Here is the second part of my list of the best dishes I had in 2012. Part I can be found here.
5. “Spicy Big Tray Chicken” at Spicy Village
There are very few Henan restaurants in New York — and as far as I know, Spicy Village, a small restaurant in a remote part of Chinatown, is the only one in Manhattan. Henan is a province in north-central China of “only” about 95 million people. Spicy Village is mostly a noodle house, serving excellent hand-pulled, springy hui mei noodles in a variety of preparations. It’s best dish, aptly called “Spicy Big Tray Chicken” is an enormous metal wok filled with chicken and potatoes — and, upon request, hui mei noodles. The fiery sauce blew me away on my first bite. It is an unusual but excellent combination of cumin, Sichuan peppercorns, chilis, and fennel seeds. As Danny Bowien of Mission Chinese said, it’s “the best thing in the whole world.”
The only dessert to make the list, the Grapefruit Givré was the best dessert I had in a restaurant in 2012, and one of the more creative desserts I’ve seen in a while. It consists of a hollowed-out frozen grapefruit filled with a combination of fresh grapefruit, grapefruit compote and sorbet, rose loukoum, and crumbled sesame halvah. The whole thing is sealed in with a torched tuile and topped with a pile of spun sesame “hair” and sesame seeds. A fun video of Chef Boulud and his pastry chef demonstrates how this elaborate dessert is made. A great American dessert with north African and Mediterranean flavors.
Read our full review of Boulud Sud here.
3. Thrice Cooked Bacon at Mission Chinese
The emergence of Mission Chinese — it was named the best restaurant of 2012 by the New York Times — was one of the reasons 2012 was so dominated by excellent Asian-influenced food. Mission Chinese has become famous for its original interpretations of classic Sichuan dishes, like its mapo tofu and its cumin lamb. I especially enjoyed a dish called “thrice cooked bacon” with spicy chili oil, bitter melon, and chewy Shanghainese rice cakes. This is a dish of extremes with a powerful kick of chilis and bitter melon, sizzling, crispy, bacon, chewy rice cakes, and a generous topping of herbs.
2. Chicken Under a Brick at Marc Forgione
The best dish on the menu at Marc Forgione’s eponymous farm house-style restaurant is an incredibly succulent chicken under a brick for two. In some ways the dish excels in its simplicity: crisp chicken is served with potatoes and broccoli rabe in a large heavy iron pan with crispy shallots, chili flakes, and herbs. But the dish requires serious technique to make it as good at is it is at Marc Forgione. All of the bones are removed except the drum stick, and the heavy brick used to sear the chicken allows the outsides to have a bold crispiness while leaving the chicken moist on the inside.
Read our full review of Marc Forgione here.
1. Sashimi at Sushi Yasuda
The best dish I had this year was absolutely perfect sashimi at Sushi Yasuda. After all these years, it is still the best sushi restaurant in New York. The fish is breathtakingly good, making you want to close your eyes so there are no other distractions. The variety and quality of the fish and the skill of the sushi chefs are as close to perfection as you can find in New York. While so many other Japanese restaurants have focused on overpriced Japanese-American “fancy” sushi rolls with half a dozen kinds of fish, sauces, and condiments, a meal at Sushi Yasuda is a helpful reminder of what traditional sushi can be at its best. While the expensive omakaze meal is transporting, you can have a very satisfying meal at Yasuda for less than $30 — 4 pieces of nigiri, 1 roll, and 3 varieties of sashimi is $22.50. Simply the best.
Read our full review of Sushi Yasuda here.
As you can see, we’ve had some great food in 2012. Looking forward to what 2013 has in store!