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13 Under-the-Radar Chefs to Watch in NYC

These chefs may not be media darlings, but their food is the real deal
December 7, 2016
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by Priya Krishna

NYC is a mecca for chefs looking to make a name for themselves; but in a city where thousands are trying, only a few rise to the very top. That doesn't mean, however, that there aren't hundreds of crazy-talented chefs flying under the radar, serving up innovative and delicious food just shy of the limelight. Keep your eye on these 13 chefs in 2017.

Roxanne Spruance: Kingsley
Roxanne Spruance has an incredibly impressive résumé: After working her way up the ladder in Chicago at Blackbird — and opening up her own restaurant, Sopra Bistro in Lake Geneva, IL, at the ripe age of 22 — she came to New York to work at both wd~50, as well as Blue Hill at Stone Barns. She brings her fearless approach to farming and whole-animal butchery to top-rated newcomer Kingsley, which opened quietly last year, but quickly became an Alphabet City go-to for its creative French-American fare (and awesome sake list). 

Signature dish: Celeriac agnolotti — It's a mix of celery root, homemade mesquite cake, sunflower, black pepper gastrique and seared foie gras.

190 Avenue B; 212-674-4500

Edward and Lien Lin: Bricolage
Transplants from San Francisco’s renowned Vietnamese spot, The Slanted Door, husband-and-wife duo Edward and Lien Lin have become a force to be reckoned with in Park Slope. Their restaurant, Bricolage, started as a Chinese-Vietnamese banh mi shop (Lien’s parents are Chinese, but grew up in Vietnam), but has since grown more ambitious, adding dishes to the menu that are accessible yet packed with flavor, like pork ribs with tamarind-hoisin BBQ sauce and an awesome caramelized shrimp clay pot. 

Signature dish: Beef on beef — Edward says: "It’s our unique take on the classic Vietnamese beef carpaccio, or bò tái chanh. We start with locally raised beef, shave it thin, top with fresh herbs, marinated anchovy, roasted peanuts, caramelized shallots, lime juice and served with a crispy puffed beef tendon chip. It speaks to our style of cooking — traditional with our own twist." 

162 5th Ave., Brooklyn; 718-230-1835

Jun Chen: Hao Noodle & Tea by Madam Zhu’s Kitchen
When Beijing restaurateur Zhu Rong wanted to open a restaurant in New York that spoke to a sleeker, more Pan-regional Chinese cuisine, she turned to Jun Chen, a Shanghai native with a serious talent for noodles. Under Chen's leadership, every element (including the noodles and dumpling skins) is produced fresh daily, yielding the delicate, insanely craveable food that earned the gorgeous new West Village spot two stars from the New York Times.   

Signature dish: Dan dan noodles — The slippery, spicy comfort meal that several publications have named the best version in town is a longtime favorite of Chen's. 

401 6th Ave.; 212-633-8900

Armando Litiatco: F.O.B.
The Filipino-born chef put in time at celebrated restaurants like Daniel and San Francisco’s Boulevard — but when given the opportunity to open a place of his own, he immediately turned to his roots, bringing Manila-style BBQ, which incorporates flavors from China, Spain and other parts of Southeast Asia, to Carroll Gardens. F.O.B. (it stands for “Fresh Off the Boat,” a colloquial descriptor for someone still adjusting to a new culture) opened up just a month ago, but early reviews say that Litiatco’s chicken adobo and 7 Up shrimp are the real deal. 

Signature dish: Overnight chicken adobo — In the Philippines, adobo, or vinegar-marinated meat, is one of the most popular cooking techniques. Litiatco's recipe comes from his father, who, according to the chef, always thought adobo was "better the next day," he says. 

271 Smith St., Brooklyn; 718-852-8994

Scott Tacinelli and Angie Rito: Pasta Omakase  
Husband-and-wife chef pair Scott Tacinelli and Angie Rito made names for themselves at Quality Italian (hello chicken parm pizza), before departing to run a 20-seat speakeasy restaurant behind the Garret East cocktail bar, dinnertable, one of the most exciting openings of 2016. The restaurant wowed critics with its mix of Italian-Asian flavors in dishes like the eggplant carpaccio, topped with peanuts, a soy-based sauce and mint. The pair decided to go back to the Quality Branded family, with plans to open a new concept for the group in 2017. But in the meantime they are making waves with their pasta omakase, an unbelievably tasty Italian-meets-Asian pasta tasting menu operating out of New York Sushi Ko on Sunday nights. Needless to say: We can’t wait to see what this duo does next. 

Signature dish: Tortelletti in Brodo — The dish takes the Northern Italian staple and turns it on its head slightly, submerging stracchino cheese-filled tortelletti in traditional Japanese tonkotsu broth made with spare ribs and chicken. It's a beautiful marriage of two cuisines that perfectly exemplifies what pasta omakase is all about. 

91 Clinton St.; 212-466-6975

Jaime Young: Sunday in Brooklyn
Put simply, Sunday in Brooklyn’s executive chef Jaime Young just gets it. The Atera alum helms the restaurant/bakery space that spans three floors and focuses on modern, Italian-influenced food, spread across a restaurant, market and bar. Smoked chocolate sorbet with peanut butter ice cream = our new favorite dessert. 

Signature dishPastrami black cod and rye sour cream — "I like a classic New York flavor profile applied to a unexpected ingredient to breathe new life into it," Young says. 

348 Wythe Ave., Brooklyn; 347-222-6722

Josh Grinker and Tracy Young: Kings County Imperial
Business partners Josh Grinker and Tracy Young spent years traveling throughout China to come up with the punchy menu of reimagined Chinese staples like crispy radish cakes, prawn fries (served with an umami-rich fish sauce ketchup) and kung pao chicken at this Williamsburg hot spot. As if overseeing a restaurant wasn’t enough, the two also run an heirloom Chinese vegetable garden within the space, and make their own small-batch soy sauce (in partnership with Kings County Soy Works — it’s available at the restaurant on tap!).  

Signature dish: Mock eel — Grinker says, "In the Buddhist tradition of vegetarian food, the chef often mimics the animal protein with vegetarian ingredients. You get dishes like Buddha's beef made with seitan or mock prawns made with tofu skin. The shiitake mushrooms we use in place of the eels have an uncanny textural resemblance to eels and an unbelievable umami flavor." 

20 Skillman Ave., Brooklyn; 718-610-2000

Burcu Aydeniz: Le French Diner 
Le French Diner is the definition of hip; so naturally, the chef behind the project, Burcu Aydeniz, exudes cool, with her effortless, polished cooking style that sneaks in hints of her Turkish heritage. The original spot, Zucco, was a mainstay of the Lower East Side until it closed a few years back, reopening in 2014 with Aydeniz at the helm (she trained at a Michelin-starred restaurant in Paris). She has since breathed new life into the restaurant’s menu, turning it into one of the most popular LES neighborhood joints. 

Signature dish: Grilled octopus — "[The dish is] simply braised in its own juices and then grilled, served with some traditional aïoli, piment d'espelette and a piece of lemon," Aydeniz says. "Simple and delicious."

188 Orchard St.; 212-777-1577

Emily Yuen: Bessou 
Bessou translates to “holiday home” in Japanese, and that’s exactly what chef Emily Yuen offers at her new NoHo spot, which serves a menu of comforting Japanese food. She brings together the home cooking skills she developed at an early age in her hometown in Vancouver, with years of training at some of the world’s fine-dining institutions, including Boulud Sud, La Gavroche in London and Vue de Monde in Australia. Yuen straddles the line between fine dining and family meal like no other chef, and we can’t stop thinking about her food. 

Signature dish: Beef short-rib kakuni — "It's my version of the classic Japanese home-cooked dish, with a bone-in short rib that's been braised for hours in a sweet soy sake," Yuen says. "The dish reflects my interest for taking traditional dishes and transforming them with unexpected ingredients."

5 Bleecker St.; 212-228-8502

Gabriel Hedlund: N’eat 
Out of the many chefs leading the charge of New Nordic cuisine in New York City, Gabriel Hedlund is a standout: While his peers have mainly focused on fine dining (and Hedlund is no stranger to this genre, having spent his formative years cooking at Noma), his approach turns Nordic cooking into casual, everyday fare. On his menu, you’ll find a version of ramen — but with squid playfully swapped out for noodles; braised short ribs with tart, pickled huckleberries and a to-die-for bread service, which comes with fermented butter. And with his restaurant in a prime East Village location, Hedlund is poised to become the next great neighborhood chef. 

Signature dish: Braised short ribs with pickled huckleberries and smoked marrow — Hedlund says, "This dish is very simple, less is definitely more in this case." That said, its essential flavors come from the 48-hour process that goes into making the dish, including a 24-hour salt brine marination, and 24 hours of slow roasting.  

 

58 2nd Ave.; 917-892-6350

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