SAVEUR’s Best Restaurants to Visit in 2016

Where (and what) we want to eat right now

bySAVEUR Editors| PUBLISHED Feb 2, 2016 11:14 PM
SAVEUR’s Best Restaurants to Visit in 2016

At Shaya in New Orleans, chef Alon Shaya has created a fantastic Israeli restaurant in the land of oyster Rockefeller, muffulettas, and Tabasco sauce. His wood-roasted acorn squash with Israeli couscous mujaddara, foie gras with rose tahini on toasty challah, and slow-cooked lamb with pomegranate tabbouleh are reason enough to take a (brief) break from traditional New Orleans fare. But it's not all about flair: Shay manages to elevate that most basic staple of the Israeli table, hummus, painstakingly removing the shells from each chickpea before blending to guarantee a creamy, dreamy final product. Topped with a soft-cooked egg or lamb ragù, it's a pillowy supporting star, but served simply with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of Aleppo pepper, it's a winner all by itself. 4213 Magazine Street, New Orleans

Grits rarely transcend the bonds of breakfast, but at Al's Place, they're the culinary equivalent of the little black dress. Since day one, they've been a staple of the menu at the San Francisco restaurant, where chef-owner Aaron London showcases his smart, beautiful, and relentlessly inventive vegetable-focused cooking. London makes us reconsider the grits we think we know; night after night, he accessorizes them with whatever vegetables happen to be in season. One week it might be green tomatoes, corn, and soft, slippery grilled padrón peppers, the next peas and so-called eight-hour fava beans, tender and sweet after their long, hot bath. If it's late fall, fried Brussels sprouts might consort with chanterelles and quince. One constant is the quenelle of goats' milk curd that sits on the grits like a brooch. If you're feeling flush, you can have Burgundy truffle shaved over your grits, but really, they don't need it—they're already all dressed up with somewhere to go. 1499 Valencia St., San FranciscoRebecca Flint Marx

Each day, for the roughly eight hours that Copenhagen's Hija de Sánchez is open, a cook stands in the outdoor stall and turns the hand crank on an old-fashioned tortilla machine. Those tortillas—never more than single-digit minutes old—are the first indication that Hija is no ordinary stand. After all, its expat chef, Rosio Sánchez, was until recently the head pastry chef of Noma, so she has no shortage of creativity or dedication to the best ingredients. She also delivers the big, layered flavors she grew up eating as a Mexican-American in the States. That combination of characteristics adds up to a 28-ingredient mole that hovers enticingly on the border between sweet and savory, and a satisfying plate of chilaquiles whose tart green sauce is made from gooseberries (local tomatillos being too wan). But the tortillas, delicate yet tasting deeply of the corn, which is grown in Oaxaca, Mexico, and which Sánchez selects, nixtamalizes, and grinds herself, make Hija's tacos outstanding. Torvehallerne, Frederiksborggade 21, CopenhagenLisa Abend

This year Dominique Ansel, famed Cronut creator, opened his first sit-down restaurant. He offers savory dishes—a turkey pot pie with foie gras gravy, a chicken paprikash sandwich—but his standouts are still his desserts, most of which are assembled à la minute, unlike in most pastry shops, where desserts can sit in a refrigerated showcase for hours. Donuts, fried to order and dusted with matcha powder and confectioners' sugar, are hot when they arrive, so the puff seems to dissolve on the tongue. And his mille-feuille, three layers of caramelized puff pastry sheets and vanilla-rum cream, is stacked together at the last second, so each bite yields the perfect crackly crunch. Dominique Ansel Kitchen, 137 Seventh Avenue South, New York City

When you get excited about food, as I tend to do, dining alone can be a problem—I usually have only my server to gush to. Enter Nos, Virgilio Martínez's new restaurant in Lima, where the Peruvian chef translates the sensibilities of his world-famous Central to a bistro-style setting. On a recent visit, I sank into an oversized-cushion-topped barstool surrounded by a buzzy crowd of locals. Jorge, the bartender, insisted I try his pisco sour, which I ordered, along with the quinoa ceviche. But food envy set in when a bacon-jam—topped burger and thick-cut fries were placed in front of my neighbor. The man caught me stealing glances. "Quieres probar?" he asked. One fry—made with creamy corazón de Jesús potatoes, from Huancavelica in inland Peru—turned into our sharing the grilled avocado shrimp, then a few pints of Peruvian craft beer. Is Nos a temple of gastronomy? No. But its bar—with stools that rival the comfort of a Chesterfield sofa, a chill soundtrack of electronic jazz and Latin fusion, and a menu that feels both familiar and surprising (roast chicken marinated in Peruvian yellow peppers)—is an insanely fun place to bond with locals over fantastic food and drinks in a city far from home. Avenida Vasco Nuñez de Balboa 660, Miraflores, LimaJen Murphy

Finally a wine bar where the food isn't an afterthought. This buzzing, brick-lined Lower East Side storefront jammed with bar-height communal tables and Prouvé-ish stools isn't the plushest dining room in New York, but it might be the most fun. Wine guru Jorge Riera works the room with an oversized bottle of pét-nat (natural sparkling wine) while his partners, chefs Jeremiah Stone and Fabian von Hauske, keep the hits coming from a frantic little semi-open kitchen: bites of Mangalitsa soppresatta; a soupy-crunchy toast of littleneck clams, spinach, and lardo; fried squid and sweet onions dipped in a dark pool of squid-ink aïoli. These guys are freewheeling enablers of laid-back good cheer. The tastes are adventurous, never boring, and the whole enterprise feels, like the wine, alive. Wildair, 142 Orchard St., New York City

From the moment you walk into Gjusta, it's impossible to resist the charm of its old-timey wooden and glass counter and the picnic-style seating on the back patio. A next-gen deli and bakery from Travis Lett (also of the almost-as-irresistible Gjelina, nearby in Los Angeles' Venice neighborhood), Gjusta is the takeaway spot of one's dreams: house-smoked fish piled onto fresh bialys, gorgeous salads, sandwiches stuffed with juicy piles of just-sliced meat. Each time I go there, I'm lucky if I can figure out what I want to order before they call my number. I'm particularly captivated by the ingenious baklava croissants, which turn the traditional French pastry on its head, adding a Mediterranean nut paste filling and cinnamon-touched magic to layers of shattery, buttery dough. They are a fine example of Gjusta's penchant for taking something already good and turning it up several notches. 320 Sunset Ave., Los AngelesBesha Rodell

During my long-ago first autumn in Paris, I was instructed in the pleasures of la cuisine bourgeoise, that rich and refined variant of French bistro cooking, by my landlady, the countess who lived upstairs. Sleeping late, I'd hear her rattling a wire market caddy on the paving stones outside, and an hour later the smell of shallots sautéing in butter or simmering beef stock would prod my appetite to life. Madame la Comtesse was a spectacular cook, with the patience to produce a plenitude of such time-consuming cuisine bourgeoise classics as quenelles (fluffy dumplings of pike) in lobster sauce or Poularde Albufera (poached chicken with a garnish of vol-au-vents and truffles in Albufera sauce). Over time, this sublime cooking became a nearly lost gastronomic art in Paris, until last fall, when Chicago-born chef Daniel Rose opened La Bourse et La Vie, a vest-pocket restaurant that serves the kind of shamelessly rich cooking the countess would have loved. The dishes not to miss include duckling in orange sauce, a brilliant modern riff on boeuf à la ficelle (beef poached in bouillon), an epic chocolate mousse, and the best crème caramel in Paris. 12 rue Vivienne, 2nd arrondissement, ParisAlexander Lobrano

At Dominique Crenn's second restaurant, Petit Crenn, a casual restaurant in San Francisco's Hayes Valley, the dishes are what the chef ate growing up: somewhat faithful replications of the buckwheat crêpes, Far Breton (a custardy cake similar to clafoutis), and vichyssoise of her youth. It is food from Brittany, the craggy far west coast of France, celebrated for its seafood and butter caramels. Guided by her mother and grandmother's dishes, Crenn adds a chef's touch to most things, including the omelet. To make it, the eggs are whisked with a splash of fish stock, which enhances their umami depth. She uses a square pan and rolls the omelet out like Japanese tamagoyaki. It's cooked in clarified Breton butter and finished with a scattering of fine herbs. Precise and expertly made, it is the perfect example of Crenn's cooking. 609 Hayes St., San FranciscoJessica Battilana

In a city seemingly overrun with restaurants trumpeting the virtuous interplay of meat and smoke, Berber & Q could easily have been dismissed as just more of the same. What distinguishes this pleasingly louche Middle Eastern smokehouse, located in a reconditioned railway arch in Haggerston, East London, is its commitment to the way of the vegetable. London-born chef Josh Katz does, of course, have his short rib in a date-syrup glaze and his lamb chops in cumin. But the non-meat dishes are equally serious. It can be whole eggplant, roasted until the smoky flesh has disintegrated and dressed with garlicky yogurt and fresh green herbs. There's roasted pumpkin with the kick of harissa, or beets with whipped feta. But best of all is the cauliflower shawarma, served by the whole, half, or quarter, heavily roasted on the coals and seasoned with salt, pomegranate, and rose. Even the most dedicated carnivore will find that side of Berber & Q's menu hard to resist. Arch 338, Acton Mews, LondonJay Rayner