Each year, our Essential 100 dining guides takes the measure of New Orleans restaurants, showcasing the homegrown flavors, new influences, rejuvenation and continuity that makes dining out in this city so fulfilling.

Lists like the one below break down the 100 picks in the overall guide to more specific recommendations I often field.

You can find more here, and the complete Essential 100 here.


Off the Radar Finds

aki3dishes

At Aki in downtown Covington, chef Oui prepares sushi and distinctive raw fish compositions, like the yellowtail with wasabi root, spicy tuna lover and Atlantic salmon.

Aki

510 N. Florida St., Covington, (985) 302-5166

Why: First class sushi in a Covington cottage

The menu looks short, even basic. But the possibilities are endless if you take this intimate sushi bar on its own terms and engage chef Oui one on one. His fish is pristine and highly varied. The specials and signature dishes bring out their best without masking their primal goodness. The execution is precise, but there’s still room for the chef’s personal taste and style. This is the full package, quietly wrapped in a Covington cottage. Lunch Mon.-Fri., dinner Mon.-Sat. $$$


fharmacyphilly2

Greens top the Philly-style roast pork sandwich at Fharmacy, a modern diner and deli in Mid-City.

Fharmacy

2540 Banks St., (504) 324-6090

Why: A tiny shotgun full of big flavors

Fharmacy feels like a clubhouse dedicated to good food with few rules and zero pretense. Inside, it looks like a diner and works like a cross between the deli and the tavern with Philly style roast pork, Chicago roast beef, lemon grass chicken tacos, boudin balls and a burger that belongs in any conversation about the city’s best. Watch them pour Belgian ale right from the taps into the bowl as they start cooking your mussels. Lunch and dinner Mon.-Sat. $


kineggrolls

Fried shrimp egg roll dumplings are one of the many hybrid dumpling dishes at Kin in New Orleans.

Kin

4600 Washington Ave., (504) 304-8557

Why: An all-but-hidden ramen hub

You can see ramen as either traditional or trendy. But at Kin, above all, it is lushly creative and deeply satisfying. Chef Hieu Than brings East-meets-West energy to his tiny, dining bar restaurant, a noodle house for handmade ramen, lemon grass chicken wings, and dumplings like nowhere else. I’ve had chicken Marsala dumplings here and beef stroganoff, “pizza” and butternut squash versions, some on the same night. Remember to BYOB. Lunch and dinner Tue.-Sat. $$


mais1.jpg

Cheese and crema coat the corn at Mais Arepas in New Orleans.

Maïs Arepas

1200 Carondelet St., (504) 523-6247

Why: In Central City, stylish den for Colombian cuisine

There is a modern style to this Central City spot that feels urbane and tropical, and some of that carries over to the menu. But Maïs Arepas, of course, starts with the basics — those arepas, thick, soft, always a little crisp from the griddle. They're like a cross between cornbread and tortilla and here they’re served as sandwiches overflowing with various combinations of grilled meats, avocado, cheese and salsas. Get the bandeja paisa, a Colombian-style mixed meat platter, for a family-style centerpiece for a feast. Lunch Tue.-Sat., dinner Tue.-Sun. $$



Follow Ian McNulty on Twitter, @IanMcNultyNOLA.