2010 in Review: The Year in Food
There's no question that 2010's notable new restaurant openings show that this city is becoming ever more cosmopolitan. Here's a few questions, anyway.
What does it say about a culture when the most talked about new restaurants last year weren't even restaurants?
Obviously the food cart phenomenon speaks to on-the-go people and aslow-to-recover economy. But mobile meal purveyors also fill a need for urban diners to liberate themselves from the routine and fussof regulation restaurants and to embrace the thrill of potential off-the-map discoveries.
A few of my favorite moveable feasts are the Japanese crepe operation called Foodie Cart; the Caribbean, "go-green" vehicle called Fusion Cafe; the BBQ king - Ray Ray's Hot Pit; Red Snapper -a Pearl Market Jamaican specialist; Late Night Slice - the "Amy Winehouse of pizzerias;" and the restaurant-quality Mexican food served at Los Potosinos.
San - Su
Is Korean the new Chinese? I ask this because ban chan-serving eateries really seem to be dotting the local landscape lately. And none is snazzier or more fun than San-Su.
Specializing in DIY Korean barbecue (choose the huge, feeds-three "Su" combo dinner), San-Su also makes fine sushi and heart- and soul-warming soups like the killer pot of gurgling hot spicy cabbage and pork called Kim Chi Ji Gae.
Does the thought of Italian restaurants no longer have this city seeing red sauce? Cibo's refined cuisine would seem to answer that question "yes" with its more sophisticated attitude toward Italian food.
Some of Cibo's championship dishesarehandmade tortellini in brown butter sauce;Sicilian-style Eggplant Involtini; a powerhouse Lamb Scottaditi flavored with grainy mustard and dried fruit; and a beautiful panna cotta-like dessert called Bonet alla Piemontese.
What happens when a talented chef makes a staunch commitment to showcase locally grown ingredients on a dinery, have-fun menu? Knead, that's what. And on the occasions when Chef Rick Lopez doesn't go local, he willabsolutely go top-shelf.
Such isthe case with Lopez's StuDaBurger, fashioned fromnationally praised, super-high-grade Pat La Frieda beef. Supplementing Knead's always scratch-made goodies are oceans of regional beers, an intriguing new line of cocktails and an ever-improving wine list.
What do Italy and New Orleans have in common? The kickin' Gallo's kitchen cooks believable versions of both those cuisines. I'm a big fan of the housemade black peppery Italian sausages and comforting, cue-ball-sized meatballs. But I also love the addictive, salt-crusted Creole chicken wings and cioppino-like Creole seafood. Two other standouts here are items most other restaurants get very wrong very often - Gallo's great Caesar salad and impressively authentic Bolognese sauce (Pasta Russo).
In a year when even corporate chains and diner-type eateries started offering "signature" cocktails and upping their wine game, it wouldn't be surprising for an enlightened foodie palace to specialize in terrific quaffs, would it? No, but a bar-staurant that's as stylish, hip and fun as Mouton would be an unexpected delight anytime.
Libation-wise, gin is in and vodka's so20th century (try the absinthe-splashed Corpse Reviver); foodwise, Mouton features lovely delicacies like La Quercia pork, Rigsby's bread, wonderfully intense oven-dried pomodoraccio tomatoes and Pistacia Vera's sublime, best-in-town baked treats.
Other 2010 notable openings:
Buckeye Hall of Fame Grill
Nancy's Home Cooking (redux)
Park Creek Kitchen
On the Fly
Tria Greek Kuzina