Grub Street’s Restaurant Power Rankings: Japanese Bar Food, Great New Pizza, and More

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Welcome to Grub Street’s weekly survey of the most-talked-about, must-visit restaurants in New York City. The list below features 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. Superiority Burger (Last week: 4)
A mid-week spot check revealed lines out the door at Brooks Headley’s tiny veggie spot. Yeah, the burger itself is great, but don’t sleep on Headley’s simple desserts or another new creation, a spicy “cheesesteak” made with yuba that is extremely impressive.

2. Seamore’s (2)
Another week, another high showing for Michael Chernow’s latest project, which is quickly turning into everyone’s favorite seafood spot, thanks to its focus on sustainability and, of course, the Meatball Shop halo effect.

3. Bar Goto (New this week)
Peg Club vet Kenta Goto has opened his first stand-alone project — a bar devoted to excellent cocktails and Japanese comfort foods like okonomiyaki and (really fantastic) miso chicken wings. The tiny Eldridge Street spot has gotten pretty busy over the last few nights, so Grub’s advice is to get there early if you want to be assured of grabbing a seat.

4. El Rey Coffe Bar & Luncheonette (Off last week)
This week Pete Wells dropped a star on everyone’s favorite coffee shop turned healthy-ish dinner spot, which is yet another testament to the charm of Gerardo Gonzalez’s cooking. Worth a special callout: Gonzalez’s standout vegan chicharrones.

5. Dimes (Off last week)
Of course, no mention of breezy, vaguely healthy-ish, vegetarian-inspired food in New York would be complete without talk of Dimes, the reigning champ of the nouveau veggie movement. If El Rey is too jammed with people checking it out in light of the Times review, you could always head here instead.

6. Fuku (3)
Dave Chang’s chicken shack continues to crank out Momofuku’s take on Chick-fil-a-style sandwiches, and people continue to love them. Get yours.

7. Bruno Pizza (New this week)
It seems everyone’s new favorite pizza is being turned out at this 13th Street storefront, helmed by a duo that first made its name serving ambitious tasting menus in a tiny coffee shop. Fittingly, the pizzas also have some gonzo topping combos — Robert Sietsema seems to enjoy an assemblage of ham, peaches, parsley, and “cured green onions — so this place could be a welcome break from the city’s other pizza pie standard bearers.

8. Lupulo (1)
George Mendes’s Portuguese pub seems like the kind of place where everyone in New York wants to eat these days: A casual bar vibe; an above-par selection of beer, wine, and cocktails; and impressive-yet-comfortable food that people tend to want to eat again and again.

9. Babu Ji (7)
It seems Avenue B is the home of everyone’s favorite new Indian-by-way-of-Melbourne restaurant, where the butter chicken is great, and you can grab your own beer from the fridge. The smart move, though, is to get the chef’s table and let the kitchen send out a greatest-hits-style spread of dishes, and then, of course, the kulfi.

10. Clocktower (8)
If you’ve got some money to spend, Stephen Starr’s new hotel restaurant is the spot to do it: The menu is larded up with luxe ingredients (uni, foie, huge prime steaks, and Dover sole all appear on chef Jason Atherton’s menu) and the ambiance is all dark wood and supple leather.

11. Carbone/Santina/Parm (Off last week)
The Torrisi guys have officially won New York, last week revealing that they’ll soon be taking over the storied Four Seasons space. How is that going to play out? Who knows, but it’s probably safe to assume you’ll be able to at least get some sense of their style be visiting one of their other, always-jammed restaurants.

12. Tempura Matsui (9)
Will New Yorkers — and, let’s be honest, out-of-town tourists — really take to the idea of $200 tempura omakase experiences? Well, maybe. If it were ever going to happen, this is almost certainly the place, with Masao Matsui turning out fresh ingredients in paper-thin shells of batter.

13. The Four Horsemen (18)
Over on Bloomberg, Tejal Rao is the first big-name critic to weigh in on James Murphy’s natural-wine bar, and she likes it, writing, “Regardless of how much you know about its famous investors, it’s a wonderful place to spend the evening.”

14. Untitled (5)
The consensus opinion on the new Whitney restaurant from Michael Anthony and Danny Meyer: Much better than a museum restaurant needs to be and, in fact, just a very good restaurant in its own right, with Meyer’s famed hospitality and Anthony’s acclaimed focus on simple, seasonal preparations that make the most of sometimes-unsung ingredients.

15. El Cortez (10)
Over in Bushwick, the ever-quotable Stephen Tanner and Chris Young have opened this Mexican-ish spot where you can get nachos, taco salad, a frozen mojito, and even a boozy spin on an Orange Julius called the Orange Julio, which is worth ordering for the name alone.

16. Leyenda (11)
Down in New Orleans, Leyenda partner recently Ivy Mix took home the “American Bartender of the Year” award at the annual Tales of the Cocktail gathering — and, what luck, her Latin-leaning cocktail bar is right in Brooklyn, so everyone can head over to see what Mix is up to that garnered such acclaim.

17. Maite (13)
Here’s the Underground Gourmet on this Bushwick newcomer from chef Ella Schmidt: “nothing about the place seems phony or calculated, and the menu, limited as it is to a dozen or so dishes, manages to surprise even jaded locavores by focusing on the daily produce and inventive ways to integrate it.” (With a description like that, is it any surprise that Schmidt once cooked under Estela chef Ignacio Mattos?)

18. Sessanta (16)
John McDonald’s two-month-old coastal Italian spot in the Sixty Soho hotel has an easygoing vibe and the kind of straightforward, crowd-pleasing menu that’s just what you want on a lovely, early August evening.

19. Wildair (19)
The new, comfortable place from the Contra team gets it: Affordable bottles of relatively obscure natural wine are the stars of the show, and the short, simple food menu is full of items that complement the vino and tweak things just enough to not feel like the same old dishes you’ve had at other wine bars.

20. Houseman (20)
Ned Baldwin, who spent some time working at Prune, has opened this neighborhood spot near Tribeca, and the early word is that he’s done well to make a similarly approachable, low-key spot. If you’re in the area, check it out.

Grub Street’s Restaurant Power Rankings: Japanese Bar Food, Great New