Where to Eat in January

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 has flown too far under the radar). This month: Nashville-style hot skate in the West Village, an easier way to get Missy Robbins’s pasta, and a new Levantine bistro in East Williamsburg.

Laghman Express (Mapleton)
Inside the open kitchen, flames leap from pans and cooks pull laghman by hand. The owner is from Kazakhstan, the chef from Kyrgyzstan, and other cooks from Uzbekistan; one employee told me recently, “We have gathered Central Asia.” Some dishes are Uzbek, like petite fried dumplings called chuchvara, and others are from Xinjiang, such as a big big plate chicken with a stewing liquid that’s a little sweet, shot through with star anise, and gently spicy. Smoky dry-fried noodles are sprinkled plentifully with sesame seeds; guoyouru laghman comes with chewy noodles and tender strips of beef. This is a restaurant for carbs and carnivores. —Chris Crowley

Huda (East Williamsburg)
The dining room at this new Levantine corner restaurant — where terra-cotta sconces diffuse warm light over the rich-green banquettes and dark-wood bistro chairs — suggests a certain unpretentious elegance. Perhaps unsurprising given the restaurant’s pedigree: This is Gehad Hadidi’s second space after taking over midtown staple La Bonne Soupe, and the kitchen is overseen by Anjuman Hossain, whose previous stops include Le Crocodile and Del Posto. With Huda, Hadidi has set out to create a more personal restaurant; he moved to New York from Lebanon and is of Syrian and Palestinian origin. The dishes — drawn from his grandmother’s kitchen — include fattoush, a salad of homemade pita chips, winter chicories, and persimmons, akin to a panzanella; batata harra, thinly shredded russet potatoes fried into crisp bars and served on a bed of labneh and harissa; and planks of charred eggplant covered in toum. Lastly: shish barak, Lebanese tortellini stuffed with seasoned beef and topped with yogurt sauce, Aleppo oil, and pine nuts. —Edward Hart 

Naks (East Village)
We’ve been waiting months for Naks, the new restaurant opened by the Unapologetic Foods team with Eric Valdez, who worked as the chef de cuisine at Dhamaka, at the helm. It delivers: Here is a personal, ambitious, and inspiring tasting menu, such as its take on a kamayan, a feast set on banana leaves and eaten with your hands. The 18-course menu goes around the Philippines, from kinilaw na bat — sea cucumber on a cucumber with a splash of coconut vinegar from Cebu — to egg noodles from the roadside eateries in Ilocos in the north. There’s a course inspired by beachside grills for which they wheel out small charcoal konros, chicken-skin skewers dyed crimson from annatto, and scallops with margarine and Eden cheese. The lechon liempo is a triumph, arriving in spiral slabs wrapped around lemongrass, the skin crisped to a perfect New Jersey tan. —E. Alex Jung 

Misipasta (Williamsburg)
Missy Robbins’s restaurants — Lilia and Misi — need no recommending; they’re well known, well loved, and famously impossible to get into. So think of this plug for the gourmet grocery Robbins opened over the summer not as a rec but a hack: the shortest, quickest route between you and Robbins’s pasta, cooked or uncooked. Yes, the bulk of the Grand Street space is taken up by shelves of sauces, gelati, beans, oils, and a cold case of hand-rolled pastas (both filled and unfilled), but a full menu is offered at the small back counter and a scattered table or two by the kitchen. On a recent afternoon, I found just a single patron sipping a negroni in peace. The offering is smaller than at either of Robbins’s other restaurants, but you can still glut yourself quite contentedly. In place of Lilia’s famous cacio e pepe fritters, there are dome-shaped, striated gougères. For a “salad,” rings of delicata squash roasted sotto grasso, or under fat. All the pastas we sampled were good, but if you’re given the option of a cappelletti special — frilled, tortellini-ish rings stuffed with a mixture of prosciutto and cream — leap. I took home a pound of Robbins’s pappardelle (at $15, indulgent but not irresponsible) and did my best to re-create the magic. Close to Heaven, but Misipasta is closer. —Matthew Schneier

Figure Eight (West Village)
There are a number of reasons to eat at Figure Eight, which is run by some of the same people behind Silver Apricot next door. There’s the brick-walled back dining room, which feels like a throwback to the fine-dining-lite boom of the early aughts. (Remember Mas Farmhouse? The Grocery??) Then there are the warm staff and comfortable front bar. And let’s not forget the tiny lobster rolls. But the best reason to go is chef Calvin Hwang’s “hot fried skate,” Nashville-chicken-style seafood in a thick, crusty bark that vibrates with tingly Sichuan peppercorns. It arrives on a quarter sheet pan, a crystal coupe of ranch dressing on the side. To accompany: Quite possibly the world’s most magnificent biscuit, radiating warmth from the oven. Spend an extra $5 to get two. —Alan Sytsma 

Oti (Lower East Side)
Oti operated as a pop-up restaurant around the city before settling into a narrow corner space on Clinton Street and Stanton a couple months ago. It currently offers a nine-item menu of small plates, like beef and lamb sausages dolloped with mustard and savory telemea-cheese pie, all whipped up in a countertop kitchen behind the bar. You should order both along with Oti’s two house pickles. The peppers — as hot and fleshy as fresh jalapeño — are charred before service and benefit from the warmth of the flame; the grapes are fermented until sour in a habanero brine yet remain taut beneath the skin. If my server is to be believed, Oti is Manhattan’s first-ever Romanian restaurant — a somewhat dubious claim — but I am inclined to believe it is among the city’s best. —Tammie Teclemariam