Best New Restaurants of 2012: Hot Tables Slideshow
September 13, 2012
Andrew Carmellini's Smoked Liverwurst at The Dutch (New York City)
Our favorite starter was smoked liverwurst, a combo of foie gras and chicken liver with a gelée of hard cider and a variety of pickles — the beginning of an indulgent meal, paired with unusual vintages, in a leather booth in the low-ceilinged dining room. The restaurant is a maze of dens, with a boisterous and lofty front bar for tipples with a twist and fresh oysters. Having done French (Lespinasse, Café Boulud) and Italian (A Voce, Locanda Verde), Carmellini is putting his stamp on American cuisine — and his version is a melting pot of dishes, from Southern fried chicken and cherry pie to "white boy" ribs with hoisin sauce and scallions.
Andrew Carmellini picks...
Seamus Mullen's Arroz a la Plancha at Tertulia (New York City)
Carmellini describes arroz a la plancha, this creamy rice dish, as "one delicious, complete thought. All of the flavors are in concert: mushrooms, Ibérico ham, good snails. The texture nails it with that bit of crunch outside." Seamus Mullen, formerly of Boqueria, also makes liberal use of his wood-fired grill, a star feature of his new West Village taverna, which eschews white linens in favor of rustic wood tables and banquettes. The chef has instituted a no-reservations policy in this narrow brick-walled space, so go early and have a glass or two of sherry and a plate of melt-in-your-mouth Ibérico while you wait.
Seamus Mullen picks...
Zak Pelaccio’s Isaan-Style Duck Laab at Fatty ‘Cue (New York City)
Zak Pelaccio’s mix of ground duck with fish sauce, lime juice, herbs, and plenty of chiles is spicy and refreshing, a refined take on the Asian-accented, meat-centric cuisine he made famous at his first Fatty ’Cue, in Brooklyn. New, lighter additions here include shaved vegetables with a dip of dill, roasted garlic, chiles, and crème fraîche; and serrano-style ham with toasted pretzel rolls and butter that’s been aged in whiskey-soaked leaves and dusted with fermented shrimp powder. Less gritty, noisy, and cramped than the original, this ’Cue has bottle service, a dimly lit dining room, and cozy green-leather booths.
Zak Pelaccio picks...
Pam Yung’s Sunchoke, Chestnut, Dirt at Isa (New York City)
"Isa is pushing the boundaries like no other restaurant in New York City right now," says Pelaccio of this Williamsburg newcomer, where chef Ignacio Mattos cooks up such memorable dishes as sardines with a side of their fried skeletons. Pastry chef Pam Yung’s desserts are no less adventurous. This one — chestnut ice cream and sunchoke sorbet in a puddle of crème fraîche and topped with cocoa, coffee, black trumpet mushroom powder, and truffle (the "dirt") — is "surprising, immensely flavorful, and fun." The 45-seat spot’s woodsy good looks are compliments of Taavo Somer, the impressario behind both Freemans and Peels.
Roy Choi’s Furikake Kettle Corn at A-Frame (Los Angeles)
One of the city’s most talked-about chefs, Roy Choi has turned a former IHOP into a trailer park–chic grub pub in Culver City, where he serves his own take on American down-home favorites — including his kettle corn flavored with sesame seeds, seaweed, chile, Corn Pops, and plenty of butter — at communal tables, to a sound track of hip-hop, surf rock, and oldies. Choi made his name with Korean-style meat-stuffed tacos sold from a food truck on Sunset Boulevard. His empire now includes multiple Kogi food trucks and three brick-and-mortar restaurants, including AFrame.
Roy Choi picks...
Ricardo Zarate’s Ceviche Criollo at Picca (Los Angeles)
Choi says Peruvian chef Ricardo Zarate’s ceviche has a mixture of vegetables and creaminess that balances the dish’s acidity and "makes my stomach feel like I’m wearing a goose-down parka inside." One of Lima’s hottest exports, the young chef has opened this minimalist, sushi bar–like spot on the edge of Beverly Hills, where he pairs rectangles of sweet potato mash with sashimi-grade albacore, shrimp, and scallops. Grab a seat and a pisco sour at the marble-countered bar in front of the open kitchen and watch the chef and his garde manger staff in action.
Ricardo Zarate picks...
Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo’s Shrimp Toast at Son of a Gun (Los Angeles)
Shrimp toast, a Chinese dim sum staple, is here reimagined by Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo — the duo who opened Animal, an Angeleno cult favorite and paean to all things fried, fatty, and porky — as a sandwich, with opal basil, mint, cilantro, and watercress in a fish sauce vinaigrette, Sriracha mayo, and hoisin. Son of a Gun is a piscine tribute to their Floridian roots. The nautical decor — life preservers, buoys, glassy-eyed wall-mounted fish — is matched by seafood-centric small plates like smoked mahi dip and peel-and-eat shrimp, which go well with a Dark and Stormy or a Sazerac. Bring your own bib.
Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo pick...
Jordan Kahn’s Coconut Bavarois at Red Medicine (Los Angeles)
According to Shook and Dotolo, executive chef Jordan Kahn’s coconut bavarois — topped with coffee ice cream, peanut croquant, and Thai basil — is like a masterpiece of abstract art. And, they say, the chef at this Vietnamese-influenced late-night eatery (who formerly cooked at Alinea and Per Se) tackles herbs and vegetables with the same delicacy as he does sugar and butter, creating dishes that are as tasty as they are visually stunning. "It’s the precision and detail that make his food great."
Fergus Henderson’s Deviled Pig Skin and Smoked Herring Roe at St. John Restaurant (London)
Just off Leicester Square, an area more notable for pigeons and tourists than culinary gems, Henderson has opened a 50-seat restaurant (and four-room inn) of simple, austere décor that is already one of the city's top spots to dine. The greasy, crisp, deep-fried pigskin is the perfect intro to a menu that is anything but spartan. High-profile international chefs (Grant Achatz, Thomas Keller, and Bruno Doucet, to name a few) as well as local food enthusiasts dig deep into Henderson's predominantly meaty fare, scarfing up lamb sweetbreads with butter beans and artichokes, say, or suckling pig with pickled quince.
Fergus Henderson picks...
Jeremy Lee’s Smoked Haddock Broth at Quo Vadis (London)
Henderson calls Jeremy Lee’s sourdough, horseradish, and smoked eel sandwich "the nibble of 2012," but adds that Lee’s smoked haddock broth "brings you back from the edge. You live to see another day fortified by a bowl of goodness." Part of Soho’s long-standing members-only club of the same name and a favorite city haunt, the restaurant reopened in January with chef Lee at the helm and with a new, contemporary look. Henderson approves: "It deserves to be in the good hands it is in now."
Jeremy Lee picks...
James Lowe and Isaac McHale’s Pheasant, Parsnip, Oats, and Caraway at Young Turks at Ten Bells (London)
These two 30-something chefs have plenty of pedigree: Lowe cooked at Noma, Fat Duck, and St. John Bread and Wine, and McHale did time at Michelin-starred Ledbury. Now they’re the Young Turks, serving a weekly four-course prix-fixe menu at their pop-up restaurant. Their pared-down, post-modern fare emphasizes gamey meats and foraged finds, like mutton with seaweed, cabbage, and kidney, and buttermilk chicken with fresh pine needles. At press time, the restaurant was at Ten Bells, a pub in East London’s Spitalfields, but it moves, so check their website for its location.
James Lowe and Isaac McHale pick...
Ashley Palmer-Watts' and Heston Blumenthal's Tipsy Cake at Dinner By Heston Blumenthal (London)
Dedicated to retracing British history through food, this restaurant has developed its dishes from historical recipes for meat fruit (c. 1500), for instance, or spiced pigeon (c. 1780). James Lowe calls the Tipsy Cake (c.1810), a brandy- and sherry-soaked confection, "perfection. It’s sweet, boozy, creamy but also crispy and light." He praises the "time, work and thought put into the dish," which is cooked to order. Of course, none of these dishes looks like what it used to — these are contemporary takes on the classics by the hands of a Michelin-starred chef.
Thierry Marx’s Shellfish Mousse with Caviar Crostini at Sur Mesure (Paris)
The hottest table in Paris is within a futuristic white-on-white cocoon in the contemporary cool Mandarin Oriental. Chef Thierry Marx, frequently called the French Ferran Adrià, moved here from Bordeaux, where for more than a decade his mix of molecular and classic techniques intoxicated diners at Cordeillan-Bages, his two-Michelin-star restaurant. Sur Mesure has 44 seats from which to enjoy the iconoclastic chef’s six- or nine-course menus. His sublime shellfish starter invites the common razor clam to join the nobility, in a glass with a caviar-smeared croûte.
Thierry Marx picks...
Akrame Benallal’s Deconstructed Chicken Taco at Akrame (Paris)
Described by Marx as someone "who is not afraid of modernity" and "who has emancipated himself from the classic," Akrame Benallal delivers tongue-in-cheek plates — often invented a few days before — in a sleek, all-gray boîte on a rather barren stretch of the 16th arrondissement. His techniques are thoroughly modern (the chef, who worked with Pierre Gagnaire and Ferran Adrià, likes cooking sous vide and with dried powders), his flavors are surprisingly — and pleasantly — familiar.
Akrame Benallal picks...
Bertrand Grébaut’s Roast Duckling with Peas and Nettle at Septime (Paris)
Local and jet-setting gastronauts pack Bertrand Grebaut’s new atelier-size space for what Benallal calls "fresh and well-balanced" cooking. To remove the pomp of haute cuisine and to focus on doing seasonal food very, very well, Grebaut left his post at Michelin-starred Agape in the tiny 17th for this spot in the rough-and-tumble (if increasingly bobo) 11th arrondissement, where recycled-wood tables, Danish-style armchairs, and workbench lamps create an industrial-chic setting for an ever-changing, produce-centric menu.
Bertrand Grébaut picks...
David Toutain’s Buckwheat Ice Cream with Summer Squash at Agapé Substance (Paris)
Touted as Paris’s talent du jour, 31-year-old David Toutain delivers food that’s as tasty as it is trendy in a tiny, railroad-style space in St-Germain-des-Prés. A graduate of the kitchens at L’Arpège, Mugaritz, and Marc Veyrat, the young chef capitalizes on nearly every restaurant fashion, from small plates to pedigreed produce to obscure ingredients (an herb called wood avens, for example). His menu is simply a list of ingredients — and the whole is always greater than the sum of its parts.
David Toutain picks...
Michael White’s Squash Flower Fritters at Al Molo (Hong Kong)
Crisp on the outside, gooey on the inside, Michael White’s mozzarella-stuffed squash blossoms are unique to Al Molo, the Wisconsin-born chef’s first overseas outpost. A pier-side stunner overlooking Victoria Harbour, this casual-chic eatery brings together wood-fired pizzas and dishes from Marea, Osteria Morini, and Ai Fiori — White’s reigning Italian restaurants in New York — including his acclaimed lobster with burrata and pickled eggplant.
Michael White picks...
Matt Abergel’s Sweet Corn Tempura at Yardbird (Hong Kong)
White says Matt Abergel’s sweet corn tempura is "salty, crunchy, and so good I have a hard time not ordering a second plateful." Abergel did stints at Masa in Manhattan and Zuma in Hong Kong before opening this Sheung Wan neighborhood joint, where his obsession is chicken. Oversized windows, retro furnishings, and a soulful sound track provide a minimalist-cool backdrop for beak-to-feet cooking: chicken hearts, necks, tails; chicken oysters, skewers, and meatballs; chicken liver mousse; chicken crackling. The birds are sourced locally and slaughtered daily; nearly everything else, including the whiskey list, is from Japan.
Matt Abergel picks...
Vinny Lauria’s Chitarra with Chicken Liver, Pancetta, and Sage at Linguini Fini (Hong Kong)
This art-stenciled spot in Central is one of a slew of carb-centric ristorantes to hit Hong Kong. Lauria, who cut his teeth at Babbo in New York, focuses on locally sourced ingredients, meats from snouts to tails, and about 12 different pastas made daily in house. All are well done, says Abergel, especially the chitarra with liver, an "earthy, rich pasta with pancetta and a good hit of balsamic — a home-style dish that satisfies. Even though I eat chicken liver all week, this is still something I look forward to on Sundays" — when the casual atmosphere, tasty cocktails, and even tastier food pull in local chefs and restaurateurs.
Vinny Lauria picks...
Joseph Tse’s Egg Custard Puff Pastry at Above & Beyond (Hong Kong)
Lauria’s first encounter with Chinese desserts was "a steamed egg custard bun that was ridiculously delicious and unlike any dessert I’d ever had before." He reports that Joseph Tse’s take on this classic confection at Above & Beyond is "pure heaven." Formerly the chef at the Mandarin Oriental’s Man Wah, Tse gives new life to other traditional dishes: Cantonese sweet-and-sour pork is reimagined as crisp pork-wrapped pineapple with slivers of pear infused with red wine vinegar. The icing on the cake: The restaurant, on its building’s 28th floor, has stunning city views.
Stefano Manfredi’s Cecina al Forno at Balla (Sydney)
A baked chickpea tart finished with fresh pecorino is a terrific introduction to the cooking of Australia’s godfather of contemporary Italian cuisine. Manfredi’s newest restaurant, a split-level 170-seater with a curved wall of windows overlooking Pyrmont Bay, is named after the Futurist Italian painter Giacomo Balla and is part of the Starcasino’s $925 million redevelopment. Though the space is more contemporary than classic, the kitchen isn’t playing with foams or powders. Rather, the cuisine — for instance, the Prosecco-cured trout — is a modern take on the beloved cuisine of Manfredi’s native Lombardy.
Stefano Manfredi picks...
Alessandro Pavoni’s Sciatt’ at Spiedo (Sydney)
Manfredi says that Alessandro Pavoni’s Brescia-inspired cooking "reminds me of the food of my childhood. Sciatt’, an everyday snack in Lombardy’s Valtellina, is simply fontina cheese coated in a buckwheat and grappa batter and fried till crisp and golden." Pavoni’s bistro is named after another of Manfredi’s childhood favorites: Spiedo is a combination of spit-roasted meats served with polenta. With natural light, a timber canopy, and a central fig tree, the dining room has an airy, piazza-like feel. No time for a sit-down meal? Grab a sciatt’ (paired with a chicory-like radicchio) at the stuzzi bar.
Alessandro Pavoni picks...
Simon Goh’s Chili Crabs at Chinta Ria Mood For Love (Sydney)
This tiny, dimly lit Malaysian restaurant tucked behind a set of ancient wood doors is "small, intimate, and a little bit sexy," according to Pavoni, who loves a platter of Simon Goh’s chili crabs: "Sensational! If you can judge the quality of the crab by the mess you make when eating it — and the speed with which it disappears — then this is clearly the best ever." Despite its location in a huge new mall (coincidentally home to two other restaurants described on this slideshow), the restaurant is a romantic hideaway, named for Wong Kar-wai’s internationally acclaimed film In the Mood for Love.
Simon Goh picks...
Justin North’s Chocolate Pudding at Quarter Twenty-One (Sydney)
Goh says, "My memory of this dessert lingers on...warm 68 percent Alto Beni Zokoko chocolate pudding, orange and tonka bean ice cream." Produce-driven dishes — such as grass-fed beef with green beans, tomatoes, pickled turnip, and bone marrow — and charcuterie made in house draw city types, including former Prime Minister John Howard. Quarter Twenty One, the new offshoot of the chef’s popular, more formal Bécasse, is still plenty swank, with dark wool carpet, plush aqua-velvet chairs, and translucent copper lamps that hang from the soaring antique tin ceilings.