The Best Dishes Eater Editors Ate This Week, February 2021

The Best Dishes Eater Editors Ate This Week, February 2021

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 22

A hand holds a double tortilla taco with guacamole on top and snow and sidewalk in the background.

Barbacoa taco at La Perla

Barbacoa taco at La Perla

Many taquerias feature barbacoa — the extensively steamed goat or mutton that probably evolved from the same antecedents as American barbecue — as a weekend special only, selling big hunks of meat in sauce as tacos, other antojitos, or in bulk to be eaten with rice and beans. The South Bronx’s La Perla offers it all week long. The $3 taco features pulled goat tucked in a pair of tortillas, Pueblan style, with chopped onions and fresh cilantro, with taco guac (avocados and tomatillos, the latter for freshness and flow) sluiced on the top. The finely chopped meat is way-flavorful, almost grassy tasting, and the guac adds a tart edge. Ramp up the heat with the accompanying red or green salsa (in this case, the red is hotter). 281 East 149th Street, between Morris and Courtlandt avenues, Melrose Robert Sietsema, senior critic

A plastic tray of food containing thin slices of chicken, chilies, peppers, and onions called cumin chicken

Cumin chicken at Grain House
Tanay Warerkar/Eater

Cumin chicken at Grain House

Cold days call for spicy, tongue-numbing food, in my opinion, so this past weekend my family and I got a host of dishes from the Upper West Side Sichuan restaurant Grain House. Among the selection of dishes, the cumin chicken ($13.95) — a version of the more traditional Sichuan cumin lamb stir fry — really stood out. Yes, it has a lot of oil, but all the better to coat rice with a fragrant, spice-packed sauce. The dish is studded with chopped, dried red chiles, green peppers, and chunks of onion, the latter two balancing the heat from the chiles. The thin, tender slices of chicken were cooked to perfection as well. I left just enough to have another helping for lunch the next day. 929 Amsterdam Avenue, between West 105th and 106th streets, Upper West SideTanay Warerkar, reporter

A plate of stacked tortillas is placed in the sun on a wooden windowsill

Tortillas from Tortilleria La Malinche
Erika Adams/Eater

Tortillas from Tortilleria La Malinche

I was pretty excited when my colleague Luke Fortney pinged me last week about a new tortilleria opening up on Fifth Avenue in Sunset Park, a fantastic addition to a stretch of the neighborhood known for its Mexican restaurants. Even better, the tortilleria was taking over a corner spot across from the park, marking a significant upgrade to a place that was previously home to chain pizzeria Little Caesar’s. Once inside, it was a great experience: I plunked down $1.50 (cash only) in exchange for a pound of 17 corn tortillas that are handed over the counter still warm in a foil wrapper. The fragrant tortillas were soft and chewy; it was impossible to not shovel five or 10 straight into my mouth after unwrapping the package in my kitchen. I’ve already been back for two more pounds. 4202 Fifth Avenue, at 42nd Street, Sunset Park — Erika Adams, reporter

Goat thali from Laliguras Restaurant

Goat thali from Laliguras Restaurant
Bao Ong / Eater New York

Goat thali from Laliguras Restaurant

I’ve preferred cooking at home or dining outdoors over ordering takeout or delivery during the pandemic. On a recent visit to Laliguras Restaurant, where they specialize in Nepali and Tibetan fare, I was reminded why that was the case. There’s no way I could recreate the experience of ordering the goat thali in my tiny studio. Surrounding my mound of rice were katori-like metal bowls filled with a warming lentil soup, spicy vegetable curry, and of course, the fragrant chunks of goat with sides of pickles, chutney, and vegetables. Once my friend and I devoured our thalis, it didn’t matter that the winter air was chilly or that we had to ask someone to open another door in the outdoor dining structure, so we’d feel a bit more comfortable. Another bonus that wouldn’t happen at home? Our server kept wanting to refill our thalis at no charge. 37-63 76th Street, between Roosevelt and 37th Road, Jackson Heights — Bao Ong, lead editor

February 15

Seen inside a car, a big square of pizza with cheese, green sauce, and charred cherry tomatoes inset on top.

Tomato, pesto, and parmesan focaccia at Breadfolks Bakery
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Focaccia at Breadfolks Bakery

Among all the upstate towns, Hudson — a little more than 100 miles up the Hudson River, and a former whaling town — is the one most prone to keeping up with citified trends, even originating its own. Open Friday through Monday, Breadfolks Bakery offers bread, cookies, caneles, and croissants, as well as a selection of boutique groceries. But it’s on Fridays that the line is longest, extending down the main drag of Warren Street, because that’s when freshly baked focaccia ($7.50) is offered, an especially crusty rendition, rich enough that a single square is a full meal. There were two available when I lined up this past Friday. Sure, the bacon-and-arugula was good, but even better was the one featuring singed cherry tomatoes, crumbles of parmesan, and an undulating trail of very pungent pesto. It was like a walk in the Italian countryside past stately cedars and fields of sunflowers. 322 Warren Street, between North 3rd and North 4th streets, Hudson — Robert Sietsema, senior critic

A plastic container with small pieces of breaded shrimp in it

Rock shrimp tempura at Ceetay
Tanay Warerkar/Eater

Rock shrimp tempura at Ceetay

I walked by Ceetay, a longtime Mott Haven favorite, shortly before the COVID-19 pandemic shuttered everything down last March. I never got a chance to try their food until this past weekend when I ordered delivery from the restaurant, which is a short distance away from my home in East Harlem. It was totally worth the wait. Among a selection of dishes we ordered, the rock shrimp tempura stood out to me. The shrimp still maintained its crispy exterior when it arrived and it was slathered with a creamy and spicy mix of gochujang and mayo, with just a hint of sweetness with every bite. The scallions and sesame seeds brought some crunch to tie it all together. I cannot wait to go check out Ceetay in person soon. 129 Alexander Avenue, at Bruckner Boulevard, Mott Haven — Tanay Warerkar, reporter

An overhead photograph of a slice of pizza on a plate, perched on a pizza box outdoors

The Bada Bing! slice at Impasto
Luke Fortney/Eater

The Bada Bing! slice at Impasto

Impasto had me at its cross-sections. From a storefront that resembles many dollar slice shops in Brooklyn, this new Clinton Hill pizzeria is serving up something unexpected: bubbly, topping-laden pizza al taglio. Priced anywhere from $3 to $8 each, the slices are more expensive than many in the neighborhood, but in my experience, two is enough for a lunch. Of the four slices I sampled, the one I’d trudge through snow for again was the Bada Bing, an airy-on-top, crunchy-on-bottom pie topped with capocolla, hunks of burrata, and slices of artichoke ($6.50). The aptly named “double crunch” — a pizza-slice sandwich overflowing with broccoli rabe, bites of porchetta, and melted stracciatella — comes in at a close second ($8). 373 Waverly Avenue, near Greene Avenue, Clinton Hill — Luke Fortney, reporter

King crab sits in a chile broth n a white bowl above a white speckled countertop; lamb skewers sit above foil to the side, just above a glass of beer and a decorative Russian platter

King crab boil at Le Sia
Ryan Sutton/Eater

King crab boil at Le Sia

I was bummed when I learned that Le Sia in the East Village, famed for its incendiary shellfish boils, shuttered last May, during the first throes of the COVID-19 pandemic. But as a Hell’s Kitchen resident, I’m lucky enough to live near the venue’s sole remaining location on Ninth Avenue. It was quite chilly when I dropped by for takeout, and I was feeling a touch lonely, so I treated myself to a warming, celebratory meal to cheer myself up: a pound of king crab legs ($45) with mala seasoning. Twenty minutes later, I was splattering chile sauce all over the floor. The unadulterated sweetness of the expensive crustacean came through clearly despite the mind-altering heat, Still, I’ll need to be more careful cracking open the legs next time, as I got a tiny little cut that’s still visible. I wear that battle scar proudly, though. 651 Ninth Avenue, between 45th and 46th Streets, Hell’s Kitchen — Ryan Sutton, chief critic

Negronis, espresso, and chips at Bar Pisellino

Negronis at Bar Pisellino
Bao Ong / Eater New York

Negroni bianco at Bar Pisellino

The Bar Pisellino team sells stylish bottled cocktails you can take away to enjoy in your own home, but anyone would be hard pressed to recreate this Italian bar’s polished feel. A weekend visit here just reminded me to leave it to the pros as I sat outdoors gazing through window and recalling the Before Times when we could hang out around the handsome bar. Surprisingly, I was comfortable while seated under an awning with a heat lamp even as the temperature hovered above the freezing point. Sipping a refreshing negroni bianco while snacking on the house-made potato chips showered with cheese certainly helped. 52 Grove Street, at Seventh Avenue, West Village — Bao Ong, lead editor


February 8

A deep bowl with hefty swatches of brown meat and gravy and wide noodles visible here and there.

Pappardelle with brisket ragu at Mark’s Off Madison
Robert Sietsema / Eater New York

Pappardelle with brisket ragu at Mark’s Off Madison

Last November, chef Mark Strausman opened his new project, Mark’s Off Madison, in the old A Voce space on the northeast corner of Madison Square. It’s a casual-looking spot with high and low tables nicely spaced out on an ample outdoor patio furnished with heat lamps, but no tents, cabins, or partial plastic partitions. In addition to dishes pulled from the menus of his previous restaurants Fred’s at Barneys and Coco Pazzo, the food draws from Italian and Jewish traditions. An example is this meaty pappardelle with brisket ragu ($26), shown here in a half serving (the staff automatically split it for my dining companion and me). The sauce tasted like a brisket and gravy a grandmother might have made for a weekend dinner, while the pappardelle was more delicate than most, and rippled at the edges. An altogether satisfying dish on a winter evening outdoors. 41 Madison Avenue, at 26th Street, Madison Square Park Robert Sietsema, senior critic

A dosa with potatoes inside next to a cup of sambar

Masala dosa at NY Dosas
Tanay Warerkar / Eater New York

Masala dosa at NY Dosas

For what seemed like the first sunny day in weeks, my family and I headed out to Washington Square Park to sample some of Thiru Kuma’s beloved dosas. We arrived shortly before 2 p.m. to find a long line snaking along one of the park’s pathways and waited nearly an hour before we got the masala dosas, since by that point most of his food had already sold out. When we finally got the crepe-like South Indian dish, it had gotten significantly colder, so the steam wafting from the fresh-off-the-griddle dosa, and spicy potato filling was just the antidote we needed to be able to sit on a nearby park bench. A small cup of spicy sambar — the lentil stew typically served alongside dosas — was an ideal dipping accompaniment for the dosa, but you really don’t need anything else beside its starchy, spice-studded stuffing. 50 Washington Square South, at Sullivan Street, Greenwich Village — Tanay Warerkar, reporter

Golden french fries sit atop a split lobster on a white plate

Lobster frites at Pastis
Ryan Sutton / Eater New York

Lobster frites at Pastis

After my first trip to the Whitney in what was nearly a year, I had a bit of a hankering for some Before Times fare, so my companion and I swung by Pastis for a bit of socially-distanced, open-air, outdoor dining. The weather was probably 10 degrees above freezing, which meant that the heat lamps kicked in just enough warmth to make an early February night feel a bit more like late March. Escargot and sardines were great, but we came for a very specific reason: the massive lobster frites ($59). Fries came piled so high over a split two-pound lobster that they almost concealed the entire shellfish. And the result was about as awesome as we expected it to be; the meat was tender and oceanic, while the garlic butter allowed for indulgent fry-dunking. 52 Gansevoort Street, near Greenwich Street, Meatpacking District — Ryan Sutton, chief critic

A portion of yellow spaghetti noodles topped with a red sauce and two slices of bread sit on a blue square plate on a wooden table

Spaghetti, pomodoro, and focaccia from Forsythia
Erika Adams / Eater New York

Meal kit for two from Forsythia

I scooped up a simple, straightforward meal kit from Forsythia’s marketplace — two portions of spaghetti, pomodoro sauce, a generous cut of focaccia, and a pint of stracciatella for $45 — to fill out dinner plans over the weekend, and, whoa, I’ll be back. There weren’t any unexpected twists to this meal but every single component was done so well, from the fragrant pomodoro laced with basil to the well-oiled focaccia with a light, crisp crust. It ended on a high note, too, with impossibly creamy bites of stracciatella studded with dark chocolate shavings, that never strayed into overly-sweet territory. 9 Stanton Street, between Bowery and Chrystie Street, Lower East Side — Erika Adams, reporter

Tableside shawarma chicken and fries

Tableside shawarma from Au Za’atar
Bao Ong / Eater New York

Tableside shawarma from Au Za’atar

Lately, outdoor dining has felt like a get-in-and-get-out affair. How long can I withstand that winter breeze if the heaters aren’t warm enough? Is this dining structure safe? Is it really almost 10 p.m., and I have to down half my cocktail in 30 seconds before the restaurant kicks me out? I never felt rushed at Au Za’atar. Perhaps it was because there were fewer people dining out after last week’s snowstorm, and I felt perfectly toasty with two heaters casting an orange glow on my table filled with an array of mezze samplers (don’t skip the labneh). But I think it was the tableside shawarma that brought back the excitement of dining out that’s been rare during this pandemic. You can’t help but drop your jaw a bit when this contraption comes out with the meat spinning atop a mountain of french fries. The combination of spices hit you in the face — as does the heat radiating from the miniature spit. 188 Avenue A, at East 12th Street, Alphabet City — Bao Ong, lead editor

A bowl with mortadella, radishes, and salami

The charcuterie plate at Leo

Charcuterie plate at Leo

I actually loved everything I had at Leo — clam pie! tiramisu! vesper martinis! salad! — but I’ll give a special shout-out to the charcuterie plate, because I had forgotten the simple perfection of really good mortadella and bread (with pickled radishes). Additionally, the heated sidewalk set-up at Leo is incredibly cozy while feeling safe and well-ventilated. And the wine list is so simple — you pick the color and they tell you what they’re pouring — and so delicious. I recommend you do what I did and order a bottle of their choosing to take home with you on your way out. 123 Havemeyer St., at Grand St., Williamsburg — Amanda Kludt, Eater editor-in-chief


February 1

Yellow rice in a white compartment tray, with a dark chicken curry in one part, and brown relish, cucumber, and split boiled egg on top of the rice in the other.

Nasi Lemak at Mamak House
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Nasi Lemak at Mamak House

The name of this dish roughly means “rice in cream” in Malay, referring to the fact that the rice — which is its centerpiece — has been cooked in coconut cream. Radiating from the rice are a number of other dishes in Malaysia’s most popular set meal ($9.25): boiled egg, sliced cucumbers, a sambal (relish) made from dried anchovies, and a chicken curry that, according to the menu, is flavored with screwpine (pandanus leaves) and clove, creating an interesting pungency that will remind you of no other curry. Mamak may be Jersey City’s first full-blown Malaysian restaurant, located just off a highway that looks over the Arthur Kill to Staten Island. The sprawling premises with two massive dining rooms was previously a steakhouse. 250 Route 440, corner of Danforth Avenue, Jersey City Robert Sietsema, senior critic

Cubes of beef and white noodles sit atop a reddish broth in a white bowl

Spicy beef noodle soup from Zou Ji
Ryan Sutton/Eater NY

Spicy beef noodle soup from Zou Ji

In the space that was Christiano’s, long believed to be Billy Joel’s inspiration for “Scenes From an Italian Restaurant,” there’s now one of Long Island’s best regional Chinese spots. Zou Ji Northeast China Home Style Cuisine has become a staple of the Sutton family during the current stage of the pandemic, due in no small part to its location right by our local railroad stop. We swung by on Saturday night to warm up during the prevailing cold spell, and ended up ordering their beef noodle soup ($11.99). The staple is aggressively salty and spicy, without any of the sweeter aromatics one might encounter in, say, Taiwanese-style niu rou mian. Cubes of beef, tender as marshmallows, bob around in the broth, while wheat noodles exhibit a soft pull. But really, you’re here for the heat, which stays with you for a few minutes after consumption. 19 Ira Road, near Jackson Avenue, Syosset, Long Island — Ryan Sutton, chief critic

Guay tiew moo at Pata Market
Bao Ong / Eater New York

Guay tiew moo at Pata Market

Pata Market is full of Thai ingredients and snacks, but every time I leave this small grocery store, I come home with a tote bag filled with prepared foods: crab fried rice, chicken basil with egg, pork belly stew, and more desserts than I could eat in a week. The guay tiew moo (pork noodle soup) is the one dish I keeping come back, too, though. I’ll simmer the fragrant broth — which is sour, salty, and sweet — to make sure it’s tongue-burning hot before throwing in the rice noodles and chunks of tender pork and beef. This is the only thing I want during a snowstorm. 81-16 Broadway, between 81st and 82nd streets, Elmhurst — Bao Ong, lead editor

A quesadilla at the Greenpoint Mexican restaurant Xilonen, which has a green and black sauce and some leaves strewn on top

Green chorizo quesadilla at Xilonen
Tanay Warerkar/Eater

Green chorizo quesadilla at Xilonen

Not only is the food stunning to look at at Greenpoint’s newest Mexican restaurant Xilonen, but it tastes just as good as it looks. The restaurant’s green chorizo quesadilla stood out to me among other excellent dishes like the cinnamon roll, guacamole, and masa pancakes. The quesadilla’s crispy edges make way for a gooey interior filled with tofu, mushrooms, and pecans, and the whole dish is topped with a black bean salsa and a creamy avocado puree. My only regret is that I had to share this with three of my dining companions. 905 Lorimer Street, at Nassau Avenue, Greenpoint — Tanay Warerkar, reporter

A spread of eighteen dumplings and other dim sum items from Ugly Baby spread on a green banana leaf on top of a wooden cutting board

Box of eighteen from Ugly Baby
Erika Adams/Eater

Box of eighteen from Ugly Baby

Our Sunday night feast from Thai showstopper Ugly Baby — a “box of eighteen” ($30), sold as a special through the month of January — was almost too photogenic to eat. I mean, where to begin? It was a box of pure fun, from the doughy dumplings shaped like fat little birds to balls of pickled mustard greens wrapped around ground pork and plopped in flower-shaped pastry cups, and curried beef stuffed in puff pastry horns. The favorite, in my book, was the chor muang, purple flower-shaped dumplings stuffed with ground pork and chopped peanuts, and then sprinkled with crunchy fried garlic oil on top for added texture. It was the highly enjoyable way to spend a snowy Sunday night, while marveling over the increasingly dire weather alerts from the mayor’s office. 407 Smith Street, at the corner of 4th Street, Carroll Gardens — Erika Adams, reporter

A bowl of white beans and sausage next to a glass of wine

White beans and sausage, paired with a refosco

Multi-course meal kit from Locanda Vini e Olii

On Friday we did a five-course meal kit (with wine pairings) from Locanda Vini e Olii to celebrate their 20th anniversary, and it was exceptional. I’ve done a couple meal kits throughout this pandemic but never something this elaborate. The food was delicious (chestnut soup, beans with sausage, cannelloni, quail, and chocolate cake), but the real highlight was having such a drawn out dining experience in our home. I can’t remember the last time I sat at a table for over two hours over great food and wine and I didn’t realize it was something I was missing until this weekend. 129 Gates Ave., at Cambridge Pl., Clinton Hill — Amanda Kludt, Eater editor-in-chief

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