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. Torien (Last week: 2)
Have you grown weary of expensive sushi omakase experiences orchestrated by master chefs? Perhaps you’d like to, instead, try an expensive yakitori experience, orchestrated by some master chefs. At this brand-new yakitori counter in Noho, Japan’s Yoshiteru Ikegawa — a yakitori master with a Jiro-like following among the world’s culinary professionals — has lent his expertise. About $150 will get you in the door, but you’ll want to make a reservation now — as in right this very second — before word travels too far.
2. Ernesto’s (3)
The first great Instagram dish of 2020 is officially this plate of Spanish ham and homemade potato chips. The upside, of course, is that this idea seems less like a gimmick and more like an innovation that more people should adopt! And, indeed, this new Spanish spot — from chef Ryan Bartlow — is not your standard-issue tapas joint. In fact, Bartlow’s entire menu is filled with ideas and thoughtful upgrades that amplify the traditional Basque cooking.
3. Nami Nori (1)
This Greenwich Village sushi spot seems to do everything right: Incredibly fresh seafood, interesting combinations served in the form of Instagram-friendly open-ended hand rolls, and, as Platt himself recently discovered, “you can devour seven or eight dinners at this pleasant little establishment before approaching the cost of a single meal in the grand, Masa-influenced tasting parlors around town.” (Grub’s advice remains: go at lunch, when you might actually be able to secure a seat without waiting.)
4. 232 Bleecker (4)
Last month, chef Suzanne Cupps and the team behind the Dig chain opened this new neighborhood spot in Greenwich Village. There is a massive grill, and Cupps’s signature way with fresh, seasonal ingredients. There is also, temptingly, lasagna — yes, lasagna —made with Moses Sleeper cheese from Vermont’s Jasper Hill Farm. As Cupps told Grub, “We want to put fewer ingredients on the plate, but make it more interesting in the process.”
5. Nowon (6)
Chef Jae Lee sells his Instagram-famous kimchee burger at his new-ish East Village restaurant — and it is, in fact, one of the best things the Underground Gourmet ate last year — but that is only the beginning, and you will very much want to explore the menu beyond that. Chopped cheese rice cakes, honey-butter tater tots, and octopus-and-spam fried rice (with bone-marrow butter!) all demand that you look beyond the burger.
6. Portale (11)
What does our critic Adam Platt think of Alfred Portale’s follow-up to his decades-long tenure at Gotham Bar and Grill? This week, Platt writes, “if you live nearby (in a general, 20-block radius like your humble critic does, let’s say), or if you happen to be wandering through, and if you’re in the market for a stylish, well-crafted cocktail or an inventive take on a classic Italian dessert (the shiny chocolate-topped tiramisu, the brûléed panna cotta set over a bed of fresh-sliced figs), then this is the restaurant for you.”
7. Bar Bête and Le Crocodile (7)
French food never goes out of style, exactly, but two new Brooklyn spots are still making the case for its continued relevance in 2020. In Carroll Gardens, chef Marc St. Jacques (great name) has opened what is ostensibly a very, very nice neighborhood bistro with ideas that go far beyond the typical menu of tartares and bar steaks. In Williamsburg, meanwhile, the Chez Ma Tante team has done something similar, albeit inside the Wythe hotel. (Don’t miss the sweetbreads.)
8. Piggyback NYC (New this week)
Leah Cohen has expanded with this bar and, as you might expect, things here are a bit looser than they are at her restaurant Pig & Khao. As Grub’s own Chris Crowley puts it, “Given its location, only a few blocks from Madison Square Garden, Piggyback has an appropriate amount of bar food for long-suffering Knicks fans who need to drown their sorrows in honey-butter-gochujang sauce. (It comes with the wings.)”
9. Anton’s (Off last week)
In the West Village, chef Nick Anderer is paying tribute to the kind of ye olde New York that always feels romantic. There are clams and omelets, steaks and chops — including a $26 hanger steak that recently impressed Eater critic Ryan Sutton — and even a “Hudson rarebit” for the bar, plus plenty of old-world charm.
10. Leo (8)
This Italian spot from Mike Fadem and Joey Scalabrino is one of those places where you’ll want to become a regular. Fadem, as regular Grub Street readers already know, is one of the geniuses behind Ops in Bushwick, and fans can expect a similarly charming neighborhood vibe (plus pizza, and tiramisu) here
12. Bagel Hole (Off last week)
No bagel shop — probably no New York shop, in general — got more attention this week than this Park Slope store, which Mayor Bill de Blasio publicly called his favorite in town when he, or his staff, wrote the bagel tweet seen ’round the city.