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The Best Dishes Eater Editors Ate This Week

Breakfast burritos, panettone, and more

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A storefront shot of Leonelli Bakery.
Leonelli Bakery in the Flatiron District.
Bao Ong/Eater NY

The amount of excellent food available in New York City is dizzying — even during a pandemic — yet mediocre meals somehow keep worming their way into our lives. With Eater editors dining out sometimes several times a day, we do come across lots of standout dishes, and we don’t want to keep any secrets. Check back weekly for the best things we ate this week — so you can, too.

December 20

The falafel platter from Sam’s Falafel Stand in the Financial District, packed with hummus, pita, and balls of falafel.
The falafel platter from Sam’s Falafel Stand.
Luke Fortney/Eater NY

Falafel platter at Sam’s Falafel Stand

Researching for our Financial District lunch map last week led me to Sam’s Falafel Stand, a food cart located in a line of vendors on Cedar Street that’s easy to pick out for its bright green sign — “100% vegetarian,” it states — and sizable lunchtime crowd. Order the falafel platter, one of two items on the menu that comes brimming with hummus, tahini, baba ganoush, pita, pickled peppers, and exactly one dolma ($8). It comes with almost a dozen crisp balls of falafel, enough for two small meals and better than you’d expect at this price point. Cash only. 100 Cedar Street, between Broadway and Trinity Place, Financial District — Luke Fortney, reporter

A breakfast burrito cut in half and held in one hand over a plastic to-go container.
Breakfast burritos at Bluelight Speakcheesy are available on Thursdays only.
Emma Orlow/Eater NY

Breakfast burrito at Bluelight Speak Cheesy

Ever since I read about the breakfast pop-up Bluelight Speak Cheesy’s pandemic residency at the alcohol-free bar Getaway, I knew I’d be planning a morning around my visit. Bluelight rotates its morning specials — on Tuesdays, for example, there’s a Taco Bell-esque breakfast taco — but the Thursday-only breakfast burrito was the one after my heart. On a recent morning, I sat outside and noshed on Bluelight’s colorful version ($11) with egg, potatoes, melty pepper jack cheese, and spinach with crunchy, acidic red cabbage. I also added avocado to my order to make it extra creamy. The griddled, flour tortillas were a nice, warming touch as well. 158 Green Street, near Manhattan Avenue, Greenpoint — Emma Orlow, reporter

Panettone from Bread & Salt

Christmastime means it’s once again time for panettone, the sweet Italian bread studded with all sorts of wonderful candied fruit. I like to get mine from Bread & Salt in Jersey City, one of the tri-state area’s top bakeries and pizzerias. As it happens, owner Rick Easton has a bit of a following (that’s an understatement), and I got shut out of the first round of panettone orders. But I kept a close eye on things and managed to score a naturally leaved loaf a few weeks later when a second round came online; this is the type of bread that requires as much vigilance as picking up a new pair of limited-release sneakers. A few days after I submitted payment, the $55 panettone showed up at my proverbial doorstep, and it was as fantastic as ever. The crumb, infused with French butter, seemed to bounce with the springiness of a warm custard, while the candied orange pieces studded throughout emitted a powerful citrus aroma. It lasted nearly an entire week; if only Easton served this delicacy throughout the year. 435 Palisade Avenue, near Griffith Street, Jersey City — Ryan Sutton, chief critic

A slice of yellow cake with white frosting sitting on top of a pink cake box.
Eggnog sheet cake from Bill Clark’s holiday pop-up.
Erika Adams/Eater NY

Eggnog sheet cake from Bill Clark’s holiday pop-up

I toggled this eggnog sheet cake ($8 per slice) from Bill Clark’s holiday pop-up at Big Night in Greenpoint in and out of my online shopping cart at least five times before hitting submit on the pre-order. Clark’s holiday cookie box? Yes, please. An eggnog-soaked cake with a rum-tinged frosting? I... think so? I’m not an eggnog enthusiast, but, as it turned out, this cake was made for eggnog skeptics. In drink form, eggnog is a thick, rich, sweet liquid that coats the throat; in cake form, it was a dense, subtly sweet dessert with a hint of spice and a bit of a bite from the creamy rum frosting. When it comes to Clark’s creations, I learned my lesson here: just trust him. This was a one-day-only event on Saturday but keep an eye on Clark’s website and Instagram for future pop-ups. — Erika Adams, deputy editor

A square slice of eggplant parm focaccia on a table.
Eggplant parm focaccia at Leonelli Bakery.
Bao Ong/Eater NY

Eggplant parm focaccia at Leonelli Bakery

Poofy hats, leather gloves, or cozy scarves are all great for keeping warm, but my favorite way to deal with the chilly winter temps is to find a place I can dip into for a quick bite. I had extra time on my hands the other day before meeting a friend for dinner and decided to pop into Leonelli Bakery. Loaves of crusty bread and sugary pastries lined the counter, but my eye zeroed in on the selection of focaccia. A slice of the eggplant parmigiana ($7) was clearly the right move. The thin, crisp bread was the ideal foundation for layers of eggplants nestled in just enough marinara sauce and melted mozzarella — all topped with more cheese (Parmigiano Reggiano) and basil. It was the perfect sidewalk snack as I made my way to Madison Square Park for a cup of hot apple cider. Mother Nature: I’m ready for the next Arctic blast. 7 East 27th Street, between Fifth and Madison avenues, Flatiron — Bao Ong, editor

December 13

A crumbed fish arcs across the plate with salad underneath.
Yeung yu sang choi bao at Bonnie’s.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Yeung yu sang choi bao at Bonnie’s

One of the less common dishes I’ve seen come down the pike lately is this whole stuffed trout ($49) from Williamsburg newcomer Bonnie’s, an Asian diner piloted by former Win Son chef Calvin Eng. Though subtle flavors and ingredients identify the menu as nominally Cantonese, many of the preparations reveal a more international perspective, including a version of black bean clams mired in what resembles a Japanese chawan mushi and a playful take on the McRib sandwich. The whole trout — somehow, miraculously stuffed so the thin crinkly skin remains intact — flaunts a fine-textured forcemeat that might remind you of gefillte fish, or maybe a pike quenelle at a fancy French restaurant. Whatever its antecedents, eating this creature with a friend while dipping each piece in green mustard sauce is an exuberant pleasure. 398 Manhattan Avenue, at Frost Street, Williamsburg — Robert Sietsema, senior critic

A hand holds a plate of generously sauced Hong Kong style rice noodles at Pings.
Cheung fun at Ping’s.
Luke Fortney/Eater NY

Cheung fun at Ping’s

I’ve had Cantonese dim sum on the brain, following a busy week of restaurant openings that’s included Bonnie’s (in Williamsburg) and Jing Fong (in Chinatown, but not yet open for indoor dining). Those cravings led me to Ping’s on Sunday morning — a bustling, bi-level restaurant known for its live seafood — and also to this saucy plate of cheung fun. The chewy, steamed rice rolls can be ordered with shrimp and beef, or “Hong Kong style,” as they’re pictured here, with sesame seeds and squiggles of hoisin and peanut butter sauce on top. On a table crowded with pan-fried noodles and shrimp siu mai, this was the first dish to go. 22 Mott Street, at Mosco Street, Chinatown — Luke Fortney, reporter

A bowl with romaine lettuce in soy milk broth topped with scallion oil and pumpkin seeds.
Soy milk braised romaine lettuce at Cha Kee.
Bao Ong/Eater NY

Soy milk braised romaine lettuce at Cha Kee

I love soy milk, and I rarely turn down romaine lettuce, especially if it’s slathered in some anchovy-spiked dressing. But I hesitated when the dinner menu at Cha Kee listed soy milk braised romaine lettuce ($13). The two ingredients combined seemed like a head scratcher: Is it a soup or salad? Somehow, chef Akiko Thurnauer makes it work. I was afraid the romaine would end up tasting like a gloppy mess, but there was a nice balance between the crunch of the stems and sweetness of the leaves, which tasted like it had been gently braised for hours in the cloudy broth. The addition of scallion and chile oils with a smattering of pumpkin seeds rounded out the dish with a hint of spice and some more texture. My friend and I ate the dish like a salad, but I wanted to slurp it like a soup by the end. 43 Mott Street, between Pell and Bayard streets, Chinatown — Bao Ong, editor

Thinly cut pork butt and belly are arranged on a plater beside pickled cabbage, kimchi, garlic, and jalapeno.
Modum bo ssam at Gahwa.
Luke Fortney/Eater NY

Modum bo ssam at Gahwa

During a recent weekday trip to Flushing, I stopped by Gahwa, a homey Korean restaurant, for an ultimate Korean comfort food feast. Even though the restaurant’s signature dish is sullungtang (Korean ox-bone soup), I wanted to go for something heartier and meatier. I ordered modum bo ssam, a large platter with two types of thinly sliced meat — pork belly and pork butt — and an assortment of fixings: salted napa cabbage, raw garlic, tangy scallion salad, and spicy radish salad. The best way to enjoy this bo ssam is by wrapping all of the ingredients together in a piece of cabbage for a nearly perfect bite. Chasing it with with sips of lip-sticking, collagen-heavy sullunagtang made this weeknight dining adventure to Flushing well worth it. 29-32 Union Street, near 29th Road, Flushing — James Park, Eater content strategist

A takeout container filled with shrimp, mango, papaya, cherry tomatoes, grapefruit, dragon fruit, and two lime wedges.
The mango-shrimp somtum bowl from Random Access.
Erika Adams/Eater NY

Mango-shrimp somtum bowl at Random Access

I’ve been plotting this move for weeks, ever since Thai-rooted spot Random Access opened its doors within yelling distance of Penn Station at the end of November. I had a train to catch on Friday night, and timed my departure so that I could first swing by and pick up a to-go bag from this newly opened spot run by the powerhouses at Hand Hospitality. The mango-shrimp somtum bowl, in particular, will be an order on repeat for me. Cooked shrimp and shredded mango and papaya, slicked in a crunchy peanut paste, were layered over a bed of spinach and radicchio. Cubes of seeded dragon fruit, cherry tomatoes, and juicy slices of tart, pink grapefruit filled out the bowl. This was not a sleepy salad: each forkful was jam-packed with both colorful and flavorful ingredients. As I ate on the train, I felt (slightly) sad for the person sitting in front of me, huddled over their Sweetgreen bowl. 138 West 32nd Street, near Seventh Avenue, Midtown — Erika Adams, deputy editor

December 6

A hand clutches an orange beef patty with cheese wrapped in a piece of coco bread.
A beef patty with cheese at Tastee Pattee.
Luke Fortney/Eater NY

Beef patty with cheese at Tastee Pattee

I ate my weight in ground beef and coco bread this week, walking the streets of Brooklyn and the Bronx and nibbling Jamaican patties as I went. Preparations for this handheld baked good vary from storefront to storefront — doughy, flakey, yellow, orange, rectangular, and crescent-shaped patties are all on offer in the five boroughs — but my favorite are those that come out crisp, piping hot, and a little bit spicy. This patty with cheese ($2.75) from Tastee Pattee hit all the marks. Order it on its own, or wedged between a piece of coco bread, a pillowy baked good that’s sweetened slightly with coconut milk, for a dollar more. 987 Flatbush Avenue, near Albemarle Road, Flatbush — Luke Fortney, reporter

Sliced cobia tataki sits underneath a canopy of sliced pineapple with jalapenos and next to a large dollop of pineapple puree
Cobia al pastor.
Ryan Sutton/Eater NY

Cobia al pastor at Cosme

I’ve kept a pretty close eye on Cosme, Enrique Olvera’s modern Mexican spot, since its opening in late 2014. My pre-pandemic regimen was to make about one or two visits every year, usually to see if it was running on all cylinders as it went on to charge some seriously steep prices. Last week, finally, I swung by the bar for the first time since COVID — and since chef Gustavo Garnica assumed the kitchen reins — and the results were about as strong as ever. I tried a solid mole negro and a very good Wagyu beef huarache, but my favorite dish was the restaurant’s longtime classic, cobia al pastor, an indulgent $34 appetizer. The chile-flecked fish sported a gentle tataki sear and voluptuous oceanic oils — all meant to be tamed by a quenelle of pineapple puree and aromatic corn tortillas. I hope to be back here more often, even if it’s a strain on the old bank account. 35 East 21st Street, near Park Avenue South, Flatiron — Ryan Sutton, chief critic

Scrambled eggs, fried plantains, a pool of crema, and a tortilla on a white plate.
Eggs with plantains and crema at La Palma.
Erika Adams/Eater NY

Huevos picados with plantains and crema at La Palma

I’m a sucker for a warm, comforting breakfast plate, and I came across one at Salvadoran spot La Palma during a trip to the Rockaways this weekend that checked all of my boxes. The scrambled eggs ($7.95) were loaded up with dice-sized cubes of cooked onions and red and green peppers, which I scooped up with two thick, white corn tortillas that I ordered on the side (50 cents apiece). The fried sweet plantains that came with the dish were rich and juicy, with a caramelized exterior that added a satisfying bit of crunch to each bite. There weren’t any bells and whistles on this particular plate, just straightforward ingredients treated very well. 1037 Beach 20th Street, near Mott Avenue, Far Rockaway — Erika Adams, deputy editor

A round foil container with white rice and stewed oxtail with side of beans and sweet potatoes on a blue table cloth over a wooden table.
Oxtail stew at Else La Reina del Chicharron.
Bao Ong/Eater NY

Oxtail stew at Elsa La Reina del Chicharron

It was one those moments where I just pointed at the menu and nodded as I spouted my gringo-level Spanish to the woman behind the counter. “Un rabo guisado, por favor,” I whispered. I took home my lunch order of oxtail stew ($15) not knowing exactly what the entire meal included. There was the fork-tender oxtail nestled in a generous serving of rice — perfect as expected because I’ve heard countless good things about Elsa La Reina del Chicharron, a popular Dominican restaurant. While the too-sweet potato salad was a pass, the saucy beans — which tasted like they had simmered for days — made this meal one of my best lunches in recent memory. I poured it over the rice the following day for dinner, and now I can only think about going back (and hitting up Google translate) so I can request the crispy chicharron everyone was taking home. 4840 Broadway, at Academy Street, Inwood — Bao Ong, editor

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