Sometimes the first course is worth the whole meal.
1. Grilled corn Mexican style at Café Habana (Nolita): The corn comes two to a plate, grilled and topped with a generous pile of chili powder, lime, and cotija cheese. 2. Devils on horseback at Freemans (Lower East Side): The bacon-wrapped figs are the perfect mix of sweet and salty. 3. Carcofi at Bacaro (Chinatown): The stuffed, lightly breaded artichokes here are a must-have.
4. Any mozzarella at Obika (Upper East Side): The mozzarella here is a veritable smorgasbord of smoked and sweet flavors. 5. Soup dumplings at Joe’s Shanghai (Chinatown): Put the dumpling on your spoon, gently break the shell until the soup leaks out. Eat. Repeat. 6. Crispy potato gnocchi with foie glazed balsamic figs at Thor (Lower East Side): The best gnocchi I’ve ever had, anywhere. And I’ve lived in Italy. 7. Half-pint of prawns at Double Crown (Greenwich Village): The heads are the best part … just pretend they’re deep-fried potatoes. 8. Chorizo champinon fundido con queso at Xicala (Nolita): Delicious homemade chorizo or mushroom (or both) with melted cheese in a small pot. I dream about the cheesy goodness. 9. Local diver scallops at Park Avenue Winter (Upper East Side): The seasonal menu changes, but if scallops are on the menu, order them. 10. Tuna spring rolls at The Mercer Kitchen (Soho): I can’t come here without ordering at least one, sometimes two.
Cheese-ophiles get ready: Manna from heaven is on its way. Obikà, the popular mozzarella bar from Rome, is opening its first stateside location in midtown Manhattan. (It’s in a kiosk within the sculpture garden of 590 Madison.) New York isn’t the only city to be swept up in the mozz craze, though. Just ask Los Angeles. From Mozzarella Mondays at Jar to the mozzarella-filled pizzas at Pizzeria Mozza and the giant mozzarella bar in the middle of Osteria Mozza, mozzarella cheese might as well be the new Pinkberry. Obikà will offer burrata, bufala, and bocconcini, with sides of salads, antipasti, and wine; opens September 22.