots with Burnt Honey at Skal
This simple plate of carrots was all about texture: sweet, almost creamy roots with burnt ends, plus an assortment of seeds, dried fruit, and pickled carrots. That means every bite of this small dish is an interesting one, though we wouldn't have minded a triple portion of the accompanying yogurt to slather over everything.
Dan Dan Noodles at Han Dynasty
We didn't love all the food at this Sichuan newcomer, but these dan dan noodles blew us away, almost certainly the best in the city. The slippery noodles, tossed in housemade chili oil with a touch of sesame paste and a nest of stir-fried minced pork and pickled Sichuan vegetables, is the benchmark for how this dish should be served everywhere.
Hummus at Cafe Orlin
This Middle Eastern spot may be especially popular with East Village brunchers in search of pumpkin pancakes, but we were impressed by their plate of hummus, which tastes fresh, redolent with good tahini, and a little sweet. The creamy, well-blended dip doesn't need anything more than the poofy pita it's served with.
Pulissery at Kokum
Shiva Natarajan's new Murray Hill restaurant serves some little-seen Indian food from Kerala, a state on the southwestern tip of the subcontinent. One representative dish we're excited to see: pulissery, a buttermilk curry fortified with curry leaves, fried mustard seeds, and white pumpkin. It's a brothy dish best served over the restaurant's specialty rices, but a straight spoonful reveals deep spicing lightened by the tangy dairy.
Daily Specials at Souk El Shater
Though Souk el Shater is best known for its shawarma, a steam table full of daily specials can be just as rewarding. On this visit: mujadarra with lentils, onions, and rice; stewed chickpeas and eggplant; and chicken braised in tomatoes with bell peppers. It's all homey, sure, but this kind of comfort food is what keeps us coming back. Spring for some pickled turnips on the side to liven things up.
Souk el Shater: 4303 Queens Boulevard, Sunnyside, NY 11104 (map); 718-392-2702