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The best things we ate on Long Island in 2018

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From Chinese street fare to Beijing duck, short-rib barbecue to porterhouse steak, striped bass crudo to grilled red snapper, dining out on Long Island in 2018 was a festival of food.

Visiting scores of restaurants and sampling hundreds of dishes in about 12 months,Newsday's food critics ate their way from Great Neck to Montauk, downing the often good, the sometimes bad,and, yes, the occasionally ugly.

But, wait.

Make that the very, very good.

It was a year marked by the intersections of a bacon-and-egg sandwich and a platter of undersea charcuterie; of fennel-and-orange salad and sesame-seed crusted feta with tomato marmalade. There was enough variety to suggest a mini-United Nations of cuisines.

The dishes made up for evenings when the essential nightcap would be kombucha tea instead of a rye Manhattan, when the effervescence of the day would come from compulsory sodium bicarbonate rather than celebratory sparkling wine.

Here are the Newsday food staff's choices for the top 15 tastes of 2018. They'll spark your appetite and make you look forward to your next restaurant visit.

Dig in.

Gnocchi at Bella Vie

Gnocchi Alla Brava, hand made gnocchi pasta in
Credit: Daniel Brennan

Gnocchi at Bella Vie (240 W. Main St., Bay Shore): In a year of countless pastas, numero uno was the airy, delicate, exceptional gnocchi of executive chef Fabrizio Perinelli at Bella Vie in Bay Shore. Perinelli, who came to the South Shore from south of Rome, had starred at the departed Aria Melanie, where Bella Vie now is located. The gnocchi were about the size of Peconic Bay scallops. And the sauce of Fontina cheese, enriched with strands of caramelized onion and small shavings of black truffle, made it live up to the endlessly abused moniker of "special," turning the waterside restaurant into an Italianate reverie. More info: 631-500-9045, -- Peter M. Gianotti

Kansas City-style strip at Harleys American Grille

Kansas City bone-in strip, cooked medium-rare, Harleys American
Credit: Yvonne Albinowski

Kansas City-style strip at Harleys American Grille (283 Main St., Farmingdale): Carnivores can tread multiple paths at Harleys in Farmingdale, where sides of beef age in a salt locker in full view of arriving diners. In the kitchen, chef Allison Fasano turns all cuts of steak into, for instance, a Kansas City-style strip whose salt-slathered, charred crust hides a pleasure dome of supple meat or a deeply marbled porterhouse that exudes the full spectrum of aged funkiness. More info: 516-586-8000, -- Corin Hirsch

Snouder’s burger at Del’s Bar & Grill

The Snouder's burger at Del's Bar & Grill
Credit: Raychel Brightman

Snouder’s burger atDel’s Bar & Grill (129 Pine Hollow Rd., Oyster Bay): There’s plenty of beer and a lively bar at Del’s in Oyster Bay, but chief among its tavern staples is the $10 Snouder’s burger, named for the Oyster Bay drugstore, composed of two beef patties with an unfussy cloak of molten American cheese, iceberg lettuce and tomato. Chef George Posporelis sprinkles salt, pepper and onion powder on the patties before griddling them ’til crusty, and then cooks them to order; the resulting burger is drippy, a bit messy and worth the drive from points far to the south, west and east. More info: 516-922-4444 -- Corin Hirsch

Chicken tikka masala pizza at Wild Side Organic Bistro

Chicken tikka masala pizza at Wild Side Bistro
Credit: Newsday/Erica Marcus

Chicken tikka masala pizza at Wild Side Organic Bistro (1551 Montauk Hwy., Oakdale): Culinary fusion makes me nervous, and the marriage of Italian and Indian does nothing to ease my mind. So I had the surprise of the year at Wild Side Bistro in Oakdale when I took my first bite of the chicken tikka masala pizza. It helped that the curry was superb, the silky sauce made with a double chicken broth and garnished with coriander and cumin seeds, fried green chilies and curry leaves. But when chef-partner Jay Jadeja pointed out all the similarities between wood-fired pizza and tandoor-roasted naan, I understood why this combination was so very right. More info: 631-791-1800, -- Erica Marcus

Egg sandwich at Mitchell’s Diner

An egg sandwich with bacon and cheese is
Credit: Newsday/Erica Marcus

Egg sandwich at Mitchell’s Diner (2710 Long Beach Rd., Oceanside): During the second half of 2018 I found myself in a lot of diners as I researched a story that will be published in early 2019. And I found myself eating a lot of egg sandwiches, a dish that is truly greater than the sum of its parts: English muffin, bacon, over-easy egg and American cheese. This egg sandwich is how I inaugurated my visit to the new incarnation of Mitchell’s Diner in Oceanside, which, after closing three years ago, was resurrected a lone block north of the original. The new Mitchell’s is smaller and no longer occupies its own neon-and-chrome-trimmed building. But the owners, the menu and much of the staff are the same, and so is the egg sandwich. More info: 516-255-9544, -- Erica Marcus

Creamy mentai udon at Shoshaku

Creamy mentai udon, slathered in butter and mayo
Credit: Yvonne Albinowski

Creamy mentai udon at Shoshaku (68 Middle Neck Rd., Great Neck): There are dishes you don’t even know you’re missing until your paths cross. This happened to me at Shoshaku in Great Neck, when a steaming bowl of udon noodles, smelling faintly of the ocean, landed on the table. A poached egg quivered on top, and its yolk oozed down into the noodles when pierced with a chopstick. Creamy mentai udon, slathered in butter and mayo and laced with cod roe (mentaiku), is a comfort-food daydream made real, one you could compare to lobster mac-and-cheese but lighter and more lustrous. More info: 518-930-7353, -- Corin Hirsch


Brisket and beef short rib at Smoked Barn

Brisket and short rib are among the barbecue
Credit: Newsday/Erica Marcus

Brisket and beef short rib atSmoked Barn (2932 Hempstead Tpke., Levittown): 2018 may go down as Long Island’s Year of Barbecue, with five spots opening. I stumbled on one of the most modest new establishments in Levittown, tucked away in the corner of a half-vacant strip mall off the Hempstead Turnpike south service road. The surroundings did not prepare me for either the succulent brisket nor the almost indecently rich beef short rib. Owner-pitmaster Renzo Vargas fills out the classic lineup with touches from his native Peru, including a cool green sauce, made with cilantro and black mint, that packs a spicy punch. More info: 516-396-9892 -- Erica Marcus

Heirloom carrots at Perennial

Carrots served with goat cheese, radish and hazelnut
Credit: Daniel Brennan

Heirloom carrots at Perennial (990 Franklin Ave., Garden City): I’m not a carrot person by any stretch. But a particular side dish of heirloom carrots at Perennial in Garden City made me into a convert: Purple and gold carrots roasted to the apex of sweetness, then piled on pureed goat cheese and showered with hazelnuts. Chef Peter Mistretta works hard to find the best produce he can, and it shows in dishes that are deceptively simple but quietly subversive. More info: 516-743-9213, -- Corin Hirsch

Insalata di finocchio at Pietro Cucina Italiana

Insalata di Finocchio, marinated iberian cod fish, fennel,
Credit: Daniel Brennan

Insalata di finocchio at Pietro Cucina Italiana (404 N. Country Rd., St. James): Salad may not be the first thing you yearn for in the chill winds of January, but the gossamer-whipped cod (a Venetian-style baccala) lurking beneath shaved fennel in Pietro’s insalata di finocchio literally will melt on your tongue. Cut with oranges, showered with crushed almonds and dressed with a light hand, this is as invigorating a cold-weather salad as you’ll find anywhere, and hopefully chef Fabian Garcia Manca never takes it off the menu at his St. James restaurant. More info: 631-862-6129, -- Corin Hirsch

Beijing duck at Master Chef

Royal Peking roasted duck, served at Master Chef
Credit: Daniel Brennan

Beijing duck at Master Chef (6600 Jericho Tpke., Syosset): The Syosset site where Master Chef rose had six sad predecessors. Expanded and dramatically redesigned, the newcomer bids fair to be the most opulent Chinese restaurant on Long Island, lit outside as if the holidays go for 365 days. So, it's fitting that chef Xing Ho sends out a grand Beijing duck. The skin is lacquered and crackling; the meat, tender and juicy. And there are just enough scallions, cucumber and hoisin sauce to go with the big bird, wrapped into thin house-made pancakes. Get ready for the Lunar New Year. More info: 516-931-6222, -- Peter M. Gianotti

Marine 'charcuterie' at Kingfish Oyster Bar & Grill

"Seafood charcuterie" platter, Kingfish Oyster Bar & Restaurant,
Credit: Yvonne Albinowski

Marine 'charcuterie' atKingfish Oyster Bar & Grill (990 Corporate Dr. (The Vanderbilt), Westbury): The most eagerly awaited restaurant of 2018 was Kingfish Oyster Bar & Restaurant in Westbury. The "Atlantic rim" seafood spot is the creation of impresario and star chef Tom Schaudel. Executive chef Lenny Campanelli is a master of seafood. Enjoy oysters on the half shell or grilled with Sriracha mayo. Dive into butter-poached lobster and pan-roasted striped bass. But definitely pick the marine "charcuterie," a whimsical and flavor-packed opener that may include smoked bluefish pate, beet-cured gravlax, sea urchin custard, marinated sardines, and Champagne-and-orange smoked salmon. Quite a catch. More info: 516-640-5777, -- Peter M. Gianotti

Saganaki at Elaia Estiatorio

Feta Sagnanti, Elaia Estiatorio, Bridgehampton, May 25, 2018.
Credit: Yvonne Albinowski

Saganaki at Elaia Estiatorio (95 School St., Bridgehampton): Elaia Estiatorio in Bridgehampton puts out a delectable taste of Greece from grilled octopus with fava beans and pickled vegetables to rosemary-speared leg of lamb cooked slowly in parchment. At a restaurant where all's well from openers to desserts, be sure to try the creamy saganaki, made with feta cheese, crusted with sesame seeds and complemented by tomato marmalade. Simple and superlative. More info: 631-613-6469, -- Peter M. Gianotti

Crudo of striped bass at Nick & Toni's

Striped bass crudo with salsa verde is a
Credit: Gordon M. Grant

Crudo of striped bass at Nick & Toni's (136 N. Main St., East Hampton): Nick & Toni's in East Hampton celebrated its 30th anniversary this year as celebrity magnet and essential Hamptonian restaurant. Despite visits from Oprah and Bono, Jagger and McCartney, the current president and the 42nd, among others, executive chef Joseph Realmuto is the real boldface name. His penne in spicy, oven-roasted tomato sauce and whole fish from the wood-burning oven were instant classics. To them, add the glistening, superb crudo of striped bass with salsa verde — a dish of the moment and fish of the year. More info: 631-324-3550, -- Peter M. Gianotti

Grilled red snapper at Vilai

Grilled red snapper for two is one of
Credit: Yvonne Albinowski

Grilled red snapper at Vilai (284 Glen St., Glen Cove): All my dreams for a whole fish that was not a farmed branzino came true at Vilai, the Greek restaurant that recently opened over the oft-turned Glen Cove spot that was most recently Greek Captain. This grilled red snapper for two was perfect, just the right amount of char on the crisp skin, the snow-white meat still moist. Its face was decorously obscured by some strategically placed greens, and it came with nothing more than lemon wedges and good olive oil. Red snapper is one of five whole fishes always available at Vilai along with black sea bass, Mediterranean fagri, Dover sole and, inevitably, branzino, which here takes its Greek name: lavraki. More info: 516-801-4889, -- Erica Marcus

Jianbing at Yum Yum Dumplings

Jianbing at Yum Yum Dumplings in Centereach, 2018
Credit: Newsday/Erica marcus

Jianbing at Yum Yum Dumplings (2432 Middle Country Rd., Centereach): Stalking wild Chinese food one evening out Stony Brook way, I stopped into Yum Yum Dumplings in Centereach for the first time since I reviewed it last year. And there, on the specials menu, was jianbing, one of China’s signature street foods. While the thin wheat-flour crepe is still on the griddle, eggs are dropped onto its surface and then cooked. The whole works is smeared with hoisin and chili oil and folded around a giant fried noodle and sprinkled with scallions. There’s no way to eat it except with your hands. More info: 631-676-3148, -- Erica Marcus

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