Best New Restaurants of 2016 and the Top Dishes of 2016

2016 was the year of Pasquale Jones. This restaurant makes delicious, accessible food at a reasonable price point (gratuity included!) in a great downtown location. I bring friends here repeatedly so that they can try the clam pie and the pork shank, which are two of Pasquale’s outstanding signature dishes, and no one has ever been let down. The same applies to myself. I’ve been back multiple times because the food is always good.

2016 was also a great year for poke bowls. There’s been an explosion of poke restaurants in the city, and my favorite one is Chikarashi in Chinatown. Indian food is also having a great year with the openings of places like Paowalla, Pondicheri and Indian Accent. So are sexy French restaurants, which are dishing up luscious meats and seafood in all sorts of creamy, buttery sauces in the prettiest of places. Brooklyn shows no signs of slowing down, New Nordic is still a thing, and you can never have too many new sushi restaurants. 2016 for me was also noteworthy for a lot of new overhyped restaurants I didn’t quite understand–Lilia, Llama Inn and Superiority Burger come to mind–but the ones that lived up to expectations really stuck. Here’s my list of the best new eateries that I think will have staying power.

braised leeks at Pasquale Jones

1. Pasquale Jones –  A carefully curated menu of wood-fire oven pizzas, comforting pastas and hearty mains makes Pasquale Jones a no-brainer for best new restaurant of 2016. An ideal meal here would consist of the clam pie, a seasonal sweet potato ravioli, the pork shank and the gelato to finish.

spring onion chawanmushi at Olmsted

2. Olmsted – The Brooklyn farm-to-table movement is still going strong, and Olmsted, which was opened this year by a talented alum of Alinea and Blue Hill, executes this better than the rest. The carrot crepe is revelatory, and I would also recommend the chawanmushi, the English pea falafel and any fish dish. If the weather permits, have your dessert of chocolate mousse in the outdoor garden.

blood pancake, cherry, rose and rosehip at Aska

3. Aska – The New Nordic food movement is a global one, but New York up until this point didn’t have its own powerhouse modern Scandinavian restaurant. Fredrik Berselius’ Aska 2.0 changes all that. Any person who can make blood sausage pancakes unbelievably delicious is doing something right. The formal dining room is tasting menu only, while outside and in the bar you can order a la carte snacks.

the goma shoyu bluefin tuna poke bowl at Chikarashi

4. Chikarashi – Poke bowl shops are popping up everywhere, but only one is run by a former alum of Masa and Neta. Chef Michael Lim of Chikarashi creates bowls using sashimi-grade fish that would rival something served by the famous sushi houses. For something traditional, try the goma shoyu bluefin tuna poke bowl, but never pass up the seared bluefin toro suji if it is offered on the menu.

the charred radicchio with burrata, walnuts and currants at Freek’s Mill

5. Freek’s Mill – Gowanus has its own thoughtful and grown up farm-to-table restaurant in the form of Freek’s Mill. The focus is on vegetable driven, seasonal small plates, rounded out by pasta dishes and more substantive meat offerings. The charred radicchio with burrata is the main reason why I would go back.

quenelle de brochet at Le Coucou

6. Le Coucou – Of all the showy French bistros that opened this year, Le Coucou was the best. It’s located in a stunning space downtown on the border of Soho and Chinatown, the service is great, the atmosphere is perfect and the food is impressive. The three part tout le lapin rabbit dish is a must.

Top Dishes of 2016

I’m also including a section devoted to the top dishes I tried in 2016. This opens up more possibilities as I can pull from restaurants I visited abroad, as well as new dishes I’ve tried from old favorites or local spots that have been around but I am just getting around to.

The meat fruit from Dinner by Heston Blumenthal in London

The white beetroot with smoked eel from The Ledbury in London

The pig’s ear from Barrafina in London

The garden of the goose that laid the golden egg course from Belcanto in Lisbon, Portugal

The lobster rice at DOP in Porto, Portugal

The clam pie from Pasquale Jones in Nolita, NYC

The carrot crepe from Olmsted in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, NYC

The dry-aged and grass fed Emmy burger from Pizza Loves Emily in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn, NYC

The blood sausage pancake at Aska in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, NYC

The banana tapioca pudding dessert at The Lucky Bee in the LES, Manhattan, NYC

The tout le lapin at Le Coucou in Chinatown, NYC

The sushi portion of the kaiseki at Shuko in Union Square, NYC, especially the ocean trout from farro island

The grilled oysters at The Marshall Store in Tomales Bay, SF

The chicken khao soi noodles at Khao Soi Lam Duan Fah Ham in Chiang Mai, Thailand

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