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. Golden Diner (Off last week)
Just how good is Sam Yoo’s Chinatown diner? Well, according to the Underground Gourmet, “what really makes Golden Diner a diner is that intangible spirit of egalitarian bonhomie you look for in a joint like this. It’s that home-away-from-home quality. Even if it’s your first time there, you feel like a regular.”
2. Ernesto’s (Last week: 1)
Chef Ryan Bartlow’s impressive menu is filled with all sorts of food you find yourself thinking about long after you’ve left his new downtown Spanish restaurant: Chicken croquettes with a beautifully custard-y interior, pots of long-cooked tripe, tender squid stewed in its own ink, and peppers stuffed with tender lamb neck.
3. Bar Goto Niban (2)
Kenta Goto’s Lower East Side bar is one of the city’s most laid-back, sophisticated cocktail destinations in the city. Now, Goto has expanded to Brooklyn with a new Park Slope bar. The vibe might be a bit looser, but the attention to detail and razor-sharp drinks are both accounted for. Plus: more croquettes!
4. Le Crocodile (4)
Along with Bar Bête in Carroll Gardens, the Chez Ma Tante team’s Williamsburg restaurant makes a very strong case for the continued vitality of meaty, classic French cooking — especially if you order any of the homemade pâtés, a perfect steak au poivre, or the sweetbreads drenched in a veal-maple-onion reduction.
5. Verōnika (7)
Suddenly it seems everyone wants to swing by Stephen Starr’s “grand European café” to sample just one dish: the salmon coulibiac, a fussy, pastry-wrapped seafood extravagance that Craig Claiborne himself once called “the world’s greatest dish.” In the hands of chef Robert Aikens, it is also highly Instagrammable.
6. Portale (3)
Chef Alfred Portale is back in action in Chelsea, with the kind of refined, sophisticated cooking you might expect from the former chef of Gotham Bar and Grill. And the critics — notably Pete Wells and our own Adam Platt — are both fans.
7. Peasant (Off last week)
The bones are the same, but it seems there’s a bit more razzle dazzle in the dining room now that chef Marc Forgione is running the show. Take, for example, the restaurant’s riff on spaghetti carbonara, which includes egg steeped in smoked olive oil and gets shaken like a cocktail as it’s served.
8. Jua (5)
After a long delay, chef Ho Young Kim’s Korean tasting-menu spot is finally open. The food is polished and the entire room smells pleasantly of the wood fire that Kim uses to cook much of his food. The place is still finding its legs (and awaiting a liquor license), but the restaurant nevertheless has a lot of potential.
9. Da Toscano (8)
Michael Toscano, one of New York’s most beloved chefs, has returned to the city with an upscale Italian spot that promises to hit all the carby, meaty notes his fans will remember, and love. Welcome back!
10. 232 Bleecker (9)
Speaking of highly revered New York chefs arriving in new spaces, chef Suzanne Cupps has teamed up with the Dig chain for this new neighborhood spot in Greenwich Village. There is a massive grill, Cupps’s signature way with fresh, seasonal ingredients, lasagna made with Moses Sleeper cheese from Vermont’s Jasper Hill Farm, and Ryan Sutton’s new favorite chicken.
11. The Tavern by WS (Off last week)
For this week’s review, Pete Wells once again made the trek to Hudson Yards to check out this restaurant that’s run by Wine Spectator. Here’s the lowdown. Chef Eli Kaimeh, who spent years working within the Thomas Keller empire, “has helped turn the Tavern by WS into a good restaurant, despite its owners’ efforts to make it look like the opposite.” Sounds… interesting?
12. Aldea (Off last week)
After a very strong, decade-plus–long run, chef George Mendes’s refined, ambitious Flatiron restaurant will close later this month. If you want to say good-bye, and you should, swing by before the 22nd.