The Michelin Guide New York City is celebrating its first decade in the Big Apple, having recently anointed the city’s best restaurants from a city with among the richest selection in the country. We’re pleased to highlight the Michelin Guide New York City 2016 restaurants and provide an inside look at how the stars awarded.
Michelin’s top secret elite team of professional inspectors have been swarming the city over the past year, literally dining out twice a day, every day, evaluating and re-evaluating well over a thousand of the city’s eateries to tasting their way to the finest. It’s an enviable job, but a grueling one. The inspectors consider a broad array of criteria to sift out the very best. This year, out of hundreds considered, a mere 76 got stars.
Receiving just one of these coveted stars is a considered a huge honor and is often a career-changing affirmation of a chef’s (and his kitchen’s) talent. The dark side is the incredible pressure to maintain that standard since Michelin continually checks in (always anonymously) to ensure things are up to snuff.
Alas, the lion’s share of the attention invariably gets showered on the perennial (albeit deserving) winners that garner the pinnacle of three-stars: Eleven Madison Park, Per Se, Masa. Without a doubt, each offers breathtaking culinary delights. But their experience is more akin to a seismic event than an ordinary meal. For mere mortals, though, just scoring a table at most of them can require months of waiting. The typically epic tasting menus can be multi-hour endurance challenges that culminate with a bill that may rival your mortgage payment. They are memorable extravaganzas perfect special events and life milestones but probably not a weekly ritual for most of us.
Hidden in plain view, though, are some lesser-known finds among New York City’s 60-odd one-star winners. Despite the coveted endorsement of Michelin, many of these places are neighborhood treasures sometimes better known to well-prepared European tourists brandishing their telltale Red Michelin guides than to local New Yorkers. Get in while you can. These spots are home to some of the city’s very best meals and their secret won’t last forever.
Here are a few of our favorites…
The Musket Room
Self-trained Kiwi chef Matt Lambert first solo effort caught the eye of the Michelin crew mere weeks after opening and, in a rare feat, earned its first star just a few months later. A celebration of the ingredients and cuisine of his native New Zealand, Lambert’s kitchen is constantly innovating but always seeming to hit the mark. The understated, stark dining room is the ideal canvas to show off his gorgeously painterly dishes. The menu now includes a nine-course chef’s tasting, but the a la carte is hard to beat. The signature Red Deer flavored with deconstructed essence of gin is a sophisticated and nuanced combination of flavors that never gets tired.
Another rookie, Gabe McMackin, quietly launched Finch Clinton Hill’s The Finch less than a year ago, but the intrepid Michelin crew discovered his bold-flavored approach to farm-to-table soon after. Much to the chef’s surprise and delight – they were soon awarded their first star. McMackin’s conceptual menu can seem deceptively simple, but his tiny (I mean tiny) kitchen packs tremendous skill executing each dish beautifully. His much discussed, but not to be missed, $8 bread plate is a restrained showcase for exceptional, local ingredients to shine including some of the best butter you may ever have the privilege of eating.
Polo Dobkin, who earned his first Michelin nod at the now defunct Dressler is now on his own and better than ever. His delicate pastas and earthy mains (try the duck with black mission fig) prove the first round of kudos were no fluke. The unrecognizably transformed space is a lighter, more inviting home to kick back and savor the kitchen’s prowess.