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The Best Dishes Eater Editors Ate This Week

Bulgogi yubuchobap, breakfast banh xeo, and more

The inside of a small restaurant and a cashier is visible through an open window on a sunny day
Yubu, a bite-sized East Village storefront that specializes in yubuchobap.
Luke Fortney/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.


September 27

An overhead photograph of a takeout container with five yubuchobap, rice pockets wrapped in tofu skin and topped with various meats and seafoods
An assortment of yubuchobap from Yubu.
Luke Fortney/Eater NY

Beef bulgogi yubuchobap at Yubu

Standing outside of Yubu, I was struck with nostalgia for the early days of pandemic dining, when meals were eaten standing on street corners, or hovering over the steps of a nearby stoop. This impossibly small East Village storefront specializes in yubuchobap, pillows of rice, meat, and seafood that are neatly wrapped in fried tofu skin. Priced at around $3.50 each, Yubu’s version is one of the best handheld foods I’ve had during the pandemic. Of the dozen preparations here, and the five I sampled this week, my favorite was the salty-sweet beef bulgogi (upper right). It’s one of few yubuchobap here lacking in mayonnaise or sauce and, strangely, was also one of the most flavorful. Out front, there’s a few tables set up for outdoor dining, but as far as I’m concerned the best way to eat this handheld snack — and the free pack of Haribo gummy bears that comes with every order — is on two feet. 86 East 7th Street, near First Avenue, East Village — Luke Fortney, reporter

In a brown box seen from above, a browned rice wrapper with lettuce and green herbs and small container of orange sauce.
Breakfast banh xeo at Nha Minh.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Breakfast banh xeo at Nha Minh

It’s been years since the city has had a Vietnamese breakfast spot, and Ridgewood newcomer Nha Minh fulfills the need, open at 8 a.m. weekdays and 10 a.m. Saturday and Sunday. Located in the front section of the music venue Trans-Pecos, Nha Mina offers egg-bearing banh mi, sunnyside eggs (one duck, one chicken, and one quail) served with Maggi, and, best of all, a version of the banh xeo rice crepe ($8) filled, not with sprouts and shrimp, but with egg and bacon. It comes with long lettuce leaves and fresh herbs for wrapping, and an orange dipping sauce that packs a bit of heat. 915 Wyckoff Avenue, between Weirfield and Hancock streets, Ridgewood — Robert Sietsema, senior critic

A croissant topped with pistachio and what appears to be other chopped nuts rests on a paper bag on a wooden table
A pistachio-laden croissant at Frenchette Bakery.
Gabe Hiatt/Eater D.C.

Sicilian pistachio croissant at Frenchette Bakery

Entering the Merchant Square Building in Tribeca the other day gave me the sensation of walking into a proofing cabinet. Even through my mask, the sweet and yeasty scent of fresh bread permeated the hallway leading up to Frenchette Bakery’s ordering window, instantly elevated my mood. When I laid eyes on the Vienna-style pastries, I fell hard for a Sicilian pistachio croissant presented with a “twice-baked” descriptor that I would typically associate with exorbitant potatoes. This treasure, which still felt like a value buy at $7, was split in half and reassembled with a barely sweet pistachio filling in the center. A green crumble of nuts on top made it even more salty and savory, introducing each bite with an assertive crunch. A pluot feuilleté — basically a danish with a round half of stone fruit staring up at me — was equally impressive. Do they put baked goods in the Met? 220 Church Street, between Thomas and Worth streets, Tribeca Gabe Hiatt, editor, Eater D.C.

Two octopus and pear skewers, slathered in a crimson sauce, sit on a white plate above a black marble counter at Ernesto’s
Octopus and pear skewers at Ernesto’s.
Ryan Sutton/Eater NY

Octopus and pear skewers at Ernesto’s

I’ve been hanging out at chef Ryan Bartlow’s Basque-leaning Ernesto’s more often these days, trying out a few of the newer dishes — as I wrote in a column last week — and checking out some of the older pre-pandemic staples too. A week or so ago I dropped by just before 10:00 p.m. and encountered a seriously packed house, with pizza chef extraordinaire Pam Yung dining with a large crew near the back. I snagged the last seat at the bar and almost immediately ordered one of the venue’s original dishes: octopus skewers. Bartlow intersperses slices of the cephalopod with sweet pears — a maritime riff on the classic meat and fruit pairing — then douses the whole thing in a bravas-style sauce. The octopus itself is tender and gently briny; the sauce adds a mid-level of smoke; and the sugars of the pears help tame all the salts contained within. 10 Montgomery Street at East Broadway, Two Bridges — Ryan Sutton, chief critic

A large pork chop with small red fruits in a sauce on top sits on an oval white plate with a small tea candle in the upper left corner of the frame.
Pork heritage rib roast at Gage and Tollner.
Erika Adams/Eater NY

Pork heritage rib roast at Gage and Tollner

My Saturday night was supposed to start with meeting friends at the revived Gage and Tollner for fancy, expensive drinks, and then moving somewhere else more relaxed for dinner. But the food was so tasty, and the atmosphere was so fun and welcoming, that we ended up staying in our bar stools. After a round of Devils on Horseback and clams kimsino (a kimchi-inflected take on the classic preparation), we dove into a hearty spread of fried chicken and a juicy, ginormous pork rib roast for two blanketed in a sour cherry mostarda ($52) that easily fed the three of us. The whole night was the exact opposite of what I was expecting from a century-old place so steeped in upscale dining tradition. Fanciness without pretension is a really fine line to walk, and Gage and Tollner nailed it. 372 Fulton Street, near Smith Street, Downtown Brooklyn — Erika Adams, reporter


September 20

A triangular piece of onigiri rests on a piece of seaweed on a paper bag. In the background, three additional onigiri sit beside an iced coffee.
Oba and plum onigiri at Ten Ichi Mart.
Luke Fortney/Eater NY

Oba and plum onigiri at Ten Ichi Mart

Compelled by a craving for seaweed and sticky rice this weekend, I ended up in the aisles of Ten Ichi Mart in Boerum Hill. This Japanese grocer, which has a second location in Williamsburg, specializes in reasonably priced, pre-packaged foods, including sushi, sashimi, and steamed buns. Somewhat ambitiously, I purchased four onigiri for lunch and — priced at one to three dollars each — the stuffed rice triangles didn’t disappoint. My favorite of the haul was one that came overflowing with tart purple plum, which I purchased on the recommendation of an employee at the market. Flecked with oba (another name for green perilla leaf), the only vegetarian rice ball of the bunch easily outranked its peers made with more showy ingredients like eel and cod roe. 118 Smith Street, between Dean and Pacific streets, Boerum Hill — Luke Fortney, reporter

A white plastic tray filled with green broccoli and yellowish balls with bits of noodles peeking out.
Fish ball with curry sauce chen cun fen at Lady Chow Kitchen.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Fish ball with curry sauce chen cun fen at Lady Chow Kitchen

Places specializing in cheung fun have been the newest type of restaurant to hit Chinatown in the last few years. These translucent rice noodles are commonly wrapped around shrimp, beef and cilantro, or dozens of other fillings. A variation has just appeared at the newly opened Lady Chow Kitchen, near the corner of Hester and Mott. Chen cun fen, a rice noodle similar to cheung fen, are said to have originated in Foshan, Guangdong. At Lady Chow, there are 20 variations, and a further seven menu items that constitute larger casseroles fit for a crowd. Fish ball with curry sauce ($7.95) is a good first choice, the noodles topped with a pungent and spicy yellowish sauce filled with fish balls and broccoli. The gravy cascades down deliciously into the rice noodles. 171 Hester Street, between Mott and Elizabeth streets, Chinatown — Robert Sietsema, senior critic

Three pupusas laid on a white plate with two white bowls filled with pickled cabbage and red tomato sauce sit on a green and white patterned table.
Pupusas at Gran Villa.
Erika Adams/Eater NY

Pupusas at Gran Villa

There’s nothing quite like a fresh, piping hot pupusa. I was reminded of this particular joy last week when I ordered an array of the savory treats at Salvadorian restaurant Gran Villa while out and about doing some eating for our Sunset Park map (check out the finished product here). At Gran Villa, the flat griddled corn cakes arrived at the table almost too hot to eat at first, oozing with gooey cheese and tender shredded chicken and pork. I topped each pupusa ($2.75 apiece) with generous portions of the sides — lightly pickled cabbage and a mild pureed tomato sauce — and savored each warm, comforting bite. After finishing up three at the table, I ordered three more to-go for lunch the next day. 4002 Third Avenue, at 40th Street, Sunset Park — Erika Adams, reporter

A square slice of buffalo chicken pizza, topped with mozzarella and green scallions, sits next to a tomato slice over a pizza box, next to a plastic cup of iced coffee
Buffalo chicken pizza at Corner Slice.
Ryan Sutton/Eater NY

Buffalo chicken pizza at Corner Slice

One of my favorite late pandemic rituals involves cycling over to a pizzeria on Fridays, picking up a few slices with a coffee, and finding an outdoor picnic bench to bask in the sun for an hour or so. This is precisely how I unwound a few days ago at Corner Slice at Gotham West Market, where I also managed to sample the excellent buffalo chicken pizza ($5). Tomato slices, packed with bright acid and earthy umami, are usually my preferred lunch as they don’t weigh me down too much, but this poultry-studded affair is nimble enough even for a hot day. The tangy, saucy chicken balances out the rich mozzarella, while scallions add a bit of allium freshness. An airy, naturally leavened crust also keeps everything moving through the digestive tract without too much heaviness. 600 11th Avenue, at West 45th Street, Hell’s Kitchen — Ryan Sutton, chief critic

A white plated heaping with Afghan brown rice topped with raisins and slivers of carrots next to a plate with salad greens, rice, and chicken kebabs.
Qabuli palow at Araian Afghan Kabob.
Bao Ong/Eater NY

Qabuli palow at Ariana Afghan Kabob

My friend and I started off our “Complete Dinner for Two” ($55) with a delicious bolanee kachalou — basically an oversized fried wonton filled with smashed potatoes — and tender chicken kebabs on a bed of rice. So I wasn’t sure what to think when the qabuli palow (it’s $25 a la carte) arrived. It seemed like another heaping plate of brown rice topped with slivers of carrots and raisins had landed on our table after we already inhaled enough carbs to feed four people. It turns out that tender chunks of lamb shank were tucked into this traditional Afghan dish. We didn’t leave one grain of rice by the time we paid our bill. 787 Ninth Avenue, between West 52nd and 53rd streets, Hell’s Kitchen — Bao Ong, editor


September 14

A bun heaped with sliced steak and a bright green chopped condiment.
Chimichurri ribeye sandwich at Meat and Bread.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Chimichurri ribeye sandwich at Meat and Bread

Opened nine months ago by Yamoni, Azimuth, and Khadija Bari, Meat and Bread is among a new crop of halal restaurants appearing on the Lower East Side not limiting itself to Middle Eastern or South Asian food. Its specialty is grilled sandwiches with an international flair, including the flagship chimichurri ribeye ($18). It comes on a potato roll, featuring flame-grilled and sliced steak in copious quantities thickly heaped with chimichurri — a zingy minced condiment of olive oil, fresh parsley, and garlic often associated with Argentina. And the delectable sandwich features the taste of the pampas in every bite. The best part is that the steak is cooked to order with just the right amount of surface char and your preferred level of doneness: In my case, a perfect medium rare. 201 Allen Street, between Houston and Stanton streets, Lower East Side — Robert Sietsema, senior critic

An overhead photograph of a plate of tacos filled with crickets, a sliver of avocado, cilantro, and red onion.
Tacos de chapulines at Michelada House II.
Luke Fortney/Eater NY

Tacos de chapulines at Michelada House II

This might technically be the best dish I ate last week, but does it matter if I’m sitting at my kitchen table still dreaming about it this morning? Compelled by a recent visit from my colleague Robert Sietsema, I trekked to Michelada House II last weekend in search of the chilaquiles tortas and two-foot-long machetes he found there. Those dishes were well worth the double subway transfer on their own, but best of all were the restaurant’s chapulines, toasted grasshoppers that are sometimes eaten on their own but here are stuffed into two corn tortillas. The tacos come three to an order, and are served with not much more than cilantro, onion, and a few mouthfuls of the toasted insects. Throw on a little salsa for a flavorful, apparently protein-packed lunch. 88-19 Roosevelt Avenue, at 89th Street, Jackson Heights — Luke Fortney, reporter

A white square plate filled with a yellow stew, white rice, a yellow slice of plantain, fried pork, two white eggs, and a white cup filled with red vegetables and shrimp.
Banderita criolla at Reina de la Nube.
Erika Adams/Eater NY

Banderita criolla at Reina de la Nube

It’d be easy enough to stumble right past Ecuadorian restaurant Reina de la Nube’s tiny storefront on bustling Fourth Avenue in Sunset Park if not for the steady stream of customers passing through its doorway, hauling out heavy takeout bags. On a recent visit, I sat indoors at one of a handful of tables to try out one of their most popular dishes, the banderita criolla ($14). My plate arrived filled to the brim with warm beef tripe and potato stew, cubes of fried pork, several hearty scoops of buttery white rice, jammy-yolked eggs, and shrimp and onions tossed in a sharp, vinegary dressing. The mild, savory stew of soft tripe and potatoes warmed me from the inside out, and the crispy pork, with its fried outer layer, was no less juicy and succulent on the inside. It was an unbeatable Saturday afternoon feast. 922A Fourth Avenue, at 34th Street, Sunset Park — Erika Adams, reporter

Red and orange tomatoes sit adjacent to fresh mozzarella drizzled with olive oil; verdant basil leaves also garnish the preparation.
Caprese salad at Altro Paradiso.
Ryan Sutton/Eater NY

Caprese salad at Altro Paradiso

Like the rest of the city, I’ve been spending my final summer days eating as many tomatoes as my body will permit, and I’m happy to report that Altro Paradiso in Soho served me some of the season’s finest ($23). Chef Ignacio Mattos and company, per usual, managed to make things visually interesting even with the simplest ingredients, layering tiny cherry tomatoes above a sturdier orange tomato foundation hidden below — while also draping whole basil leaves across firm rounds of mozzarella. The fruit was impressively fragrant and the cheese, sufficiently milky, but the herbs truly tried the dish together. Basil isn’t an uncommon ingredient in caprese salads, but the way the leaf seemed to sync with the more vegetal overtones of the late season tomatoes truly felt like a preternaturally seamless match. 234 Spring Street at Sixth Avenue — Ryan Sutton, chief critic

A white plate with a round piece of toast topped with seaweed caviar and small balls of cucumbers with chive scattered around the main dish.
Cucumbers and caviar at Dirt Candy.
Bao Ong/Eater NY

Cucumbers and caviar at Dirt Candy

It never crosses my mind to order caviar because I figure that any fish roe worth ordering is well out of my budget. But chef Amanda Cohen’s very reasonably priced tasting menu included a surprise version — available for vegetarians and vegans — that I can’t stop thinking about. The tiny orbs of “caviar” had that fresh oceanic flavor (it’s made from seaweed, after all) and each piece pops in your mouth like miniature boba. It’s served on some sort of crispy carb with a smear of refreshing cucumber cream cheese and pairs elegantly with the cucumbers and chive. It’s just one of five courses on the menu and at $85, which includes tip, it’s still much more affordable (and better) than any “real” caviar. 86 Allen Street, between Broome and Grand streets, Lower East Side — Bao Ong, editor


September 7

A bony hunk of meat in the middle on top of rice with bread underneath, and almonds scattered over all.
Mansaf at Ayat.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Mansaf at Ayat

One of the great pleasures of eating at Ayat — a Palestinian restaurant that appeared in Bay Ridge about a year ago — is that the dishes are served communally, whether you eat them outside or in. Mansaf is just such a dish, a long-braised lamb shank of stupendous girth with a paleness on its surface from marinating for hours. It’s plunked on a bed of rice, with a flatbread that peeks out at the edges underneath. Toasted almonds are sprinkled atop the dish, which further mellow the meaty flavors, and on the side is a bowl of fermented yogurt sauce. Every bite is moist and richly flavored, and the shank, which has been subdivided into parts, is worth picking up and chewing. The price of $30 is a tremendous bargain if you split the dish with one or two others. 8504 Third Avenue, between 85th and 86th streets, Bay Ridge — Robert Sietsema, senior critic

A paper bowl filled with squid adobo on rice with a lime and sliced pepper sits on a wood table.
Squid adobo at Tradisyon.
Bao Ong/Eater NY

Squid adobo at Tradisyon

One of my go-to recipes during the past year was a great Times recipe for chicken adobo, but after a few bites, I was convinced it should have been this squid adobo ($13). It was a perfect end-of-summer dish: The tentacles of the cephalopod appeared to be lightly sauteed without being overly chewy. A wave of tartness from the vinegar that hit you, but it wasn’t overpowering, and the bed of rice balanced out the saltiness of the soy sauce and fragrant garlic with a bit of crunch from the sliced chilis. While I crave the richness of the poultry version of this popular Filipino dish in the colder months, this seafood rendition tasted lighter and reminded me of simple home-cooked recipes I grew up in a Vietnamese-Chinese household. If the kitchen at Tradisyon will share the recipe, I’ll be the first to make it. 790 Ninth Avenue, between West 52nd and 53rd streets, Hell’s Kitchen— Bao Ong, editor

An overhead photograph of a plastic container filled with mini octopi and other seafood
The Neptune salad at Tashkent Supermarket.
Luke Fortney/Eater NY

Neptune salad at Tashkent Supermarket

It’s a shame it took until the end of summer for me to finally walk the aisles of Tashkent Supermarket, one of the city’s most elaborate hot buffets and easily one of the best ways to kick off a summer afternoon. In our case, we loaded up a half-dozen takeout containers with pierogies, samsa pastries, and other Uzbek dishes before making the short walk to Brighton Beach for a towel picnic. My favorite of the haul was this container of headless shrimp and head-on octopus, which in all honesty was more photogenic than flavorful, but still packed enough of a lemony wallop that I’d gladly order it again ($10 per pound). 713 Brighton Beach Avenue, at Coney Island Avenue, Brighton Beach — Luke Fortney, reporter

A white dish with a brown fish fillet laid next to an orange sauce, green leaves of arugula, and yellow-skinned slices of melon
Blackened Spanish mackerel at Kjun.
Erika Adams/Eater NY

Blackened Spanish mackerel at Kjun

Like several of my colleagues, I also had a great bite of seafood this past week. For me, it was a well-seasoned dish of blackened Spanish mackerel at a rare in-person dinner for chef Jae Jung’s Korean-Cajun takeout-and-delivery enterprise, Kjun. Jung has been painstakingly experimenting and honing the menu for Kjun ever since she first launched six months ago, and I knew to expect more surprises at her end-of-summer, in-person pop-up at Yondu Culinary Studio in the Seaport District. The moment that stuck with me most from the five-course meal ($100, with drinks) was the mackerel. The fatty, sturdy fish was crusted with a blend of Creole spices, including paprika and onion powder, that punched up the otherwise mild seafood with delightfully loud savory, salty notes. The fish was paired with a refreshing Korean melon salad that tempered any lingering saltiness and made for an engaging, well-rounded dish. 254 Front Street, at the corner of Dover Street, Seaport District — Erika Adams, reporter

Ayat

8504 3rd Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11209 (718) 831-2585 Visit Website

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