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The 10 Best New Restaurants of 2008
By FRANK BRUNI
Published: December 31, 2008
1. MOMOFUKU KO David Chang’s intimate 12-seat, sushi-counter-style restaurant heads this list not only because its best dishes and moments are so memorable, but because it’s a paradigm-busting experiment that, like so much of what Mr. Chang has done, heeds and adjusts for what a new generation of discerning diners cares most about — and what fuss and frippery they can do without.
2. CORTON This blissful collaboration of the restaurateur Drew Nieporent and the chef Paul Liebrandt presents luxury of a more classic sort, at an admirably moment-reflecting price of $76 for a three-course prix fixe with a flurry of amuse-bouches and petit fours. And it finds Mr. Liebrandt at the sweet spot between runaway imagination and good sense.
3. (TIE) SCARPETTA To what heights can a simple dish of spaghetti al pomodoro rise? Scarpetta provided the answer — the sky’s the limit — and a host of other delights, its sometimes agitated setting in the meatpacking district not among them. At Scarpetta the chef Scott Conant reconnected with his early glory days at L’Impero.
3. (TIE) CONVIVIO The post-Conant L’Impero, meanwhile, became this warmer, redder, more convivial restaurant. The chef Michael White’s improved menu here pegged him as one of the city’s top pasta whizzes, and he showed a Batali-esque enthusiasm for organ meat.
5. DOVETAIL The chef John Fraser abandoned Compass but not the Upper West Side, reemerging in this somewhat plain but entirely comfortable and charming restaurant, which surpassed just about everyone’s expectations, becoming more than just a neighborhood favorite.
6. MATSUGEN In the TriBeCa space where he had tried to make a lasting success of 66, Jean-Georges Vongerichten decided to treat Japanese cooking in a more straightforward and respectful vein than 66 had treated Chinese. He left the menu and cooking to a team from Tokyo, who rewarded him with underexposed, compelling dishes and excellent soba.
7. ADOUR ALAIN DUCASSE Mr. Ducasse ratcheted down the opulence of his previous fancy Manhattan restaurant in the Essex House with this successor in the St. Regis, notable for Sandro Micheli’s exceptional desserts and for a blockbuster (and pricey) wine list. I’d rank this higher if a first-year change in executive chef and Mr. Ducasse’s distant involvement didn’t raise questions about consistency.
8. BAR BOULUD This relatively casual effort from Daniel Boulud doesn’t get everything right, but for its outstanding charcuterie, an exemplary wine list and scattered other delights, it deserves big applause.
9. ALLEGRETTI Alain Allegretti, a French chef who worked under Mr. Ducasse, struck out on his own, choosing an odd block and a risky moment for saucy cooking that was, at its best, a heady ticket straight to Provence.
10. MIA DONA The chef Michael Psilakis, perhaps more prescient about the economy than some peers, responded to the kudos for his haute Greek restaurant Anthos with this Italian restaurant of big flavors and big portions at accessible prices.