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. Red Hook Tavern (Last week: 3)
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.
2. Llama San (1)
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.
3. Canal Street Oysters (New this week)
You have to give credit to a spot with a name that tells you exactly what to expect. On the corner of Canal and West Broadway, the team behind the East Pole has set up a very handsome — and, based on the crowd yesterday, quite busy — oyster bar. On the menu, raw-bar favorites are supplemented with cooked dishes like smoked bluefish dip, clam chowder, bread with seaweed butter, and some very nice-sounding salt cod that’s been transformed into urbane fish sticks.
4. The Jones (4)
Plenty of 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. Il Fiorista (New this week)
This new Nomad spot just sounds lovely in every possible way. There are flowers aplenty. There’s a bright, airy vibe. There’s the menu, which features things like duck-egg pasta with beets, calamari with oranges and fennel, artichoke with preserved lemon, and a very nice-sounding corn tart. There is also the extremely charming story of the couple who built this, their dream restaurant.
6. Win Son Bakery (2)
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.
7. Hutong (Off last week)
What does New York Times critic Pete Wells think of this midtown Hong Kong import? Well, although the menu’s dim sum section is small, “you would do well to make it a large portion of what you order, because only one or two other restaurants in town can plausibly claim to make dim sum that rivals Hutong’s.” Get to it.
8. Caffè Panna (New this week)
Yes, there is a new ice-cream shop in town, this one in Gramercy. It arrives courtesy of Hallie Meyer. (If that last name looks familiar, perhaps it is because you have heard of her father, Danny.) The deal here is that it’s vaguely Italian, everything gets topped with scoops of freshly whipped cream, and there are affogato sundaes, which are two words that definitely look good together.
9. Kopitiam (Off last week)
If you still have not been to this very good, very popular Malaysian breakfast spot, you should know that the crowds are probably only going to get bigger (and will likely include more tourists) now that the spot has been named one of the ten best new restaurants in the entire country by the fine folks over at Bon Appétit.)
10. Gem (Off last week)
After what sounds like a much-needed summer break, Flynn McGarry is back in town, with a new menu at his Lower East Side spot. Expect things to be a little simpler, a little more laid-back, and a little more Mediterranean.
11. Gotham Bar and Grill (5)
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 nice steak-frites.
12. Cathédrale (New This Week)
”Tao, but make it French.” The clubstaurant genre is alive and well, and if anyone can apply the formula to Gallic food, it’s the people who run the end-all, be-all of this breed. There will be steaks and caviar-topped omelettes and — no doubt — plenty of Champagne.