Welcome to Grub Street’s rundown of restaurant recommendations that aims to answer the endlessly recurring question: Where should we go? These are the spots that our food team thinks everyone should visit, for any reason (a new chef, the arrival of an exciting dish, or maybe there’s an opening that’s flown too far under the radar). This month: Andrew Carmellini’s argument for fine-dining’s relevance, a new contender for the city’s best aguachile negro, and a new Korean standout.
Antojitos Marineros (Bushwick)
Antojitos Marineros opened a couple months ago to little notice, somewhat surprising given its owners also run one of New York’s better taquerias, the nearby Taqueria al Pastor. The space resembles a beachside bar, with fishnet covering a recessed ceiling, a backlit octopus with slightly menacing eyes, and other nautical touches. But the real draw is the aguachile negro, which rivals the city’s current destination for the dish, Mariscos El Submarino in Jackson Heights. Here, a dozen butterflied shrimp are drizzled with Huichol, a hot sauce that tastes like a platinum version of Cholula, and laid out in a soy marinade with diced red onion and serrano. I made a meal out of this with a michelada and tacos enchilado, sloppy with shrimp, shredded cabbage, and sauce on a tortilla covered in a layer of fried cheese. I’ll be back soon to explore more, including the crunchy de salmón, a perfectly named fish nugget. — Chris Crowley
These days you can eat very well from the cuisines of Korea, even if you never set foot in its traditional homes in the city: Manhattan’s Koreatown and the Korean enclave in Murray Hill in Queens. At this point, you don’t even need to leave the constellation of Kihyun Lee. The Hand Hospitality restaurateur’s latest is run by Hoyoung Kim, an alum of Jungsik and the owner of the Michelin-starred Jua. Moono occupies the ground floor of the former Grolier Club, an 1890s Romanesque Revival beauty. There, a host in a black suit and Nikes will show you an inner sanctum of honeyed wood and excellent options, like Kim’s soondae, dense and potent and wrapped ssam-style in shiso leaves, which make a strong case for blood sausage’s ferric charms. Don’t miss the sotbaps, halfway between a rice bowl and a risotto, enriched with uni or mushrooms and foie gras. After that, a plain metal bowl of buckwheat noodles, brisket, and broth, served iced, Pyongyang-style: a cold shower of relief. — Matthew Schneier
Cafe Carmellini (Nomad)
Pre-holiday dining requires a certain sense of occasion. That’s reason enough, I think, to settle into a plush, blue velvet booth for some duck-stuffed tortellini, tender braised veal tongue atop French lentils, or tidy stack of chilled crab salad at Andrew Carmellini’s very polished, extremely comfortable two-floor dining room inside the Fifth Avenue Hotel. The vibe is “tasteful, soaring opulence” — notice the peacocks etched into the glass above the main bar — and there are plenty of tableside flourishes, which even extend to the best dessert: a cake, of sorts, that combines the favorite parts of sticky toffee pudding and baba au rhum. (Of course it’s flamed at the table.) Alternatively, there’s an undeniable charm to the clubhouse-esque — and more affordable — Portrait Bar that’s hiding in the back of the hotel, where dry-aged burgers and nicely made cocktails await. — Alan Sytsma
Late on a recent Sunday evening, I was looking for a restaurant that would still seat me and even add a little excitement on the eve of the workweek. The new Bushwick outpost of Nowon met my criteria: remaining open until 11 p.m. and still being moderately packed and buzzing when I walked in at 9:30. The ambiance at the Korean American gastropub is helped by the wood-burning fire visible through the open kitchen, a holdover from the space’s most recent iteration as an Italian restaurant. Nowon now sensibly employs it for a short list of Korean-inspired pizzas (that are only available at this location) like K-Town Smokeshow, a white pie with barbecued mushrooms and smoked mozzarella. Before that, start with the chile-oil drenched spicy cukes and tofu and the “chopped cheese” rice cakes for good measure. — Tammie Teclemariam