Eater Critic Ryan Sutton’s 17 Best Dishes of 2022

Earlier this week, I recounted my choices for the year’s best restaurants. Today, here are my selections for New York’s best dishes of 2022, some of which come from venues I didn’t get around to reviewing.

Fish tacos at Ensenada

As $400 omakase parlors keep opening across Manhattan, an entirely more compelling movement is taking hold: New York is continuing to witness a small boom in ambitious Mexican restaurants, whether traditional or modern, affordable or expensive. Ensenada’s seafood tacos are particularly remarkable; chef Luis Herrera recreates the al pastor experience on branzino by layering an expertly cooked fish — the flesh is as soft as a toasted marshmallow — with heaps of pineapple chutney. You then spread pineapple butter, as rich as cheesecake, on tortillas to amp up the luxury. Ensenada is at 168 Borinquen Place, at South Second Street, Williamsburg

Tamales at Evelias

Evelia Coyotzi, a vendor who’s fed hard-working patrons from her Jackson Heights cart for over twenty years, finally has a permanent shop in East Elmhurst, and the tamales are as spectacular as ever. The coarse masa, gently fragrant of maize, delivers calibrated doses of powerful flavors. Adobo pork pops with warming spices. Chicharron bursts with slippery skin and tart salsa verde. And mole tastes like the cooling embers of a magical fire made from chocolate and nuts. 96-09 Northern Boulevard, near 96th Street, East Elmhurst

An assortment of rainbow tamales from Evelia’s Tamales in Queens.

Evelia’s tamales.
Ryan Sutton/Eater NY

Cacio e pepe at Bonnie’s: In an era where cacio e pepe feels like it has a celebrity publicist — an agent that wants it everywhere — Bonnie’s version is the one that feels truly unique. Chef Calvin Eng tosses his bucatini in a blistering hot wok, slicking the cheesy noodles with doses of MSG and fermented bean paste. The result is a pasta dish that packs not just peppery heat, but a mild funk that recalls a good dry-aged steak. 398 Manhattan Avenue, near Frost Street, Williamsburg

Kuih at Lady Wong: Every day, co-owners Seleste Tan and Mogan Anthony create shiny, rectangular cakes that look like they belong in a sculpture garden at the Met. Fat slices of pandan and caramel custard sit in glass cases — a modernist, Rothko-like study in green and brown. As you take a bite, they wobble, releasing bright notes of sugar, salt, grass, and coconut. Coconut rainbow cakes jiggle with even more gusto. I would collect store them like Baccarat if they weren’t so damn tasty. 332 East Ninth Street, near First Avenue, East Village

A fish is served butterflied on a white plate with a brown rim, filled with red sauce and garnished with green herbs.

Al pastor branzino at Ensenada.
Adam Friedlander/Ensenada

Welsh rarebit at Lord’s: I honestly never enjoyed this British pub staple until I started dining at Lord’s. Chef Ed Szymanski doesn’t so much garnish the bread with cheesy sauce as he turns a slice of sourdough into a conduit mechanism for a dense, savory pudding. The mix of cheddar, mustard, marmite, and Guinness looks as pretty as a mudslide, except this treat is packed with all sorts of umami. Squirt a bit of Worcestershire on top to tame the sharp cheese with a sugary maltiness, then let the anchovy on top shock you with brine. 506 LaGuardia Place, near Bleecker Street, Greenwich Village

Curried oxtail pizza at Cuts & Slices: New York slice pizza generally exists within a tight band of creativity. Toppings tend to lean in Italian-ish and American directions. At Cuts & Slices, however, Randy Mclaren goes full Caribbean, sending out spicy jerk chicken and jerk shrimp slices. His curried oxtail pies are especially masterful: a canopy of seasonings turn the white slice forest green, while the gelatinous beef provides a sticky chew. 93 Howard Avenue, near Halsey Street, Bed Stuy

White pizza at Fini: A typical tri-state area pizzeria makes a white pie from ricotta and mozzarella. But Sean Feeney and pizzaiolo Will Unseld do something entirely different here, slathering each slice with parmesan fontina — essentially white nacho sauce. Lemon zest freshens up the cheesy funk, and while the $5.25 slice is rich, the pizza never feels heavy. 305 Bedford Avenue, near South Second Street, Williamsburg

Three rainbow-colored, rectangular cubes of lapis sagu arranged on a banana leaf.

Rainbow lapis from Lady Wong.
Dan Ahn/Eater NY

Foie gras at Corner Bar: I don’t eat foie gras more than a few times a year, but I’m glad the stymied state of the foie gras ban means New Yorkers can continue to enjoy fatty duck liver across the city — and especially at Corner Bar. Think of this version as a deconstructed sandwich. The bouncy head cheese is the meat; the foie stands in for the mayo, and there’s some nice brioche on the side for smashing everything together. 60 Canal Street, near Allen Street, Lower East Side

Mushroom kebabs at Eyval: Trumpet mushrooms, as bronzed as a rotisserie chicken, sit above pickled beachwood fungi and coconut-creamed lentils. What ensues are enough meaty, tart, and tropical flavors to help cement this Iranian live fire spot as one of the city’s top newcomers. 25 Bogart Street, at Varet, Bushwick

Mignardises at Le Rock: Let me just name some of the things you might encounter on pastry chef Mariah Neston’s three-tiered platter: jellies, puffs, caneles, marshmallow sandwich cookies, the best apple tart I’ve had in recent memory, and an epic frozen souffle with bergamot sorbet. As so many other restaurants offer lean, limited dessert offerings, the Le Rock team goes full Eloise. 45 Rockefeller Plaza, near Fifth Avenue, Midtown

Assorted slices, some of them half-eaten, sit on paper in a pizza box

Pizza from Cuts & Slices.
Ryan Sutton/Eater NY

Ramyun at Mari: Chef Sungchul Shim’s $135 tasting specializes in a cross between Japanese temaki and Korean kimbap, but one of Mari’s sleeper hits is a noodle soup that concludes the savory portion of the meal. Shim forges a gugsku from slowly simmering chicken, beef, and veal stocks. The broth emits a whiff of poultry tang, followed by a mellow roundness. A tangle of wheat noodles bounce and stretch as you pull them out of the golden broth, stained red by gochujang. 679 Ninth Avenue, near West 47th Street, Hell’s Kitchen

Fried chicken at Pecking House: Chef Eric Huang attracted a 10,000-person wait list for his pandemic-era pop-up, but at his Pecking House permanent outpost, you can sample some of the city’s best fried birds with almost no wait. Expect chicken as juicy as a gusher candy, with the craggy, chile-stained exterior doing its best impression of cooling lava. A hint of sugar takes the edge off, but make no mistake, this is spicy. 244 Flatbush Avenue, near St. Marks Avenue, Park Slope

Vada pao at Rowdy Rooster: Yes, this is technically a stellar new fried chicken shack, but Rowdy Rooster is also a rare fast-food spot that devotes as much care to its vegetarian offerings as its carnivorous ones. For the vada pao, Roni Mazumdar fries up a potato patty that’s as silky and buttery as pommes puree, crams it into a puffy pao roll, then douses it in a chile rub that sets the tongue ablaze. It is very luxurious pain. 49 First Avenue, near East Ninth Street, East Village

Slices of pork sit atop a cloudy bone broth; noodles are visible, as is chile oil staining the broth

Guksu at Mari.
Erik Bernstein/Eater NY

Celtuce at Wenwen: Celtuce is a key ingredient in Taiwanese cuisine, but this preparation leans more Sichuan. Chef Eric Sze cuts the thick lettuce into spaghetti-like strands, marinates it in soy, then presents it all for slurping. The result is a cooling rush, followed by a mild peppercorn buzz. Pair with hot fried tofu for a fine chaud-froid pairing. 1025 Manhattan Avenue, near Green Street, Greenpoint

The dip platter at Zou Zou’s: Chic brasseries like to put expensive shellfish on platters. Zou Zou’s instead puts a whole bunch of expensive dips on a platter. For $35 you get airy whipped ricotta with saffron apricots; green tahini with cilantro-laced aquafaba; toasty kabocha squash with brown butter; chickpea with black garlic; and ember roasted eggplant. 385 Ninth Avenue, Suite 85, inside the Manhattan West Plaza, Midtown

A chef is shown dunking fried chicken in a brown chile sauce and placing the poultry in a cardboard serving vessel

Fried chicken at Pecking House.
Pecking House

Corn brioche at Lysee: Colombian, Mexican, and other Latin panaderias have long used corn in baked goods, but the cereal grain doesn’t tend to make its way into fancy bakeries with Gallic leanings. Eunji Lee helps change that equation at the French Korean Lysee in Flatiron. The chef stuffs squishy, doughnut-like brioche with corn cremeaux and tops it with dehydrated corn crumble (with a deeper, sunbaked maize flavor). Pair with a cold bottle of toasted brown rice milk for a sweet, salty breakfast. 44 East 21st Street, near Park Avenue, Flatiron

Chicken rice at Hainan Jones: A growing contingent of local spots is offering this Southern Chinese dish, a hawker classic that’s wildly popular across Singapore and Southeast Asia. What sets the Jones version apart is the $17 price tag — steep by even Manhattan standards — as well as the outright deliciousness. Jones poaches the poultry so delicately it is juicy to the point of almost seeming undercooked; it boasts an intense chicken-y flavor, while the soft rice, scented with powerful notes of ginger and cilantro, absorbs all the fatty drippings. 135 West 50th Street, inside Urban Hawker market, near Seventh Avenue, Midtown