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The Best Dishes Eater Editors Ate This Week

Mediterranean seafood stew, a jerk chicken plate, and more

A parking lot with plastic bubbles, each with one table, and brownstones in the background.
Dine in sunny plastic bubbles at Bistro La Source.
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.

February 28

A bowl of orange broth with various shellfish, fish, and croutons emerging.
Mediterranean seafood stew at Bistro La Source.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Mediterranean seafood stew at Bistro La Source

Most restaurants not located on the south shore of France that try to make bouillabaisse go down in flames. That’s because they don’t have the resources — like the gluey fish rascasse — to make a convincing one. Which is why it is genius that 14-year-old Bistro La Source, owned by restaurateur Bill Spitz and located in the waterside Paulus Hook section of Jersey City, contents itself with riffing on the classic dish and calling it Mediterranean seafood stew instead. The saffron-pink potage ($28) depends on local cod, mussels, clams, squid, and scallops for its oceanic flavor, zapped with just the right amount of garlic and tomatoes. Croutons lie on top like beached boats on the seafood, and the dish is quite enough for two. But bring your own rouille to smear on the croutons. Bistro La Source, 85 Morris Street, at Washington Street, Jersey City — Robert Sietsema, senior critic

A white plate with filets of white anchovies covered in an orange tomato vinaigrette with two slices of sourdough bread.
Boquerones at El Pingüino.
Bao Ong/Eater NY

Boquerones at El Pingüino

Sunday afternoon feels like the perfect time — at 4 p.m. to be exact — to visit this Spanish seafood bar when you don’t want to deal with the rush of a brunch crowd or a full-on dinner before Monday rolls around. El Pingüino offers a well edited menu of raw seafood, conservas (tinned seafood), and a few other small plates that make it easy to graze while sipping a cocktail or glass of wine. Our table started with boquerones ($12), anchovies sporting a slight tang from being cured in vinegar and doused in a bright tomato vinaigrette. The tender filets tasted like butter infused with seaweed that had just been plucked from the water when paired with a fresh slice of sourdough. Show up at happy hour, which runs 4 to 7 p.m. daily, and you can wash it down with a glass of sherry (half off) or a $12 martini. 25 Greenpoint Avenue, between West Street and East River, Greenpoint — Bao Ong, editor

A white plate with red outlining is filled with plantains, white rice, jerk chicken and sauce.
The jerk chicken plate at Sally Roots.
Emma Orlow/Eater NY

Jerk chicken plate at Sally Roots

After having a Very Millennial Bushwick afternoon of happy hour beers at dive bar staple Three Diamond Door and attempting to sell clothes at Beacon’s Closet, I stopped by Caribbean spot Sally Roots. I opted for the jerk chicken ($17), which arrives with the right amount of smoke and char, on a bed of rice and peas, with a heaping side of not-to-sweet, sweet plantains. The meal gave me the right amount of well-rounded meal nourishment I needed from being a little bit tipsy and classically making little money at Beacon’s, plus the general upbeat energy at Sally Roots helped keep me going onto karaoke late into the night. 195 Wyckoff Avenue, near Harman Street, Bushwick — Emma Orlow, reporter

Cheung fun at Uncle Lou’s

Late last week, six of us dropped by Uncle Lou in Chinatown to check out the newest addition to the city’s modern Cantonese scene. We ate well. We ate a lot. And we all made use of the Lazy Susan, as one should when so much food is involved. We sampled longevity noodles with lobster, hot bowls of wonton soup, plates of super-garlicky chicken, and my personal favorite, cheung fun rice rolls ($5.95). I generally prefer ultra-thin cheung fun, like the ones at Yi Ji Shi Mo that are nearly as translucent as tissue paper, but this fatter variety was absolutely wonderful too. The noodle sheets flaunted the thickness of bucatini and exhibited a nicely bouncy chew. Hiding inside were delicately cooked shrimp. I’ll come back here just for these. 73 Mulberry Street, near Bayard Street — Ryan Sutton, chief critic

A thick slice of toasted bread sits on a small plate with a loaf of bread in the background.
A slice of milk bread from Loaves.
Erika Adams/Eater NY

Milk bread from Loaves

I know, I know, it’s a slice of bread. But this is not just any slice of bread. This is a slice of Japanese milk bread from Kazuko Nagao, the proprietor behind the wildly popular Smorgasborg staple Oconomi. She started Loaves as a pandemic side hustle and now accepts a few orders each week over Instagram for the time-intensive bread, which she packages like fine pastry and sells for $20 per loaf. After removing the bread from a fancy shopping bag and slipping off a branded white paper sleeve, I followed Nagao’s advice: cut a thick slice, and toasted it just until the sides barely started to crisp up. It felt almost like eating a dessert, with the crispy top layer of the bread giving way to dense, sweet bites underneath. She says some use the bread for sandwiches — which probably makes for an outstanding meal — but I know I’ll be eating this loaf one thick, toasted, fragrant slice at a time. 40-05 Skillman Avenue, between 40th and 41st streets, Sunnyside — Erika Adams, deputy editor

February 22

A shallow bowl with black liquid, is filled with seafood, thin sliced onions, and avocado.
There are several different versions of aguachile at Ensenada.
Emma Orlow/Eater NY

Aguachile negro at Ensenada

Nightclub Black Flamingo has a new upstairs restaurant that opened last week called Ensenada, named after the coastal Mexico city. The menu devoted to mariscos and mezcal had so many dishes I could recommend (the Baja-style fish tacos, the “vuelve a la vida” ceviche, and chips with a selection of some of the best salsas I’ve ever had), but the negro aguachile was by far my favorite. We opted for shrimp in ours ($24) — served perfectly succulent in a spooky hued bathing liquid from the salsa negra. The result was less acidic than a ceviche, but still incredibly bright and fresh, especially with its cilantro, avocado, and thinly sliced red onions for textural contrast. Thankfully, this dish arrives with tostadas for sopping up the juices, so good you’ll want to drink them. 168 Borinquen Place, at South Second Street, Williamsburg — Emma Orlow, reporter

Five squid ink bodies lined up and covered in black sauce.
Chipirones en su tinta con morcilla at El Quijote.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Baby squid with blood sausage at El Quijote

In 2018, the Spanish restaurant El Quijote in the notorious Chelsea Hotel shut down after 88 years. As of last week, the promised reappearance has occurred, and despite an unannounced opening, the place was pretty packed when a friend and I visited. Perhaps the best dish of several good ones was a very dark plate of five baby squid bulging with blood sausage and smothered in squid ink sauce ($23). Looking like a selenium-toned black and white photo, the flavor was rich and loamy, and remarkably mild given the wild appearance. The mollusks, glinting white through the midnight sauce, had been so carefully and briefly cooked that they remained supple rather than turning rubbery. 226 West 23rd Street, between 7th and 8th avenues, Chelsea — Robert Sietsema, senior editor

Assorted meats at Fogo de Chão

The sheer quantity of meats offered at Fogo de Chão and other Brazilian-style steakhouses is almost overwhelming. Online menus for the chain list 14 different varieties — including ribeye, pork ribs, beef ribs, and sausage — all of which diners can sample as part of the $73, all-you-can-eat rodizio service. I can’t say for sure how many I tried during my recent visit, but my stomach can confirm it was a lot. Waiters roam the airport terminal-sized space with grilled meats on skewers and slice them tableside until your plate is almost entirely covered with bloody flesh. I generally found the beef, lamb, and other cuts to be nicely cooked, but the so-called picahna steak stood out in particular. That prime part of the sirloin exhibited a serious salty char on the outside while showing off a nicely rare interior. It emitted the type of cleanly beefy wallop — with a hint of iron — you want from a proper steakhouse steak, but don’t encounter as often as you should. 40 West 53rd Street, near Sixth Avenue, Midtown — Ryan Sutton, chief critic

Duck borek, puff pastry filled with duck sausage, shaped in a curly pie form served on a wooden platter with a metal serving spoon.
Duck borek at Zou Zou’s.
Bao Ong/Eater NY

Duck borek at Zou Zou’s

The shiny new Manhattan West development is an interesting juxtaposition to its two marquee restaurants, which focus on the time-tested method of wood-fired cooking. At Zou Zou’s, the duck borek is perhaps the most stunning dish on the menu ($38). The coil of flaky pastry commands attention as it arrives on a wooden platform that rises above the plates of dips, salads, and kebabs. A server or chef slices the pie-shaped pastry — which is glazed with an orange sauce and dusted with crushed pistachios — in front of diners by gently rocking a sharp, crescent-shaped mezzaluna back and forth. Inside the crisp, golden phyllo-like dough is the herbaceous duck sausage, which isn’t too gamey or fatty. Like the entire Levantine menu here, it’s meant to be shared but I snuck in an extra bite or two. 385 Ninth Avenue, between West 31st and 33rd streets, Manhattan West — Bao Ong, editor

A brown rectangular cut of fish set in a green banana leaf, with green herbs sprinkled over top and a lime wedge on the side.
Steamed branzino at the Tyger.
Erika Adams/Eater NY

Steamed branzino at the Tyger

A consistent item on the Tyger’s menu a year-plus into its sceney Soho run has been the steamed branzino ($42), blanketed in Thai jungle curry and cooked in a banana leaf — and I dug into it for the first time last week. There’s a small tableside flourish where the server peels off the banana leaf wrapping with a pair of tongs, drops a tangle of basil and other green herbs over the fish, then adds a lime wedge on the side to spritz over top. The mild fish meat, bland and boring on its own, was excellent as a tender backdrop to the tongue-tingling brown curry, and I rounded out each bite with a crunch of fresh herbs. It’s sold as a dish to share; it went down easy as my single main course. Despite the sticker shock, I can see why the pricey dish has stuck around. 1 Howard Street, at the corner of Centre Street, Soho — Erika Adams, deputy editor

A hand clutches half of a chopped cheese sandwich, overflowing with lettuce, tomato, cheese, and mayo.
A chopped cheese at Blue Sky Deli.
Luke Fortney/Eater NY

Chopped cheese at Blue Sky Deli

All the talk about bodega sandwiches this week inspired a trip to Blue Sky Deli, the East Harlem bodega that’s largely credited as the birthplace of the chopped cheese. One of the best versions of the sandwich I’ve yet to find is at Healthy Bites Gourmet, a step-above Bed-Stuy deli that’s closer to home, but this 24-hour grill, formerly named Hajji’s, is well worth the trek. It has everything you’d expect from this distinctly New York creation — lettuce, tomato, mayo, beef, and cheese — in ratios I’d never seen ($8). Almost equal parts lettuce, mayonnaise, cheese, and meat, it’s deeply satisfying and lighter than you’d expect from a sandwich that’s essentially a chopped up cheeseburger. 2135 First Avenue, at 110th Street, East Harlem — Luke Fortney, reporter

February 14

Pieces of beef nearly concealed beneath deep green garlic chives.
Beef fillet sauteed with garlic chives at Uncle Lou.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Beef fillet sauteed with garlic chives at Uncle Lou

Uncle Lou is a newly opened post-modern Cantonese restaurant on Mulberry Street owned by Chinatown veteran and first-time restaurateur Louis Wong. It caused a sensation during the Lunar New Year with its big, well-decorated dining room and nuanced versions of mainly familiar dishes. In this dish ($26.95), beef fillet cut in generous hunks is heaped with a similar volume of powerfully flavored garlic chives, which are barely sauteed so that each bite is a satisfying crunch. The flavorful Angus fillet is cooked rare, and is tasty enough to make you feel like you’re also dining in a steakhouse. 73 Mulberry Street, between Bayard and Canal streets, Chinatown — Robert Sietsema, senior critic

A wooden cutting board filled with various types of hams and cheese with nuts, cornichons, dried fruts, and jam.
Meat-and-cheese board at & Sons.
Bao Ong/Eater NY

Meat-and-cheese board at & Sons

Sommelier André Hueston Mack’s & Sons makes a strong case for more ham bars in the city. The 20-seat or so space feels like a cozy wine bar, but it’s the focus on domestic country hams — served with adorable cornbread madeleines — that sets this spot apart. My friends and I ordered a meat-and-cheese board ($66 for six), where we got to pick hams, charcuterie, and cheese. A ribbon of the preserved pork from Kentucky tasted like fine aged prosciutto while a variety from Virginia tasted sweet and buttery — unlike anything I’ve ever tasted before. It almost made ordering a natural sparking red from California or any other of the American bottles on the menu feel secondary as we tasted and talked about the ham like it was wine — the saltiness, texture, fattiness, and deliberating on what we liked best. 447 Rogers Avenue, at Lincoln Road, Prospect Lefferts Gardens — Bao Ong, editor

A hand clutches a small smash burger, with onions and a thin beef patty visible.
A single smash burger at Motzburger.
Luke Fortney/Eater NY

Single smash burger at Motzburger

I first heard of George Motz while researching smash burgers last fall, and it quickly became apparent that I was late to the party. The “burger scholar” is known for his Motzburger pop-ups, occasionally served from a slide propped out of his apartment window, and vast knowledge of regional burger styles. So when Motz announced his latest pop-up on Instagram last week — one of his last before opening a restaurant this spring, he says — I pre-ordered a few burgers for pick up. A week later, there they were: accelerating down a wooden slide in Windsor Terrance. The scholar’s burgers are well-studied: He smashes his patties thin (with raw onions), then tops them with a slice of American cheese and more onions (these ones sauteed). They taste overwhelmingly of beef and butter, thanks to their potato roll, and one is enough to make a dent in your hunger (around $8). Address disclosed after placing an order. Windsor Terrace — Luke Fortney, reporter

Dark pieces of fried chicken and green radish slices placed between two fluffy buns, sitting on a piece of white wax paper.
Five-spice fried chicken sandwich at Bench Flour Bakers.
Erika Adams/Eater NY

Five-spice fried chicken sandwich at Bench Flour Bakers

The tofu breakfast sandwich from Astoria’s Bench Flour Bakers that I had been eyeing online was sold out when I showed up, so I took a left turn and nabbed this five-spice fried chicken sandwich instead ($13). The sandwich arrived with a considerable portion of spicy fried chicken piled between two glistening milk buns, paired with a couple of slices of lightly pickled green daikon radish and a squirt of creamy garlic-jalapeno mayo. The fried chicken skin wasn’t quite as crispy as I was expecting, but I was too distracted by the well-balanced, throat-warming seasoning that lit up each bite to care much once I dug in. For an added wallop, ask for the chunky, herbaceous green hot sauce. 43-18 25th Avenue, at 44th Street, Astoria — Erika Adams, deputy editor

February 7

Lamb burgers at Dun Huang

Folks often talk about the estimable lamb burgers at Xi’an Famous Foods, but I prefer to get that snacky treat ($6) from the Dun Huang folks, who bring Northwestern-style Chinese fare to the city, New Jersey, and Long Island. The chewy, almost bland bun functions as the appropriate foil for the heady interior: a pile of gamy, cumin-y, chile-stained meat. I like to order two at a time, one as an appetizer before a dinner of noodle soup, and the second as a light lunch for the following day, when the musky spices have further permeated the bun. Really, it’s the type of thing I wish I could get from from every street corner. 8 Cold Spring Road, near Split Rock Road, Syosset — Ryan Sutton, chief critic

A hand clutches a cup of atole. In the background, a New York City sidewalk and crosswalk are visible.
A cup of atole at Reyes Deli & Grocery.
Luke Fortney/Eater NY

Atole at Reyes Deli & Grocery

Our ongoing search for the city’s best breakfast burritos led me back to Reyes Deli & Grocery, a Mexican convenience store and increasingly one of my favorite places to spend a Sunday afternoon in Brooklyn. On weekends, signs are plastered at the front of the shop advertising specials, including tamales, barbacoa, and this cup of atole. Some versions are thickened with corn masa, including at Mexican cafe For All Things Good in Bed-Stuy, but the atole here is made with tender cooked rice for a beverage that’s thin enough to drink without a straw. A 10-ounce pour will set you back $2.50, and it comes served with a spoon for scooping up what’s left at the bottom of the cup. 532 Fourth Avenue, near 14th Street, Park Slope — Luke Fortney, reporter

Three cone-shaped, meat-filled tacos are covered in white onion and cilantro with wax wrapping, sitting atop a white plate on a black table.
Three large tacos at Tacos Matamoros.
Emma Orlow/Eater NY

Al pastor tacos at Tacos Matamoros

When a friend says they’re car-sitting for the week, that says one thing to me: encouraging them to take me to get food somewhere far from my house. This week, that meant dinner at Tacos Matamoros in Sunset Park. There are two sizes of tacos to behold here, both come served in a cone-like shape. If I’m being honest, two large al pastor tacos (each $6) and one large carnitas was more than I could handle with chips and guac also on the table. But these were worth the trip from its double-layer, chewy flour tortillas and the heaping portion of meat. I also appreciate that the frozen margaritas here — don’t worry, I wasn’t the one driving — come with the fun glasses that have cactus handles. 4508 Fifth Avenue, near 45th Street, Sunset Park — Emma Orlow, reporter

White logs stacked in a basket with crumbled brown powder on top.
Brown sugar rice cakes at So Do Fun.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Brown sugar rice cake at So Do Fun

There are many stunning and rarely-seen-here dishes at Gramercy Park newcomer So Do Fun, the first American branch of a Chinese chain. One wonderful example is the brown sugar rice cake ($9.95). Yes, you’ve seen this kind of rice cake before, often stir fried with savory ingredients, but this rendition is more soft and creamy, cut like panisse, and also like panisse deep fried, making the molten insides more memorable. Neatly stacked in the wicker basket like pale dead flower stems, they are then showered with brown sugar. Is it really a dessert? No, but it’s a nice palate cleanser and contrast to the other chile-laden dishes on the menu. 155 Third Avenue, between 15th and 16th streets, Gramercy Park — Robert Sietsema, senior critic

A white plate with lamb ribs, dusted with a cumin and hot pepper mix, atop some shredded lettuce. small triangles of bread and more cumin and hot pepper mix are also on the plate.
Barbecued lambs ribs at Jiang’s Kitchen.
Erika Adams/Eater NY

Barbecued lamb ribs at Jiang’s Kitchen

I can’t stop thinking about the barbecued lamb ribs ($29 as part of a Restaurant Week promotion running until February 13) that I tore into last week at Jiang’s Kitchen, the recently opened revival of praised Northwestern Chinese restaurant Jiang Diner. The lean rack of ribs had been thickly coated in a mixture of dry spices — cumin and a hot pepper mix — and then barbecued until the meat achieved a smoky, crispy crust that gave way to a soft layer of fat underneath. Extra pinches of cumin and the mild hot pepper mix came on the side, along with several slices of a dense, doughy bread. By the time I was done, the plate wasn’t much more than a pile of bones. 65 St. Marks Place, between First and Second avenues, East Village — Erika Adams, deputy editor

A white plate with four bibb lettuce cups filled with Impossible meat larb with chiles.
Impossible Isan larb at Somtum Der.
Bao Ong/Eater NY

Impossible Isan larb at Somtum Der

I’ve tasted burgers, bolognese, and hot dogs made with Impossible Foods — the line of faux meat backed by big tech companies — and usually it’s been forgettable. The Impossible Isan larb ($18) at one my favorite Thai restaurants, Somtum Der, was the best so far. I’ve found the taste of Impossible products to resemble cardboard or mushy peas depending on its preparation, but the texture here could’ve fooled me into thinking the cups of bibb lettuce were filled with ground pork or chicken. The mix of fresh chiles, onions, soy dressing (instead of fish sauce), and herbs didn’t hurt either. I kept it vegan by ordering another serving of sticky rice to finish off the entire plate. 85 Avenue A, between East Fifth and Sixth streets, East Village — Bao Ong, editor