While surveying the year in dining, Times critic Pete Wells points out that there are a lot of establishments in NYC right now where a customer could pay $125 for a full dinner without drinks. He reviewed a bunch of these places, but many of his favorites don’t fit into this category. Wells writes:
Month after month, I was surprised by the good, resourceful kitchens I found squirreled away in spaces that barely qualified as restaurants: wine bars and bar bars and a nostalgic lunch counter called Mr. Donahue’s, where $20 buys a full dinner of American food my grandmother would have recognized.
Pete’s top pick of the year is Stephen Starr and Daniel Rose’s Le Coucou, which "gives us almost everything we loved about New York’s old-line French restaurants without the things we didn’t." Here’s the Times critic on some of his favorites:
Mr. Rose knocks the dust off some archetypal premodern French dishes. Sole Véronique gets its peeled grapes and its butter-girded sauce along with a sense of conviction that’s can’t be faked. The fleecy quenelles of pike, half-submerged in a lava flow of sauce Américaine, have a finer flavor than the ones at La Grenouille, which some people still think of as the city’s standard-bearer. Mr. Rose isn’t simply hauling out museum pieces, though. He’s making them fresh again, and relevant.
Wells also shines the spotlight on Missy Robins’s Williamsburg Italian restaurant Lilia, Antoine Westermann’s Rotisserie Le Coq Rico, Claus Meyer’s Nordic tasting menu parlor Agern, Brooklyn’s Peruvian hit Llama Inn, and divisive fine dining establishment Günter Seeger NY. Check out the full list — plus an interactive look inside each of the kitchens — here.