By now, you’ve read Adam Platt’s opus on Where to Eat in 2017, as well as checked out his list of the best new restaurants of 2016. It was, by all accounts, a terrific year for eating in New York, with dozens of impressive, polished spots opening more or less ready-to-go, turning out ambitious, interesting dishes that won’t soon be forgotten.
In fact, looking back on the year, the food experts at New York and Grub Street were hard-pressed to come up with a short list of favorites, if only because there was so much to choose from. In the end, though, everyone was able to (reluctantly) narrow it down to a single dish — either from a new restaurant, or a new idea from an old favorite — that was their choice for the best thing they ate in 2016.
Agnolotti, saffron, dried tomato, honey, Lilia
This is the kind of pasta you wish was served in red-sauce portions, a heaping bowl big enough to feed an army. The pasta is filled with a delicate combination of feta and ricotta. The sauce is laced with a bit of saffron and honey. The whole thing is brightened even further with chilies and bits of dried tomato. Every ingredient makes the others better, so even if the bowl isn’t enormous, every single element within has been perfectly considered — which is a completely fair trade-off. —Chris Crowley
Walking Huevos Estrellados, El Quinto Pino
When you think of the great portable foods of New York, you think of pretzels, hot dogs, and falafel sandwiches. You think Xinjiang lamb skewers and slice-joint slices folded in half for ease of shoveling into one’s mouth. I’d like to add to this illustrious list Spanish fried eggs and chorizo snipped with scissors and stuffed into potato-chip bags. That is more or less the recipe for the weekends-only, Frito-pie-inspired, Walking Huevos Estrellados that El Quinto Pino introduced last spring. On paper it sounds like a mess, but the flavors and aromas are only enhanced by the Shake ‘n Bake treatment. The runny eggs hold everything together while the slightly crushed chips remain improbably crisp. It’s a takeout dish designed to be eaten al fresco with a plastic fork straight from the bag, and a surprisingly neat and efficient way to get your brunch on while dodging the gangs of tourists who totter along the nearby High Line. —Rob Patronite
“Tout Le Lapin,” Le Coucou
Each of these three rabbit variations (with mustard, a roulade, and in a rich stockpot) is better than your average chicken-tasting rabbit dish in town, but the fact that you get all of them in one neat $36 package makes Daniel Rose’s great bistro creation a dish for the ages. —Adam Platt
Potato and Fontina Pasty, White Gold Butchers
I picked White Gold’s potato pasty as my dish of the year not because April Bloomfield enriches her Yukon Golds with molten Fontina, or because she seasons these spuds with thyme, bay leaf, and onions cooked supersoft, or because she encases the mixture in laminated dough as rich and buttery as a Parisian croissant. My favorite thing about this refined riff on the Cornish workingman’s lunch is its spiritual resemblance to another iconic potato pastry, the New York knish. And while Bloomfield’s pasty evokes memories of old-school delicatessens and bygone street carts, it tastes way better than any other potato pocket past or present. Get it with a side of mustard. —Robin Raisfeld
l’Ile Flottante, Le Coq Rico
Floating islands are as venerable as desserts get, a throwback in every way, so it’s been interesting to see the dish reappear on restaurant menus all over town. (I just had a nice modernist version at Italienne the other night, actually.) But nothing grabbed me the way Matthieu Simon’s version did. Honestly, pictures don’t do it justice because the single orb of meringue is the size of a softball. There’s some torched sugar on top, and a thick puddle of pastry cream. I’m not even a dessert guy, but the presentation and perfect technique impressed me immediately, and has stuck with me all year. —Alan Sytsma
Steamed Chocolate Cake, Té Company
I go to Té Company so often that Frederico Ribeiro, the co-owner, is attuned to my moods. One day, when I looked a bit stressed, he placed a slice of this stunning cake in front of me without a word. The recipe belongs to Ribeiro’s mother, who serves it in her restaurant in Portugal. It actually has the power to make any worries immediately disappear. The cake is steamed instead of baked, and has no flour at all: just bittersweet Valrhona chocolate, butter, and a touch of coconut oil. On top, a cloud of whipped cream that’s laced with mascarpone, lending it a similar texture to the cake, making it all harmonious. Ribeiro changes his menu daily, so if you see it, order it. —Sierra Tishgart