1. Baohaus’s Birdhaus Bao (137 Rivington): Pork belly, butt and buns have all enjoyed recent star turns on the culinary catwalk, as did beef cheeks before them. Now fried chicken is the dish no restaurant seems to be able to forego. Breasts, thighs and assorted other parts are turning up downtown and uptown and everywhere in Brooklyn. When Park Avenue Summer offers a fried chicken and waffle sandwich, you know you’re looking at a megatrend.
Fortunately, chicken is about the most universal of proteins, so there’s room left for innovation. When the Escoffier files give out, there’s a world of international takes to pick up the slack. Right now the tastiest chicken product out there is the Taiwan inspired Birdhaus Bao. A soft steam bun holds fresh fried chicken dusted with a wicked spice mix, a sprig or two of cilantro and a secret sauce that seems something like tartar, but way better. Low rent, small space, limited menu and easy prices. This is what the LES does best.
2. Peter Luger Bread basket (178 Broadway, Williamsburg): Peter Luger’s Porterhouse is far too well covered to mention here, but the rest of the experience gets short shrift. Specifically, the famous flesh palace also offers one of the best bread baskets in the city. Start with the fluffy onion rolls. If your fingers are fleet and your sense of propriety is limited, drop a few in a pocket or purse. They’re great for breakfast. If not, slather on some butter, down a few, then trade up to the City’s best salt sticks. And take your time. The waiters will press for an order, but there’s no upsell pressure to order a bunch of apps–“we usually suggest two sides per person” is a phrase you’ll never hear. So make the bread basket into a starter, then decide whether you need the bacon, spinach and hash browns. N.B. You do.
3. Hearth’s Fava Beans and Pecorino Salad (12th/1st Ave): Marco Canora’s green period has already outlasted Picasso’s blue. Nearly every dish at Hearth has a green touch to it, and perhaps none more so than his fava bean salad. Canora lines up the technicolored beans on a small rectangular plate, coats them in herbed olive oil (green, naturally) and sets them off with a fine dice of pecorino cubes. Spring onions add one more green touch to the plate. You might think Canora would run out of ideas, but in a photosynthetic world, the flavor and color palette/palate of green is arguably the richest.
4. Raviolo mini-trend at Hearth/Tabla (25th/Madison): I’m not sure who struck first, but both Hearth and Tabla have an exceptional main dish sized raviolo on their menus. These single singular pasta pillows are called “raviolo” for the simple reason that you get just one: It’s enough. Tabla’s was filled with spicy lamb last month, Hearth’s is currently stuffed with zucchini and ricotta. I’d give the edge to Tabla for flavor–Floyd Cardoz is the city’s best veg chef and among its most adept users of spice, but here he wins by going carnal. That said, Canora’s is easier to eat and prettier to look at. His cooking and presentation generally feel rustic, but someone in his kitchen is a showoff with the knife skills, from matchsticks of zucchini to superfine perfectly shaped dices of cheese.
5. Raspberry-Mint Paleta at People’s Pops (Chelsea Market): This popsicle is all fruit and flavor. Sure you end up with a few seeds in your teeth, but that’s the price of perfection. I’m not about to give up everything bagels just because I end up spending the morning spelunking my molar crevices for stray poppy seeds. N.B. The sour cherry hand shaved snow cone is also worth a try.