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Critically Acclaimed Takeout Menus for NYC Dining

It’s not typical for a restaurant to be reviewed based on its takeout offerings, but this year is anything but typical.

Top Rated Takeout

Here are four notable takeout choices for a Michelin-inspired dinner at home:

Falansai

When Chef Eric Tran opened what could rightly be called Falansai 2.0 in November — replacing the original Vietnamese-American restaurant Falansai -- he didn’t know that takeout would be his lifeline. In fact, he was surprised to see a review of his takeout items, a critique of a type that hadn’t been done before. With no mention of décor and service, the unusual review went beyond descriptions of food, composition and menus to discuss Falansai’s smart packaging system, the compostable cartons that were clearly marked with their contents and usage suggestions.

Falansai offers a choice of small Vietnamese dishes l Where Traveler
Smoked duck and sides from Falansai's takeout menu (©Erik Kantar)

This care and effort has garnered quick popularity for the Falansai “reboot,” building awareness of the Bushwick restaurant and using takeout as a teaser for the full-on restaurant opening this spring. Tran’s elevated Vietnamese is a skillful blend of flavors, ingredients and preparation. Chef Tran practices whole animal butchery, serving nose-to-tail dishes like “blazed and glazed” pork shoulder and confit duck necks. Two of the popular small plates, Dad’s egg rolls and broken rice, pay homage to recipes from Tran’s father from Saigon. Well-priced wine, Vietnamese beer or Mexican cider can be added to all takeout.

"Blazed and glazed" butchery from Falansai l Where Traveler
A Falansai takeout specialty, "Blazed and Glazed" (©Erik Kantar)

Pecking House

Fried chicken from a star chef isn’t something you usually think of when it comes to takeout. Popeye’s and KFC probably come to mind first. But Eric Huang, former sous-chef at Eleven Madison Park, will change any notion you’ve had about fried chicken only coming in a bucket with paper napkins and salt and pepper packs. The chili fried chicken from his ghost kitchen Pecking House is fine dining, done casual.

There’s a level of online mastery required to partake of Huang’s mastery of the bird. You need to know the secret code to place an order but that only comes once you’ve cleared the waiting list, currently up to eight weeks. Once you succeed, you’re blessed with a three-piece fried chicken dinner with three seasonally changing sides like dirty rice, crushed new potatoes with green garlic or butter bean salad with cilantro and sesame. The Tianjin-Szechuan-spiced chicken is crispy on the outside, tender on the inside and definitely finger-licking’ worthy. It also packs some serious heat, especially if you dip it into Huang’s Fresno chili hot sauce. The secret to the crispy texture?  A three-step process of brining, coating and frying and a bit of star-chef magic called EverCrisp. Be sure to order some Tsingtao lager – you’ll thank me.

Hot chili-spiced fried chicken from Pecking House l Where Traveler
Fried chicken dinner from Pecking House (©Meryl Pearlstein)

If you can manage to get an order, for either takeout or delivery, you will have joined the ranks of an elite group of foodie insiders. Huang’s Queens kitchen has proven so popular that he’s now searching for permanent space for a restaurant.

Milu

Designed to be an informal Chinese restaurant with counter seating, Milu is the brainchild of a trio of colleagues who had worked in various capacities at Eleven Madison Park, NoMad and Opposite House in Beijing. Opened at a time when indoor dining was verboten, Milu never lost a beat and immediately began takeout service. No retrenching was required – they were ready from the start.

Regional Chinese duck bowl from Milu l Where Traveler
Milu's duck bowl (©Evan Sung)

In much the same way that Pecking House has turned takeout fried chicken on its head, Milu will break any preconceptions you might have about takeout Chinese. The Flatiron restaurant offers a culinary tour of China with regionally influenced rice bowls topped with the likes of Mandarin duck, Sichuan spiced cauliflower and Yunnan brisket. Vegetable-forward options include tofu seaweed salad and charred broccoli with cilantro and yuzu. And, if you haven’t had the egg tart soft-serve, you truly haven’t lived. If you prefer, family-style set meals incorporating a range of dishes are also available along with milk tea, sake and beer.

A Milu family-style spread of takeout dishes l Where Traveler
Family-style feast from Milu's takeout menu (©Evan Sung)

EMP at Home

Eleven Madison Park, named the “World’s Best Restaurant“ in 2017, has an enviable legacy with a summer pop-up in the Hamptons in addition to the hard-to-book Manhattan restaurant. So a jump from pop-up to takeout wasn’t as unlikely as it might seem for a restaurant of this caliber. Eleven Madison Park’s EMP at Home model satisfies the gap left when both locations closed their doors, offering complete-meal options that enrich our home dining and make our dining table look that much smarter. Plus, it’s much easier to get a reservation.

EMP at Home's classic chicken dinner l Where Traveler
The classic roasted chicken from EMP at Home (©Evan Sung)

Chef Daniel Humm’s meal sets require minimal reheating and include a main and dessert, accompanied by a range of sides. Up to four diners can enjoy the set with four choices available: EMP’s acclaimed black truffle & foie gras-stuffed roasted chicken, marrow-crusted beef tenderloin, and for non-meat eaters, Montauk fluke en papillote or roasted whole cauliflower. Sides reflect the season. For spring, you’ll find snow peas with pecorino and pancetta, and spring garlic custard with peas, asparagus, favas and leeks. The double dessert is a strawberry tart and a jar of EMP granola for the next-morning breakfast. You can add wine to your meal or large-format cocktails including two EMP favorites, English milk punch and the sherry-vermouth-bitters Bamboo.

Much care has been put into the EMP at Home recipe design, preparation and packaging, From the bag to the personal letter that’s included, this is probably as close as you’d get to having a three-Michelin star experience at home without needing a personal chef. An extra kudo to Chef Humm and his team: EMP is a strong proponent of giving back, and with the purchase of any dinner, they provide 10 meals to food-insecure New Yorkers through a partnership with Rethink Food.

Beef tenderloin is a favorite from Eleven Madison Park l Where Traveler
EMP at Home's bone-marrow crusted beef tenderloin (©Evan Sung)