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The Best Dishes Eater Editors Ate This Week

$600 king crab, chorizo and egg sandwiches, and more

A corner restaurant has brightly lit, block font signs saying Wu’s Wonton King.
A Chinatown favorite: Wu’s Wonton King
Robert Sietsema/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.

January 18

To taste the crab fried rice at Wu’s Wonton King, you first have to shell out $600.
The crab fried rice at Wu’s Wonton King.
Luke Fortney/Eater NY

The crab fried rice at Wu’s Wonton King

Well, it finally happened. I ordered the $600 king crab at Wu’s Wonton King this past week, a rite of passage no one living on a journalist’s salary should be allowed to participate in and from which there’s no coming back. “I’ll never not do that again,” a friend at our table said, and sadly, I have to agree. This Manhattan restaurant sets its king crabs loose on your table for one last squirm, before taking them into the kitchen and turning them into three family-style dishes: garlicky steamed legs, crusty fried crab with chiles, and my favorite of all, this fried rice laden with chunks of egg and shellfish. Does it really cost $600? Actually, no. Sometimes it’s more, as the restaurant’s crabs are priced at over $50 a pound. Don’t order this with any fewer than 10 people: It’s simply too much food and, well, you do the math. 165 East Broadway, at Rutgers Street, Lower East Side — Luke Fortney, reporter

A round blistered roll held in a tissue and piled high with yellow, brown, and green.
Chorizo and egg sandwich at C&B.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Chorizo and egg sandwich at C&B

In a closet of a space next to the Horseshoe Bar and facing Tomkins Square Park, C&B is a bakery and breakfast spot of such renown that a knot of patrons appear midmorning and vie for spots in the shed outdoors, even though there’s no indoor seating. Apart from loaves of bread, rolls, and pastries, the place is famous for its opulent breakfast sandwiches, of which my favorite features chorizo. This is not any Spanish sausage link, but a very thick patty with a depth of flavor not found at too many other places. The roll at first appears to be a compact sourdough variety, the eggs damply scrambled and sagging from the sandwich. To make up for a lack of cheese — god help us, it’s gloppy enough — there are several slices of ripe avocado protruding like green tongues. The sandwich ($12) is memorably tasty and voluminous, such that you’ll want to return the next day for another, but be forewarned that eating it requires a jaw that opens as wide as Freddie Mercury’s. 178 East Seventh Street, between avenues A and B, East Village — Robert Sietsema, senior critic

Bomba rice at Cervo’s

I’ve long been a fan of the Fly in Bed-Stuy, the chicken-centric natural wine bar by Nialls Fallon, Nick Perkins, and Leah Campbell, but somehow I’d never made it over to Cervo’s, their hip Iberian wine spot in Manhattan. We all have holes on our resumes! I finally corrected that oversight and swung by well after 10 p.m. on a recent weeknight. As the kitchen wrapped up service and as the speakers played hip hop tunes, I snacked on fried oysters, crisp shrimp heads, and best of all, bomba rice with bottarga and rock shrimp ($18). The resident chefs cooked the grains until they displayed a risotto-like creaminess; the rice flaunted speckles of black pepper for heat and squirts of lemon for tang. Those rock shrimp, in turn, released strategic doses of oceanic sweetness. I’ll definitely try to put this place into my regular eating rotation, especially with such a nice selection of sherries. 43 Canal Street, near Ludlow Street, Lower East Side — Ryan Sutton, chief critic

One of several pastas at Ammazzacaffè in East Williamsburg.
Emma Orlow/Eater NY

Garganelli at Ammazzacaffè

It recently occurred to me that I had gone what can only be described as a criminally long time since I could last remember having pasta in an Italian restaurant setting. On a recent night, I headed out to Ammazzacaffè, a restaurant that I had long been meaning to check out, to set the record straight. The garganelli bolognese ($22) — an all-time favorite pasta shape for me — is exactly what I needed on a blustery, winter night. Ammazzacaffè’s cozy, dark-wood interiors were perfect for a date spot that felt intimate but not scene-y. I definitely also want to come back when it gets warmer to bring a group to gather around the cute, picnic table-filled backyard. 702 Grand Street, near Graham Avenue, East Williamsburg — Emma Orlow, reporter

Ca kho to at Nón Lá

I was so happy to see Vietnamese spot Nón Lá back up and running yesterday after the family-run business temporarily shut down when owner Ronny Nguyen suffered a health emergency at the end of last year (the family started a GoFundMe to help with medical bills here). I swung by and picked up a takeout bowl of the ca kho to, or clay pot salmon ($18) — a necessary shield to combat last night’s stark, chilly weather. Generous chunks of salmon, lined with luxuriously fatty fish skin, floated alongside slices of onion and red and green bell peppers in a dark broth that tasted both sweet and savory thanks to the caramelized soy sauce in the clay pot. By the time I finished eating, I had forgotten all about the bone-chilling cold outdoors. 128 East Fourth Street, near First Avenue, East Village — Erika Adams, deputy editor

January 10

A hand wearing a navy sweater holds a sandwich with a slab of golden fried fish.
The fried fish sandwich at Tai Pan Bakery.
Luke Fortney/Eater NY

Fried fish sandwich at Tai Pan Bakery

While walking along Chinatown’s Canal Street last week, I popped into Tai Pan Bakery, intending to buy some roast pork buns for a weekend indoors and ending up with so much more. It’s easy to happen here, walking through the store with a plastic tray and a set of stainless steel tongs, clawing at pastries as you go. Best of the haul was this sandwich, priced around $3 for a heaping slab of fried fish with a squiggle of mayonnaise and a few leaves of lettuce hiding underneath — just the right amount to balance out this potentially too-heavy dish. The fish, flakey and flavorful, still had some crisp to it when I made it back to my home a half-hour later, where this photo was taken. 194 Canal Street, near Mott Street, Chinatown — Luke Fortney, reporter

A limpid rice soup with fish, red chiles, and green herbs visible, in a white shallow bowl.
Chao ca at Ha’s Dac Biet.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Chao ca at Ha’s Đặc Biệt

Ha’s Đặc Biệt caused a sensation when it assumed a residency along with fellow pop-up Kreung Cambodia last summer at East Williamsburg’s Outerspace, scored an overwhelming hit, and promptly closed. Now collaborators Anthony Ha and Sadie Mae Burns have appeared again on the Lower East Side with a new version of their peripatetic pop-up featuring a similarly enticing and challenging Vietnamese menu that runs to nine dishes, including a wonderful rice porridge called chao ca ($16). Thinner than Chinese congee, the broth explodes with flavor, including perfumey red birdseye chiles, chopped shallots, and fresh green herbs. The center of attention is commanded by monkfish liver and kimme-dai — a pinkish plank of a fish also known as goldeneye snapper. The effect is stunning, and you don’t so much slurp the rice soup as explore it, with different flavors in every spoonful. 70 Forsyth Street, between Hester and Grand streets, Lower East Side — Robert Sietsema, senior critic

Lamb barbacoa tacos at Empellon Taqueria

Alex Stupak, after months of pandemic-related delays, finally opened Empellon Taqueria on Waterline Square, a little nook on the Upper West Side adjacent the Hudson. I’m still mulling over how this evolving empire fits into the city’s thriving modern Mexican scene; the Midtown Empellon continues to draw in diners with trompe l’oeil avocados and other avant-garde sweets, while the Taqueria concept mixes both contemporary and traditional influences. But less academically, I had a very nice meal at this new space not too long ago. I liked the coarse carrot chorizo tacos, but I really enjoyed the tender lamb barbacoa tacos for their straightforwardness. They tasted precisely how slow-cooked and shredded lamb should taste — funky and sweet — while the ample jus didn’t sog up the sturdy corn tortillas. A pair of mezcal margaritas helped quell the mild heat. Perhaps I’ll test drive the crunchy bean flautas on a return visit. 645 West 59th Street at Freedom Place South, Upper West Side — Ryan Sutton, chief critic

A Vienesse apple strudel with powdered sugar on top on a blue-and-white antique-looking plate on a wooden surface.
Vienesse apple strudel at Chocnyc.
Bao Ong/Eater NY

Viennese apple strudel at Chocnyc

As New Yorkers ogled the winter’s first snowfall last week, I was more enamored by the dusting of powdered sugar on this Viennese apple strudel ($4.75) from Chocnyc, by far my favorite neighborhood bakery. The crispy, tissue paper-thin strudel dough resembled an overstuffed burrito filled with tart apples that reminded me of the fall months that feels like forever ago. But the rum-soaked raisins, toasted cake crumbs, and walnuts brought back fresh memories of holiday celebrations in the past month and made a case for being an idyllic comforting winter dessert. It’s a no-frills pastry that’s familiar and timeless — like an American apple but more old world with with its European roots. Unlike the short window that a snowfall in NYC is actually appreciated, however, every bit of this strudel was savored to the last bite. 4996 Broadway, between West 212th and 211th streets, Inwood — Bao Ong, editor

Rice, fish cutlet, and a brown pork curry are served in a banana leaf in a woven basket.
The lamprais at Staten Island’s Lakruwana comes with several protein options like the pictured pork curry.
Emma Orlow/Eater NY

Lamprais at Lakruwana

After spotting discounted NYC Winter Lantern Festival tickets held in Snug Harbor, my friends and I drove out to Staten Island — albeit without first checking the weather. Damp and cold without umbrellas, we decided chase the enchanting outdoor light show with a visit to the knockout Lakruwana, one of several local Sri Lankan restaurants. Though there’s also a buffet option at Lakruwana, we opted for a la carte. The resounding crowd favorite was the lamprais — a dish made with basmati rice, eggplant, fish cutlet, fried egg, and cashew nut curry with pork, served in a banana leaf — that, according to the menu, is a 300-year-old recipe. It was just what we needed to warm up our bellies. 668 Bay Street, at Broad Street, Stapleton Heights — Emma Orlow, reporter

The interior of a pizza box with a circular brown injera rolled out and scoops of colorful veggie preparations placed on top.
Beyaynetu in a pizza box from Bunna Cafe.
Erika Adams/Eater NY

Beyaynetu from Bunna Cafe

Over the past couple of particularly freezing days, I have found myself keeping an eye out for restaurants that are having some real fun on the takeout front. While reading through our Eater 38 lineup recently, I was reminded of Ethiopian restaurant Bunna Cafe and its overflowing platters that they modify for takeout in pizza boxes. The beyaynetu feast for two ($45) comes with bouncy rolls of injera and nine cups of veggies treated with expert care, including herb-y mushroom tibs, a selata mixed with crunchy kale and studded with sweet dried cranberries, and shiro, a stewed mix of ground chickpeas that we drizzled with daata ($2) a fiery Ethiopian hot sauce that I highly recommend adding to your order. We rolled out the injera in the pizza box, piled on the heaps of colorful veggies, and dug in. It was exactly the upleveled takeout that I was looking for to fuel a warm night in. 1084 Flushing Avenue, near Knickerbocker Avenue, Bushwick — Erika Adams, deputy editor

January 3

On a bright blue tile background, several dishes in baskets and bowls.
Mixed appetizer platter at Salma.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Mixed appetizer platter at Salma

Three months ago Salma appeared in the East Village, named after a woman commemorated in a poem on the restaurant’s website, and joining a raft of other Lebanese businesses in the neighborhood, including Balade and Au Za’atar. All the usual elements of Middle Eastern cuisine are on its menu, including pita sandwiches, bread dips, kebabs, and casseroles, but of particular interest is this expansive appetizer platter ($24.50), which can fully feed two or three when treated as a shared late-afternoon snack washed down with pots of mint tea or Lebanese coffee. The assortment includes falafel, torpedo-shaped kibbe filled with ground beef, stuffed grape leaves, hummus with a reservoir of chickpeas, an eggplant moussaka, a fattoush salad, yogurt sauce, and plenty of razor-thin pitas, perfect for scooping up small portions of food. 351 East 12th Street, between First and Second avenue, East Village — Robert Sietsema, senior critic

Bowls of mapo tofu, dumplings in chile oil, and pickled cabbage soup are spread out on a white countertop.
Mapo tofu (left), dumplings (bottom), and boiled fish at Guan Fu.
Luke Fortney/Eater NY

Boiled fish with pickled cabbage at Guan Fu

Eating in Flushing more often was toward the top of this year’s list of resolutions, and unlike my ambitions to exercise, get eight hours of sleep, etc., I started things off strong with a trip to Guan Fu. This Sichuan restaurant right off Roosevelt Avenue is home to a prize-winning bowl of boiled fish ($23), a favorite of New York Times critic Pete Wells and apparently most of the restaurant, as the oversized dish (upper right) could be found on most tables. I came expecting a lip-numbing broth, based on the number of red chiles and peppercorns bobbing about, but I ended up puckering, packed as it was with bits of pickled cabbage. It’s an easy contender for our best soups map, and a delightful way to kick off another year of New York eating. 39-16 Prince Street, near Roosevelt Avenue, Flushing — Luke Fortney, reporter

Guinea hen pasta at Rezdôra

One of my (fully-vaxxed) friends had just moved back to New York from London when a bout with COVID robbed her of her sense of taste for about week, so after she recovered I did my best to show her and her husband a good time at a nice fancy restaurant. As luck would have it Stefano Secchi’s noodle palace, Rezdôra, had a same-day cancellation for the outdoor patio, so I snagged the reservation. No surprise: We ate very well, sharing seven small pasta plates among the four of us. I could go on about any of them but I was particularly enamored with the bottone del cacciotore ($28). Secchi stuffs little button-shaped discs with a powerful puree of guinea hen; garnishes each one with a slice of black truffle; and finishes it all off with a touch of sweet saba. The portion was small, but with earthy and gamey flavors this outsized, you only needed a few bites. 27 East 20th Street, near Broadway — Ryan Sutton, chief critic

A takeout box lined with a green banana leaf and filled with noodles and green vegetables.
Pad kee mao from Pad Thaimee.
Erika Adams/Eater NY

Pad kee mao from Pad Thaimee

It’s been on my mind for awhile to try out chef Hong Thaimee’s takeout and delivery operation Pad Thaimee, and last night, in the final hours of our holiday break, felt like a necessary moment for some warm, spicy noodles. I ordered the pad kee mao ($15) on the strength of the ingredient list alone — rice noodles tossed with makrut lime leaves, chili jam, Thai basil, a top-secret sauce, and a dusting of young peppercorns — and, as promised, the noodles arrived fast, hot, and coated in tingling, well-balanced layers of spicy goodness. The end result was a fun little heat-packed party of a takeout box, and the tacky, chewy, sauce-slicked noodles disappeared in about 10 minutes. 116 West Houston Street, between Thompson and Sullivan streets, Greenwich Village — Erika Adams, deputy editor

A bowl with cold noodles, spicy chicken, and cucumbers topped with scallions and peanuts sits on a wooden table.
Spicy chicken with cold noodles at Burp Bowl.
Bao Ong/Eater NY

Spicy chicken with cold noodles at Burp Bowl

The gut-busting serving of spicy chicken with cold noodles ($12) at Burp Bowl is something I’d order in the middle of summer — or a balmy December day. I was looking for a quick meal when I came across what seemed like a run-of-the-mill riff on peanut noodles common at Chinese-American takeout spots. But this overflowing bowl of carbs was a surprise: The bouncy noodles were covered in just the right amount of the nutty sauce. A generous portion of chile-slicked cubes of chicken was a nice contrast to the cool slivers of cucumber. It all disappeared within 15 minutes before I could contemplate taking leftovers home. Still, I walked out of this tiny four-table restaurant happily full and not weighed down. Note to self: Don’t wait until summer to order this dish again. 134 East 27th Street, between Lexington and Third avenues, Kips Bay— Bao Ong, editor

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