This is actually the final Power Rankings for 2014, which history will no doubt remember as a truly fantastic year for restaurant openings. But we’ll save the year-end wrap-up stuff for later, and instead use this week’s edition to do what we always do: feature spots both new and old ranked according to one important, ever-fluctuating (and admittedly subjective) metric: Who has the most buzz? Perhaps a famed chef has taken over the kitchen, or there’s a new dish you absolutely must order. Maybe the restaurant is just brand-new, or the critics are raving about it. Whatever the reasons, these are the hottest restaurants in New York right now.
1. Shuko (Last week: 4)
if you have the kind of job that includes a holiday bonus, there are worse ways to spend it than on the $175 kaiseki currently being turned out at this brand-new 12th Street spot from the guys originally behind Neta. Just look at all the delicacies that await. (Slightly lower rollers can also opt for a $135 sushi tasting.)
2. Mu Ramen (2)
Good news for noodle freaks looking to head out to this Long Island City hit, but fear they may encounter a multi-hour wait at the door: Starting at 3 p.m. each day, the restaurant will take reservations for that very night (the number is 917-868-8903). Now there is one fewer barrier between you and the city’s most-hyped new ramen.
3. Momofuku Ko (1)
David Chang’s team has opened the doors to Ko 2.0, and it’s quite the stunner. As you might expect, those online reservations can be as hard to come by as ever, but, based on an early meal, Grub can say the restaurant is a very satisfying evolution of the Ko concept.
4. Little Park (5)
Andrew Carmellini & Co. hit the ground running with their new vegetable-centric spot in Tribeca (and its accompanying cocktail lounge, Evening Bar). As you might expect from one of Carmellini’s menus, all of the composed dishes are well executed, especially a crimson risotto infused with beets and a more or less perfect duck-breast entrée. You’ll want to get cinnamon-toast ice cream for dessert, too.
5. Via Carota (3)
This new Grove Street Italian-y spot from Jody Williams and Rita Sodi is a fine place to drop in for a few bites and a drink — just what you’d expect from the owners of Buvette and I Sodi, and just the kind of restaurant plenty of people wish were on their block.
6. Cosme (9)
Enrique Olvera’s much-anticipated upscale Mexican restaurant officially opened its doors last month — and seats are as in demand as you might expect. But now — ta-da — you can enjoy the entire menu at the bar (as opposed to the snacks-only option previously offered).
7. Dirty French (10)
Times critic Pete Wells finds much to like at the Torrisi trio’s “cocky” French spot, giving it two stars while in the process pointing out that the kitchen’s mushroom mille-feuille with Thai curry is one of 2014’s truly great dishes.
8. Upland (8)
A recent Grub Street spot-check revealed the oversize dining room to be completely full, with chef Justin Smillie’s famous short ribs on nearly every table. (And a solid $29 white-truffle pizza on almost as many.) But the real action is in the menu’s veggie section, including some stellar shaved beets with kumquats and an absolutely stunning whole-fried maitaike mushroom, which — as it happens — makes an excellent side dish to those short ribs.
9. Semilla (13)
The early word on the veggie-focused full-blown brick-and-mortar tasting counter that began life as the Chez José pop-up is that its nightly $75 set menu is extremely impressive. While it’s a bit early for the city’s critics to weigh in officially, it’s a safe bet that you’ll be hearing a lot about this spot in 2015.
10. Brodo/Hearth (16)
The idea of an all-broth takeout window is one of those things that’s so simple (and lovely) that you just wonder why nobody thought of it before. No matter, really, since Marco Canora made it a reality at the exact moment when the world went through a full-on broth renaissance. Now is the time to go grab a warm cup of Canora’s brodo
11. Kang Ho Dong Baekjeong (11)
The Koreatown outpost of this Korean barbecue chain is now open, and people are very excited about it. The spot stays open until 6 a.m. on weekends, which is no doubt good news to people who know this kind of food tends to taste better after midnight (and a few too many beers).
12. Aldo Sohm Wine Bar (Off last week)
The Le Bernardin spinoff snags two positive reviews this month, one from Bloomberg’s Tejal Rao, and the other from Eater’s Ryan Sutton. Both agree that it’s a pleasant enough stop for a few bites and some nice wine — the kind of place midtown could probably use more of.
15. Marta (6)
Speaking of Shake Shack, even as Danny Meyer’s burger chain continues to multiply across this great land of ours, his excellent pizza place proves he hasn’t completely taken his eye off the world of full-service restaurants. In fact, it’s not difficult to imagine Martas expanding around America, too. Who wouldn’t want a place specializing in friendly service, crispy-crusted pies, and fine wood-grilled entrees, nearby?
16. August (12)
The well-liked Bleecker Street spot, which fell victim earlier this year to rising rents, is now open again — on the Upper East Side. If you were a fan of the original, and don’t mind a trip north of 59th Street, by all means stop in and see what chef Josh Eden is up to.
17. Eli’s Table (New this week)
More action on the Upper East Side: Eli Zabar has turned the Third Avenue location that housed Taste into this spot that will procure many of its ingredients from Zabar’s markets to turn out dishes like wild swordfish with braised artichokes or scallops meunière. It’s hard to imagine an idea that feels like a better fit for the neighborhood.
18. Bowery Meat Company (14)
It isn’t surprising that chef Josh Capon’s burger is a must-order at his new steakhouse (he also runs a burger restaurant, after all), but it’s still worth mentioning because the just-funky-enough, raclette-topped version served at BMC really is a paragon of the form. Also: You’re going to want some duck lasagna.
19. Almanac (15)
Are you ready for a “micro-seasonal” restaurant? That’s the theme of the large tasting room that chef Galen Zamarra has opened in the Seventh Avenue space that formerly housed the awkwardly named Mas (la grillade). If anything, the food looks suitably exacting, and we’ve seen that New York diners are open to the idea of pulchritudinous dining.
20. Vic’s (7)
The Underground Gourmet’s recent four-star take on this redo of the Five Points space is bordering on rave territory: They love the crowd, the neighborly vibe, and chef Hilary Sterling’s “big, bold, and brightly acidic” food.