With apologies to the listicle gods, not to mention the headline gods, I don’t mean this to be a definitive list of the best things I ate this year. I change my mind too often and besides, such a list would overlap considerably with my ranking of the best new restaurants reviewed in 2018. It seems more fair, or at least more interesting, to spread the love around. So the list that follows, in alphabetical order, is drawn exclusively from places that didn’t make my top 10 but still do at least one thing very, very well.
Arista di cinghiale at Ristoro del Cinghiale
In Tuscany, wild boar is typically stewed to smithereens. Boar ragù is on the menu at Ristoro del Cinghiale, too, but the place also offers a rare opportunity to eat roasted boar. Eight ribs and their attendant loin are smeared with salt and pepper; their flavor isn’t like any other meat’s, but you won’t be far off if you imagine prime rib crossed with heritage pork chops ($85).
122 East 27th Street (Lexington Avenue), Kips Bay; 646-610-9695; ristorodelcinghiale.com.
Côte de boeuf at Ferris
I confess that what chefs call “large format dishes” often strike me as oversized, overpriced Instagram chum. But my doubts were no match for Greg Proechel’s beef rib, dry-aged to a cheeselike ripeness and carved into slices to show off different facets of beef. Some slices were edged with a lip of warm fat, others emphasized the darkly caramelized crust, and the rest laid open the tender, rosy flesh inside ($5.95 an ounce, starting at about 25 ounces).
44 West 29th Street (Avenue of the Americas), Chelsea; 212-213-4420; ferrisnyc.com.
For purists who insist that pasta and meatballs should be separate courses, Don Angie has found an ingenious compromise: The meatballs are broken into chunks and stewed like a ragù, so they distribute themselves around the wide belts of garganelli ($25).
103 Greenwich Avenue (West 12th Street), West Village; 222-889-8884; donangie.com.
An anomaly on a menu of Hunanese noodle soups, the Hometown Lu Fen is a nest of rice noodles splashing around not in a pool of broth but in a shallow bath of sauce. Spread over the top are beef, barbecued pork and tofu fanned out in slices like cold cuts at a buffet. A little dish of chopped pickled chiles supplies amplification ($22).
112 First Avenue (East Seventh Street), East Village; 646-585-9585; hunanslurp.com.
Showered with chocolate malt powder and dripping with sweetened condensed milk, this tower of thick, squishy French toast is begging to be knocked over. It may not be a complete breakfast as the phrase is understood by nutritionists, but it’s hard to imagine wanting more once you’ve demolished it ($9).
151 East Broadway (Rutgers Street), Chinatown; 646-609-3785, kopitiamnyc.com.
Shimmering tomato pulp, translucent garlic, basil leaves, olive oil and dark veins of dried oregano conspire to produce one of the city’s benchmark pizzas, despite (or because of?) the absence of cheese. Anthony Mangieri is the Mies van der Rohe of Manhattan’s pizzaioli, a God-is-in-the-details perfectionist who does his finest work when he restricts himself to the fewest elements ($19).
175 Orchard Street (Stanton Street), Lower East Side; 646-692-3475; unapizza.com.
A highly regional treat from Okinawa, this cake contains black sugar, made by boiling cane juice all the way down. The cakes are steamed, so they don’t caramelize as they would if they were baked, and the molasses flavor is wonderfully dominant ($12).
98 East 53rd Street, Midtown East; 212-375-9001; thelobsterclub.com.
A paragon of the square pizza renaissance, Mama’s Too builds dough flavor with a slow rise, borrows the browned-cheese fringe at the edges from Detroit, and bakes each sheet pan hard until the crust, the cheese and the natural casings on the pepperoni achieve a seismic crispness ($4.50).
2750 Broadway (106th Street), Upper West Side; 212-510-7256; mamastoo.com.
There’s no trickery here, just some solid technique in grilling a butterflied, maple- and mustard-rubbed pork shoulder and then solid harmonizing in serving it with a raw salsa verde and stewed Le Puy lentils. Unlike a lot of restaurant cooking, it’s more than the sum of its parts ($25).
90 Calyer Street (Franklin Street), Greenpoint, Brooklyn; 212-389-3606; chezmatantenyc.com.
Unagi don at Unagi-ya Hachibei
Sure, the city got along fine before it had a destination eel restaurant. But it’s better off with one, especially one that imports Japanese eel twice a week and grills it until the lightly charred skin is just as appealing as the rich, flaky meat (available as part of a prix-fixe meal costing $55 to $95).
238 East 53rd Street, Midtown East; 212-888-8003; hachibei.nyc.