Introducing Simply the Best: my personal list of favorites in restaurants around the world, a running tally of the most outstanding delicacies I have come across and feel the need to share with the rest of the world, my own "Can't Miss This" index. It could be the $5 appetizer that will make a $100 dinner worth it; or the dumpling that will make me travel to the Upper West Side from Brooklyn. It's the thing that makes you forget the rest of the menu, no matter how good or bad. Sometimes a dish that is commonplace or boring - transformed into one that's amazing and unique; other times something that you have probably never tasted before and probably can't get anywhere else. It's the item the waiter always recommends. It's the stuff dreams are made of.
Vegetable dumplings - LAND (website; NY Mag; map)
Who doesn't like a good vegetable dumpling? Probably not many. Nice as an appetizer, easy to share, not too heavy - good enough, but that's about it, right? While few would refuse a dumpling, not too many think of it as a something they love, let alone as a reason to travel to remote parts of the city. However, the dumplings at LAND are exactly that. Filled with a scrumptious mixture of mushrooms, peanuts, corn (I think), wrapped in a gentle green skin, these little wonders are made on the premises and are so labor intensive, that the chef/owner David Bank considers them a loss-leader on the menu, according to the article referenced below. Given the trip uptown, they aren't exactly economical for me either - but oh-so-worth the schlep!
Next: Simply the Best Crispy Okra Salad.