First we sacrificed our livers and now our waistlines as we ate and ate and ate our way through the city's newest restaurants. There were a lot of newcomers this year, including some from heavy hitter restaurateurs, some classics expanding into new territory, and some bold neophytes ready to tackle the culinary jungles of the Big Apple. Below are the memorable meals that will have us returning for more in 2015 and beyond.

(courtesy Cherche Midi)

CHERCHE MIDI This isn't a weekly visit on a blogger's budget, but in Keith McNally's reboot on the Bowery, Cherche Midi, I've most definitely found my special occasion go-to. It's cosy and, dare I say, pretty, and though conversation levels can get a little high after a few glasses of wine, generally a relaxing and quiet place to enjoy classic French cooking that isn't trying to be anything other than delicious. Take a date, or, better yet, take your parents—and hope they foot the bill.

That's not to say the restaurant's a bank breaker. Sure, the Dry-Aged Prime Rib served with puffs of potato is $49, but an equally lovely Steak Frites is just $29 plus a decadent prime burger for $23. One could even make a meal of the appetizers alone, like the luscious Chicken Liver Parfait ($17) and smooth, creamy Pot de Fromage ($16) served with crunchy slices of anchovy butter toast. An $18 carafe of Cotes du Rhone goes well with everything; don't let any wine snobs tell you otherwise.

Cherche Midi is located at 282 Bowery at Houston, 212-226-3055; website

(Scott Heins/Gothamist)

THE BAO It's no longer difficult to find xiao long bao (soup dumplings) in Manhattan, but it is nigh-impossible to find them done right. That search got a whole lot easier this summer when The Bao opened on St. Mark's with a menu replete with top-notch XLB and other delicious dishes. Made fresh daily with doughy skins that shine half-translucent in their bamboo platters, The Bao's dumplings are some of the best bites of Chinese food you can find outside of Flushing, and come in traditional pork, king crab, spicy wasabi, and chocolate dessert varieties.

The neatly-decorated and dimly-lit shop also serves up a multitude of non-dumpling sides, including a massive bowl of savory fish soup seasoned with Szechuan peppers and the ultimate menu sleeper hit of 2014: a plate of chopped chives, black beans, pork, and chili peppers that beguiles the taste buds with flavor. In a neighborhood overrun with boring bars, cheap pizza and overpriced sushi, The Bao demands that you make embark on an East Village dumpling-quest. (Scott Heins)

The Bao is located at 13 St. Mark's Place between 2nd and 3rd Avenues, (212) 388-9238

(courtesy Pasar Malam)

PASAR MALAM Malaysian food is not nearly as well-represented as its other Southeast Asian neighbors, but thanks to a few fine folks like Salil Mehta, there are a handful of places to get solid Singapore Chili Crab and Curry Laksa in the five boroughs. At his Williamsburg eatery, Mehta has channeled the "night market" concept, offering dishes that pay homage to the street vendors common to the region.

That includes outstanding version of Roti Chanai ($6), tender, buttery flat bread served with a deeply flavorful and spicy curry sauce, plus the half dozen other things he's doing with the popular street food. Knife and fork dishes like the aforementioned crab, Hainanese Chicken Rice and a variety of curries are excellent examples of how far aromatics like basil, ginger and lemongrass can elevate a simple coconut milk base. To live within Seamless's striking distance (as I do) is a very dangerous thing.

Pasar Malam is located at 208 Grand Street between Driggs and Bedford Avenues in Williamsburg, (718) 487-4576; website

(Paul Quitoriano/Gothamist)

HUERTAS We got a bunch of new tapas joints this year but my favorite of the bunch was this East Village offering from Chef Jonah Miller that makes the experience of ordering as enjoyable as the eating. The passed pintxos really sealed the deal—how can you say no when a waiter is thrusting a tray of savory bites under your nose? Depending on the night, that could mean a skewer of anchovies and olives, a croquette stuffed with mushrooms or a spoonful of octopus. Do yourself a favor and go on Tuesdays, when they're all just $1.

Beyond the pinxtos, order a tin of imported seafood served with crisp bread or some slices of Iberico ham to snack on. Hot dishes like Huevos Rotos are memorable; thinly sliced strands of potato are made to look like noodles, then tossed in a chorizo vinaigrette and topped with a gently poached egg, creating a luscious sauce. Meals here could last hours if you take your time and grab a plate of whatever's passing by your table; make sure to supplement the relaxed eating with a glass of their homemade vermouth.

Huertas is located at 107 First Avenue between 6th and 7th Streets, (212) 228-4490; website

(Michael Tulipan)

AU ZA'ATAR The delicious Middle Eastern seasoning that gives this restaurant its name appears in generous proportions on fluffy pita bread accompanied by a crock of cold, creamy labne, a type of savory yogurt. That's how all meals begin at this intimate East Village bistro, which seeks to highlight both Arabic and French cuisines with an impressively large menu of mezze, meat and other savory delectables. Use the aforementioned pita to scoop up heavenly baba ghanoush or use it to corral bits of bulgar wheat in the herbacious tabouli salad into your mouth. You can't be afraid to get a little messy here—and don't skimp on the finger-licking either.

An entree could go several ways, either with succulent stuffed bell peppers with rice and tomato, meaty lamb shank with a prune sauce, or a salad of crisp lettuce and warm falafel falls. If you're feeling French, there are escargots in garlic, crocks of mussels steaming in herby broths and a strip steak doused in creamy peppercorn sauce to satisfy you. That there are so many selections, in fact, is one of the frustrating parts of a meal here, but that's what return trips are for, right?

Au Za'atar is located at 188 Avenue A between East 11th and 12th Streets, (212) 254-5660; website

(via Facebook)

BUNNA CAFE: Bunna's been a standout source for Ethiopian food since founders Sam Saverance and Kedija Ali started hosting dinners and pop-up parties around town a few years back. But in February, Bushwick was blessed with a brick-and-mortar Bunna Cafe, where palate-appeasing vegan dishes are doled out by the platter. Come with a gang and splurge on the Feasts—they serve one ($15) two ($28) three ($39) or four ($48) people, and come stocked with vegan goods like keysir selata (sauteed beets, carrots and potatoes), misir wot (red lentils in a berbere sauce) and yatakilt alicha (cabbage, potatoes, carrots and turmeric). Swap out utensils for spongey injera bread and have at it until your insides ache.

Bunna also started offering brunch this summer, which is a bonus if you're tired of the same old egg dishes (or can't eat them in the first place). And though they've got a liquor license and a slew of cocktails, anyone eschewing alcohol should indulge in a creamy $6 espris juice, made with pureed papaya, mango and avocado. Siiiiiiiiiiiiiiiigh. (Rebecca Fishbein)

Bunna Cafe is located at 1084 Flushing Avenue between Varick and Knickerbocker Avenues in Bushwick (347) 295-2227; website

NARCISSA Hotelier Andre Balazs has a knack for coaxing out the hidden potential of overlooked or underutilized properties. (See: The Standard Miami.) With the Standard East Village, he took an awkward restaurant space that seemed doomed to fail repeatedly and created something charming and sometimes sublime. Narcissa, with its smooth Scandinavian "mountain lodge ambiance" and farm-fresh ingredients, is arguably the most inviting new restaurant of the year. Especially if you skew vegetarian—most of the produce comes from Balaz's upstate farm (where his eponymous cow enjoys an enviable existence), and Chef John Fraser has found delicious ways to let nature's bounty take center stage.

To be sure, there is plenty here for carnivores, but the surprise hit on the vegetable-centric menu is the ingenious Carrot Wellington, a remarkably tasty twist on a Beef Wellington which the Times rightfully hailed as a "startling success." Narcissa's Whole Rotisserie Branzino and the popular Rotisserie-Cripsed Beets are also outstanding, and you'd do well to order a "Fly Me to Telum" off the cocktail menu at some point: Tequila and mezcal blended with blood orange and pomegranate, finished with jalapeño. Narcissa is the restaurant I find myself wanting to revisit most, and that Carrot Wellington haunts my dreams. (John Del Signore)

Narcissa is located at 25 Cooper Square between Bowery and 4th Street in the East Village, (212) 228-3344; website

(Scott Heins/Gothamist)

RUSS & DAUGHTERS CAFE It only took 100 years, but Houston Street institution Russ & Daughters finally debuted a full-service restaurant—and the wait was worth it. Just a five minute walk from their original herring haven, the new Orchard Street Russ & Daughters cafe brings the best schmaltz, salmon, caviar, and knish to those looking for a chance to enjoy it all in a brightly-lit booth. Rumor also has it that some of the menu items were inspired by the homemade recipes of lifelong Russ & Daughters regulars.

The cafe's menu offers R&D veterans and newcomers alike a great sampling of the deli fare that has kept the shop thriving for so long—you can be thrifty and snag a salmon and wasabi roe 'Heebster' bagel ($8) or break the bank on some lavish Ostera caviar ($650 for a quarter kilogram tin). Whatever your choice, you'll be able to wash it down with a house-made egg cream, savoring the kind of quality that's been a century in the making. (Scott Heins)

Russ & Daughters Cafe is located at 127 Orchard Street between Allen and Orchard Streets, (212) 475-4881; website

(courtesy Meadowsweet)

MEADOWSWEET There was such an eclectic crowd on my first visit to Polo Dobkin's cheery restaurant that I wasn't sure exactly what I'd walked into. White-haired couples lingered over glasses of wine; willowy models teetered on the tile floors; there was even a family with several young, curly-haired children. That a small space nestled under the Williamsburg Bridge was able to appeal to so many speaks to Dobkin's talent—talent that helped the restaurant's former life as Dressler earn a Michelin star.

Dishes are small but ebullient, without a scrap of waste on frilly garnish or an errant ingredient. Eating here feels special without being precious, like you're invited to take a chef's journey without the insane tasting menu price tag. I never thought I'd crave an artichoke, but Dobkin's baby versions fried and tossed in a garlic dressing are as near to perfect the thistle will ever get.

Meadowsweet is located at 149 Broadway near Bedford Avenue in Williamsburg, (718) 384-0673; website

(courtesy Emily)

EMILY: Emily managed to sneak onto our Best Pizza list earlier this year, earning a spot among stalwarts like L&B Spumoni Gardens and Di Fara despite having just opened its doors in January. And for good reason—the wood-oven baked pies whipped at this Clinton Hill spot are giant cheese-topped circles of heaven, with spectacular offerings like The Colony ($17), made withred sauce, mozzarella, pepperoni, pickled chili and honey; and the namesake Emily pie, made with mozzarella, pistachios, truffle sottocenere and honey ($19).

But the good stuff here goes beyond pizza. Husband-and-wife duo Matt and Emily Hyland serve delectable pasta dishes using fresh pasta from the Sfoglini Pasta Shop, with offerings including the duck ragu-covered Zucca ($17) and a decadent Spaccatelli, made with wild mushrooms, ricotta and Truffleist butter ($19). You can score a rich $10 s'more calzone for dessert, complete with marshmallow, chocolate and crumbled graham cracker. And the inviting atmosphere in this dimly-lit neighborhood spot only amplifies all the good smells and tastes going around your table. Note that Emily does not take reservations, and you might have to box with someone for a seat. WORTH IT. (Rebecca Fishbein)

Emily is located at 919 Fulton Street between Waverly and Clinton Avenues in Clinton Hill, (347) 844-9588; website

(Noah Fecks)

TUOME It's difficult to decide what to order at Thomas Chen's pseudo-Chinese bistro, mostly because everything on the tightly curated menu sounds absolutely delicious. Chicken Liver Mousse with maple and milk bread? Yup. Crispy Deviled Eggs with fried whites and spicy yolks? Come on now. And don't get me started on the addictive bowl of corn, bursting with kaffir lime and cooling creme fresh; sadly, it's off the menu until the proper season (I can hope).

Then there's the Pig Out, a dish for two presented so playfully it's difficult not to order it, even when Chicken Porridge and Scallops with foie gras beckon from the lower half of the menu. Follow your heart, of course, and be rewarded with squares of succulent, sticky and perfectly fatty Bekshire pork, crying out for a quirt of sambal or ginger-scallion sauce. You won't need the accompanying spicy peanut noodles on the side—but you'll eat them all the same.

Tuome is located at 536 East 5th Street between Avenues A and B, (646) 833-7811; website

(Paul Quitoriano/Gothamist)

IVAN RAMEN New Yorkers got their first taste of Ivan Orkin's signature ramen style when Gotham West Market opened last November, but it wasn't until Orkin finally debuted his standalone shop that we got a taste of his full potential for inventive cooking style, noodle soups and beyond. At the cosy LES shop, there are ramens, of course, include a Tokyo Shio and the super poultry-infused Chicken Paitan, all made with Orkin's special rye noodles.

Since you're already making the caloric commitment, definitely explore the rest of Orkin's outstanding menu of hot and cold dishes, especially the tender Braised Beef Tongue, served with a meaty dashi broth and some sinus-clearing hot mustard. If you get the impression you're being watched, blame the Silken Tofu Caesar Salad, which employs tiny whole fried baby anchovies in lieu of bread. This cheese-head is disappointed that the Four Cheese Mazeman has been retired, but it'll probably give our heart a few more beats to live without it.

Ivan Ramen is located at 25 Clinton Street between Houston and Avenue B, (646) 678-3859; website

(courtesy Empellon al Pastor)

EMPELLON AL PASTOR After some pretty fancy meals at WTF-expensive places, my single favorite dish of 2014 turned out to be the namesake taco and Alex Stupak's Empellon Al Pastor. The charred, chewy, and supremely porky meat here is chili-rubbed, spit roasted, and sliced off gyro-style onto one (not two: one) of Stupak's made-on-premises corn tortillas, balanced perfectly by the acidic, caramelized sweetness from the chunks of roasted pineapple. Plop on a spoonful or two of any of Stupak's salsas for the finish. I wolfed a pair of these beauties the first time I went during opening week, and on several subsequent visits the results have been the same: total porkgasm. (Scott Lynch)

Empellon al Pastor is located at 132 Saint Marks Place at Avenue A, (212) 367-0999; website

(Scott Lynch)

GG'S In a good year for great new pizza (Marta, Rossopomodoro, Emily's, even Gato), the best pie I ate—and I ate it three times—was the 1986 at Nick Morgenstern's remake of Goat Town, GG's. The seemingly random "1986" tag is because Chef Bobby Hellen is a huge Mets fan, and that's last time they won the Series, but the toppings here really don't have anything to with that: on a nicely chewy crust Hellen lays down a beautifully balanced blend of spicy sopressata, fennel agrodolce (I don't know what that is either, but it's fennel-y), vinegary pickled peppers, and bitter arugula. This is fantastic. And everything else I've eaten at GG's—the crispy lamb agnolotti, the dandelion salad, and, especially, the fried lamb neck meatballs in piquillo pepper cream—has been excellent too. (Scott Lynch)

GG's is located at 511 E 5th Street between Avenues A and B, (212) 687-3641; website

HONORABLE MENTION Danny Meyer and Nick Anderer took on Roman pizza at Marta. It's a feast for your eyes and your stomach at EV newcomer Miss Lily's 7A Cafe. A Jackson Heights fixture went brick and mortar with Arepa Lady's first restaurant. Bobby Flay took it Mediterranean with his NoHo newcomer Gato. And finally, don't miss the pastas at the Bowery's Bar Primi.

Editor's Note: Because we want to give new establishments time to find their footing, we haven't included establishments that opened in the past month on this list. Bars opening in late November/early December will be eligible for inclusion on the following year's list.