On New York’s restaurant scene, it was a year of triumphant second acts. WD-50’s Wylie Dufresne, M. Wells’ Hugue Dufour, and Mission Chinese Food’s Danny Bowien, among others, followed up past successes with winning sequels. But talented newcomers also stepped into the spotlight—including a French-trained chef rethinking Chinese-American flavors and a sushi understudy who’s emerged as a rising star. Here, in alphabetical order, are some of the openings that Chowhounds cheered loudest in 2013.
157 Second Avenue (between E. Ninth and 10th streets), Manhattan
Wylie Dufresne applies the playful kitchen-nerd style he refined at WD-50 to modern yet approachable pub grub. Pastrami on rye is reinvented as pasta over shaved beef, and pub cheese is a wine-purple smear of cheddar with potato crisps.
47 E. Houston Street (between Mulberry and Mott streets), Manhattan
Ignacio Mattos, who cooked at Isa in Brooklyn, shows a sure hand with Mediterranean-accented small plates, well matched with wines. Citrus-dressed raw scallops and beef tartare with sunchoke are smart orders from the seasonally changing menu.
3. FUNG TU
22 Orchard Street (between Canal and Hester streets), Manhattan
Jonathan Wu recasts flavors from the Chinese kitchen, informed by his French training and experience at Per Se. Winning results include small plates like duck-stuffed dates and big ones like steamed sea bream with fennel, tangerine, and black bean.
4. IVAN RAMEN SLURP SHOP
In Gotham West Market, 600 11th Avenue (between W. 44th and 45th streets), Manhattan
After honing his skills in Tokyo, American ramen ronin Ivan Orkin is back home, serving nutty rye noodles in subtly updated broths at an upmarket Midtown food court. Soupless roasted-garlic mazemen and smoked-whitefish rice bowls are also good bets.
157 Duane Street (between Broadway and Hudson Street), Manhattan
In a town with few Laotian options, this Tribeca hot spot’s refined take on the cuisine has ‘hounds buzzing. Chile-lemongrass duck salad and kaffir lime sausage with coconut rice balls, among other dishes, deftly balance tartness and spice.
6. LARB UBOL
480 Ninth Avenue (between W. 36th and 37th streets), Manhattan
A Chowhound all-star for her big-flavored Isaan Thai cooking, Ratchanee Sumpatboon has conquered Hell’s Kitchen with crispy pork larb and other peppery, pungent fare. Ninth Avenue’s mostly middling Thai competition should be feeling the heat.
7. M. WELLS STEAKHOUSE
43-15 Crescent Street (between 43rd Avenue and 44th Road), Long Island City, Queens
European-style butcher cuts and a luscious bone-in burger of brisket and round are among the objects of veneration at this “meat temple,” as Hugue Dufour describes the follow-up to his Quebec-meets-Queens destination M. Wells Diner.
8. MISSION CANTINA
172 Orchard Street (at Stanton Street), Manhattan
After rethinking Sichuan cooking at Mission Chinese Food, Danny Bowien has taken on Mexican. His signature bold flavors assert themselves in surprising combinations like scallop–beef heart ceviche as well as tacos on terrific house-made tortillas.
430 Hudson Street (between Morton and Leroy streets), Manhattan
Grace notes from Italy and Korea harmonize happily in Chef Chris Cipollone’s New American cooking. That’s jujube and black garlic in the duck breast, for instance, and gochujang chile paste, basil, and pignoli in the barbecued octopus.
10. SUSHI NAKAZAWA
23 Commerce Street (between Bedford Street and Seventh Avenue S.), Manhattan
Daisuke Nakazawa, a supporting character in the documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi, earns top billing and stellar notices at his namesake restaurant. The amiable chef just notched four New York Times stars—but Chowhounds embraced him first.
Photo of calamari à la plancha from Estela