2016 may have been a sketchy year in many respects, but for vegetarian cuisine, things have never looked better. Chefs around the city have been putting out increasingly creative, tasty, hearty vegetable dishes which any vegetarian – and non-vegetarian – will appreciate.Here is a countdown of the best vegetarian dishes to debut this year, so you too can devour all of the deliciousness I’ve been lucky enough to try this year.
16. Bibiana’s Bombolini
A fried potato ball, stuffed with cheese? It usually doesn’t get much better than that, but actually, at Bibiana it does. Their potato is full of black truffles, officially making it the most delicious fried potato ball you’ve ever had.
15. Maketto’s Leek Buns
The fluffy buns, stuffed with uber savory cooked leeks, served with a salty soy sauce based dipping sauce, are the ultimate snack, dinner, or hangover cure. In other words, delicious anytime, anywhere, anyhow.
14. Shouk’s Veggie Burger
Composed entirely of vegetables, this gem of a dish is served in a pita, topped with pickled turnips, sweet caramelized onions, and the restaurant’s epic tahina sauce. All you veggie burger skeptics: this is the one to try. It’s texture is tender, it’s flavor is bold, and the condiments are brilliant. All you need is a side of polenta fries.
13. Thip Khao’s Ghaeng Phet
I adore the food at Thip Khao. It was so hard to decide which one of their dishes should be included on this list, the crispy fried tofu, the eggplant stew, or the curry puffs. But I had to go with the gaeng phet, a brilliant red curry with an exuberant flavor profile: its sweet, it spicy, and its intense. Lemongrass, thai basil, garlic, and ginger blend together to create a dish that is aromatic and warm. Filled to the brim with eggplant, green beans, bell peppers, and bamboo, the textures of the dish are as exciting as the flavors. Dunk your purple sticky rice into the curry and contemplate how good your life is.
12. Espita Mezcaleria’s Eggplant Sopes
Not only delicious, this dish is also visually particularly appealing. Little masa cups are piled high with cooked eggplant, doused with salsa, sprinkled with cheese and garnished with a scattering of fresh cilantro. Its earthy and fulfilling. Wash it down with some mezcal!
11. Equinox Restaurant’s Peach Panzanella
I love a good panzanella. Bread, veggies, cheese, it’s always the perfect combination. The best one I had this year was at Equinox, created by the super talented Todd Gray (who in all fairness has never made anything I didn’t like!). His peach panzanella features succulent hunks of the summer fruit, tossed with shards of cheese, tomatoes, and fresh greens. It’s just so light and refreshing.
10. Bindaas’ Golgappas
Being from North India golgappas are a personal favorite. The dish features little hollow crispy puri cups that usually come filled with potatoes and chickpeas and chutneys. Chef Vikram Sunderam fills them with avocado and yogurt and a tamarind chutney, making for a super creamy filling to contrast with the crunchy shell. The chutney adds a whisper of sweetness that you just can’t get enough of!
9. Dino’s Grotto’s Squash Blossoms
These stunning squash blossoms are stuffed-until-oozing with with ricotta and served on a bed of sweet tomato sauce. The dish is as visually stunning as it is tasty.
8. Lupo Verde’s Butternut Squash Ravioli
The house made butternut squash and ricotta ravioli at Lupo Verde comes soaked in a heady brown butter sauce and topped with whole fried sage leaves. It smells like winter, and will make you feel cozy on the inside.
The best burrata in town is actually made with cashew milk. When someone told me this I was shocked, disbelieving, and determined to sample it myself. I raced over to sample Fare Well’s burrata immediately and lo and behold. They were right. It is sinfully creamy, delicate but buttery, rich but restrained. It is elegantly served with pesto, marinated tomatoes, and toasted bread. You may never go back to regular burrata again.
6. Timber Pizza’s Ackley Pizza
Perfect wood-fired pizza dough, topped with the best seasonal produce is what makes Timber’s Pizza so damn good. My personal favorite is Ackley, where loads of melted mozzarella serves as the base for sweet roasted butternut squash, toasted pumpkin seeds,and heaps of crispy sweet potato shards, all drizzled with lemon pesto concoction. It’s salty from the cheese, sweet from the butternut squash, crunchy from the fried sweet potato fritters, and a bright minty tone from the pesto. It’s a flavor profile that sings like a seasoned choir. Enjoy it with a cold beer and you’re all set.
5. Chao Ku’s Veggie Dan Dan Noodles
Clearly, I love noodles. These Asian noodles are served in a super spicy sauce, laden with fresh veggies like corn, radishes, and spring onions, and then adorned with a mass of crunchy peanuts. Swirl the noodles into the sauce so you get the full explosion of flavor with every bite.
4. Oval Room’s Tomato Risotto
This was a life changing dish for me. I love tomatoes more than anything. Combine that with arborio rice (another love of mine) and cheese (yup, also a favorite), and John Melfi’s magic touch (which no one can resist) and you have one of the most memorable dishes of the year. It is bursting with the freshness of summer, which when combined with melted cheese, fragrant basil, and fruity olive oil, makes for one seriously sublime dish.
3. Woodward Table’s Beet Bourguignon
Chef Eddie Moran put an enormous amount of thought and effort to make this dish as wildly successful as it is. To make the dish, Chef cooks down beets, mushrooms, and carrots and soaks them in a savory vegetarian demi glace. The vegetables are served over a butternut squash studded farro and adorned with roasted grapes. There is sweetness (from the beets and grapes), nuttiness and texture (from the farro), and an element of meatiness and density (from the mushrooms). The result is a dish that is that has substance and depth, where the vegetables are the star.
2. Haikan’s Vegetable Ramen
Oh ramen how I love thee. Daikaya’s ramen has long since been a favorite of mine, and the one at Haikan, also created by the Katsuya-Daisuke team of Daikaya, is even better. The chewy sapporo noodles are served in a silky broth, then topped with corn, carrots, cabbage, and other vegetables. Add a veggie spice bomb for extra flavor.
1. Centrolina’s Polpettine
Interestingly my favorite vegetarian dish this year was a meatball. A veggie meatball that is. Earlier this year Chef Amy Brandwein created these adorable, “meaty” shiitake mushroom meatballs which she serves nestled in a bed of creamy polenta and basil oil, and then crowned with a sprinkling of parmesan and a handful of micro greens. Her menu changes daily but these little guys are so popular that they are still on the menu. Savory and hearty, with a velvety creaminess from the polenta, you’re going to have a love at first bite kind of relationship with these “meat” balls.