Lilia|Evan Sung1/7 Lilia|Evan Sung
Squid, pork and shrimp in salsa verde, Atoboy|Provided2/7 Squid, pork and shrimp in salsa verde, Atoboy|Provided
Olmsted|Evan Sung3/7 Olmsted|Evan Sung
Ichiran Ramen|Rebecca Fondren4/7 Ichiran Ramen|Rebecca Fondren
Le Coucou|Ditte Isager6/7 Le Coucou|Ditte Isager
It’s been a bad year for, well, any number of reasons, but NYC dining couldn’t have been more exciting. We had new projects by juggernaut chefs (Tom Colicchio’s Fowler & Wells), fast-casual food got the celebrity chef treatment (Michael Solomonov's hummuseria Dizengoff), and we got some actually delicious takes on healthful food (the ayurvedic Divya’s Kitchen). Here are the biggest hits of 2016, an impressive crop of newcomers that look good to stand the test of time.
Faro in Bushwick threw the gauntlet for inventive pastas last year, and Lilia is every bit as worthy of the hype. There’s no end to the surprises flowing out of the kitchen at chef Missy Robbins’ garage-turned-Italian bar and restaurant in Williamsburg. Starters like sardines and blowfish tail(!) lead into dizzying clouds of pasta, from ricotta gnocchi in broccoli pesto to aged goat cheese-topped corzetti. 567 Union Ave., Brooklyn
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This was definitely the year that Indian food broke out of its rut, and nowhere better than in the kitchen of chef Floyd Cardoz. He brought back some favorites from the dearly departed Tabla, added signature items like the crazy tender vindaloo pork ribs, and put a spotlight on goat, a meat that deserves more attention for environmental and nutritional reasons. 195 Spring St.
This Bushwick ramen import hit New Yorkers’ sweet spot in two very important ways at its first North American spot. First, it tapped into our need for just one moment of even imagined privacy with its “flavor concentration booths.” Two, it simplified the ramen experience down to a single customizable bowl. The simplicity is completely Japanese, and the tonkotsu is just as you like it. 374 Johnson Ave.
Flatiron’s modern Thai restaurant hasn’t gotten a lot of press, but those in the know have been flocking to eat beneath its chandeliers of glittering gold leaves or sip milk tea in cozy booths topped to look like you’re sitting inside a lantern. The warm service gives way to dishes like crispy catfish salad and royal pad thai served in an “egg net” that are both Insta- and wallet-friendly. 5 E. 19th St., G Floor, Flatiron
NYC may be only second to actual France when it comes to French food, but we don’t tend to see a lot of exciting newcomers in the genre. Not so at this SoHo charmer by Stephen Starr, who toned down his bombastic style (Buddakan) to create a sleek but approachable dining room and installed Parisian expat Daniel Rose to wow the jaded crowds with rabbit three ways and pavé with caramel mousse. 138 Lafayette St.
Just when we thought we were over rooftop bars, along comes a new destination we just can’t resist. Andrew Carmellini took over the entire 22nd floor of the new William Vale Hotel with a stunning indoor-outdoor bar boasting unobstructed views of Manhattan. Come for the cocktails, stay for the small plates (reserve a table to skip the line at the elevator) like fried stuffed olives and shrimp cocktail dumplings. 111 N. 12th St., Williamsburg
Farm-to-table is a worn mantra — at Per Se and Alinea alum Greg Baxtrom’s neighborhood charmer, they do things backyard-to-table. That includes keeping quail hens in a pen and a garden where asparagus, fiddlehead ferns and much of the rest of the menu is sourced. It’s a fitting tribute to the restaurant’s namesake, Central Park designer Frederick Olmsted, and so is the menu of comforting fare that gives vegetables the star treatment — while keeping most dishes around $20. 659 Vanderbilt Ave., Prospect Heights
Korean side dishes (banchan) are the main event here, with your dinner options consisting of a choice of three with a side of rice for $36 — a steal for fare by chef Junghyun Park, who previously headed up the two Michelin-starred kitchen at Jungsik. Unconventional pairings include smoked eel with green beans and octopus with kimchi, all served with familial warmth by a team led by Park’s wife, Ellia. 43 E. 28th St., NoMad