(NYTIMES) - The following items - eight dishes, one pastry and a cocktail - all reside in New York establishments that did not make the list of my favourite new restaurants of the year for one reason or another.
Some come from places that are not eligible because they are too old, or that were nudged out by other new restaurants I was more enthusiastic about. A few are standouts from restaurants I have decided not to review just yet. And one comes from a bakery. I have rounded them all up in one place, in no particular order.
1. Mussels at The Office NYC
It is rare that I remember a pot of mussels the next morning, let alone months later. But the mussels at Grant Achatz's hideaway lounge are an event, from their first appearance in an antique tureen to the final smudge of a bacon-infiltrated cream sauce that you wipe away with a rag of bread (US$35, S$47.31).
In the Mandarin Oriental New York, 80 Columbus Circle (60th Street), Upper West Side; 212-805-8800; theofficenyc.tocktix.com
2. Crispy layered potatoes at White Gold Butchers
A distant cousin of pommes Anna, these are little stacks of very thinly sliced potatoes fried in beef fat. The crunch-to-volume ratio is admirably high (US$11).
375 Amsterdam Ave. (West 78th Street), Upper West Side; 212-362-8731; whitegoldbutchers.com
3. Polenta at Union Square Cafe
Pale yellow, fluffy, soft and having no thought on its mind other than your happiness, the polenta is this restaurant's golden retriever. Try to eat it alone, ideally on a wet night when there's an empty seat at the bar (US$17).
101 East 19th St. (Park Avenue), Gramercy Park; 212-243-4020; unionsquarecafe.com
4. Banana leaf roasted skate at Momofuku Ssam Bar
A Malaysian favourite that arrives trailing smoke and builds to an intense impact, thanks to a rub of chilies and fermented shrimp paste (US$38)
207 Second Ave. (East 13th Street), East Village; 212-254-3500; ssambar.momofuku.com
5. Choux at Mah Ze Dahr Bakery
The bakery opened in 2016, so this item is more of an ICYMI, but I did MI until this spring. The choux are vanilla-cream-filled pastry puffs with a surprise on the outside: a crackled, sugary cookie coating (US$3.25)
28 Greenwich Ave. (West 10th Street), Greenwich Village; 212-498-9810; mahzedahrbakery.com
6. Grandma pizza at Loring Place
Pan pizza is not what New York is famous for, and the grandma style had mostly escaped the attention of chefs until Dan Kluger gave it a respectful spin and a crust that is airier and more flavourful than usual (US$16)
21 West 8th St. (Fifth Avenue), Greenwich Village; 212-388-1831; loringplacenyc.com
7. Uni crepe at Otway
A classic savoury crepe, spread with herb yogurt and rolled up, becomes the pedestal for lobe after lobe of creamy sea urchin. Like all worthwhile luxuries, its secret is simplicity (US$14)
930 Fulton St. (St. James Place), Clinton Hill, Brooklyn; 917-909-1889; otwaynyc.com
8. Cucumber cocktail at The Pool
If this drink - essentially an absinthe daiquiri - had been available to van Gogh, he might have been more cheerful, although it probably would not have helped his financial state (US$18)
99 East 52nd St. (Lexington Avenue), Midtown; 212-375-9001; thepoolnewyork.com
9. Green chickpea hummus at ABCV
The hummus is green because the chickpeas are picked before they get starchy and white, and also because they went into the blender with handfuls of fresh Thai basil (US$15)
38 East 19th St. (Broadway), Flatiron; 212-475-5829; abchome.com/eat/abcv
10. Chicken biryani at Sahib
To the drawerful of spices that go into any biryani, Sahib adds yogurt and milk before sealing up the rice under a lid of pastry. The recipe comes from Lucknow, India, and it is a treat (US$17):
104 Lexington Ave. (East 27th Street), Kips Bay; 646-590-0994; sahibny.com