“Brooklyn? I thought you hated Brooklyn,” said Mrs. Platt, as your dutiful critic grabbed his sauce-stained coat and headed out the door to the newest effete tasting room to open in the wilds of Bushwick. Or maybe I was traveling to South Williamsburg that night, or out to Park Slope, or to the latest white-hot dining establishment to pop up in the Gowanus Superfund zone. It used to be fashionable for grizzled, Manhattan-centric food snobs to dismiss the noise emanating from across the river as so much trendy bluster. Well, not anymore. Years from now, food scholars will record (okay, this food scholar will record) that the year of Obama II and Superstorm Sandy was also the year that the Great Brooklyn Restaurant Boom finally lived up to its hype. Of the four restaurants to which I gave a rating of three stars or higher in the past eight months, three are in Brooklyn. With rents sky-high in former culinary hotbeds like Tribeca and the Village, the eating establishments across the river have never been more varied or inventive, and ambitious cooks from around the globe (not to mention Manhattan) are colonizing the borough like never before.
Elsewhere in this sprawling, food-mad metropolis, other longtime fads and boomlets have also morphed into bona fide, mainstream dining trends. This was the year that the Great Asian Hipster Revolution, which began in David Chang’s humble noodle bar many years ago, reached its improbable zenith, and the year that the madcap, insurgent forager movement—once confined to the forests and meadows of distant provincial farming regions—blossomed into its own elaborate form of big-city haute cuisine. After decades in the shadows, the Upper East Side seems to be experiencing an unlikely culinary renaissance, and to the amazement of my long-suffering Francophile friends, old-fashioned French cuisine is suddenly, unaccountably in vogue again.
In the following pages, we decode, analyze, and explain these momentous culinary developments for your reading pleasure. Once again, our annual restaurant issue is not so much a compendium of the best eating establishments in town as it is a list of the city’s finest new (or newish, or at least newly renovated) places to dine. Once again, our judgments here are the product of endless dinners (and luncheons, and breakfasts, and afternoon snacks) spent in more noodle bars, gin joints, and diminutive, no-reservations pasta parlors than we’d care to count. In our dutiful quest to uncover the very best of the best for you, our hungry reader, we’ve gobbled flaps of deep-fried pork katsu in Japanese comfort-food izakayas, devoured legions of trendy breakfast tacos, and endured countless elaborate multicourse menus in the city’s endlessly proliferating tasting bars. And once again, we’ve organized the results by trend, an even ten of them this year.
For your debating pleasure, we’ve also come up with our annual rosters of the very best new restaurants, chefs, and desserts of the year, plus some developments we’ve grown weary of during the course of our gastronomic rounds. As usual, the opinions expressed are ours and ours alone, and we reserve the right to change our mind next year, or even tomorrow. What was at the top of our last overrated list? Why, Brooklyn, of course.