In a city of countless restaurants, picking a favorite meal from the many eateries an editor visits over the course of a year is no easy task. But we four (three native New Yorkers, one Canadian transplant), all enthusiastic eaters, were up to the job in 2018. Here were our faves.
LOIS ANZELOWITZ LEVINE
As an avowed Anglophile, I was intrigued as soon as I got the invite to visit the new Bluebird London in the Time Warner Center, the restaurant’s first outpost in the states. The original brasserie is located in London’s Chelsea neighborhood (which you can be sure I will be dining at when I go to England in March). The new space is the very definition of stylish, with smart, retro vinyl-cushioned seats, vividly colored area rugs and plenty of windows to see the tops of Central Park trees. The food got my attention immediately, with a starter that included a dressed crab, a perfect, pure round dollop “dressed” with a roe-topped rye cracker. The saltiness of the caviar was a lovely yin to the yang of the mild, fresh crab. But, ah, the main event! I ordered the most fragrant, delicate Cornish chicken pie I had ever tasted. The light, flaky crust gave way to an irresistible combination of chicken, leeks, mushrooms and tarragon—with cream used sparingly, creating a golden-brown sauce as opposed to the usual thick white bed of a traditional chicken pie. I can’t way to fly across the pond and taste it again. 10 Columbus Cir., 3rd fl., at W. 58th St., 347.682.2100
My favorite meal of 2018 was the same as my favorite meal of 2017 and the year before that and so on down through the decades. Joe Allen, the Theater District mainstay (above), is my go-to restaurant, and I don’t need a special occasion, birthday or anniversary to drop by three, four or more times every 12 months (2019 included). I don’t even need to consult the menu or listen to the congenial waiter recite the specials of the day. I always order a crisp, lightly seasoned Caesar salad for Act 1; super-thin, fork-tender calf’s liver topped with translucent sautéed onions and done-to-a-turn strips of bacon and sided with spinach and mashed potatoes (of course) for Act 2; and crunchy chocolate chip cookies and creamy vanilla ice cream for the finale. Eschewing trends and fads, Joe Allen’s consistently well-prepared and satisfying food suits my retro American palate time and time again. The exposed brick walls in the casual space—where white cloths are on the tables, but no one stands on ceremony—are famously hung with posters of shows that have flopped on Broadway. But Joe Allen is no Broadway failure: It’s been on W. 46th St. since 1965. 326 W. 46th St., btw Eighth & Ninth aves., 212.581.6464
I eat at a lot of restaurants. So, it took me two days of salivating through memories of 12 months’ worth of meals to decide on the most memorable, and I landed in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, at Evelina. It was February 2018, when I sat down at the granite countertop bar. The restaurant’s barkeep and manager, Gianni Andreini, poured me a dry London gin cocktail called the Rosalind, made with cucumber, pressed lime and sesame oil, and infused with Thai basil (above). Andreini whipped up a few more excellent drinks for me to sample, all of which, like the Rosalind, were named after female characters in Shakespearean plays. But what excited me most, course after course, was the subtle use of unconventional ingredients in Executive Chef Lanfranco Paliotti’s (of Ascoli Piceno, Italy) down-home, light Central Italian fare. This man knows texture. Burrata is served with sunchoke chips and braised artichokes, and then juiced with lemon. House-made squid-ink spaghetti is served with Manila clams, tomato and, get this, small pieces of sea urchin. The urchin provides this fine, silky pasta a complementing roughness in texture. Even Paliotti’s luxe take on steak tartare offered cause for extra attention: The dish is topped with black truffle and foie gras. To say that NYC is chock-full of Italian restaurants is an understatement, but despite that, Evelina stands out. Brooklyn is lucky to have it. 211 Dekalb Ave., at Adelphi St., Fort Greene, Brooklyn, 929.298.0209
Filipino-Thai may not be the first style of cuisine you think of when you’re looking for brunch, but it should be. On the Lower East Side, former “Top Chef” contestant Leah Cohen’s pork-themed restaurant, Pig and Khao, is serving “bacon and eggs” of a different kind. Reminiscent of a hipster Brooklynite hangout, the unassuming narrow little storefront room is fitted with communal tables, a small open kitchen and a variety of evocative tchotchkes (Thai urns, a carved-wood dragon). My favorite dish is the “secret” brunch menu item, kaya toast (above). This heavily buttered brioche sandwich is filled with sweet kaya jam (made with coconut milk, pandan, sugar and eggs) and accompanied by two poached eggs in a bowl of soy sauce. Break the egg yolk with the coconut jam sandwich and brace yourself for the craziest foodgasm: The creamy, salty-sweet combo is out of this world. Another winner is the sizzling sisig—a pork head, chili and whole egg dish that comes with jasmine rice. There are conventional items on the menu, like steak and eggs and French toast, but I don’t go there for that. I visit Pig and Khao for its creative homage and exploration of South Asian flavors—and so should you. 68 Clinton St., btw Rivington & Stanton sts., 212.920.4485