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A long piece of skin with potatoes and crema on top.
This trout dish uses skin like a potato chip.

Sietsema’s Best Dishes of 2023

Seafood omelet, fancy bologna, pot pie, and more

Now that we have the 10 Worst Dishes of 2023 out of the way, I can proceed with my list of 15 best dishes; writing it is one of my greatest joys. These are dishes, sometimes ordered out of a sense of duty, which turn out to be unexpectedly wonderful. Yes, a few come already extensively extolled, and others don’t look like much, proving once again that these days there’s often faint correlation between what something looks like and how amazing it tastes.

Check out last year’s list of best dishes.

Trucha at Mitica

Sometimes it’s the craziest dishes that stick with you. This one is especially good when consumed in Mitica’s backyard with fresh air in your nostrils: a strip of crunchy trout skin, snaky in its texture, surmounted by fish, smoked fennel, and potatoes, with dabs of aioli here and there. What a great combination! 222 Franklin Street, near Green Street, Greenpoint

Kai jiaw pu at Rynn Thai

The omelet at Rynn Thai ($20) arrives heaped with crab, but there’s also crab inside. The dish is pleasing to look at in its puffy brownness, and the touch of fish sauce makes it taste distinctively Thai. 309 East 5th St, near 1st Ave, East Village

A round brown omelet with a wad of crab on top.
Rynn Thai’s crab omelet.

Fancy bologna at Salty Lunch Lady’s Little Luncheonette

Most people love mortadella with its bouncy texture, globules of fat, dotting of pistachios, and garlicky munificence — but what to do with it? A single slice makes a memorable focaccia sandwich, but why not throw caution to the winds and treat it like bologna? Here at Salty Lunch Lady’s Little Luncheonette, it shines ($15) with aged provolone for a funky edge, and the red pepper paste beloved of Ridgewood Eastern Europeans provides sweetness. 565 Woodward Avenue, at Menahan Street, Ridgewood

A thick sandwich cut in half with cornichons speared on top.
When the menu says bologna, it means mortadella.

Bomboloni at Cerasella

Yes, they are fundamentally doughnuts, sprinkled with sugar and oozing custard. But these doughnuts ($6) have real Italian flair, the vanilla filling enriched with egg yolks and a spongy crumb that doesn’t feel grease-sodden in the least. Jam versions as well as pistachio and Nutella are also available. 36-27 31st Street, near 36th Avenue, Long Island City

A donut with yellow custard on top.
A vanilla bombolone hot out of the oven.

Chicken pot pie at Waverly Inn

Nothing fancy about this pie ($29) — no exotic vegetables, no pedigreed chicken. But in its ability to take what is basically a Swanson’s frozen chicken pot pie and kick it up a few notches, to make the crust richer and more golden. The entrée — get this and you don’t really need an app — succeeds in being the best pot pie in NYC...ever. 16 Bank Street, at Waverly Place, West Village

A round pie with a spoon lifting chicken and other stuff out.
Don’t miss the chicken pot pie at Waverly Inn.

Whole branzino at Bangkok Supper Club

This is the year of simplicity, when it comes to my best-dish list. And there’s nothing fancy about Bangkok Supper Club’s preparation of this fish ($45), a whole specimen grilled to perfection, so that the skin is crisp with little spots of char, and the flesh moist and steaming as you peel back the skin. To launch it into orbit, there’s a citrusy green nam jim sauce. 641 Hudson St, near Horatio Street, West Village

An entire grilled fish with green relish on the side.
Yes the fish is upside down, sorry!

Railway canteen goat curry at Bombay Chowk

Decades ago, just like in France, some of the best, least pretentious restaurants were in railroad stations. This railway canteen goat curry ($20) apparently was a common dish — not attributable to a single region, but something familiar that every fatigued diner could enjoy. The tender goat chunks bob in a brown gravy kissed with tomato, so rich you probably needed an extra bowl of basmati to finish it. 1378 First Avenue, near 74th Street, Upper East Side

A bowl of reddish curry with meat chunks.
Railway cantee goat curry at Bombay Chowk.

Shrimp aguachile at El Rey Del Pescado

Lots of dishes excel at this kitschy Mexican seafood spot in Sunset Park, where a shark swims toward you from the back of the garden. Best of all was this raw-shrimp aguachile ($18). The copious fluid is bright green with fresh chiles and herbs, and no limes have been spared in its creation. It’s served with plenty of tostadas to scoop the seafood, but you’ll end up raising the molcajete to your lips and drinking the surfeit. 4415 Fifth Avenue, near 45th Street, Sunset Park

A green soup in a lava stone bowl.
Green shrimp aguachile from the King of Fish.

Drunken noodles from Thai BKK

Thai BKK is a tiny carryout in East Harlem that offers some of the best Thai noodles in Manhattan. The rice noodles are not overcooked, the chicken abundant, the sauce fiery and only slightly sweet. But what distinguishes this excellent rendition ($15) — which I gobbled on a bus stop bench — is the crunchy vegetables that add contrast to the floppy noodles. 2021 Lexington Avenue, near 123rd Street, East Harlem

Reddish rice noodles with chicken.
Drunken Noodles from Thai BKK.

Hot and spicy fish noodles at Grains Fish Noodle

Yes, Hunan food is inherently hotter than Sichuan, and this amazing bowl of soup found at New York Food Court, is proof. Fish is poached in a pork broth with three kinds of noodles; pickled mustard and a dab of chile paste are tossed on top. This soup ($13) is so spicy, you’ll have to sip it slowly, adding to the enjoyment. 133-35 Roosevelt Avenue, west of Prince Street, Flushing

A bowl of bright red soup with clumps of fish.
Yeow! This Flushing fish soup is spicy.

Brisket chicharron sandwich at Bark BBQ

Merging Texas barbecue and Dominican cuisine, possibly for the first time, Bark took the city’s barbecue scene by storm this when it opened late last year at the Time Out Market. When I returned months later, this sandwich ($9.15) was a special, deploying some very smoky brisket with crunchy pig skin in a generous heap, with a dab of dark sauce on top for extra sweetness and flavor. 55 Water Street, near Dock Street, Dumbo

A pile of chopped meat on a bun with a little sauce on top.
The juicy brisket chicharron sandwich at Bark.

Duck chili at Taste From Everest

Located in the midst of Curry Hill, Taste From Everest is a sleeper: a relatively unknown restaurant with a sprawling menu of northern Indian and Nepalese dishes. While not related to Texas chili con carne, there are some remarkable similarities in its this dish’s sole focus on duck, with a thick red sauce tasting of ginger and scallions and no distracting vegetables ($10). 102 Lexington Avenue, near 27th Street, Murray Hill

An oblong plate of meat in thick brownish red gravy with shards of raw ginger on top.
This duck chili is gingery and filled with duck flavor.

Flaczki at Relax

Many consider it just a hangover remedy, but the tripe soup ($8.50) found at this quaint Polish cafe in Greenpoint is spectacular in the subtlety of its flavorings. The broth is mellow with highlights of black pepper, the tripe pleasantly textured. With a few pieces of buttered rye and a Warka beer, there’s no better light supper. 68A Newel Street, near Nassau Avenue, Greenpoint

A painted yellow bowl with beige tripe soup, one piece of tripe visible on a spoon.
It’s only tripe soup, Relax.

Tiny’s gumbo at File Gumbo Bar

This Tribeca Cajun-Creole bar features a signature gumbo ($29) that starts with a rich roux made with duck and chicken fat, adds long grain Louisiana rice along with crab and shrimp, then sprinkles file (sassafras) powder over it like fairy dust. You’ll feel like you’re in one of the Big Easy’s better dives. 275 Church Street, near White Street, Tribeca

A bowl of brown soup with a shell on shrimp on top in the middle.
The bowl of Tiny’s gumbo ain’t so tiny.

Hamachi collar at Rule of Thirds

This warehouse-y space on the fringes of residential Greenpoint has lots of surprises on its Japanese-leaning menu, including duck hearts, a hot honey gem salad, and lamb tongue, but my favorite was a hamachi collar — usually a byproduct of sushi bars — nicely charred and furnished with multiple zippy condiments, including yuzu kosho, made with fermented chiles. 171 Banker Street, near Norman Avenue, Greenpoint

A roundish piece of skin-on fish with fins sticking out.
Hamachi color with condiments.

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