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 reason, these are the 12 hottest restaurants in New York right now.
1. Llama San (Last week: 5)
In Greenwich Village, chef Erik Ramirez (of Llama Inn fame) is combining Japanese and Peruvian influences into a cuisine that is inspired by the latter country’s Nikkei cooking, but is also entirely his own. That means pork-shoulder tonkatsu with udon noodles and “Peruvian pesto,” or chicken that’s wrapped in sushi rice, torched, and served with olive tapenade. Not only does it sound good, but it also sounds like something new.
2. Win Son Bakery (1)
Williamsburg has a new Taiwanese bakery that arrives care of the people behind the very excellent Win Son. You’ll find pineapple buns made with laminated dough, doughnuts, egg tarts, and a very handsome burger.
3. Red Hook Tavern (2)
Down on Van Brunt Street, the burger is the thing to order, and it’s easy to see why. But there are sleeper hits that you will want to investigate, too, like ham-and-cheddar croquettes, a killer wedge salad (draped with a single slice of bacon), and a roasted half chicken — really! — with mashed potatoes and gravy that is going to look better and better as the weather cools off.
4. The Jones (4)
Tons of fresh seafood, lots of seasonal veg, a revamped Filet-O-Fish: There is much to like about Gabriel Stulman’s thoughtful revamp of Great Jones Cafe, where you can stroll in pretty much anytime you want during the day.
5. Gotham Bar and Grill (3)
Victoria Blamey is now in the kitchen at this downtown stalwart and her new menu has much to like, such as a ceviche of scallops in leche de tigre spiked with corn, tender lamb collar (with thin shavings of pickled tongue on the side for good measure), pickled oysters topped with a bit of caviar, and — for the old regulars — some very nice steak-frites.
6. Rezdôra (7)
Even our own Adam Platt found himself won over by chef Stefano Secchi’s Flatiron Italian spot, and perhaps surprisingly, it wasn’t the pasta that (necessarily) did it, but instead “the knuckle-size fried-dough gnocco fritto … platters of soft white cheeses (burrata, mozzarella, stracciatella) plated with different kinds of Greenmarket bounty … wobbly veal cheeks poured with onion sauce, portions of rabbit cooked in various enticing ways (braised and in sausage form with some veal sweetbreads thrown in), and a flowery-sounding steak dish” that is so good Platty had to beg his daughter for a bite.
7. Babs (9)
Here is something Grub Street has noticed at more than a few restaurants lately, this new Macdougal Street spot being one of them: There is a distinct dinner-party vibe, like the whole thing is meant to feel effortless, relaxed, comfortable, and not too fancy, but also polished enough that you realize the people cooking the food aren’t just winging it. The overall effect is like living in Alison Roman’s Instagram feed, basically, and it’s a very welcome development.
8. LaLou (6)
Here, perhaps, is another example of the dinner-party-restaurant phenomenon in action: Joe Campanale’s Brooklyn spot is breezy and friendly, the wines are odd but lovely, and the menu from chef Ashley Rath is easygoing in all the best ways. (Once you try her fried olives, you will not want to start another meal, anywhere, without them.)
9. Mission Ceviche (Off last week)
Times critic Pete Wells heads to the Upper East Side in this week’s review, and he finds that chef José Luis Chávez has done a notably admirable job of translating his ceviche-focused fast-casual counters into a full-service restaurant. On the menu, Wells writes, “there is nothing to avoid,” but you’ll still be well-served to focus your attention on the ceviche-bar section.
10. Golden Diner (Off last week)
Chef Sam Yoo’s very fun Chinatown diner has officially made the leap to evening hours and, with it, Yoo has unveiled a dinner menu that continues to update and revise diner classics in all sorts of attention-grabbing, delicious-sounding ways. You’ll find a potato-chip-topped tuna melt, a burger deluxe slathered with mushroom-gochujang sauce, and — because this is still a diner — egg sandwiches and honey-butter pancakes available all day long.
11. Esca (Off last week)
Dave Pasternack’s midtown seafood spot is open once again, with a fresh coat of paint and minus the involvement of one partner in particular. Also, there is an addition to the menu called “seafood charcuterie” and, considering Esca is the restaurant that helped turn crudo into a citywide phenomenon, the new platter of cured seafood very much has Grub Street’s attention.
12. Red Paper Clip (10)
Grub is keeping an eye on this little Village spot, mostly because the chefs Kevin Chen and Tashi Gyamtso turn out dishes — egg-yolk custard sandwiched between “everything brioche” and topped with all sorts of trout; a trio of lobster — that you just don’t see every day. The menu is now a five-course tasting that clocks in at a relatively reasonable $95, so perhaps you have a new date spot to check out this fall.