Curating the restaurant scene that rules our region makes for an eating odyssey. Pulse asked readers to do the impossible: single out one dish that stood out amongst all others. The answers poured in, ranging from haute cuisine to casual Filipino to cult-inspiring desserts. We applied a not-so-scientific approach to narrow down the 17 best plates being served. Book reservations accordingly.
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1. Jack in the Bowl
Left Coast Kitchen, Merrick
Bold and unexpected is what chef Chris Randell is all about and the “Jack in the Bowl” is his shot straight from the hip. The dish is named for its star ingredient: jackfruit. This fibrous fruit makes for a substantive meat alternative, especially when treated with Randell’s Southern barbecue flavoring. It’s east-meets-west eating: traditional Japanese ramen noodles in red miso broth with diced tofu, scallions, Szechuan roasted jackfruit and a soft egg coupled with sweet corn, pickled onion and cumber.
2. Crescent Farm Duck BBQ
Chef Noah Schwartz’s menus change almost daily to reflect what is being brought to the table by local farmers and fishermen. The Crescent Farm Duck BBQ is among the few exceptions—it has been on the menu since day one because there would be a riot if it weren’t. The small plate features fresh pulled duck from Long Island’s last remaining duck farm, its namesake. “The meat is super juicy and reminiscent of pulled pork that you’d get at a traditional barbeque or with other styles of slow cooking,” Schwartz said. “Then we started playing with the idea of introducing a slightly smoky [chipotle] barbeque sauce to the already slow cooked duck legs.” Vermont cheddar polenta (yes!) is added before being topped with thinly sliced scallions for crunch.
3. Po-kay Bowl
Tula Kitchen, Bay Shore
Bay Shore is a serious foodie destination and Tula Kitchen is helping keep it on the map. Chef Jackie Sharlup’s menu is seeded in healthy organic ingredients. Her rendition of the Hawaiian poke bowl leans on freshly diced tuna (or tofu) with unexpected pairings: watermelon radish, roasted Brussels sprouts and purple rice. The dressing is floored by carrot-based ginger that adds a refined lightness.
4. Crab Hash
Aria Melanie on the Lake, Bay Shore
This rendition of the perennial brunch favorite is a marriage of chef Fabrizio Perinelli’s love of potato and owner Fred Mandato’s affection for crabmeat. The thus-called crab hash with sweet potato and two eggs any style far exceeds the classic archetype. Perinelli adds complexity to the dish by blending seasonal ratatouille into the crab. Raw scallion gives texture and flavor and Hollandaise sauce laces it all together.
5. Pistachio-Lavender Crusted Lamb Rack
North Fork Table & Inn, Southold
“What grows together, goes together” is the adage executive chef Stephan Bogardus lives by. His warm roasted lamb with chilled yogurt sauce tells the story. “Lambs eat grass and clover, which has floral notes like lavender. Lavender is a spring green that often grows where lambs graze. Yogurt comes from sheep’s milk.” Pistachios cut the fattiness of the lamb and add a new texture and mouthfeel.
6. Oxtail Tacos
The Wild Goose, Port Washington
“Using oxtail in the format of a taco is a great way to introduce this meat to people who are normally unwilling to try it,” chef/owner Kent Monkan said. “Oxtail is a very flavorful ingredient, arguably the most flavorful cut of the entire cow.” Black beans and vinegary slaw cut the richness of the braised meat and the curtain comes down with the Cotija cheese finish.
7. Rabbit Leg
Verde Wine Bar & Ristorante, Deer Park
Chef James Ahern elevates this old world rabbit dish by infusing new world flavors. The rabbit is cooked in an aromatic blend of spices, herbs, wine and vegetable stock. The rich, bone-in meat is removed and the liquid strained and clarified to create the finished broth in which the dish is served. As if that’s not enough, he adds shiitake, chickpea, tarragon and white anchovy before plating.
8. Big Easy Gator Meatballs
Storyville American Table, Huntington
Growing up near the banks of the Red River in Alexandria, Louisiana, chef Bobby Bouyer learned a thing or two about traditional Creole cooking. He brings that Crescent City flavor to New Orleans-themed Storyville. The Big Easy Gator Meatball starter is his take on meatballs marinara. Fresh alligator tail meat is mixed with seasoned ground pork, which adds a fatty and flavorful element to the leanness of the gator. It’s cooked with the holy trinity—green bell peppers, celery and onions—and bathed in a sweet, vibrant Storyville Creole sauce that allows the subtleness of the alligator to shine through in each bite.
9. Beet Gnocchi
Orto, Miller Place
Through experiment comes excellence. Chef and owner Eric Lomando’s beet juice infused puffed pasty batter replaces the heaviness of the traditional potato orb. The refined, earthy taste is punctuated by classic beet pairings: poppy seed brown butter and goat cheese crema. To make the sauce, cream is brought to a boil and crumbled goat cheese is slowly whisked in, allowing the cheese time to melt until reaching the consistency of pourable fondue.
10. Coney Island Adult Milkshake
Liberty Burger & Beer Co., St. James
The latest venture from the culinary masterminds behind Del Fuego, La Tavola and Ruvo brings a taste of classic Americana to the Island, bareknuckle style. Manly burgers, rustic fried chicken and life-changing hand cut fries are among the standouts. But it’s the signature adult milkshake that’s the cream of the crop. The Coney Island is a symphony of vanilla bean ice cream, crushed salted pretzels and rich caramel syrup finished with fluffy whipped cream, sea salt and spiked with Flor de Caña 4 Years Extra Seco rum to enhance the roasted, toasty vanilla notes. The rich, thick texture is not for the faint of heart.
Osteria Leana, Oyster Bay
Chef and owner Peter Van Der Mije’s cuisine is rooted in simplicity and freshly sourced ingredients. This philosophy shines in his gnudi, an Italian dish that combines all the elements of cheese ravioli—Parmesan and ricotta—without the pasta. “The gnudi have the appearance of being heavy pasta but when you bite into them, they are as light as a soufflé,” Van Der Mije explained. “The airiness is what surprises everyone.” The addition of Italian imported prosciutto adds salty richness and the mint broth finishes the bite with an earthy coolness.
12. Sizzling Sisig
Kabayan Grill, East Meadow
If you haven’t been introduced to sisig, you’re about to become very well acquainted: Anthony Bourdain recently anointed this traditional Filipino street food as the next big culinary trend. Sisig refers to the process of marinating meat (typically parts of the pig’s head and liver) in lemon or vinegar. Kabayan gets it right with a dish of finely chopped pork jowl, ear and shoulder served with hot pepper on a sizzling plate. The meal is topped with a raw egg that cooks to perfection atop the other ingredients. It’s culinary fireworks, Filipino style.
13. Pepper-Crusted New Zealand Venison
LakeHouse, Bay Shore
Pepper-crusted venison’s rustic, earthy notes have all the makings of the perfect fall dish but executive chef and owner Matt Connors doesn’t dare take it off the menu come summer. This is not your father’s venison. The farmed-raised meat imported from New Zealand has a rare tenderness and is far from gamy. The sweetness of the raspberry beer-braised cabbage and parsnip purée is countered by a sharp, crispy mustard spaetzle. House-made sauce finishes the dish in a waterfall of green peppercorn and cognac.
14. Chicken Pot Pie
Cooperage Inn, Baiting Hollow
Owner and executive chef Jonathan Perkins has a knack for bucking tradition. He developed his unique recipe for chicken pot pie 18 years ago and it continues to hold forth on his menu. Perkins starts by pulling white and dark meat from whole roasted chickens rubbed in sage. Carrots, celery, corn, peas and potatoes are then baked in a casserole with a puff pastry crust. The sherry cream sauce sets the dish apart where “white wine or chicken stock is traditionally used,” Perkins explained. “The sherry cooked down with cream, shallots and garlic adds to the richness.”
15. Root Beer Glazed Short Ribs
The View, Oakdale
Chef William Muzio drew inspiration from his grandmother’s short rib recipe to loosen the tie of this favorite comfort food. In addition to raising the flavor profile, the root beer helps breakdown the meat protein, creating a luscious texture. “I look for complementary and contrasting flavors,” Muzio said. “The white chocolate-parsnip purée and the star anise-cabernet reduction is delicious on its own. But combined with the root beer braised short rib it creates a dynamic set of flavors that is much more than the sum of its parts.”
16. Squid Ink Linguine with Scallop, Calamari and Mussels
Celebrity owner aside, executive chef Franco Sampogna is the main reason Jema reservations are impossible to get. Then there’s this rarity of a dish anywhere outside of Italy. “We first made our own pasta with black ink, then added the scallop and the calamari to bring up the seafood taste,” Sampogna said. The house made mussel sauce is a kicker of robust body and flavor.
17. Nutella Marshmallow Bread Pudding
A touch of nostalgia is steeped into every bite of this velvety dessert. “I wanted to capture some of my favorite childhood food memories with a dessert that was gooey, chewy, chocolaty and fluffy but also has a touch of sophistication,” said chef and owner James Tchinnis. Swallow’s Nutella marshmallow bread pudding tastes like a candy bar with the airiness of a soufflé. The bread is soaked overnight, turning it almost into a batter that puffs up to a light and crispy texture when baked. The rich hazelnut flavor of the Nutella perfectly pairs with chocolate chips and fluffy marshmallow for a deliciously decadent dessert.