The Best New Restaurants in New York, as Chosen by Top Chefs
(Bloomberg) -- It’s been a year and a half since almost anyone in the New York area asked: “What’s your favorite new restaurant?” Almost every dining room had to scramble to stay alive, creating takeout menus and to-go cocktails and building outdoor dining structures that ranged from DIY charming to yurt villages that could double as glamping destinations.
Still, in the past seven months chefs and restaurateurs around the city have taken advantage of low retail rents and brushed off plans they had made before the pandemic or formulated during it. From January to July, 1,162 restaurants opened, according to data from Yelp. And figures from the city health department show 1,713 new restaurant permit applications from Jan. 1 through July 2, although the number includes renewals for existing restaurants.
Either way, that’s a lot. And one category of patrons has been checking out the latest and greatest: chefs.
We asked 14 of them from around the New York area to shout out favorite places that have opened since the beginning of the year. That includes a power steakhouse in the downtown financial district that dares to top mozzarella sticks with caviar, a Peruvian wine bar in Harlem, and the reincarnation of Eleven Madison Park as a plant-based restaurant.
Tucked into the Essex Market food hall downtown, the vibrant Dhamaka specializes in Indian street food in a way simply not seen before in New York. “Chef Chintan Pandya digs deeper into the diverse repertoire of Indian cuisine that makes it hard not to order everything, if you’re adventurous like me,” says chef Anita Lo. “There are no duds on this menu—each dish is insanely complex yet not overburdened.” Even a dining companion who was averse to organ meats loved the gurda kapoora, a dish of goat kidneys and testicles. “Dhamaka has enlarged the culinary landscape of New York City,” Lo adds. “No small feat.”
Don Angie’s Scott Tacinelli picks it, too. “The atmosphere is lively and fun, thanks to the colorful decor and incorporation of elements like super-flavorful biryani presented in clay pots under a layer of thin, crispy bread,” he says. “The spices are so masterfully handled that, halfway through your meal, you will realize you’re on your third ice cold beer to wash it down.” Recommended by Anita Lo, culinary host, Tour De Forks; Scott Tacinelli, chef and owner, Don Angie
“Walking into Aldama in Williamsburg immediately brought me back to a pre-pandemic trip to Mexico City. So did the food,” says Hillary Sterling, executive chef at Ci Siamo, the upcoming Italian restaurant from Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group. Aldama is the brainchild of Christopher Reyes and Gerardo Alcaraz, who cooked at the Michelin three-star Martín Berasategui in Spain; it has a high-octane vibe with a DJ and late hours.
Tortillas are crafted from corn that’s milled on the spot. “Thinly sliced carne cecina and pork belly tacos were two highlights,” Sterling says, “and perfect alongside a mezcal Paloma with Topo Chico mineral water and guacamole with tostadas. If I lived a few blocks closer, I’d be here every night.” Recommended by Hillary Sterling, executive chef at upcoming Ci Siamo and formerly chef at Vic’s
Chef Jae Jung specializes in the unconventional mash-up of flavors from her native Korea and New Orleans, where she lived, celebrated (Mardi Gras, the Super Bowl), and cooked (Dooky Chase; Herbsaint) for years. At her East Village space, which is expanding from takeout only to ticketed dinners, specialties include kimchi jambalaya and a galbi po-boy, stacked with Cajun-spiced glazed brisket with green tomato kimchi and melted provolone in New Orleans-style French bread.
“The combination of Korean and Cajun flavors works incredibly well together,” says Lauren DeSteno, chef at Marea. “I love them both on their own, but the inclusion of both is really delicious. The dashi in the shrimp and grits, for example, makes the dish next-level.”
Recommended by Lauren DeSteno, chef at Marea
The Upper West Side isn’t known for destination restaurants. But the new Israeli spot Dagon brings high energy to the neighborhood, as well as superior dishes, whether you prefer the buttery, pull-apart roll kubaneh, the chicken liver mousse with date syrup, or the dry-aged beef kebabs.
“Between the upbeat Israeli and pop music and menu choices, it feels like a night out in Tel Aviv,” observes Franklin Becker, owner of the uptown food hall Manhattanville Market. “The restaurant encourages people to do what they have not been able to do in over a year—dig into comforting mezze options and break bread with their hands. I love the Tunisian Cigars—the mixture of ground lamb with potato and crunchy phyllo shell."
Recommended by Franklin Becker, owner Manhattanville Market
The newest spot from Andrew Carmellini, whose restaurant empire includes Locanda Verde and the Dutch, is a grand Italian chophouse. “Dining at Carne Mare is a transportive and nostalgic experience. It evokes a feeling of opulence,” says Ayesha Nurdjaja, chef partner at Shukette. “Even though I don’t smoke, walking into the room, I felt that I should be wearing opera-length white gloves and dangling a cigarette from a long carved bone holder.”
She recommends ordering a martini and getting ready for a serious meal. “Dinner is a feast: oysters, pillowy, soft rolls, and a 36-ounce, dry-aged tomahawk steak that was cooked to perfection, with ‘buco style’ market carrots.” But, she says the cleverness of the restaurant is best summed up by her favorite dish. “The mozzarella sticks and caviar, which proves that, despite its undeniable sophistication, Carne Mare doesn’t take itself too seriously.” Recommended by Ayesha Nurdjaja, chef-partner Shukette
This terrific Vietnamese restaurant is set amid warehouses in Brooklyn’s Bushwick neighborhood, which makes the bucolic dining area in the back—outfitted with a coi pond—feel surreal. “A reinterpretation of a neighborhood gem. Chef Eric Tran pays homage to his culture. His menu is bold and creative and caters to all,” says David Shim, chef at Cote Korean Steakhouse.
“The confit duck neck is crazy good. It might be intimidating, but just order. It requires your fingers to get messy, but it is so worth it.” Tran also offers a dynamite green curry packed with vegetables from the farmer’s market, and Dad’s Fried Rice, studded with Chinese sausage and Vietnamese mortadella. The $45 four-course tasting menu is a terrific deal, Shim adds. Recommended by David Shim, chef at Cote Korean Steakhouse
The Chinese-Korean hybrid near the Empire State Building in Koreatown was created by three talented pastry chefs and restaurant professionals: Jiho Kim, Kelly Nam, and Sarah Kang. They offer a pair of bold tasting menus with dishes such as truffle Kung Pao chicken with peanut sable.
“I can always appreciate when a chef brings food memories into a dish, and it literally takes you back to special times,” says Chris Scott, chef at Butterfunk Biscuit Co. “I especially enjoy their approach to certain ingredients that you wouldn’t find in most restaurants. For example, they have a lovely dessert of banana bread, malt, and horchata ice cream that has hints of flavors found in my mother-in-law’s kitchen.”
Recommended by Chris Scott, chef and co-founder Butterfunk Biscuit Co.
Even in New York’s crowded field of Middle Eastern dining rooms, Shukette is captivating. The restaurant is helmed by Ayesha Nurdjaja, who stands behind the curved shape counter, threading coal-roasted steak onto skewers with grilled peaches and the herb sauce, chermoula. Her seared whole fish in a grilling cage with squash and shishitos is one of the best presentations in town.
“She’s cooking with such a personal point of view. It’s got such fun vibes and great flavors,” says Missy Robbins, chef and owner of Lilia. The energy in the restaurant is “unmatched,” she adds. “Her dishes are rooted in years of travel and research but delivered with a unique twist.”
Recommended by Missy Robbins, chef and owner Lilia
Okay, so it’s not technically “new,” but after shutting for the pandemic, the world’s former top-ranked dining room reopened with a much-hyped vegan menu. Daniel Humm’s 11-plus course, $335 menu features such presentations as caviar-styled tonburi seeds with peas and grilled tofu layered with myriad preparations of squash.
Eric Ripert, chef and owner of Le Bernardin, doesn’t want to pick a favorite dish. “It is difficult to focus on just one specific course, because the menu is meant to be an experience. From beginning to end, everything we ate was delicious, delicate, and harmonious, with a lot of complexity.”
Recommended by: Eric Ripert, chef-owner Le Bernardin
On the ground floor of a Midtown office building, the prolific chef and restaurateur John Fraser offers a long menu of dishes devoted to the Mediterranean. “It’s so great,” says frequent Chopped judge Amanda Freitag, listing her favorite dishes as the diver scallop crudo, the octopus, and the quail skewer.
“The desserts—we had all of them—were yummy; our server was a pro. I’m such a fan of John’s cooking.” The wine list is oriented toward the Mediterranean as well, with bottles from Santorini, and the cocktail list includes such options as the Greek Negroni, made with the country’s amaro, and a Manhattan flavored with urfa peppers. Recommended by Amanda Freitag, judge, Chopped
This new Harlem spot is many things: a wine bar with a terrific list from beverage experts Yannick Benjamin and Mara Rudzinski; a Peruvian dining experience with dishes from Oscar Lorenzzi; and one of the most accessible restaurants in town, designed with consideration for people with disabilities. The bar, for instance, has a section low enough that people in wheelchairs can be eye level with bartenders.
Chef Diego Muñoz, chef of Popular at the Public hotel, applauds the flavorful renditions of many of Peru’s classic dishes. He name checks the deviled eggs with ají amarillo, Nikkei kurobuta (pork katsu), and ceviche clásico that includes corn and leche de tigre. “There are also great cocktails, like their PPP (pisco pineapple punch), and a very interesting wine list. ¡Qué viva el Perú! [Long live Peru!]” Recommended by: Diego Muñoz, chef at Popular at the Public Hotel
In Ridgewood, Queens, a team of former Gramercy Tavern staff members focuses on food cooked over fire. Their ex-colleague, Mike Anthony, chef at Gramercy Tavern, is a big, if biased, fan of the corner space, which has a family style-oriented menu that is focused on the wood-fired oven, such as a polenta bread starter and half-chicken served with mayo and chili relish.
“The refreshing fluke and watermelon ceviche, crushed cucumber salad, and salt and pepper head-on shrimp are just how I like to get things started,” says Anthony. “Carefully seasoned cavatelli with corn, lemon, and pecorino and ‘two sheet lasagna’—stuffed with swiss chard and provolone—is as good as it gets.” Recommended by Michael Anthony, chef at Gramercy Tavern
From a tiny, brick-walled space on East 7th Street that will soon be expanding next door, chef Shenarri Freeman serves a short, sharp menu of vegan riffs on Southern specialties. That includes potato salad, pancakes made from black-eyed peas and seasonal fruit cobbler. (The wine list is also tightly focused, offering bottles from Black vintners.)
Chef Kwame Williams, an alumnus of the Ryland Inn in Whitehouse Station, N.J., praises the buffalo oyster mushroom sandwich; the shrooms are fried crisp and topped with ranch dressing and avocado. But the Southern fried lasagna, with Beyond Meat Bolognese and nut ricotta filling, is his favorite. “When I first saw the lasagna on the menu, I side-eyed it and said, ‘Really?’ Then I tasted it and thought, ‘Oh, OK.’ The texture, the flavors—this is amazing.” Recommended by Kwame Williams, private chef
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