The incredible, edible egg!
National Egg Day encompasses a lot, as can be imagined. We humans have been eating other creatures’ eggs since prehistory, particularly those of birds like quails, ducks, and of course, chickens. The chicken egg has become the most popular egg to be consumed by people, and celebrated for its punch of protein in a little package, and its versatility as a binder, flavor enhancer, and culinary staple. Nearly every country in the world–nevermind every civilization throughout history–has used eggs in cooking in some shape or form. You can’t even begin to think about how many foods have eggs in them! Breads, mayonnaise, meringues…and that’s not even including all of the dishes you can make where eggs play a prominent role. They’re not just for omelets in the morning anymore!
Since the egg is used in almost every culinary culture around the world, it was difficult to narrow this blog post down to just a few highlighted dishes to recommend in New York City. I eventually cut it down to five–my biggest post ever so far, for the egg of all things!–but there are hundreds more worthy egg meals to taste and savor on this National Egg Day. Go get your favorite today!
Being a fan of celebrity chefs and the food competency porn show Top Chef, I already knew about chef Wylie Dufresne’s love of the egg. When he was a guest judge, one competitor on the show even served their own take on the egg in order to hit his “weak spot,” which he admitted on air that he had. The darling of molecular gastronomy definitely has a weak spot for eggs, and for making sure that the rest of the world knows how awesome they are–and can be. At his restaurant WD-40 in the Lower East Side, he’s elevated the simple poached egg into something far beyond runny diner fare, using an immersion circulator to slow-poach an egg to perfection. He serves it as his restaurant inside an edible “shell” of his own creation, and homemade pumpernickel bread to sop up all that lovely egg runoff. A tasting menu at WD-50 will certainly set you back, and you may have trouble getting reservations on this coveted National Egg Day, but it’s definitely a new and interesting way to see the egg served. I wish I had been able to get to Dufresne’s Cooking With Comics panel at last year’s New York Comic Con; whether or not he showed us how to cook the best egg, it would definitely have been something to see!
50 Clinton St (between Rivington St & Stanton St)
“Chef/owner Wylie Dufresne of wd-50 in Manhattan has elevated the egg. Some liken Dufresne to a mad scientist for his off-the-charts creativity, but I prefer to think of him as a culinary magician who has blazed a trail for other chefs to follow. One of Dufresne’s latest creations is a poached egg and shell with pumpernickel, Caesar dressing and a lily bulb (used in traditional Chinese cuisine) that has been pickled and charred. All of it is edible, including the shell, which is made from sugar and other ingredients.”–The Los Angeles Times
“When Dufresne opened wd-50 four years ago, he began experimenting with circulators, which have aided him in his quest for the perfect poached-egg texture. For him, that’s the elusive point at which the white is “like junket” and the yellow approximates “egg-yolk fudge.””–New York Magazine
Some reviews from Yelp.com:
“This was my favorite dish of the whole dinner. The egg was indeed perfectly poached and the pumpernickel bread and it’s saltiness complimented the egg very well.”–Vy N.
“I was so glad it was an actual poached egg and not some kind of candied egg foam that EXPLODED when you pricked it with your fork. Really looking forward to a nice egg and it definitely delivered. It was surrounded by an edible egg shell made out of edible clay! Little pumpernickel toasts, cesar dressing, and lily bulb. The acidity and tang of the dressing worked wonders with the egg. It was really just… lovely.”–Yelena K.
Another restaurant making their own spin on traditional egg dishes is an oldie but a newbie at the same time. SD26 opened only two years ago along Madison Square Park, but their pedigree goes much deeper than 2009: the new SD26 is the relocated and re-tooled San Domenico, run by the father-daughter team Tony and Marisa May. The elegant yet hip SD26 has modernized some of its features, like a state-of-the-art wine bar, but has kept many of the little touches and dishes that made San Domenico so great. One of these dishes is the truffled raviolo: one huge raviolo on the plate, served with truffled butter, hides a delicious surprise inside its pasta folds. A soft egg yolk sits inside, waiting for the diner to cut open the raviolo and let the yolk run into the dish, making its own rich, fatty sauce. It’s a cute trick that delights the diner, making the meal an active, participatory event, rather than just getting food served to you. And it also shows the cooking expertise of Chef Odette Fada–who moved along with the Mays to their new digs–to perfectly cook the raviolo without overcooking the egg yolk inside. Think you can only have eggs for breakfast? This delicate and rich dish will definitely change your mind.
19 E 26th St (between Broadway & 5th Ave)
“They greet customers with handshakes, hugs, smiles. They pull out chairs in this vast theatrical space across the street from Madison Square Park and say: Of course the giant raviolo with soft-cooked egg and truffled butter is on the menu. Odette Fada, who started cooking for the Mays in 1996, is back there running the show. (And of course it’s still delicious.) Welcome back!”–The New York Times
“It’s nearly impossible to imagine a more decadent pasta dish. You could sprinkle gold leaf on top and still hardly up the indulgence factor. Each enormous raviolo, the size of a tennis ball, houses a whole, soft egg yolk along with a ricotta-spinach filling; cut it open, just like sliding your fork into a perfectly poached egg, and the yolk oozes out—joining the pool of browned truffle butter, Parmigiano, and shaved truffles in a single marbled sea of deliciousness.”–Serious Eats
Some reviews from Yelp.com:
“Next we had the Uovo. THE UOVO. So good. So ricotta, egg yolky, fresh pasta, truffle buttery good! I mean, how can you really go wrong in this dish. All those ingredients, so sinfully rich. One single raviolo (who knew that was the singular of ravioli?!?) was perfection. (moment of silence to reminisce on the raviolo…swoon)”–Cynthia M.
“”Uovo” soft egg yolk filled ravioli with truffle butter. OMG OMG OMG. I don’t care what menu you order off of make sure you get this!! The raviolo was filled with spinach and ricotta along with a warm egg yolk. The truffle butter was the most perfect accent. I couldn’t get over how good this dish was. It was a very good size raviolo too, I could have easily had three more!!”–Lauren L.
That isn’t to say that eggs for breakfast have suddenly become passé! I still love to have my scrambled or over-easy eggs in the morning, especially with a big pile of buttered toast to sop up all that yolky goodness. The Egg Toast at Ino Cafe & Wine Bar does all that, but with a high-end truffled twist. They modernize the old breakfast favorite Egg In A Hole–putting a soft egg yolk in the middle of a piece of toast to run all over the plate–by adding cheese and truffle oil to the mix, melding with the richness of the egg when you finally break the yolk. It’s a super-rich breakfast treat that is loved by many who visit Ino Cafe for brunch, including Scott Conant of Scarpetta, who has proclaimed the truffled egg toast to be the best egg dish he ever ate on Food Network’s “The Best Thing I Ever Ate.” It’s leaps and bounds above the typical egg breakfast special plate at diners, and, unlike all those endless eggs dishes, is one to remember.
Ino Café & Wine Bar
21 Bedford St (between Houston St & Downing St)
Some reviews from Yelp.com:
“Truffled Egg Toast? Yes yes yes yes please. This dish is, without a doubt, once of the best brunch items I’ve ever tried. It was so good that my friend and I both sort of sat in silence while marveling at how glorious our food was. If you’ve never tasted food drizzled with truffle oil before, Ino’s Truffled Egg Toast may make you an addict. From what the manager told me, Ino and its sister restaurant Inoteca, use the only organic truffle oil on the market, Da Rosario Organic White Truffle Oil.”–Saara H.
“I ordered their signature dish – truffled egg toast with asparagus, which as other reviewers have commented, is a must-try. The aroma of the truffle oil fills every bite. The toast is crunchy at the bottom while the melted cheese and runny egg yolks glue everything together. If you like all these ingredients, you must order one for yourself. (Yes, don’t even think of sharing!)”–Cecilia L.
I feel like I can’t mention eggs as a breakfast food without mentioning one of the most popular eggy breakfasts–aside from the myriad ways you can cook an egg (and I’ll be damned if I go searching for the best sunny-side up egg in New York City). Huevos Rancheros is the fancy name given to a classic Mexican breakfast meal that includes fried eggs on top of corn tortillas and topped with pico de gallo, beans, and avocado. Mexican-American additions like cheese, sour cream, and bacon have become popular as the dish has moved north of the border. Surprisingly, one of the best places in New York City to get your rancheros on is a Cuban restaurant! Although Cafe Habana serves their famed authentic Cuban sandwiches daily, they’re a Cuban-Mexican hybrid restaurant, inspired by the old Cafe La Habana in Mexico City in the 1940s. Unlike the other modernized, “twisted” versions of classic egg dishes in this post, their huevos rancheros aren’t deconstructed, fussed with, or changed to “fit in” with the 21st century. These eggs are face-value delicious, from the black beans to the salsa and home fries they’re served with. And the staff at Cafe Habana aren’t dumb; they know why you’re ordering filling brunch food on a Sunday morning. Flip over their brunch menu to see a list of drinks labeled “For The Hangover,” offering everything from a strawberry mimosa to Daiquiri Cubanos and the powerful “Mexican Firing Squad” to make the morning more tolerable for party animals everywhere.
17 Prince St (between Elizabeth St & Mott St)
“Mr. Ampudia says he and his co-owners aspired to create an environment that appeals to a spectrum of tastes, so that ”both the U.P.S. worker and the young professional” can feel at home. A day at Cafe Habana could begin with huevos rancheros ($5.35) or a salsa and sweet plantain omelet ($5.50) and conclude with a dinner of roast pork with yellow rice and red beans ($9.50) or shrimp with garlic sauce and red beans ($12.50).”–The New York Times
Some reviews from Yelp.com:
“There’s something really homey and nice about this spot, and when I sit at the bar, I always feel uplifted when I see all the interesting people in this place. It’s definitely an interesting scene. Everyone who works here is incredibly rushed due to the sheer number of people who wait to get in, but the service is great regardless. And the huevos rancheros I ordered were excellent, even though their method of preparing them is of a different kind than my preference (I prefer the kind with more of a chunky chopped up tomato and jalapeno salsa, whereas their’s is made from more of a pureed, possibly cooked, salsa). The eggs were cooked to just the right combination of firmness in the egg whites and semi-liquidness in the yolks that I expect in this dish. I was looking at what all the other people ordered, and it all looked really good.”–Shoaib R.
“So I finally had huevos rancheros and boy was it delightful! The eggs were topped with red salsa and placed on top of a soft tortilla wrap, served with beans and rice. The sauce was a nice mix to eggs, beans and rice, it really adds flavor to it. I really like dining here at night, the atmosphere is lovely. Great lighting, chattering but not too loud, I just love the sound of people around me rather than a dead quiet restaurant with awkward moments throughout the meal.”–Virginia Y.
And now for something completely different 😛 You know you can have delicious eggs for breakfast, and you can even have them for dinner (and not feel like you’re just being too lazy to get real food for dinner), but did you think you could ever drink eggs? This ain’t no Rocky training montage: in Malaysian cuisine, quail eggs are semi-cooked in their shells, cut open from the top, seasoned with sambal spices, and taken like a shooter, right down the hatch. It’s an explosion of flavor you have to taste to believe. And you can taste it at Manhattan’s premier Malaysian restaurant, Fatty Crab. They offer four quail shooters per order, perfect for a small group to communally start off their dinner. Each shooter has a different sambal spice, each one hotter than the next. If you have some members of your party who are hesitant to drink a quail egg whole, get a few Chupacabras or Fatty Manhattans into their system, and soon enough, they’ll try anything! If you’ve gotten bored with even the most unique preparations of chicken eggs in the city, this shooter is definitely up your alley.
643 Hudson St (between Gansevoort St & Horatio St)
“Throwing back shots doesn’t have to leave you on the floor at Zakary Pelaccio’s Malaysian-style roadhouse, where you can order this flight of gorgeously speckled quail eggs as a bar snack or offbeat amuse-bouche. The tiny specimens are slow-poached in a water bath, cut open at the top, then topped with one of four house-made sambals: a funky sriracha; a spicy version garnished with salty fried anchovy; a sweet and chewy mix of dried shrimp, lemongrass and candied pork; and a five-alarm hot sauce that’s best saved for last.”–Time Out New York
“In typical small-plate fashion, diners are encouraged to share, and plates emerge from the open kitchen as they’re ready. Quail-egg shooters make a ridiculously dainty, if bold, starter: four to an order, lined up on a bamboo tray, their gently cooked innards topped with various spice mixtures, or sambals.”–New York Magazine
Some reviews from Yelp.com:
“Quail Egg Shooters: Much more delicious than I had anticipated. They come 4 to an order, and with the first egg being the sweetest, and the last egg being the spiciest.”–Jennifer H.
“Quail egg shooters, while decidedly not authentic, were tasty little mouthfuls of a creamy raw egg, topped with a hint of fishiness from the dried anchovies (myulchi for my Koreans). It was a dish with a sense of whimsy, and fun as hell to eat.”–Chris H.
Make sure you check out the updated NYC Food Holidays Map to find this most recent holiday!