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. Jams (Last week: 1)
Jonathan Waxman’s ’80s classic is back, sort of. More than anything, it’s just a new midtown restaurant that seems to combine the best parts of the original Jams (red-pepper pancakes with caviar: check) and Barbuto (gnocchi: check). Go right now, before the crowds rush back into town.
2. Babu Ji (5)
Count Adam Platt among the (many) admirers of this Avenue B Indian spot. He gives the place two stars: “One hearty star for the cheerful vibe and another for Singh’s elegant home-style cooking.”
4. Seamore’s (4)
Perhaps when autumn comes along, and the first chill hits the air, everyone won’t flock to Michael Chernow’s latest project, which recreates an airy, beach-shack vibe and serves local, sustainable seafood. Perhaps. More likely, though, this spot’s popularity will continue on for quite some time.
5. Vaucluse (New this week)
Up on East 63rd Street, Michael White’s going all-in on French food at this brand-spanking-new spot. Will the crowds turn out for zucchini tarts and lobster with truffled potatoes the way they did for lardo-and-uni crostini and octopus fusilli at Marea so many years ago? Time will tell, but for the moment, anyway, this is already one of fall’s biggest restaurant openings.
6. Bruno (6)
It seems there’s some very good new pizza 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. Of course, there’s more than just pizza to get you excited, too.
7. B&H (3)
The East Village staple is finally open again after five months of closure and bureaucratic red tape — people have turned out in impressive numbers to support the spot, and you should, too.
8. La Pecora Bianca (7)
Claudette’s Mark Barak has a new Italian spot in Flatiron, with chef Simone Bonelli turning out dishes that look to be a step or two above the typically breezy Italian food you might expect. As everyone’s summer vacations wind down, this could be one to watch.
9. Inday (New this week)
Don’t call it the Chipotle of Indian food. Instead, think of this new Phil Suarez-backed Flatiron project as a casual place informed by the sensibilities of Calcutta and California, alike. Founder Basu Ratnam, after all, is quick to draw comparisons to Dimes.
10. Dirt Candy (Off last week)
The word since Dirt Candy opened in a larger location about seven months ago is that the charming vibe of the original may have been lost a bit in the move to posher digs. Yet this week Platt finds enough to like about the food — very important, of course — to award it a star for “the best of the neo-veggie comfort-food cooking.”
11. Sessanta (13)
John McDonald’s months-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, very-late summer evening. If you go, make sure to try the manteca — cheese-wrapped butter you spread all over grilled toast.
12. Drexler’s (New this week)
There’s a new cocktail-and-charcuterie spot in the East Village. It doesn’t look like they’re breaking any new ground, but it nevertheless could become a good neighborhood go-to.
13. Russ & Daughters Café (Off last week)
Now you know: This will be the year of the bagel. There are a bunch of great-sounding bagel shops on the horizon, including a new spot from Russ & Daughters’ Niki Russ Federman and Josh Russ Tupper. And yet: To get a jump on the action, you can always just head to the iconic appetizing store’s popular LES restaurant.
14. The Clocktower (Off last week)
Times critic Pete Wells seems to generally like the new hotel restaurant from Stephen Starr and international chef-on-the-move Jason Atherton (already working on new projects in Dubai and Sydney), especially much of the “festive and generous” food.
15. Grand Banks (Off last week)
To reiterate: Labor Day is fast approaching, so — like a beach house that will soon be closed for the season — this is the time to squeeze in as many visits as you can to this super summery bar-on-a-boat. Get to it.
16. Dominique Ansel Kitchen (Off last week)
And when you’re done with the summery drinks, head to Dominique Ansel’s Greenwich Village spot, where the new fall menu features things like pig-shaped apple muffins with lardo; baked-to-order French flatbreads with caramelized onions, olives, and anchovies; and a really killer fig-and-ricotta tart.
17. Gabriel Kreuther (Off last week)
The stakes are high at this luxe new midtown spot: In fact, if you listen to the early word, the restaurant may very well represent fine-dining’s last stand in New York. After some early hiccups, it sounds like Kreuther and his team have ironed things out. (The Post’s Steve Cuozzo certainly thinks so.) Now the question is whether there’s still a place for white-tablecloth dining in New York’s restaurant scene.
18. Houseman (18)
Ned Baldwin, who spent some time working at Prune, has opened this neighborhood spot near Tribeca. Word is starting to spread that he’s done well to make a similarly approachable, low-key spot, so if you’re in the area, stop in and order a bowl of pickled bluefish.
19. O Ya (16)
This Boston import has been turning out high-end sushi since June, and reports back indicate it’s very solid. The reviews should start coming in soon, which could go a long way toward putting this place on the map for Manhattan’s many sushi fiends.
20. Tempura Matsui (20)
Masao Matsui has departed his namesake tempura tasting room, reportedly owing to a “personal issue,” so the kitchen is now being run by Shin Kato, who has worked with Matsui for two decades. That might not be a big deal, but Bloomberg’s Tejal Rao this week writes that the place is pleasant enough, but consistency is still an issue in the early-going transition.