Welcome to Year in Eater 2023, Eater’s annual ritual of eulogizing the past 12 months through input from the city’s top food writers and New York figures. For 2023’s final week, Eater NY will be posting questions daily about New York City’s restaurant scene in the past year, with answers from those who know it best: Eater editors and friends of Eater. Now: What was your best meal of 2023?
Izzy Baskette, writer, Thrillist: Ariari or Emilio’s Ballato.
Rob Martinez, producer, Righteous Eats: My best restaurant meal of 2023 was at Rosella on Avenue A. I don’t eat sushi very often, but even I can tell Rosella is on a different wave. It feels like each nigiri has a surprising and strong choice at its core. I think often about the shrimp with housemade chili oil and fried shallots, and the pickled mussels with shiso wrapped in nori. Shouts out to the host who introduced me to a sparkling wine from New Mexico called Sauvage: It was a delight.
Scott Lynch, writer, Brooklyn Magazine and Hell Gate: Eric Valdez’s unapologetic Filipino feast at Naks on opening night was incredible (loved the zine too, telling the story behind each dish); Mads Refslund’s talent and creativity at Ilis had me giddy for like three hours straight; the Raf’s crew always makes me feel loved and way cooler than I am; and Libertine was awesome on my elder daughter’s birthday. What’s the winner though? Maybe Jackie Carnesi’s Tex-Mex barbecue at the Meat Hook in early June. Vibes and food sent my summer spirit soaring. Can’t wait to see what she does at Kellogg’s Diner next year.
Robert Sietsema, senior critic, Eater NY: I have never made any secret of my love of mortadella, but there are so few ways to enjoy it. Imagine my delight at stumbling on Salty Lunch Lady’s Little Luncheonette in Ridgewood one sunny afternoon, and ordering several of their sandwiches to enjoy with a carload of friends. One of them featured mortadella in a luxurious heap masquerading as bologna, showcased with sharp provolone and Balkan pepper paste, and the meal finished off with some icebox cake flavored with banana and toffee. Sometimes meals that occur unexpectedly are the ones you remember most fondly.
Charlotte Druckman, writer: A very special birthday celebration for a very special, important person at Ci Siamo.
Caroline Shin, contributor, Eater NY: I’ve had unforgettably delicious meals at lots of places — Hav and Mar, Genesis House, Lord’s — but my most soulful meal was at Bhanchha Ghar. I’d come off two months of back-to-back deadlines (which, as a freelancer, I’m so thankful for!), and I was having a hard time personally (dealing with health issues as well as my daughter’s tantrum phase). And the light at the end of the tunnel was shining down on Bhanchha Ghar’s jhol momos. I took myself on a solo lunch date, dunked a juicy goat momo in the spicy tomato chile broth, and relished every damn bite of it. Their thenthuk is fire; the noodles are so slippery and fun to eat.
Tay Yoon, editor, Thrillist: Smith & Wollensky never disappoints and gives me hope that there are still institutions serving consistency and quality. On days I want to treat myself, I’ll even pick up a steak to go and eat it at home.
Julian Mu, @mubereats, Instagram: Hainan Chicken House. The Hainan Chicken, Chicken Rice, and Char Siu are some of the best in NYC, but the real gems here are the Bak Kut Teh, a robust pork bone soup that owner Chris himself said is his favorite, along with the Asam Laksa, a slightly tangy, sour, and super savory noodle soup.
Jess Eng, freelancer: Ariari was so mind-bogglingly delicious that I found myself returning again and again (and occasionally at weird hours to nab a last-minute table). To this day, I still dream about their seaweed dusted yook-hoe, comforting soups, and corn creme bruleé topped with white chocolate.
Stephanie Wu, editor-in-chief, Eater: Claud, in the East Village, with its gently poached garlic shrimp and massive chocolate cake, is a meal I can’t stop thinking about. And at Rolo’s in Ridgewood, every single dish I’d heard so much about lived up to the hype, and then we discovered a bunch more that have been less breathlessly covered but were just as satisfying, including the oven-fired half chicken and the war-style crispy potatoes.
Lanna Apisukh, photographer: Even though my mouth was burning the entire time from the Thai chiles cooked into most all the dishes at Hug Esan, I’d have to say it was one of the best meals I had all year. It’s also one of the coziest spots in Elmhurst, Queens that truly has the Thai taste. Go with friends and order everything on the menu. The larb, the crispy fish: it’s all good!
Ella Quittner, freelance writer: In the spring, I had a fever dream–fantasy of roasted meats at Casa Adela. It was one of those dinners that plays in my recollection like a demented symphony, with all of the swells and peaks and rhythmic trilling, and none of the organizational control of a conductor (we all ordered a billion disparate things). There was pernil asado so tender and fatty that it more or less collapsed when poked with a butter knife, half of a roasted chicken we dismantled with our fingers, a cubano with extra pickles, sweet and sultry bacalao a la Vizcaina, chuletas fritas, and garlicky mofongo topped with a thick chicharon that still had a layer of fatty meat affixed to its backside. We used at least a half-bottle of their house-made scotch bonnet hot sauce.
Amanda Kludt, publisher, Eater, Popsugar, Thrillist, and Punch: I have a meal at Fradei in Fort Greene about once every six months, and I’ve enjoyed the evolution from a creative but not always successful set menu into the more expressive and fluid a la carte set-up they have now. The meal I had in July was an absolute knockout.
Britt Lam, social media manager, Infatuation: Probably Torrisi. Their tortellini, penne, hams, and affogato were some of my favorite bites of food I had all year.
Kate Kassin, editorial operations manager, Bon Appetit: I didn’t eat chicken for three days before I went to Kono, the 16-course yakitori omakase in New York’s Chinatown. But as I ate juicy inner thigh meat, then rich belly skin, then egg yolk-drenched tsukune in the windowless 14-seat restaurant that revolves around the charcoal grill, I forgot that every course descended from the same bird. Chef Atsushi “ATS” Kono crafts each skewer so that the texture and flavor are so different from the previous and even after that many courses of chicken (with many more luxuries sprinkled in), I didn’t want it to end.