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With Kim Conte, Miriam Gottfried, Penny Pollack, Jeff Ruby, and Nathaniel Zimmer
Photography by Leonard Gertz
There’s a certain look a dining critic gets when a compelling menu item turns out to be as good as it sounded. It’s a goofy grin that says, “Hey, I didn’t think I could be surprised anymore.” In the past year, our reviewers tasted roughly 5,000 dishes and still found themselves flabbergasted. Sometimes perfection popped up in unexpected places, such as in Flamingo’s fish tacos; other times the spark came from exotica like Riccardo Trattoria’s hearty tripe Florentine. The true pleasure of the quest, though, lies in the discovery of stunning creations—beer jam-glazed quail with aged Gruyère at Vie comes to mind. Here are 124 such revelations. In the words of a not-so-great poet, eat ’em and smile.