Manhattan has relinquished her exclusive grip on creative, chef-driven dining to her sister borough Brooklyn, whose new generation of go-for-broke culinary talent is defining the heart and soul of New York cooking. Finally (finally!), Brooklyn is making it affordable for young chefs to express themselves in the New York market and gain the independence chefs in other cities have enjoyed for years.
With that freedom the borough’s chefs and artisans have built from the ground up the equivalent of Portland’s DIY scene, San Francisco’s farm-to-table movement, Austin’s funky individualism, and Chicago’s risk taking—all wrapped into one potent package. It’s New York, after all, home to overachievers and brave souls who open restaurants in the face of extreme competition (around 1,000 restaurants open every year here) and daunting success rates (nearly 60 percent fail in the first three years).
But transformed are the days when fired-up but under-funded chefs need $1 million and the busiest corner of the block to succeed. Diners now take the L train in droves to high-concept, low-key Brooklyn restaurants, where kitchen maestros like Gwynnett St.’s Justin Hilbert and Blanca’s Katy Peetz serve their imagination on a plate—to 20 seats or less. Peetz is reinventing pastry as we know it from her Bushwick outpost with desserts that ignore traditional plating tenets and flagrantly borrow from the savory pantry. And uninhibited by mega financial constraints, chefs at neighborhood spaces like The Pines, funky destination spots like Do or Dine (whose spicy Mentaiko Eggs we’re featuring this week), and even sandwich shops like No. 7 Subs, are cooking unapologetically personal food.
We’re not saying creative expression is limited to east of the East River. New York is playing host to expressive takes on elegant, rustic food. Chefs pay homage to tradition while pushing boundaries with global flavors and technique—take Justin Smillie of Il Buco Alimentari e Vineria, who spikes his Italian dishes with ingredients like Korean black garlic. These chefs know the rules of their respective cuisines and exactly how to break them: Michael Toscano of Perla and Adam Nadel of A Voce, who makes a historic-turned-fine-dining pasta we’re featuring in this issue.
Pitch-perfect execution is now the standard across the city, and well-seasoned, well-balanced food is no longer a distinguishing characteristic. It’s the starting point from which the best chefs add a dash of special sauce. For Chef Abram Bissell at The NoMad, that means making expertly crafted, haute comfort food, and for The Breslin's Pastry Chef Jane Tseng, developing a moist, nutty clementine cake made with whole fruit.
You may not be able to tell from our culinary enthusiasm, but we’ve done more than eat in the past few months. We’ve enjoyed a liquid deluge at iconic East Village bars like PDT and Death & Company (home to our newest Rising Stars Jeff Bell and Jillian Vose) and newcomer bars like Dead Rabbit, where Mixologist Jack McGarry breathes new life into pre-Prohibition cocktails. We’ve also explored the rebirth of New York’s historic brewing scene and fallen in love with New York State wines made in Brooklyn, the Hudson Valley, Long Island, and the Fingerlakes. Some of our favorite sommeliers give their top picks for local wines in this issue.
Don’t miss out on our travels to other markets—we have trips planned to New England and Charleston in the coming months. So send us your chef nominations and get real-time updates on our whereabouts and meals by following us on Twitter and Facebook.