1. General Tso’s chicken and Hunan leg of lamb—fiery innovations at oddly spelled HUNAM in 1972 and later UNCLE TAI’S HUNAN YUAN—force wary restaurateurs to see that New Yorkers do like it spicy, peppering the way for Thai, Tex-Mex, Indian, Southwestern, and Sichuan on every block.
2. The chic of LE CIRQUE’s pasta primavera in 1975 gets even our town’s French toques to the pasta pots. Soon they are reinventing ravioli.
3. Policastro’s chewy rolls (an astonishment at CHANTERELLE in 1979) prove bread can be more than tasteless fluff. ELI’s burnt-onion ficelle follows.
4. A lot of us still thought tuna came only in cans till trying seared tuna with green peppercorns and creamy leeks at Barry and Susan Wine’s QUILTED GIRAFFE in 1982.
5. LE CIRQUE’s crème brûlée revival (1982) spawns 1,001 variations that continue to entice and repel.
6. Though New York chefs seared foie gras (often smuggled from France and Israel) throughout the seventies, the first gaggle of Hudson Valley duck livers sets off a major sizzle in 1983. No liver is safe, especially our own. Barry Wine’s sauté rides on greens wilted in foie fat and Silver Palate fruit vinegar. LUTÈCE’S André Soltner serves his with caramelized apples. At the Westbury Hotel, Daniel Boulud thrills jaded voluptuaries with poached American foie gras and grapes in carved ice ducks.
7. Savvy cheese shops were importing French goat cheese all along, but the manna of Sonoma Valley goats makes baked goat cheese on mesclun with walnut-oil vinaigrette the ritual mantra of California cooking at Jonathan Waxman’s JAMS in 1984.
8. Anne Rosenzweig’s lobster club at ARCADIA (l984) led to other fancy bites on toast: “I wanted to break barriers of luxury, to see mayonnaise dripping down the arms of Wall Street,” she says.
9. A sprig of rosemary triumphant atop a pileup of chicken in 1985 is the first hint of Alfred Portale’s architectural yearnings at GOTHAM BAR AND GRILL, but it’s his gorgeous skyscraper seafood salad that inspires the tall-food craze.
10. Raw fish and fresh fish barely cooked, olive-oil-lacquered raw black bass with basil and coriander, pounded tuna carpaccio, and poached halibut in warm vinaigrette at Gilbert and Maguy Le Coze’s
11. Shrimp with mixed grains in a carrot basket and spicy carrot jus signals Alsatian wunderkind Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s declaration of independence from classic French stocks at LAFAYETTE in 1989. His radical new menu, dividing dishes by categories—vegetable broths, vinaigrettes, infused oils, and vegetable juices—freed chefs everywhere.
12. What provoked so many warm-chocolate cakes to erupt in bittersweet lava? Was this Vesuvius of cocoa sparked by an accidentally undercooked warm Valrhona-chocolate cake at JO JO in 1990? Tom Colicchio’s borrowing from France’s Michel Bras of melting ganache at MONDRIAN? Or Bill Yosses’s hot Valrhona-chocolate soufflé at David Bouley’s MONTRACHET (1985)?
13. After shrimp seviche in a sweet and mild citrus-avocado goo with popcorn from Douglas Rodriguez at PATRIA (1994), we could eat to the beat of Latino heat that followed.