Once I started thinking about the best meals my no-longer-consort and I ate in 2023 I couldn’t stop, not least cuz my phone retains everything far better than my cranial sieve does. And it contains thousands of images.* I did an international roundup for Buffalo Eats, since we get around, but these are my top visually amplified memories from what really is the greatest city in the world.
The most lavish dinner we had here all year was at Essential by Christophe in our neighborhood (the wide-open UWS), where we indulged in the full sit-down experience in the swankola dining room, with Michelin star-meriting service. But we’ve since been back twice to the bar for dinner, since they make it so welcoming. The one centered on the A+ cheeseburger we split ($24, a Manhattan deal), was the most spectacular, since it started with the dining room amuse and ended with the dining room petits fours. (Well, we also indulged in hamachi tartare with avocado, and intricately dressed deviled eggs, and scallops with sunchokes.) The bartender is exceptional, the ideal mix of total pro and total pal.
Another meal that felt like #beattherich at their own game was on the sidewalk at One White Street in Tribeca, which offers a $316 prix fixe with wine upstairs but also lets you do far more affordable a la carte at street level, with deceptively simple dishes like grilled bass with clams and wild ones like shaved fennel salad with yuzu, anchovies, blue cheese and pistachios. We just wandered by around the time reviewers were raving and lucked into a sidewalk table.
Dame in the West Village was also awesome on all levels, not least for the upbeat servers delivering the likes of grilled oysters with green chartreuse hollandaise and grilled caraflex cabbage with mussels and horseradish. (The best takeaways from eating out this year were what to buy to eat in, like that cabbage, and like maitake mushrooms.) Lord’s, the newer restaurant from the same team, was a letdown, from the distracted service to the heavy food, however. Maybe it’s a guy thing.
Untable in Brooklyn (no website) impressed us and friends with its inventive Thai, like larb tofu, crab croquettes and “What the Hell Fried Rice” (served with spicy ingredients you can mix in to taste). Llama San and Llama Inn were also transporting, with their exquisite mix of Peruvian and Japanese; the latter, in Brooklyn, felt like eating at Zuni Cafe in San Francisco. We also had sensational classic Lebanese food — and wine — twice in the streetery at the very upscale Illili in NoMad. (As always with Middle Eastern, the mezze make a feast.)
We loved Caleta in the East Village for the cerebral dishes served at a tiny counter in the tiny shop, especially the cassava chips topped with anchovies and the ceviche tostadas and the pickled mussels on toast. We had a nice-enough Indonesian meal at Wayan in Nolita but a dazzling dinner at the couple/owners’ new Ma-Dé. The softshell crab was perfection, as were the fava bean dumplings and ramp hummus with toasts and crudites, but what stood out was the Huatulco cocktail made with smoked rhubarb amaro. Which is now often an essential ingredient in Bob’s nightly cocktail at home.
The closest thing to eating in Atlanta was at Peaches Prime in downtown Brooklyn: spinach and artichoke dip with chips; quintessential shrimp and grits, and, as billed on the menu, the ultimate egg, bacon and cheese sandwich. The very stylish, friendly crowd was half the experience. We also had excellent service and food at the new incarnation of Gage & Tollner, especially the she-crab soup, Parkerhouse rolls and crabcake with frisee and lemon aioli.
King in Soho was also all it was sold as, during one of those lulls when it felt safe to eat in a small, crowded dining room, especially for the grilled scallops with blood orange and bottarga and the roasted monkfish with tomato, fregola, rainbow chard and aioli.
We didn’t eat all fancy food over this last year of this ceaseless pandemic, though. Wu’s Wonton King, the last place we met up with our eating Asian/Asian eating friends to show support for Chinese restaurants back in early 2020, again came through big time with pan-fried dumplings, soup dumplings, ribs, stir-fried greens, roast duck and Peking duck buns. Adda, in Long Island City, was the best Indian, in the coolest environment, we had away from home all year. And we ate Mexican out at least once a week (and more often at home).
So if I can pull it together, my next post will be on all the NYC destinations we hit return on at least once. And after that where we ate outside the country and outside the greatest city in the world. I already did Atlanta.
*Pro tip, tho? A notebook is a more reliable memory-jogger — I can pick one up from a trip to France or Italy 20 or 35 years ago and recall every detail of a day just by a few scribbles on what we ate, and where. (The where is especially problematic with the phone. I assume I will always flash on the name and food. But not in CDMX, or Toronto, and other places where Google is not your friend…)