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A bunch of tiny white bowls filled with things on a wooden bridge, as a disembodies arm dumps them in a noodle soup.
Crossing the bridge noodles, deluxe edition, Deng Ji

NYC’s 11 Standout Dishes So Far This Year, According to Eater Critic Robert Sietsema

Sea bass ceviche, pumpkin manti, and more dishes that made the cut among our senior critic’s most memorable dishes 

The time has come for Eater NY’s critics to round-up their favorite dishes of the year so far. Last year, my list was mainly take out. Now, fortunately, most of the dishes have been enjoyed in rustic outdoor spaces adjacent to restaurants or even indoors. Here, without further ado, are my 11 favorites in ranked order, ending with the very best — so far.

11. Tlayuda at Tiny’s Cantina

Of the many food items from Oaxaca popularized here recently, tlayuda is one of the most distinctive. The crisp masa is shaped into a big round cracker and is a platform for heaps of black beans, chorizo, crema, and chiles. At Prospect Heights newcomer Tiny’s Cantina — a Mexican restaurant that was coaxed out of the (literal) ashes of Morgan’s Brooklyn Barbecue by chef Cenobio Canalizo — a classic tlayuda is garnished with colorful watermelon radishes, wonderfully adding color and crunch to this quintessential drinking snack. 229 Flatbush Avenue, between Dean and Bergen streets, Prospect Heights

A round Mexican pizza covered with red watermelon radishes and squiggled with white sour cream.
Tlayuda at Tiny’s Cantina

10. Pretzel at Werkstatt

Hanging around in Ditmas Park since 2015 with little notice, chef Thomas Ferlesch’s Werkstatt is an Austrian establishment that’s more beer garden than restaurant, but the food is far better than might be expected. Supreme among the offerings I’ve tried is this freshly baked pretzel, doughy and yeasty, served with grainy mustard and liptauer, a creamy cheese spread flavored with paprika and chives, which almost melts when the warm pretzel is dipped into it. 509 Coney Island Avenue, at Turner Place, Ditmas Park

A giant brown pretzel with two orangish dips on a metal tray lined with tissue paper.
Pretzel at Werkstatt

9. Lambi at Rebel

At Lower East Side newcomer Rebel (the name and decor commemorate Haitian independence), chefs Marie Charles and Dominique Hermann whip up stylish versions of the island’s cuisine, along with strong cocktails, many concocted of celebrated Barbancourt rum. Sometimes called the national dish of Haiti, lambi is a fricassee of supple strips of conch, along with red bell peppers in the restaurant’s signature Kreyol sauce. With a side of black, mushroom-laced djon djon rice, this entree is utterly delicious, and a revelation for seafood lovers. 29 Clinton Street, at Stanton Street, Lower East Side

Pieces of white conch and red bell pepper in a red sauce.
Lambi at Rebel

8. Pumpkin manti at Gulchatay

Normally, the Uzbek Asian Turkic dumplings called manti come in a bamboo steamer, whether each morsel is filled with lamb or pumpkin. But an option at Homecrest’s Gulchatay, named after a movie and TV character, is to have them deep fried instead. This does wonderful things to the dumplings, making them crisp and juicy, and probably obliterating the health benefits of choosing the orange squash version, which develops a concentrated sweetness during the frying process. 1915 Avenue U, between East 19th Street and Ocean Avenue, Homecrest

Four round fried dumplings shaped like purses on a white plate.
Pumpkin manti at Gulchatay

7. Lamb belly at Hamilton Pork

This sleeper of a barbecue from brothers Michael and John Gondevas is located in the Hamilton Park section of Jersey City, near the yawning maw of the Holland Tunnel. It does all the barbecue standards well, with a simple rub and plenty of smoke, but then adds Tex Mex to its menu and some obscure raw materials to its barbecue list — like this rarely seen lamb belly. It looks like pork ribs, but tastes far different. And it was not the only dish that I liked the hell out of at this under-the-radar spot. 247 10th Street, between Jersey Avenue and Erie Street, Jersey City

What look like a rack of well-blackened ribs.
Lamb belly at Hamilton Pork

6. Crossing the bridge noodles at Deng Ji Yunnan Guoqiao Mixian

Deng Ji, a Manhattan Chinatown restaurant specializing in Yunnan mixian rice noodles, opened a few years ago just as the fad was heating up (it’s pretty much been forgotten now). Later, it opened a deluxe Flushing branch in the old Fu Run space right on Prince Street, with a menu featuring several kinds of crossing the bridge noodles, a recipe with a colorful origin story. The deluxe version of the dish comes with 14 small bowls, the contents of which are emptied into the boiling hot soup and cooked at the table, including pork skin, shaved radish, lotus shoots, fish filet, and Spam. 40-09 Prince Street, between Roosevelt Avenue and 40th Road, Flushing

A black bowl of rice noodles in broth with several additional ingredients.
Crossing the bridge noodles at Deng Ji

5. Yellowtail collar at Hatsuhana

Aficionados of this old-guard sushi bar, which has kept quality high since opening in 1976, know that the best appetizer is not a seaweed salad or a plate of Japanese fried chicken, but the off-menu yellowtail collar, a byproduct of the days’ sushi prepping. At most places, the collar is left intact, making it a chore to extract the meat. But at Hatsuhana, the collar is divided into big chunks, making it much easier to eat and multiplying the flavorful and wonderfully oily surface area. 17 East 48th Street, between Fifth and Madison avenues, Midtown

Chunks of glistening fish on a plate.
Yellowtail collar at Hatsuhana

4. Barbacoa at La Estancia de la Espiga

At this semi-subterranean Corona Mexican cafe, mutton barbacoa (sometimes it’s goat) is steamed in a clay pit and sold by the pound, making a fatty, flavorful, and sinewy mountain of meat. It’s sold with unlimited tortillas made in the window, along with onions, cilantro, and the house red and green salsas. There’s no better brunch in town. 42-11 102nd Street, between 42nd and 43rd avenues, Corona

A tortilla loaded with meat on the lower left, with a bigger plate of meat, chopped onions, and radishes in the upper right hand corner.
Mutton barbacoa at La Estancia de la Espiga

3. Spicy cumin lamb hand-ripped noodles at Xi’an Famous Foods

I watched this fiery dish evolve from humble beginnings in a basement mall in Flushing, and it has never lost its heat or pungency over the years, nor have the noodles not been freshly prepared with just the right wobbly and absorbent texture, a tribute to owner Jason Wang’s perseverance. 328 East 78th Street, between First and Second avenues, Upper East Side

A round bowl of broad noodles swimming in red oil.
Spicy cumin hand-ripped noodles at Xi’an Famous Foods

2. Sea bass ceviche at Tacos Güey

Though the name touts tacos (and some very good ones), the top of the heap at this Flatiron newcomer from chef Henry Zamora are his ceviches. The best of five ceviche options comes deposited on crushed ice in a scallop shell, a serving of small cubed sea bass fresh from being caught in local waters, mixed with sweet orange swatches of gooseberry and dressed with a minty green oil. It’s like putting an extra air conditioner in your apartment. 37 West 19th Street, between Fifth and Sixth avenues, Flatiron

A heap of fish cubes with green leaves sticking out and small orange swatches of gooseberry.
Sea bass ceviche at Tacos Güey

1. Sauteed spicy holy basil at Nuaa Table

Chef Pitipong Bowornneeranart strives for uniqueness in many of Nuaa Table’s offerings, including a crunchy banana blossom salad, flower-shaped dumplings, and this street food selection from Bangkok, which features gnarly nuggets of pork stir fried with basil, two types of chile, and other vegetables, finally crowned with a fried egg with a drooling yolk. The yolk makes a delectably rich sauce, and mellows an otherwise tongue-scorching dish. 638 Bergen Street, at Vanderbilt Avenue, Prospect Heights

A fried egg on top of coarsely ground pork with a chile here and there.
Sauteed spicy holy basil at Nuaa Table

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