Has there ever been a busier, wilder, more fun year for new restaurants? We can’t remember one. Out of everything we loved this year — and there was a lot — these are the ten spots we loved the most.
119 First Ave.; ariarinyc.com
This restaurant — part of Hand Hospitality’s ever-growing empire — calls Busan, the southeastern port city in Korea, its inspiration, but its inventiveness is distinctly its own. Nothing on the menu costs more than $30, meaning dishes tend to collect on the table like treasures from the sea: Sookhwe, chilled octopus, arrives with an umami-dense seaweed-and-perilla-seed sauce and tangy crunches of white kimchee underneath; strips of salmon in chojang are served on top of soba noodles with a teeth-chattering flurry of makgeolli ice; a light batter on fried soft-shell crab is bubbly like an igneous-rock formation. For the carnivores: rich Hapcheon-style pork soup and duck bulgogi. There is always a wait to get in; it’s always worth it. — E. Alex Jung
Bangkok Supper Club
641 Hudson St.; bangkoksupperclubnyc.com
Young chefs, industry folks, and anyone who managed to find one of the few available slots on Resy pile into this nightly party from co-owners Jenn Saesue and Chat Suansilphong. Even early in the evening, it can feel like midnight here: music blasting, everyone shoulder-to-shoulder, the entire bar smelling of the garlic fried rice that comes with chef Max Wittawat’s crispy pork jowl. The menu has plenty of range — raw scallop with chile-watermelon granita, squares of charcoal-grilled beef tongue, a steak that stands out thanks to its charred mash of tomato and tamarind — and it thrills because the kitchen never lets up with the flavor. — Chris Crowley
189 Ave. A; foxface-nyc.square.site
On paper, this unmarked East Village storefront should not work as well as it does. It’s easy to fixate on the unfamiliar proteins — kangaroo tartare has become something of a signature — because they would be served for shock value elsewhere. But owners Ori Kushnir and Sivan Lahat simply serve whatever they think is most interesting, be that pristine purple clams from Oregon, ruby snapper that’s flown in from Japan, or fluke that’s been plucked from the waters off Montauk. They’ve installed the veteran chef David Santos, who matches his bosses’ enthusiasm with technical expertise, and beverage director Raq Vo. Kushnir and Lahat bankrolled the entire operation themselves, which means that if they want to serve a long single coil of pasta stuffed with blood sausage, there’s nobody to stop them. — C.C.
The Golden Swan
314 W. 11th St.; tgsnyc.com
The notorious former Spotted Pig’s space has, after a long dormancy, become the Golden Swan, a clubby, well-guarded establishment that in this way — and hopefully this way alone — resembles its predecessor. (The third floor, thankfully, is no more.) The new menu is fancy and Frenchy in a city overrun with fancy Frenchy places, and it’s fair to ask, Do we really need another? Probably not, but when the chef is Doug Brixton, formerly of Bâtard, no justification is needed. Look at the beef tartare, omnipresent but here made novel again with the suave addition of brown butter. My table cooed over the duck, with sunchokes and hazelnut, and juicy roasted chicken served with little globes of pommes dauphines. For maximum ceremony, sole meunière is delivered with proper pomp and circumstance, filleted on a marble table in the center of the second-floor dining room and presented like the prize it is. — Matthew Schneier
5-28 49th Ave., Long Island City; mejunyc.com
Among the proliferation of Korean tasting menus served around town, Hooni Kim’s chef’s table in the back of his provisions store, Little Banchan Shop, stands out by going back to basics and maintaining a focus on the holy fermentation trinity of ganjang, gochujang, and dwenjang. The food is funky, warm, and good for the gut, like copper-toned dwenjang soup and softly braised petals of kimchee. Here, extravagance doesn’t come in the form of a caviar bump or shavings of Italian truffles but rather 128-year-old soy brushed on a piece of golden pollack pan-fried à la minute. This is outrageously confident cooking, and Kim possesses the maturity to know that the best food is often the kind you would get at someone’s home. — E.A.J.
228 Dekalb Ave., Fort Greene; sailor.nyc
First, the bad news: Sailor, which sees restaurateur Gabriel Stulman team up for the first time with chef April Bloomfield, has only eight bookable tables (fewer than any lingering streeteries), and its excellence appears to be a consensus view. The chances of getting in are low. Still, Sailor is as good as promised: casually superlative and suspiciously affordable. It can be deceptively simple, too. Why go out for toast? Bloomfield’s menu contains two types, and both have stayed with me, most especially her mussel toast, plump bivalves on a thin plank, licoricey with fennel. After eating Bloomfield’s chicken, I was compelled to call her to plumb its secrets (time to dry out in the walk-in, salt, and dried herbs), and it’s a testament to her cooking that as soon as I hung up, I kicked myself for not investigating her bay-scented smoked pork shoulder as well. There are precious few misses on her menu, just as there are precious few tables in the dining room. — M.S.
119 Ave. A.; superiorityburger.com
While Brooks Headley’s vegetarian burger shop was in relocation limbo, some fans worried the kinetic magic would get lost in translation to a bigger space. Instead, the new restaurant should be called Superiority Burger Deluxe. It’s the full realization of the vision that the original takeout counter only hinted at, like the diner in After Hours where everyone goes after the show at Club Berlin. There are actual tables, late-night hours and even a full bar (a.k.a. Fowzy’s Saloon). Old favorites like the Sloppy Dave still beckon, but they tend to be overshadowed by newer arrivals, like a messy, dripping collard-greens melt. A market salad with carrot-ginger dressing is straight out of the strip mall and specials — tomato soup with a giant Old Bay zeppola, for example — regularly roll out of the full-size kitchen. There’s the same great gelato, only this time it’s supplemented with an entire pastry case of can’t-miss retro desserts, like peanut-butter pie. — C.C.
10 Lincoln Center Plz.; tatiananyc.com
Whether you’re seeing a show at Lincoln Center, Tatiana by Kwame Onwuachi, as it’s known officially, is its own kind of destination. Order a POG Nutcracker, the bar’s version of the summer cocktail usually sold from rolling coolers, or better yet a spicy margarita made with aji amarillo and tempered by nutty orgeat. The menu pulls from culinary touchstones around the city from Little Caribbean to its Chinatowns, resulting in only-in-New York creations like a pastrami rib made with suya, truffle chopped cheese sandwiches, and a Cosmic brownie so dead-on you’ll wonder if you stumbled into a bodega wonderland. Beyond the food, Tataian’s real draw is its energy: It is thrilling to encounter a restaurant where everyone is committed to dressing up and having the absolute best time. — E.A.J.
275 Mulberry St.; torrisinyc.com
In nearly every way, Torrisi plays like a counterpoint to Carbone. That restaurant is cramped. Torrisi is a grand open space. Carbone’s menu treads in instant familiarity; Torrisi’s is filled with original dishes (lamb amatriciana, cavatelli in jerk-seasoned ragù). Even the sign feels like it sends a message: Carbone layered neon over the vintage Rocco Restaurant type. At Torrisi, a glowing T is emblazoned across the original pig in a hat that once sat outside Torrisi Italian Specialties, Major Food Group’s first restaurant down the street. There is one place where the two restaurants converge, however: Land a seat inside, and your friends will want to hear all about it. — Tammie Teclemariam
529 Henry St., Carroll Gardens; instagram.com/untablebrooklyn
Carroll Gardens is thought of as a haven for red-sauce and stroller-set brunch, but when UnTable arrived, a 15-minute walk from Ugly Baby, the neighborhood’s status as a destination for serious Thai cooking was confirmed. Chef Rachanon Kampimarn swerves from the traditional (grilled chicken in green curry) to the interpretative (tom kha chowder), and his laarb nuang pairs irresistibly juicy beef and sweated scallion. Crunchy crab croquettes come with tom-yum purée that could be bottled and sold, while crudité is the must-order thanks to its nam prik ong, a pork and tomato dip. — C.C.