Every year, Bon Appetit magazine names the ten best new restaurants in the USA. There are fifty finalists, and four of them are new NYC restaurants – Aska, Hart’s and Olmstead in Brooklyn, and Le Coucou in Manhattan.
Bon Appetit announces the winners on August 15, but you might want to check out these restaurants now. Here’s what various reviewers have said about the four finalists.
Remember: NYC Restaurant Week is through August 18. Nearly 400 top NYC restaurants are participating with specially priced three-course lunches and dinners.
Aska – Seasonal Scandinavian tasting menus & wine pairings in an intimate space, plus a cellar bar/garden. 47 S 5th St, Brooklyn
- Michelin Guide – Finally, Chef Fredrik Berselius has opened this second incarnation of Aska, and it is already a must on any serious diner’s list. The cuisine is his own Nordic fusion of the Northeast’s bounty, importing as little as possible and showcasing produce from the Catskills, as well as the restaurant’s own plot at the nearby Farm on Kent. The interior has a theatrical quality; the dining room is purposefully dark as if to heighten its contrast with the overly bright open kitchen. Chefs often come forward to present certain courses, as if breaking the fourth wall. The heart of Aska’s innovation is in its use of myriad cooking techniques, like fermentation, smoking, and preserving. Elements of dining here are more about discovery than comfort, and may focus on an introduction to new tastes. Lamb’s heart slowly cooked with hay down to ash served with pickled sunchoke purée is unforgettable, but whether it is pleasurable may be a source of debate. The carefully composed Finnish Carelian caviar with grilled onion bulbs, cultured cream, and ramp seeds in a complex lemon verbena-onion broth is extraordinary in presentation and flavor. Courses may ebb and flow, but the overall experience is fantastic.
Hart’s – A changing menu of Mediterranean cuisine & drinks served in a cozy setting with an open kitchen. 506 Franklin Ave., Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn, NY 11238
- New York Magazine – At first glance, Hart’s looks like a Brooklyn version of Wildair, serving clam toast with pancetta, pork Milanese, broccoli with salsa verde, and natural wine in an intimate 30-seat Bed-Stuy space. That’s a good thing, as this kind of Mediterranean-leaning food — easy but elegant — is exactly what New Yorkers want to eat right now. The team behind Hart’s has the chops, too: The chef, Nick Perkins, has worked at literally every restaurant in the Andrew Tarlow empire; his brother, Russell, helped design the space (which includes an open kitchen and a butcher-block communal table); and Nialls Fallon, the manager and beverage director, comes from Maiden Lane.
Olmsted – American restaurant by a chef-farmer team growing many ingredients in its backyard garden. 659 Vanderbilt Ave, Prospect Heights, Brooklyn
- New York Times -Olmstead looks innocent enough. Not much in the dining room sets it apart from any number of other new places to eat. The houseplants whose vines slink down one wall may well come from Lowe’s. Toward the back is a cooking space big enough for two people; I believe the term in the trade is “a two-butt kitchen.” The chef, Greg Baxtrom, works on the outside of the pass, putting the last touches on dishes that cost no more than $24. But hidden inside this simple and approachable neighborhood restaurant is another, more unusual one waiting to get out. Your first clue comes when you head out to the garden before dinner for a drink and encounter the livestock. At the bottom of an enamel claw-foot bathtub by the rear door, crayfish scuttle for cover as you get close. At the far end of a long, raised bed of radishes, against the back fence, is a bird coop. Living inside are one mottled quail and an all-white one, an experimental breed, no doubt the first of its kind to settle in Prospect Heights.
Le Coucou – Refined French fare, such as lobster, rabbit, duck & foie gras, served in an airy, elegant setting. 138 Lafayette St. in Soho
- New York Post – At the once-nowhere corner of Lafayette and Howard streets, Le Coucou is the city’s finest, most fun-for-everyone new brasserie to open since Balthazar nearly 20 years ago. It’s also one of the 21st century’s four or five best restaurants of any type. Lovingly sculpted into the side of the neighborhood-lifting hotel 11 Howard, Le Coucou is an instant classic that’s perfect for its time — yet it ignores every rule of its time. No obnoxious tasting menu! The lineup’s all a la carte and the menu’s organized into easily understood categories. No concocted culinary “concept”! Instead, it offers a modestly described “tribute to classic French technique and dishes.” No Instagram obsession! Most of Le Coucou’s dishes aren’t especially photogenic. No ear-splitting din or dim lighting! You can hear and see your companions without a struggle. No squeezing in as many mouths as possible! Le Coucou’s floor is easily big enough for 100. Some owners would jam in 120. But it seats a mere 80 happy gourmands.
Here’s the list of all 50 finalists, by region.
If you are a true foodie, you can meet the ten winning chefs at the fifth annual Night With America’s Best New Restaurants on September 6 in New York City. Tickets are $99 for unlimited food and drink, and the chance to rub elbows with hot new chefs.
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