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The Best NYC Meals of 2015

Food writers and critics pick their favorite meals of the year

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As is the tradition at Eater, our closeout of the year is a survey of friends, industry types, and bloggers. This year, we asked the group eight questions running the gamut from meal of the year to top restaurant newcomers. Their answers will appear throughout the week. Responses are related in no particular order; all are cut, pasted, and (mostly) unedited herein. We've heard about the top standbys, the hot newcomers, the words of the year, the best neighborhoods, and biggest surprises. Now it's time for the best meals of 2015. Please add your answers in the comments.


Charlotte Druckman, NYC-based food writer — It's a tie between 1. Un-birthday father-daughter lunch at Sushi Yasuda. 2. Un-birthday dinner at Prune with the people who mean the most.

Helen Rosner, Eater features editor/co-host of The Eater Upsell — The Kitchen Table at Empellón Cocina is so, so special. Four seats at a counter tucked in the back corner overlooking the kitchen, with Alex Stupak quietly putting together an exhilarating series of gorgeously composed, bite-sized, Mexican-inspired dishes. I'm not quite sure how it happened, but at the end of the — 22? 25? — courses, including dessert, not only was Inot bored (look, I know it's unsympathetic, but I've got such tasting menu fatigue right now), but I was psyched to keep going — somehow Stupak ended up bringing out those cheeseburger tacos from the a la carte menu, the perfect flourish to end a great, great evening.

Kenzi Wilbur, Food 52 managing editor — Can I have two? One: The single bite of mackerel sushi at Ko. I could taste every grain of rice. I washed it down with a Painkiller, because Jordan Salcito is a fucking badass. Two: The carnitas tacos from the back of the Deli and Grocery bodega in Sunset Park. I understand fully that I am late to this party, but I care more about shouting my love for those tacos from the rooftops than looking like I knew what I was doing in 2009. I did not know what I was doing in 2009.

Daniela Galarza, Eater news editor — Roberta's

Matt Rodbard, NYC-based food writer — At The Four Horsemen, with Danish brown bread/butter, shrimp pasta and 4 bottles of great/affordable/interesting wines poured by friendly people who didn’t pressure us to buy the extra bottles we ultimately ordered. I have no idea what music was playing.

Kat Kinsman, Tasting Table editor-at-large — I don't think I can include my anniversary meal at Blue Hill Stone Barns because that deserves some sort of emeritus title, so I'm gonna go with Dirt Candy. Rarely have I been in a restaurant full of such unanimous joy, and it emanated from the kitchen. In restaurants, innovation is nothing without pleasure and Amanda Cohen's food is balanced on both counts. Plus she's a living wage O.G., so you can't help but feel great about eating there.

Mimi Sheraton, former Times restaurant critic and author of 1,000 Foods to Eat Before You DieUpland.

Serena Dai, Eater NY reporter — When Black Tree first opened in Brooklyn, a few friends and I had a mini-reunion dinner there, and it was just a really fun place to eat. The animal of the week was cow. We ordered a ton of food to share, including a creamy burrata and bread appetizer, and because they were still getting a handle on the kitchen and food was a bit slow to come out, free pickle backs were being passed around the dining room. Great vibe. Everything was salty and delicious.

Foster Kamer, Mental Floss executive editor — Raoul's, Halloween night, 11 p.m. res, three hours after we started that night and four hours before we'd call it. It was a perfect meal—nothing mindblowing, but nothing imperfect, either. Mostly, it was just fun. That said, I went to Noma this summer, and Nothing Was The Same. I also ate Hija De Sanchez tacos while my girlfriend crashed our boat into Copenhagen's canal walls. Those two outrank anything in New York this year.

[Pumpkin with boudin noir at Roberta's by Daniel Krieger]

Hillary Dixler, Eater's senior reports editor — Sushi Azabu. They deserve a second Michelin star and way more attention in general.

Levi Dalton, Eater wine editor/host of I'll Drink to That — Torishin skewered me. I was sitting there planning future opportunities to get back for another meal before the one I was enjoying so much was even two thirds through.

Erik Torkells, editor/publisher of Tribeca Citizen — Semilla was the most impressive meal, for the second year in a row. But two nights ago, at North End Grill, I had the dinner that made me happiest: Gaslight cocktail, Bien Cuit miche with room-temp butter, roasted artichoke with anchovy aioli, half the T-Bone for one (which comes with duck fat fries and more of that aioli), a side of sauteed spinach, the butterscotch pot de crème, (half) a bottle of excellent Barbaresco, and a glass of Pedro Ximénez. (It sounds like a lot when you write it all down like that....) Plus: I could hear my companion, and the service was sharp and warm. At the risk of sounding even more like an old fart, I wish more restaurants would learn to do it right before reinventing it.

Devra Ferst, Tasting Table senior editor — Not sure this is playing fair, but my best meal in NYC was a pop-up meal with Alon Shaya where he served shrimp shakshuka, super tahini rich hummus topped with guanciale, and fresh pita. Best meal in NYC restaurant? A particular evening at Wildair.

Kat Odell, Eater Drinks editor — Blue Hill at Stone Barns followed 30 minutes later by Great NY Noodle Town.

Matt Buchanan, editor at The Awl — I'm torn: Either a Momofuku Ko 2.0 dinner, very early on in its tenure—you could taste the renewed ambition in every dish—or my first meal at Semilla, which felt—unlike so many tasting menus in the conservative tbh dining scene of 2015—genuinely fresh.

Robert Sietsema, Eater NY senior critic — Fu Run (a/k/a Fu Ran) – Flushing’s Dongbei standby delivered my best meal of the year with a tableful of friends: racks of lamb crusted with cumin seeds, pork soups swimming in sauerkraut, and pine nuts with baby corn stewed into a Chinese succotash.

Matt Duckor, Epicurious senior editor — Maybe I'm saying this because it's my most recent meal out, but a dinner earlier this month at Roberta's ranks pretty damn high. I'm constantly amazed by the quality of the food that chef de cuisine Nick Barker and his team put out of that tiny kitchen to hundreds of people who think they're walking into a pizza place. Get the salt-baked celery root.

[A pea dish from the spring menu at Empellon Cocina by Krieger]

Jordana Rothman, NYC-based food writer — The single best bite of food I had this year was this blood sausage ramen thing that Ken Oringer and Jamie Bissonette made for the Toro anniversary party. Actually I’d say this was generally a year of food moments, rather than memorable soup-to-nuts meals, so here are a few others: skate with chamomile butter at Wildair; Fraises des Bois tart at Dominique Ansel Kitchen; caviar service at MCF; comté curls at Rebelle; knafeh at Tanoreen; condensed milk and turmeric-soaked pork shoulder at Night + Market Song in Los Angeles.

Joe DiStefano, editor/publisher of Chopsticks + Marrow — A group dinner with the New York City petanque club at M. Wells Steakhouse tied with the Duka duck at Crescent Grill.

Dan Saltzstein, editor at the NYT Travel section —Blue Hill at Stone Barns. It just gets better and better. (And the WastedNY dinner at Blue Hill were pretty amazing too.) If the Westchester location disqualifies it, I'll go with Blanca, which was almost equally stunning in execution, if not setting.

Amanda Kludt, Eater editor-in-chief — I had a very fantastic meal at Sushi Azabu back in January that I still think about with frequency.

Ryan Sutton, Eater NY critic/data lead — I'm going to be somewhat coy and say I'm saving one of my best 2015 meals for a review in 2016. That aside, I'm partial to my first dinner at Ko for a very specific reason: John DeBary, the bar director, kicked off our tasting with painkiller cocktails. There was a legitimate motivating factor here: I slipped on black ice 10 minutes before my reservation and bruised (or broke) most of my left rib cage. And man, it HURT. So the Momofuku people saw me limping in and decided to send out some creamy and coconut-y rum-based libations. Tiki drinks are not the typical way to start off an 18-course menu, but in the absence of stronger opioids following corporal trauma, they do quite nicely. Anyway, that little gesture helped un-frazzle me after a particularly frazzling incident, and paved the way for this battered critic to enjoy a boatload of sturgeon caviar, pressed mackerel sushi, and shaved foie gras. Well done.

Nick Solares, Eater NY senior editor — Brooklyn Fare with an honorable mention to Empellon Cocina chef's counter.

Greg Morabito, Eater NY editor and co-host of The Eater Upsell — Lunch at La Grenouille two Saturdays ago. I'm now convinced that this is New York's most sophisticated restaurant. The corn pancake with chicken livers, and the pike quenelles were particularly memorable. An anniversary meal at Del Posto is a close second. A prime rib feast at Smith & Wollensky back in March is probably number three.

Top photo: Charred razor clams with pineapple dashi at Momofuku Ko by Krieger

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