From the Upper East Side to Bellerose, Queens, Chowhounds discovered some amazing food in New York City in 2012. The places themselves took inspiration from as far afield as Uzbekistan, China’s Henan Province, and Paris, but Chowhounds’ joy of discovery was the same for each. Here, in alphabetical order, are the year’s top 10 finds.
116 Lexington Avenue (near E. 28th Street), Manhattan
This branch of a Chennai-based chain offers southern Indian dishes with powerful, complex spicing like the slow-burn Chettinad Chicken Roast.
2. BARCLAYS CENTER
620 Atlantic Avenue (at Flatbush Avenue), Brooklyn
Hungry visitors to Brooklyn’s new arena can skip pricey arena grub in a neighborhood whose diverse choices, as catalogued by Chowhounds, include Italian, Cuban, Middle Eastern, upmarket pizza, Caribbean-accented French, and much more.
3. BIÁNG! (pictured)
41-10 Main Street (between 41st Avenue and 41st Road), Flushing, Queens
Transcending their food-court roots, the owners of Xi’an Famous Foods have opened a stylish sit-down restaurant and added barbecued skewers and other new dishes, while keeping greatest hits like Spicy and Tingly Lamb-Face Salad.
236 Fifth Avenue (between 27th and 28th streets), Manhattan
Roasted bone marrow gets an improbably perfect Middle Eastern–style complement: tabbouleh and sour cherry with warm pita pillows.
5. KERALA MASALA HUT
246-01 Jericho Turnpike (at 246th Street), Bellerose, Queens
A southern Indian cuisine that’s hard to find in New York has surfaced on the city’s eastern edge, prepared authentically with the fiery flavors, potent pickles, and tropical ingredients native to Kerala state.
6. LAO DONG BEI
44-09 Kissena Boulevard (near Cherry Avenue), Flushing, Queens
Chowhounds, who long ago discovered the rustic Dongbei cuisine of northeast China, have tracked one of their favorite chefs to Lao Dong Bei in Flushing, where winning courses include cumin sliced fish, beer duck, and spice-crusted Muslim-style lamb chops.
7. MAISON KAYSER
1294 Third Avenue (between E. 74th and 75th streets), Manhattan
This Paris import brings baguettes and other Old World breads to New York—and signals the arrival of an uptown boulangerie row with the November 2012 opening of FP Patisserie across the street.
8. NARGIS CAFÉ
2818 Coney Island Avenue (between Avenue Z and Kathleen Court), Brooklyn
A favorite of Russian locals, this Uzbek sleeper in Brooklyn grills meats to a turn and also serves excellent salads, including a standout with avocado.
9. SPICY VILLAGE
68-B Forsyth Street (between Hester and Grand streets), Manhattan
The departed He Nan Flavor, a rare source for the lusty cuisine of China’s Henan Province, returned with a new name—and old favorite dishes like Spicy Big Tray Chicken.
105 E. Ninth Street (between Third and Fourth avenues), Manhattan
This hound-endorsed but criminally neglected Japanese restaurant does a marvelous thing with scallops—or three marvelous things, actually: It steams the coral-pink roe, chops the chewy-crunchy mantle into a spicy salad, and deftly slices the creamy adductor muscle into sashimi in a don’t-miss occasional special.