The 2015 Best Dish Awards

© Dominique Ansel Kitchen

By Kate Krader Posted December 29, 2015

F&W restaurant editor Kate Krader picks some of her favorite dishes of 2015. 

It’s that time of year, when you think back on the dishes, places and dining situations that made you happiest over the past year. Here’s my idiosyncratic (no burgers! no pizza!), New York–centric awards list for 13 of the best dishes and drinks I wish I could eat again and again—at least until 2016, when my watchword will be "diet."

Best Meat Spread: Kang Ho Dong Baekjeong, NYC
In Korean, Baekjeoung means butcher. Deuki Hong, chef at this exhilarating restaurant, serves just a handful of cuts and they’re terrific. Best of all is the scored, thinly sliced marinated short ribs: Hong marinates the marinade for the beef, before it’s quickly cooked on the tableside grill. The grills are designed with troughs, so cheesy corn and egg custard cooks alongside the meat. Shout-out, too, to the lunch box, a mix of rice and kimchee that gets shaken up in a little lunchbox right in front of you. baekjeongnyc.com/ 

Best Mash-Up Dish: Mapo Tofu Pizza, Mission Chinese Food, NYC
Before MCF opened late last year, I heard a rumor that chef Danny Bowien would be using the wood oven to make mapo tofu pizza. Genius, I thought. Not exactly true, it turns out. But, you can make your own: Order the pillowy cheese pizza and then also get the mapo tofu, a meaty ragù studded with Sichuan peppercorns. The pizza always comes first, so you have to try hard not to eat all the slices before the mapo tofu arrives. mcfny.com/

Most Indulgent Dinner: Caviar Service, Sadelle’s, NYC
Everyone goes to Sadelle’s in the daytime and pigs out on their babka and sticky buns. That’s time well spent, in my opinion, but if you go at night, the space is a romantic candlelit wonderland. The Eastern European menu offers caviar in pricey 125 gram, 250 gram or 500 gram tins—even the cheapest is over a hundred bucks. But along with that caviar—say, the Royal Transmontanus—you get a high-rising plateau of crispy potato pancakes, blini and toasts, which they keep refilling, as well as requisite accompaniments like sour cream and chopped shallots. There’s also a less expensive alternative: Russian potatoes, smashed and fried, with sour cream and trout roe. sadelles.com/ 

Best Bread & Butter: Semilla, Brooklyn, with honorable mention to Wildair, NYC; Four Horsemen, Brooklyn; High Street on Hudson, NYC; and Laurent Gras’s fresh cheese and bread at Chef’s Club, NYC
It’s been an outstanding year for bread and butter in NYC; it’s our dish of the year. The title holder is Semilla, where the bread course changes daily, depending on the grains that Pamela Yung gets. It’s chewy and crusty and exceptional with the funky, salt-studded butter served alongside. Other notable bread and butter situations include the little warm tangy loaves at Wildair, the coarsely torn chunks at Four Horsemen, and the bread spread at the brand-new High Street on Hudson. Also, I wish superstar Laurent Gras would open a place where I could get his whole wheaty bread he makes with little pools of fresh cheese on a regular basis. Semilla.bk.com; fourhorsemenbk.comwildair.nyc/; highstreetonhudson.com; chefsclub.com

Best Counter Dining Dish: Cured Spanish Mackerel, Momofuku Ko, NYC
Sitting at the counter at Ko, I watched a chef use a Searzall (Momofuku’s beloved blowtorch) to sear the skin of a piece of cured, rich Spanish mackerel. He set it on top of a rectangle of sushi rice that had also been blasted by the Searzall, so it was golden and crunchy, and tender in the middle. He set the sushi on a wasabi leaf spread with house-made miso. You’re supposed to eat it in one bite, but I made it last for two because it was so good. momofuku.com

Best Nostalgia Dish: Peanut Ritz Crackers with Foie Gras, Flynn at Eureka, NYC
“They’re fun, but a pain in the ass to make,” says 16-year-old chef Flynn McGarry, about the outstanding snack he serves at his pop-up restaurant in the West Village. “I make the ridges of each cracker with a toothpick.” I’m sorry it’s a drag for him to make them; otherwise, I’m completely delighted by this homage to Ritz crackers and peanut butter. McGarry’s are comprised of a luscious foie gras terrine and sour cherry compote, sandwiched between sweet peanut crackers. eurekanyc.com/

Best Willy Wonka Experience: Pie Night, Dominique Ansel Kitchen, NYC
Of all the glorious pastries you can buy at DAK—1-to-1 lemon butter tart, matcha beignets—one thing Dominique Ansel doesn’t offer is pie. Which made the ticketed pie nights he launched this fall even more exciting. For $35, guests got to eat unlimited slices of everything from salted caramel apple to dark chocolate cream and lemon custard with brown sugar meringue, while a chef walked around with containers of homemade ice cream to scoop onto crowded plates. dominiqueanselkitchen.com 

NON-NYC RESTAURANTS

Best Daytime Dining: Milktooth, Indianapolis
I don’t usually take daytime dining seriously. But that’s the only time to eat at Milktooth, the exceptional restaurant in a converted garage in Indianapolis. Jonathan Brooks, an F&W Best New Chef, creates brilliant dishes like fried bologna okonomiyaki with house-made sriracha aioli. His beverage program is equally inspired: He makes a mean Long Island Iced Coffee, and the Notorious F.I.G., made with fig amaro and cold brew. milktoothindy.com

Most Outstanding Snacks: Press, Napa
Press is a modern steakhouse. But chef Trevor Kunk is a Blue Hill alum; he obsesses over the details. His tea sandwich is a high-rising construction of deep-fried chicken wing, habanero salsa and horseradish cream on buttery rye toasts. He also serves a stunning snack platter called Vegetable Cocktail. It’s his version of a seafood platter, an ice-filled tray studded with baby vegetables like multicolor carrots, broccoli and radishes. They’re great on their own—Kunk is meticulous about sourcing his vegetables—but there are also fun dips, like bacon butter and avocado puree in the ice, alongside the pretty produce. pressnapavalley.com

Art of Simplicity Dish: Whole Crab Salad, Death & Taxes, Raleigh
Ashley Christensen’s new restaurant is all about cooking over fire. Her crab salad is not the most representative of that. The shellfish is boiled and the avocado is simply sliced; it’s only the lemon segments that are grilled. It looked as basic as it sounds. Yet, eaten together, the combination of super-fresh, butterbasted crab meat with the creamy avocado and charred citrus blows your mind. ac-restaurants.com

Best Meal in a Small Space: Il Corvo, Seattle
You can see Il Corvo from a distance: There’s invariably a line out the door unless they’ve run out of pasta. The minuscule spot near Pioneer Square is only open until 3 p.m., Mondays to Fridays, and you can’t sit down in one of the 28 seats until you’ve ordered at the counter. There are half a dozen, daily changing items on the chalkboard menu. Order as many of the outstanding pastas as you can (they’re $9 each), like the wonderfully chewy and meaty pappardelle alla Bolognese, or spaghettini with anchovy garlic and pardon peppers, which is extra good with the chiles inferno you can get alongside for $1 more. Ilcorvopasta.wordpress.com

Best Non-Fried-Chicken Chicken Dish: Little Bacch, Atlanta
It’s been a big year for fried chicken, whether sandwiches or fingers or a good, old platter. I will happily eat every piece of it, but every once in a while you need to change things up. In the quiet little dining room at Little Bacch, chef Joe Schaefer roasts a whole Green Circle chicken for two. It comes with the head and feet: “If you prefer, we’ll give it a haircut and pedicure,” said our waiter. The bird, crispy skinned and stuffed with truffled breadcrumbs, is served in a dish with braised truffled cabbage and thick slices of bread slipped underneath the chicken pieces to catch the juices. starprovisions.com

Best Cocktail: Hinky Dink, Green River, Chicago
The sleek new cocktail bar from Danny Meyer and the people behind Dead Rabbit divides its drink menu into key ingredients, like Sugarcane or Juniper. The Hinky Dink is in the Rye category. It’s an improbable mix of rye vodka, beet, pistachio and chipotle that’s spicy, sweet, a little smoky and delicious. greenriverchi.com/

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