When The New York Times asked me to help choose restaurants where a series of dinners will be held in late September and early October, I started by thinking of all the places where I’d spend my own money. The list was ultimately narrowed to 10. Here they are, in alphabetical order, along with some reasons they’re among my favorites.
To open up their menus and dining rooms to a younger, looser spirit, Indian chefs around the city have borrowed ideas from gastro pubs, noodle bars and cosmopolitan tasting counters. Chintan Pandya may be the most inventive of the bunch. His menu at Adda Indian Canteen in Queens issues a challenge that New Yorkers have been happy to accept; on any given night you can see eyes popping as dishes like chicken liver masala and bheja fry — goat brains with ginger and fresh green chiles — come swaggering out of the kitchen.
31-31 Thomson Avenue (Van Dam Street), Long Island City, Queens; addanyc.com.
Atomix’s multicourse menus show off Korean ingredients that are rarely seen here, like tangerine vinegar. They take startling leaps with everyday Korean foods like jook, introduce modern versions of traditional Korean crafts like pottery and even incorporate the work of contemporary Korean fashion designers and architects.
104 East 30th Street (Park Avenue South); atomixnyc.com.
In other parts of the country, French food might signify the old, the passé, the establishment that had to be overthrown. In New York, it still supplies fresh inspiration. At Frenchette, the chefs Riad Nasr and Lee Hanson draw energy from the more forceful and blunt side of the cuisine, the organ-eating side. There are exemplary sweetbreads with a veal-crayfish reduction, buttered snails dropped into soft-scrambled eggs, a pink plank of guinea hen terrine, and so on. These things may be traditional, but they don’t come across that way. Setting the tone for the whole experience is the wine list, which assembles major and minor members of the natural-wine movement in France and abroad. These winemakers, like the chefs, follow ancient methods and concoct new ones where they have to.
241 West Broadway (North Moore Street); frenchettenyc.com.
There is just one way at Rita Sodi’s unassuming neighborhood restaurant. It is Ms. Sodi’s way, which is otherwise known as the Tuscan way. She is a strict traditionalist, convinced that success lies in doing things according to the old rules. You come to I Sodi not to be dazzled by novel combinations but to be impressed by how carefully everything is done: the translucent skin on the fried chicken; the square tortelli with chestnuts in the dough and the filling; the many thin layers of the lasagna; the classical proportions of the Negronis. The cocktail menu listed eight variations at last count, a rare example of Ms. Sodi’s allowing deviations from custom.
105 Christopher Street (Bleecker Street); isodinyc.com.
No other country’s food has been interpreted as relentlessly, intelligently and creatively by New York chefs over the past decade or so as South Korea’s. At Jeju, in the West Village, Douglas Kim brings a refined sensibility to Korea’s version of ramen. Called ramyun, it is a basic comfort food that in his hands takes on unexpected depth and nuance.
679 Greenwich Street (Christopher Street); jejunoodlebar.com.
Although it opened three years ago, King gives the impression that it has been sitting on the same corner west of SoHo forever. It has the relaxed self-assurance and command of details that come with age. The kitchen, which is run equally by Jess Shadbolt and Clare de Boer, pays homage to the cooking of southern France and northern Italy; they never seem to strain for effects, but somehow they know how to locate a little extra flavor, how to finish a dish with a delicate flourish.
18 King Street (Avenue of the Americas); kingrestaurant.nyc
The slice is to New York what the taco is to Los Angeles. Its basic elements are currently being taken apart and put back together again by pizza people whose sensibilities, by and large, were not shaped by culinary school and whose businesses are not ashamed of their paper-plate and sneeze-guard heritage. One of the leaders of this homegrown movement is Frank Tuttolomondo at Mama’s Too. He learned the trade in his parents’ nearby pizzeria, Mama’s, before embarking on a private course of study on such mysteries as overnight fermentations and pepperoni cups.
Misi is one of the most exciting places in the city to eat pasta, which is made in a separate, climate-controlled room, far from the heat of the kitchen. The shapes run from the familiar (mezze rigatoni, fettuccine) to the unusual (stamped coins known as corzetti) and the sauces are traditional, too, although one of the great skills of Misi’s chef, Missy Robbins, is to put a distinctive spin on her cooking without doing anything that would annoy an Italian grandmother. Misi is not as well known as a place to eat produce, but the vegetables are bright, vibrant and exciting, whether tossed with pasta or starring in antipasti, alone.
329 Kent Avenue (South Fourth Street), Williamsburg, Brooklyn; misinewyork.com.
Since Daisuke Nakazawa opened his omakase sushi parlor in 2013 in the West Village, similar spots have turned up all over Manhattan, and prices have ballooned. At least the cost of a sushi dinner in one of the black-leather casino chairs at Nakazawa has stayed constant at $150. Certain Nakazawa preparations — the scallop with a tiny, fiery dab of yuzukosho; the live spot prawns whose heads are fried and served as a chaser after their tails have appeared in the form of nigiri — have become touchstones for sushi freaks.
23 Commerce Street (Bedford Street); sushinakazawa.com.
There is an omakase counter at Torishin, in Midtown, along with other counters and tables where you order from the menu. What you order at Torishin is not raw fish, though. It is chicken, skewered and grilled over charcoal, and you must specify the precise part of the anatomy that interests you: hearts, gizzards, livers, skin from the neck or the belly, tenderloins or tendons, for starters. Torishin is not the only yakitori spot in town, but it is the most conscientious, the one where you are most likely to taste a chicken tail cooked exactly as long as a chicken tail should be.
362 West 53rd Street (Ninth Avenue); torishinny.com.