The New York City restaurant scene has filled a full spectrum this year. There’ve been several grand, outrageously expensive spots, but the places that really knocked our socks off tended to be understated neighborhood joints or inexpensive noodle bars. Of the dozens of notable openings in NYC this year, we’ve chosen our favorite new spots of 2017… plus a few more worth a special mention.
Ferris, a tiny subterranean spot with a vaguely Nordic vibe, is our overall favorite new restaurant of the year. Chef Greg Proechel, most recently of Le Turtle, is weaving exciting flavors into imaginative dishes; he calls it New American, but that’s really a catch-all term for plates that clearly draw their inspirations from around the globe. Must-orders include blood sausage with grilled dates and toasted seeds, Okinawa sweet potato with pumpkin mustard and buttermilk, and carrot agnolotti with lamb neck and pickled squash; pair them with a wine from the interesting and well-selected list, or a cocktail courtesy of vets of Nitecap and Maison Premiere. The best seats in the house are at the bar, from which you can watch Proechel working his magic in the open kitchen.
It’s opulent, it’s over-the-top, it’s eye-wateringly expensive, and you can’t beat The Grill for a big night out. Major Food Group, known for its theatrical throwback approach to dining (Carbone, etc) had some big shoes to fill in replacing the iconic Four Seasons restaurant, and it did so in style, resurrecting mid-century glamour in the space formerly known as the bastion for power lunching. Personable servers clad in Tom Ford-designed tuxedos prepare many of the restaurant’s best dishes (prime rib, pasta a la presse, wild mushroom omelette) tableside, and relate entertaining anecdotes for others (ask about the pheasant Claiborne, or Jack’s pie). Savor them with a martini or three—served in exquisite Christofle crystal—and it’s possible to imagine you’ve time-traveled in a cosseted, wood-paneled bubble back to the Mad Men era.
A casual, inexpensive, unassuming, no-reservations Thai spot in the Carroll Gardens neighborhood of Brooklyn, Ugly Baby might be easy to overlook. It draws queues of people nightly, though, who appreciate the huge flavors put forth from chef Sirichai Sreparplarn, who doesn’t shy away from spice: The menu notes that a beef curry is “brutally spicy,” but a few other dishes could use that descriptor as well. Dining there is, shall we say, an efficient experience; you’ll likely be in and out in 45 minutes or less. But you’ll still be thinking about the insanely spicy duck larb for weeks afterward, long after you’ve regained the use of your blown-out tastebuds.
NYC is no stranger to pricey, clubby Asian restaurants, of course. We’ve got another one in Chinese Tuxedo, a glamorous and sexy spot that draws an equally glittering crowd to fill the banquettes in its leafy, bi-level space that harkens back to Shanghai in its golden era. What sets it apart from the others, though, is that the food is genuinely fantastic. I’m still reminiscing about a duck salad with lychees nearly a year after I first tried it; other notable dishes include chicken liver pate served with youtiao (essentially Chinese crullers) and honey-glazed char siu. It’s a splurge, for sure, but worth it.
Two fine-dining vets are behind Gloria, a cozy gem of a neighborhood spot in Hell’s Kitchen whose menu focuses exclusively on sustainable seafood and seasonal vegetables. Chef Diego Garcia, formerly of seafood temple Le Bernardin, turns out low-key spectacular dishes like a perfect tilefish tartare and skate wing with tomatillo and nopales. GM Phil Johnson, whom we last saw at Contra, has drawn up a list of excellent natural wines.
Taking full advantage of its ideal East River waterfront location, Celestine offers dazzling views of the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges and the Lower Manhattan skyline through floor-to-ceiling windows. Competing for your attention are cocktails from the team behind Grand Army bar, a wine list assembled by superstar sommelier Joe Campanale, and Eastern Mediterranean-inspired fare from a chef who’s cooked at Perilla, with dishes like braised rabbit kugel with sugar plum and leeks, and an entire grilled fish with couscous, artichokes, and fennel. It’s a fantastic impress-your-date spot.
The bustling scene within the brick walls of the casual East Village Vietnamese restaurant Hanoi House speaks to its well-earned popularity. The beef pho, its broth rich and deeply umami, is easily the best in town; we’re also fans of the vegetarian version, bobbing with brussels sprouts and lightly perfumed with allspice, and the bun cha, a sampler platter of sorts that includes spring rolls, pork meatballs in a thick broth, and more noodles, to be assembled however you like.
Little Tong Noodle Shop
Of the dozens of discrete cuisines found within China, our favorite is that of Yunnan Province, in the southwest corner of the country. So we’re thrilled that Little Tong Noodle Shop, an inexpensive, no-frills spot in the East Village, does such wonderful variations of mixian, the spaghetti-like rice noodles popular there. The tangy Little Pot mixian is the house special; we’re particularly fond of the Grandma Chicken one, essentially the most comforting chicken noodle soup you’ll ever try.
There are a few places we loved more at certain times of day. Atla, the more casual little sister to chef Enrique Olvera‘s Cosme, is at its best and most beautiful before the evening hours, when its huge-windowed space is awash in sunlight. How fortunate, then, that the best of its Mexican small-plates offerings—chilaquiles and a split-pea tlacoyo—are found only on its breakfast menu (which is served until late afternoon).
371 Lafayette St., New York City
Similarly, the healthful fare at abcV is at its finest during the breakfast hours, when daylight floods the bright-white space. For dinner, the light, vegetarian-only dishes may leave you craving a burger afterward, but during a morning meal, the smoothies and breakfast bowls are a great way to power up for your day.
38 East 19th St., New York City
And, finally, at the vast new Midtown Empellón flagship, many of the savory Mexican dishes fall flat (we’re thinking, in particular, of an unfortunate dish of crab nachos with sea urchin “queso”), but the desserts are truly among the best in town. Stop by after you’ve dined elsewhere to try a block of banana ice cream served atop ash-dusted cajeta, or the much-photographed “avocado” parfait, or a couple of truly perfect corn ice cream tacos that pack an astounding amount of flavor into a few bites.
510 Madison Ave., New York City