Mini Burgers de Boeuf at Maison Laduree — Forget for a moment that a fancy French restaurant has no business offering sliders. And these ones were particularly damnable: overcooked, too tiny even for their tiny buns, and slathered with a sauce featuring shredded lettuce soaked with some white substance into a limp rag mop. And the vaunted pommes frites were mealy and undersalted.
Vegetarian Enchiladas at Caliente Cab Co. — Stuffed with soppy spinach and mushrooms, these gummy enchiladas seeped an unappetizing buff-colored fluid that might have been a zoological secretion. And it was to be found in the section entitled "Especiales de la Casa."
Matzoh Ball Marrow Soup at Empire Diner — I'm generally a fan of Amanda Freitag, but here her creativity ran off the rails. The beauty of matzoh ball soup lies in its light and nourishing broth, so to muck it up with dense and dark bone marrow makes it taste like French onion soup. And the appearance was repulsive, too.
Spanish Empanadillas at Troy — This is what arrived when we ordered Spanish empanadillas at this creepy Staten Island newcomer. It should have been some sort of Iberian turnover, but turned out to be a sculpted goat-cheese tower with many inscrutable layers, and colorful fluids sprinkled around. The gag reflex was provoked as soon as the gray granite platform sailed into sight.
Vegetable Flatizza at Subway — This was a year of wild innovation for the ubiquitous sandwich chain, which seemed to multiply like cockroaches in many neighborhoods. Playing to the New York market, Subway invented a pastrami hero smothered in white cheese, but even worse was the attempt to make pizza out of the ingredients at hand — bland chopped veggies on a crust made from their usual weird-smelling dough.
Bazooka Limon Guacamole at El Vez — Among several terrible (and a few good) dishes at this Philadelphia Mexican import, this garbage-y take on guac was the absolute worst. Who wants to fish for the avocado in their guacamole? The green fruit got lost among the goat cheese, pistachios, chile flakes, and roasted tomatoes, and the dip started turning brown almost immediately.
Quagli al Mattone at Rossopomodoro — The al mattone (roughly, "under a brick") style of cooking is common enough in Italian restaurants, where it often betokens a bird that has been pressed under a brick in a wood-burning oven, creating a crisp skin and smoky, flavorful flesh. Imagine my surprise when the pair of vastly overcooked quails at Rossopomodoro — an otherwise good pizza joint — arrived in a clutch like a pair of wrestlers, the flabby skin drowned in sickly sweet agrodolce.
Crab Risotto at Gato — In the view of my friends and me, Bobby Flay took a flyer at Gato — no matter how many plaudits the place piled up in its earliest days. It was a toss-up which was the worst dish. The artichoke-and-mushroom "paella"? The crab risotto? The roasted carrots with pomegranate seeds? In the end the risotto won (or in this case, lost), a yellow lake of goo that looked like something you'd find in a puddle outside a dive bar after Santacon.
Pork Belly Tacos at Horchata — Among a raft of repulsive dishes at Horchata on Greenwich Village's Sixth Avenue, two stood out: the soaked-in-soy-sauce and none-too-fresh tuna ceviche, and the pork-belly tacos — each with a thick rubbery strip of under-rendered flab garnished with chopped pineapple and orange mayo, making the greasiest thing I've encountered all year — and not in a good way.
Tomato Ramen at Sapporo — To illustrate how even the best and most venerable restaurants can sometimes screw up, Sapporo at Times Square decided to fiddle with its ramen menu, which had remained relatively unchanged since the founding of this sainted spot in 1975. The worst thing they added was a bowl of tomato ramen, with a sweet broth that tasted like thin tomato soup floating diced heirloom tomatoes — for that touch of modernity no one really needs.
In the coming days: Sietsema's 15 Best Dishes of 2014
Top photo: Gato by Paul Crispin Quitoriano.