Grub Street’s Restaurant Power Rankings: EMP Goes Casual, Wylie Dufresne Does Doughnuts, and Nur Opens in New York

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Where to eat this week. Photo: iStockphoto

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 12 hottest restaurants in New York right now.

1. Made Nice (New this week)
The Eleven Madison Park team has opened their most casual restaurant yet, which features Daniel Humm’s take on midday lunch staples. Given Humm’s skill, and renown, that means salmon rösti with frisée; a salad of hanger steak, crisp rice, and roasted broccoli; pork-shoulder confit with carrots and warm grains; and — when dinner starts next week — a roast-chicken dinner with some very good-looking fries.

2. Du’s Donuts and Coffee (New this week)
As you can likely glean from the name, this isn’t a full restaurant; it’s a doughnut shop from Wylie Dufresne. Befitting the chef’s modernist history, you may also be able to glean that the actual doughnuts have been engineered for maximum appeal, and come in flavors like Creamsicle, strawberries and cream, and — trust us on this one — a new honey-glazed version that’s finished with fennel pollen.

3. Atla (Last week: 1)
Here, we have one more nod toward a casual café model from high-minded chefs. The new spot from Daniela Soto-Innes and Enrique Olvera features plenty of very nice-sounding breakfast choices, sandwich options that are little-seen outside of New York, coffee, tea, and all sorts of other café-oriented items that should appeal to basically everyone.

4. Empellón (2)
The biggest Empellón yet is open in midtown, with a robust happy-hour crowd, a very spacious two-level dining room, and a menu that, even in the early going, feels extremely dialed in. Make sure to order multiple desserts, which are all standouts.

5. Union Square Cafe (Off last week)
Is Union Square Cafe 2.0 as charming and comfortable as the original? According to Times critic Pete Wells, very much so. He writes this week, in a three-star review, that “it has a combination of energy and well-honed familiarity that’s rare in Manhattan. It’s rare anywhere, and it lifts this restaurant above fashion, to a plateau that it occupies all by itself.”

6. Nur (New this week)
As of today, chef Meir Adoni’s first New York restaurant is open. You may not know Adoni’s name, but he’s a star in Israel, and the menu — which includes things like glazed octopus, honey-and-garlic challah, lamb with lentil ragout, and “brain fricassée” in a butter croissant — looks extremely appealing.

7. abcV (3)
Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s veggie café is open for dinner, and the wellness theme of the lunch and breakfast menus is still strong during evenings. Expect Meyer-lemon-and-curry-leaf bouillon with ramen noodles, roasted cauliflower with turmeric tahini, “ancient grain pilaf,” and a whole lot of avocados.

8. Mettā (10)
The Fort Greene restaurant — where the focus is South American–style open-fire cooking — has quickly become a hit with neighbors, thanks not only to the food, but also the warm service and bright, comfortable corner space.

9. Out East (New this week)
If you can’t swing a weekend trip to, say, Shelter Island just yet, there’s a nice-looking, new place in the East Village that will at least try to offer some East End vibes. It opens tonight with a seafood-heavy menu (fluke with plums, porgy with herbs and lobster butter, revivalist tuna tartare) and a stylish dining room.

10. Chez Ma Tante (New this week)
In Greenpoint, a new neighborhood joint has opened that looks like the kind of place where it would be very nice to become a regular. The menu includes steak tartare, some marinated mussels, and vegetable dishes like grilled asparagus with walnut pesto.

11. Little Tong (9)
Here’s the Underground Gourmet on chef Simone Tong’s new spot, where the menu, “eschews the gutbusting tonkotsu broths of the precinct’s surrounding ramen shops for the comparatively lighter, often intriguingly sour, more easily digestible soups of Yunnan province that combine soft, slick rice noodles with pickled and fermented vegetables and bushels of herbs and edible flowers.”

12. Azasu (Off last week)
If you are in the market for the very best izakaya in New York — and, really, who isn’t? — this LES shop is the place to go for “reasonably priced, deceptively simple, perfectly prepared bar snacks like takoyaki (octopus balls), deep-fried skewers, and excellent karaage fried chicken.”

This post is updated weekly.

Grub Street’s Restaurant Power Rankings