With all the Christmas shopping, holiday parties, and general shenanigans you’re getting into right around now, this is no doubt an exhausting, awesome time of year. And, with this slam-packed schedule, you’re going to need to fuel up more than usual (that’s our way of saying go ahead, let yourself "gorge on pie and cured meats"). So, we thought we would remind you of the BEST restaurant openings of the year—an instant flashback of the must-visit hot spots that made 2012 so, well, delicious.
From Southeast Asian establishment Pig & Khao to upscale Mexican haunt El Toro Blanco, we've got 27 UH-MAZING eateries that added flavor to the Big Apple this year. And are super-high on our holiday-reservation wish lists. As for 2013? We're already putting our names on those wait lists.
The Best of the Boot:
NYC isn’t exactly short on Italian fare, but there are five booty-licious newbies you should add to your list of old faves.
Abandon the concrete jungle for a night and step into this dream-inducing resto, boasting ornate glass chandeliers and oasis-like potted plants and trees — plus, delish crudo and a paper-thin Baby Artichoke Pizza.
Isola Trattoria, 9 Crosby Street (between Grand and Howard streets); 212-389-0000.
Sirio Maccioni (that dude who opened famous New York restaurants like Le Cirque back in the 70s) is alive and well and…still opening restaurants. His latest venture, Sirio Ristorante, is an elegant, intimate Italian spot in the Pierre Hotel.
Sirio Ristorante, 795 5th Avenue (at 61st Street); 212-940-8195.
We love L’Artusi and Dell’anima, so when we heard Chef Gabe Thompson was opening a new spot serving modern Italian bites, we went immediately and stuffed our faces with dishes like Pappardelle with short-rib ragu and roasted mushroom polenta.
L’Apicio, 13 East 1st Street (between Bowery and Extra Place); 212-533-7400.
It’s pretty tough to nab a res at this posh red-sauce joint. Good news: they reserve half the tables each night for walk-ins.
Perla, 24 Minetta Lane (between Sixth Avenue and MacDougal Street); 212-933-1824.
Dine on delectable pastas and salads made almost entirely with ingredients sourced from the building’s rooftop garden.
Rosemary’s, 18 Greenwich Avenue (at West 10th Street); 212-647-1818.
Photo: Courtesy Of Isola Trattoria
To-Die-For Tasting Menus:
Tasting menus have taken over the city this year, and while they might cost a pretty penny, there’s no better time to drop this kind of dough than during the holiday season.
Billyburg’s 12-seat tasting-menu-only hotspot, Blanca, serves up to 22 courses for $180 per person (not including wine).
Blanca, 261 Moore Street (between Bogart Street and Evergreen Avenue); Brooklyn; 646- 703-2715.
Ichimura at Brushstroke
Chef Eiji Ichimura is a wiz with fish and offers a 12-course sushi and sashimi Omakase for $150 (minus the vino).
Ichimura at Brushstroke, 30 Hudson Street (at Duane Street); 212-513-7141.
For $165 bucks, you can sidle up to a table at Atera (awarded two Michelin stars this year) for creative concoctions like dried beets atop fish roe with a crustacean emulsion. If you want to down your dishes with a little wine, it’s $105 extra per person.
Atera, 77 Worth Street (between Church Street and Broadway); 212- 226-1444.
Photo: Courtesy of Atera
Over the last year, we’ve seen several top-notch Asian eateries crop up, offering fare from Japan, China, Southeast Asia, and more.
Pok Pok NY
Chef Andy Ricker brings his acclaimed Thai restaurant chain, Pok Pok, to NYC. Dig into staples like Coconut Curry over rice vermicelli.
Pok Pok NY, 127 Columbia Street (between Kane and Degraw streets); Brooklyn; 718-923-9322.
Mission Chinese Food
If you’re on a mission to find delicious, affordable Chinese food, go here now. Dishes run from $4-$13.
Mission Chinese Food, 154 Orchard Street (between Stanton and Rivington streets); 212-529-8800.
This upscale Korean haunt with stunning 39th-floor views of Manhattan just opened in Midtown. You’ll love the super sexy vibe and authentic Korean cuisine.
Gaonnuri, 1250 Broadway (between 31st and 32nd streets); 212-971-9045.
Tuck into delicate Japanese dishes at Koi’s latest outpost in the sultry Trump Soho (the other location is Bryant Park). We’re big fans of the melt-in-your-mouth grilled salmon drizzled in honey-balsamic glaze, tomato jam and scallion ginger sauce.
Koi Soho, 246 Spring Street (between Varick Street and Sixth Avenue); 212-842-4550.
Pig & Khao
Top Chef contestant Leah Cohen has teamed up with the Fatty Crew to bring you the shared-plates Southeast Asian eatery Pig & Khao on the Lower East Side. Brave the frigid weather and head to the lovely backyard garden for self-serve seasonal beer from a bottomless tap.
Pig & Khao, 68 Clinton Street (between Stanton and Rivington streets); 212-920-4485.
This high-end modern Chinese resto serves authentic Cantonese cuisine and was just awarded a Michelin star.
Hakkasan, 311 West 43rd Street (between 8th and 9th avenues); 212-776-1818.
With a focus on incredibly fresh ingredients and fish, this sushi bar offers a variety of traditional rolls and sashimi, in addition to an Omakase tasting menu.
Neta, 61 West 8th Street (at 6th Avenue); 212-505-2605.
Sen has been a destination for dynamite Japanese cuisine in Sag Harbor for the past 18 years and just opened a location in Flatiron. Dive into fried rice pots and specialties like a Crispy Snapper roll (snapper, gobo root, shitake, shiso pesto, spicy miso sauce) while knocking back a delicious cocktail. Go with the Lychee Martini.
Sen, 12 West 21st Street (between 5th and 6th avenues); 212-388-5736.
Photo: Courtesy of Hakkasan
Mexican food had gotten a serious makeover in 2012 with the opening of several super-delicious, upscale eateries.
El Toro Blanco
This dimly-lit spot just opened and should definitely be on your date-night radar. They make funky margaritas like Chili-Rubbed Mango (tequila, lime, agave, mango, cilantro, habanero), which is a great conversation starter — and a better conversation ender.
El Toro Blanco, 257 Sixth Avenue (between Bleecker and Houston streets); 212-645-0193.
Acclaimed pastry chef Alex Stupak shocked the NYC restaurant scene earlier this year when he opened this inventive Mexican Eatery in the East Village. Expect some quirky but delicious twists like pistachios in your guacamole.
Empellon Cocina, 105 1st Avenue (between 6th and 7th streets); 212-780-0999.
Dumbo garnered serious dining cred with the opening of Gran Electrica. The authentic Mexican dishes are inspired by Mexican street food, and many of the ingredients, like the spicy chorizo, are made in-house.
Gran Electrica, 5 Front Street (between Dock and Old Fulton streets); Brooklyn; 718-852-2789.
Photo: Courtesy of Gran Electrica
In the midst of the hustle and bustle that is NYC, it’s nice to wind down at a no-frills spot every now and then.
Two thumbs up to the peeps behind the reincarnation of this laid-back piano bar. Kick your night off with some stiff vodka sodas, a juicy burger and some live tunes.
Bill’s, 57 East 54th Street (between Park and Madison avenues); 212-518-2727.
When a diner serves grub as delicious as this one does, it deserves to be included in a best-restaurant openings article. Case in point: the ooey-gooey, three-cheese mac ‘n’ cheese with bacon.
Bowery Diner, 241 Bowery (at Stanton Street); 212-388-0052.
Sugar and Plumm
This boutique bistro on the Upper West Side won our hearts with their Chicken & Waffles, which can be ordered for dinner, lunch and brunch. Genius.
Sugar & Plumm, 377 Amsterdam Avenue (at West 78th Street); 201-785-2253.
Photo: Courtesy of Sugar and Plumm
Trendiest Haunts in Town:
Celebs and fashionistas are flocking to these ultra-chic restaurants for their inventive cuisine and exquisite décor.
Chef Daniel Humm (Eleven Madison Park) has done it again with the opening of this chic eatery in the NoMad Hotel. The restaurant is comprised of several sexy rooms, our favorite of which is the stately Parlour, outfitted with dark oak furnishings and plush red chairs.
NoMad, 1170 Broadway (at West 28th Street); 212-796-1500.
New Nordic cuisine is sprouting up all over the city, but if you’re looking for the best of this earthy yet flavorful grub, venture to Acme. Bonus: its A-lister-packed lounge.
Acme, 9 Great Jones Street (between Broadway and Lafayette Street); 212-203-2121.
American Table Café & Bar
The man behind beloved restaurant Red Rooster, Marcus Samuelsson, just opened an upscale café in Lincoln Center. Expect an Americana menu with global twists.
American Table Café & Bar, 1941 Broadway (between 65th and 66th streets); 212-671-4200.
Head to this Astor-era cocktail lounge tucked away in the Public Theater for post-show cocktails, pre-theater dining, or both.
The Library, 425 Lafayette Street (at Astor Place); 212-539-8777.
While it didn’t come back as the infamous celeb-packed lounge once frequented by Josh Harnett and Kirsten Dunst, the Beatrice did just reopen as a trendy chophouse, courtesy of Graydon Carter — who pretty much hits a home run with anything he does.
Beatrice Inn, 285 West 12th Street (at West 4th Street); 646-896-1804.
Photo: Courtesy of NoMad