Eater reviewer Robert Sietsema’s 15 best dishes of 2021


Sometimes adversity prompts us to redouble our efforts and this is especially true in the restaurant industry. Despite the lingering pandemic and the very recent emerging variant of the omicron, catering workers across town have continued to persevere and triumph, giving us food and pleasure. Looking back over the past 12 months or so, I can say that I have enjoyed more good food than any previous year I can remember. Here’s my recap as I travel through time revisiting, in reverse chronological order, the best meals eaten in 2021.

Pernil in Los Primos.

Pernil in Los Primos: The Bronx is full of culinary gems that are rarely talked about, but establishments just as good as the hot spots of Manhattan and Brooklyn are often overlooked. A perfect example is El Primo, a long-standing but recently renamed Dominican corner cafe. One can simply gaze in rapture through the corner window at the immaculate steam table, where the pot of roast pork is seductively presented. I don’t really need to describe the hearty meat, its browned skin or the lush yellow rice and red beans underneath, as a glance at the photo should reveal its excellence. 698 Allerton Avenue, in White Plains Road, Allerton

A taco with red slivers of meat and guacamole on top.

Taco al pastor at Antojitos Charly.

Tacos al pastor at Antojitos Charly: Jackson Heights can be thought of as a series of culinary obsessions, and my current one are the tacos al pastor at Antojitos Charly. How can I help her? The waffle-stamped cart heralding “the best Mexican food” is in your face as soon as you exit the subway station with a slowly swirling coil of pork made up of spices, the juice cascading down the sides. Once dropped into the tortillas with a few chunks of pineapple, spicy salsa, and liquid guac, there’s nothing better to gulp down while you stand on the sidewalk wondering which cart you should visit next. Roosevelt Avenue, between 74th and 75th streets, Jackson Heights

A sunny cheeseburger coming from one side, with cottage cheese dripping down the side.

Double smash burger at Lavender Lake.

Double smashed burger at Lavender Lake: Every year, I eat around 60 burgers, not just because of due diligence, but because I love burgers. It was the best, a double patty cheeseburger in the currently fashionable crush style. It’s made with sizzling Angus beef awash in American fondue and more decadent white cheddar, but it’s also garnished with pickles somewhere between sweet and savory and caramelized onions. There isn’t a juicier or tastier burger in Gowanus – and probably in the whole town. 383 Carroll Street, between Bond and Nevins streets, Carroll Gardens

A bunch of dark brown duck necks with a slice of colorful pepper on the side.

Duck necks in Falansai.

Duck necks in Falansai: Some dishes at big restaurants don’t look like much, let alone Instagram bait. But it’s these dishes that I come back to again and again, sometimes closing my eyes while eating them, the better to savor their inner beauty. Duck necks are a perfect example of this – a rodent paradise that will have you greedily extract the rich, stringy flesh smoothed with a dark sweet sauce – and return to the plate after thinking it’s over to extract one last. piece of flesh. 112 Harrison Place, at Porter Avenue, Bushwick

Four small round tarts arranged in a square surmounted by a pastry cross.

Pasticciotti at the court pastry shop.

Pasticciotti at the Patisserie de Cour: Founded in 1948 in Cobble Hill, Court Pastry is like a magical gateway to the pastry shops of old Naples. Pasticciotti are small pies that once delighted participants in the festivals of saints, as indicated by the pastry cross on the top. Now we can enjoy it all year round, known in English nowadays as “sticks”. They are filled with sweet ricotta with an Italian cheesecake-like texture, scented with orange peel that reminds us of how close Naples is to the citrus groves of the Sorrento Peninsula. 298 Court Street, between Douglass and Degraw Streets, Cobble Hill

A large oblong plate of dark gray noodles with red peppers on top.

Fern root noodles at Sanshi Rice Noodle.

Fern Root Noodles at Sanshi Rice Noodle: Quick, what do you think of when you think of ferns? Delicate fronds quivering in the breeze with a faint smell of wet earth? This is exactly the taste of Chinese noodles with fern roots (jue gen fen). They are best when not overdressed, but with a light application of spicy and vinegar flavors, which is exactly what the Yunnanese Sanshi Noodle House sleeper did. 118 Second Avenue, in East Seventh Street, East Village

A black plastic container of pieces of pork with white coconut chips.

Roast pork in Kuttanadan.

Roast Pork in Kuttanadan: Beef, pork and plenty of seafood are the stars of the show in Kuttanadan, located on the border of Queens and Long Island and specializing in Kerala cuisine on the southwest coast of India. Roast pork is a dish rubbed with masala, its varied terrain with chunks of fresh coconut flesh. Although it appears to be dry, the dish sits in its melted fat and each slice of pork is chewy, tangy and unforgettable. 248-54 Jericho Turnpike, between Commonwealth Boulevard and 91st Avenue, Parc Floral

A fried egg with a dripping center over a pile of pork and sautéed peppers.

Sautéed spicy holy basil and minced pork at Nuaa Table.

Sautéed spicy holy basil and minced pork at Nuaa Table: You wouldn’t know from looking at the photo, but this dish showcases the licorice-like basil almost as the main ingredient, and it’s hot as hell with two kinds of chili peppers, including the fly variety. bird, small but incendiary. The salted and slightly sweet pork, coarsely ground, actually has a softening effect, and the yolk bursting fried egg is not only tasty, but also beautiful to watch, like the sun rising over a rugged rocky landscape. 638 Bergen Street at Vanderbilt Avenue, Prospect Heights

A whole flattened browned chicken, with coleslaw and red sauce on the side.

Chicken tabaka in Gulchatay.

Chicken tabaka in Gulchatay: Chicken tabaka is a Georgian dish where the chicken is flared and flattened with some bones removed as they also do in Tuscany. It’s like the Caucasian mountain response to American fried chicken. Bursting with garlic, the dish has long been adopted by Russian restaurants, where it’s sometimes jokingly dubbed “road-killing chicken”. At Gulchatay – a Central Asian restaurant in Homecrest, Brooklyn – a wonderful version of chicken tabaka is produced with a crispy skin and enough garlic to make you dizzy. 1915 Avenue U, between East 19th Street and Ocean Avenue, Homecrest

Jumbo shrimp burst from a thick, bright orange sauce.

The Goan Shrimp Curry at Indian Table also contains chayote chips.

Indian Table Goan Shrimp Curry: Cobble Hill’s Indian Table is the city’s second-largest Goan restaurant, although the menu strays from other southern Indian states. This dish first strikes the eyes with its bright orange color, but one bite and you will appreciate the extreme subtlety of the coconut sauce, tasting its complex masala with shrimp that retain their bouncy and light texture – a sure sign that it was cooked just the perfect time. 234 Court Street, between Baltic and Kane streets, Cobble Hill

In a brown folding box, four sandwich quarters stuffed with square fried potato croquettes.

Sando of potato croquettes at Curry Mania.

Sando potato croquette at Curry Mania (May 13): Served on slices of white bread with the crusts cut into a perfect alignment, Japanese sandos are a mini-fad for perfectly even sandwiches that may seem like they’ve come off an assembly line, but they also deliver great flavor with their toppings. fries. here. My favorite featured potatoes on white bread in this pop-up from Kitakata ramen bar, which has become just another victim of the pandemic. But these wonderful sandwiches remain on the menu at Katana Kitten (try the mortadella) and Evil Katsu (where portobello katsu is almost as good as potatoes).

A large piece of meat with onions, cilantro and slices of red radishes on the side.

Barbacoa in La Estancia De La Espiga

Barbacoa in La Estancia De La Espiga: La Espiga has been around in an off-the-beaten-path corner of Corona since 1998, serving southern Mexican specialties to a crowd for whom the low-slung dining room and open prep areas feel like a home from home. Lamb or goat-based barbacoa is a weekend special that’s dense, spicy, and dripping with delicious juices. It’s available by the pound with window-made tortillas, or as an all-you-can-eat feast for an entire table of diners, who gossip happily as they eat. 42-11 102nd Street, between 42nd and 43rd avenues, Corona

A bowl of very green soup with chopped plants inside.

Caldo chipilin in Ix.

Caldo chipilin in Ix: It was a favorite among several meal-sized soups enjoyed at Guatemalan Brunch Ix, located on a bucolic block just east of Prospect Park. Chipilin (hilariously known as “longbeak rattlebox”) has a pleasant slippery quality much like okra, which fortifies a chicken broth, and increases its greens. Finally, the shrimp float in the soup, adding a clean, oceanic flavor. 43 Lincoln Road, between Flatbush and Ocean avenues, Prospect Lefferts Gardens

Pieces of chicken in an oily red sauce.

Creole chicken at Rebel.

Creole chicken at Rebel: At Rebel, the newcomer to the Lower East Side, there’s a chicken fricassee drenched in a spicy red sauce that gives off hints of garlic, thyme, and citrus – due to at least part of its flavor. flavor scheme both in West Africa and in France. The bird is tender on the exit and is accompanied by black colored djon-djon mushrooms and twice-fried woody plantains which provide a welcome crunch and are perfect for dipping in the sauce. 29 Clinton Street, at Stanton Street, Lower East Side

A white round paper container with caramel-colored pudding and finely diced toppings.

Caramel pudding in Portale.

Portale caramel pudding: Even more than chocolate pudding, I love caramel pudding, and the one I had right after New Years at Portale was among the most memorable examples of my life. Firmer than most, the pudding tastes buttery and salty, and the micro-diced green apples along with the crushed nuts and whipped cream put it on top. Feeling obligated to share it around the table was the hardest part. 126 West 18th Street, between Sixth and Seventh Avenues, Chelsea

Discover my best dishes from 2020, 2019, and 2018.

118 Second Ave, New York, NY 10003

698 Allerton Avenue, New York, NY 10467

1915 Avenue U, New York, NY 11229

42-11 102nd Street, New York, NY 11368

298 Court Street, Brooklyn, NY 11231
(718) 875-4820


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