The 10 Underdogs: Where’s my f*cking Michelin Star?

Tori Shin: Chicken Sashimi
Tori Shin: Chicken Sashimi Rose

These are 10 places that leave us scratching our heads asking that very same question. These aren’t fly-by-night one-offs, no Milli Vanillis here, sorry. They are the Real Deal and deserve underdog recognition. So we do not feed you with any preconceived notions, the ‘MUST GET’ dishes will be left to self interpretation. In the spirit of fairness, here they are, in alphabetical order:

1. BASTA PASTA
Be apprised right off the bat: IT’S HARD TO GET FUSION RIGHT. I don’t know of many places that can pull it off as well as they do here. It kind of confuses you because you are served Italian food by Japanese waitstaff. If that’s not a mindf*ck, I don’t know what is. This is one of those places that you’ve never heard anyone say anything bad about. If you don’t know, now ya know.
MUST GET: PAPPARDELLE W/ UNI VODKA SAUCE

2. BLUE RIBBON BRASSERIE
Some might say the beef marrow or the fried chicken. Supposedly the secret to their fried chicken is matzoh meal, eh? Go figure. Quite frankly, it’s hard to choose when faced with so many great options. Brooklyn Bowl proudly associates itself with their food, and for good reason. When in season, their crawfish are no joke either. Go early to avoid the lines.
MUST GET: CHICKEN LIVER PATE

3. BOHEMIAN
One of those nondescript places that leave you walking out satisfied. The menu has changed little over the seasons, but why mess with something when it’s so consistently good? No frills food is what you will get, such as Sashimi and Vegetable Crudite w/ anchovy fondue. Honorable mention is their Sake Panna Cotta. I forget the series, but they have a Toto Neorest 600 here, with remote control in tow. That alone deserves a Star.
MUST GET: MUSHROOM CROQUETTES

4. DEGUSTATION
Open kitchen is the style of dining. Decent prices with a unique play on textures and flavors. This is a place you love to hate because all the ingredients synergize. Ever had octopus and pork belly on the same dish? How about blue corn crusted scallops? Their Torrija dessert with flamethrower action is unparalleled, at least in this quadrant of the World. They will refuse a coat check tip if you offer so don’t bother.
MUST GET: GRILLED QUAIL

5. FELIDIA
You know you’ve arrived when other competitors are stealing your Mexican pasta makers. Felidia is the flagship brain child of not only a chef, but also an author, TV host, amongst her many other coveted titles. One bite of her savory dishes and you’ll be wondering why you haven’t gone earlier. Their pear pecorino ravioli is nothing to scoff at, providing inspiration for a pizza even. Much like the saying ‘Don’t judge a book by it’s cover’ goes, likewise, ‘Don’t just a Felidia by it’s Becco’.
MUST GET: IL POLIPO

6. LITTLE OWL
A good barometer to see how hot a restaurant is? Check how hard it is to get in via OpenTable. Consider yourself lucky if you can score a table at an off-peak hour. Once you get in though, you will experience a party in your mouth. Brussels sprouts with bacon? Nuff said. Their iPod playlist is not bad either. You may end up Shazam-ing a few songs.
MUST GET:PORK CHOP


Degustation: Torrija

7. SASABUNE
Today’s Menu: Trust Me. Those are the very words you will see hung on the wall. A purist’s haven. Having been at both, it is safe to say 80% of Masa’s quality at 80% less in price. Same omakase only menu, except here you will leave stuffed. Two pieces are cranked out with fastball speed, and they make it as fast as you can eat it. If rushed, you can be out of there within an hour. Hard to choose favorites here, since their butterfish is melty and amazing as well.
MUST GET: CRAB ROLL CIGAR

8. SCARPETTA
Pasta done right. Also perhaps the best bread basket in town. So good their sister restaurant Faustina charged for the Stromboli. If you are one of the select few who know about (and are able to get into) their Anniversary Prix Fixe Dinners, it’s a steal. Definitely not surprising that many more Scarpettas have opened up across America.
MUST GET: FOIE GRAS RAVIOLI

9. SUSHI YASUDA
If you sit at the Sushi Counter, perhaps you have interacted with the most amicable Sushi Chef in town. Humble Yasuda refuses to be acknowledged as Master, but his one. In fact, he’s so comfortable with himself that he will give you his recipe for his sushi rice, arguably the best in the City. Even at that, you’ll be hard pressed to replicate it, as it took him 8yrs to perfect. Dragon Roll? No. Sorely missed? Yes
MUST GET: OTORO

10. TORI SHIN
Those who aren’t ‘in the know’ deem Yakitori Totto as the best skewers in town. Everyone else comes here. Organic chicken is what they use. They will skewer just about every limb of a chicken you can imagine, including it’s spine. Open kitchen style seating with 90% Japanese clientele. You will want to take a bullet for that dream worthy Shiso sorbet.
MUST GET: CHICKEN SASHIMI

HONORABLE MENTION
EN JAPANESE BRASSERIE
A far cry from their 2/$100 Kaiseke Menu days but still a mainstay. Having almost devoured their entire menu over the years, EN is a gem of secrets past but their menu continues to evolve with more Umami as it ages. Don’t forget to try their chicken karaage, still juicing with every bite. Even the most discerning palates will have problem finding qualms upon their exit here.
MUST GET: GARLIC SHISO FRIED RICE

DISCUSS: Do you agree with our picks for Michelin Star worthy restys? Drop your wisdom!

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