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The 25 Most Delicious Dishes Our Restaurant Editor Ate

The beginning of the decade looked promising. It was January. As I began my journey across the country, I was eager to see what would bring me in terms of restaurants. My enthusiasm was well-founded in the first two months. The American chefs were creating amazing food and trying to get people off their couches. We all fell back on our couches and relied heavily on take-out for our favorite restaurants after the pandemic. The industry is now dead and the government has abandoned it.

One thing is certain: Restaurants were producing outstanding food that was worthy of praise before and during the pandemic. To show my appreciation to the exceptional chefs, I have compiled 25 of my favourite dishes from the year. While some restaurants couldn’t withstand the long shutdowns, others will likely be able survive this winter and make it to the other side. If I’m lucky, next year’s list will include us all dining together across the globe and in the United States.

Pan Roasted Brioche, Auburn

Auburn is a credit for allowing Auburn to appear on my list in both years that it was eligible. This restaurant was only open for a year due to the pandemic. Eric Bost brings a new creativity to brunch, in addition to its excellent dinner service. Dyan Ng, a “pastry chef,” was able to shine with her pan-roasted brioche. It’s baked on the stove and then topped with honey butter.

Kaiseki Jubako, n/naka

My wife’s birthday was to be a huge night out. I had planned it months in advance. We all know how April went so this didn’t happen. There is a special takeout scene in the City of Angels. Niki Nakayama, Carole Iida Nakayama, and Carole Iida Nagayama have created a two-level bento called the kaiseki-jubako. The box was first introduced in an early version, with braised abalone with liver, truffle sauce, lobster with uni and caviar; sashimi and crispy lobster with nanbanzuke among others.

Lobster Bao, Essex Pearl

The Essex Pearl was the first place you see as you descend the steps to the lower levels of the Market Line food hall in Manhattan’s Lower East Side. It was a fish market and restaurant that prepared its meals directly from the tanks at the front. Before the pandemic, Chef Bun Cheam was in charge of the kitchen and introduced flavors from Cambodia and other parts of Southeast Asia to the menu. While you can get a traditional lobster roll at the restaurant, Cheam’s Spicy Suffolk Bao was the preferred choice. It featured lobster claw, brown butter, and sriracha.

Gluten Free Chocolate Cake, Jinju Patisserie

Gary the Foodie (the unofficial mayor) took me to this charming pastry shop in Portland that was founded by Jin Caldwell, a chocolatier, and Kyurim Lee, a pastry chef. We enjoyed fruit-infused chocolates and ate these layers of sponge made without gluten, topped with chocolate mousse.

Sweet Potato and Pecan Tacos, Nixta

With little time left to get from my hotel to the airport, I decided to grab one last taco in Austin. This is how I pledge to gout. With my bag, I made my way to Nixta to get my tacos. I was rewarded with a duck taco with watermelon radish, shaved onions, and shaved green onions, as well as a steak and avocado taco and this incredible sweet potato and pecan taco.

Grilled Dorade, Vernick Fish

Jean-Georges Vongerichten occupied the penthouse in the Four Seasons Philadelphia. Greg Vernick, his protege, holds the penthouse with Vernick Fish, his ode of the oyster bar. It opened in late summer 2019 and was one of the most popular new seafood restaurants in the country. The butterflied and grilled Dorade comes with a pumpkin seed, arbol chile salsa macha.

Wherewithall, Pheasant

Beverly Kim and Johnny Clark offer a second chance at Michelin-starred Parachute. It is an egalitarian tasting menu spot, much like Chateaubriand in Paris or Contra in New York. A pheasant was served with perfectly crisp skin and mushrooms, and a mousse that had a subtle tanginess. This added a nice balance to both the earthiness and the richness of the mushrooms.

The Original Butcher’s Feast. Cote

I would love to go to Cote if I had the chance to visit New York. Cote offers aged beef that is at the same level as the best steakhouses in the city, Korean barbecue banchan, and a fun atmosphere. I settled for the next best thing, having Cote send me a steak dinner complete with all the fixings through Goldbelly. The kit includes four pickles, a marinated galbi, a hanger, a ribeye, and a dry aged ribeye for 45+ days. It also contains lettuce to make ssam and seasoning salt. It would have been nice if the soft-serve ice cream that you get at an in-person Butcher’s Feast had been available to ship too.

Lingonberry Almond Cake. Lost Larson

My hotel in Chicago was situated dangerously close to the second outpost of Bobby Schaffer’s Scandinavian-influenced bakery, Lost Larson, which meant breakfast was a short stroll in the wintry cold away. I was able to enjoy a cinnamon bun and an almond croissant, as well as this lingonberry almond cookie. It really brought out my Scandinavian heritage.

Apple, Le Bernardin

Le Bernardin will reopen fully. I recommend going to the lounge to have a drink and order all Thomas Raquel desserts, such as his famous “Apple,” which is apple confit, brown butter mousse and Armagnac Sabayon.

Blue Crab Meatballs, Spaghetti, Maialino Mare

Maialino Mare’s DC debut, Danny Meyer, was the first time that Rose Noel, a chef, created an Italian-centric seafood menu. It featured some of the best mid-Atlantic fish. Her spaghetti and meatballs were a standout. They looked pretty ordinary at first glance, but they were actually large chunks of blue crab that had been rolled together and disguised as a garden variety meatball. They were nothing like that.

Rice Krispies Treats, Demi

Gavin Kaysen’s magnum opus counter experience Demi takes you on a culinary journey that focuses on his past as a chef, and the culture and food of the upper Midwest. You will be charmed by the beautiful dishes and the small grace note at the ending. The last dish isn’t a complex dessert. It’s a small, warm pot of Rice Krispies treats that Kaysen used to love as a child.

Manti Dumplings, Albi

Chef Michael Rafidi doesn’t like the more traditional manti dumplings so he modified it to make it his own. He’s turned a yogurt-and-dumpling stew into lamb-and-eggplant-stuffed dumplings that are served with a dollop of yogurt and a Chinese-influenced Urfa chili crisp.

Mentaiko Carbonara, Kaisho at Yugen

Kaiso, the front lounge at Yugan, Michelin-starred Yugan served an a-la carte menu by Mari Katsumura as well as a Japanese ” cocktail menu.” Katsumura’s menu was more casual than the main dining room’s tasting menu, but it still produced elegant results. Her Takaki with Black Truffle and Chicken Kara age were impressive, but the most popular was her carbonara with Udon noodles and Uni Butter.

Duck Five Ways Berlu

Berlu is the culmination a 34-year-old chef Vince Nguyen’s globe-trotting culinary adventure. He traveled from Los Angeles, to Copenhagen, to Dunkeld, Australia, back to San Francisco, before finally landing in the Pacific Northwest. He was a Southern California native who worked in some of the most prestigious kitchens around the globe, and developed a minimalist, produce-driven style that feels unique to him. This savory course showcases different parts of the duck with grilled legs, duck-fat popovers and breast tartare. The tongues are wrapped in mint and sorrel.

Arancini, Vespertine

Vespertine’s Jordan Kahn is the LA takeout chef who has one of the best and most creatively executed takeouts. It was a experimental dining spot, which is inextricably tied to the building’s architecture. However, it had to change its identity to become a Covid-19 place. It did this by reinventing its menu several times and completely changing its focus on cooking. It may have been a tribute to Thomas Keller’s French laundry, while another month was an exploration of Sicily and at a different moment the food of Cuba. This Arancini set the stage for a fantastic Sicilian menu.

Pork Trotter Tonkotsu, Emilie’s

A crispy, crunchy pork served with kewpie mayo and topped with a slice of milk bread. Yes.

Sunchoke Flatbread, Rustic canyon

Andy Doubrava, one of the most creative young chefs in the world right now, is a talented chef with a creative flair that means that every time I go to Rustic canyon (admittedly just a few blocks from my house), there’s always something new to try. I was there when he introduced the sunchoke flatbread, which he served with a sunflower XO sauce. Also, a creamy creme fraiche dip.

Brisket Tostadas, Loro

After enjoying some brisket breakfast tacos at the original Franklin Barbecue I drove across town to Aaron Franklin’s joint venture. There, I could grab lunch at their large beer hall-like location and enjoy Franklin’s brisket in an entirely different way. I had a crispy corn tortilla with crème fraiche, Shishido salsa Verde and this time it was on a corn tortilla.

Nami Nori, Spicy Sea Bass Temaki

After years of Masa, Taka Sakoda and Jihan Lee created a beautiful tribute to temaki. Each order is placed in little wooden holders. The U-shaped rolls are held upright by ingredients that protrude from the top. Lee and Sakaeda don’t care about authenticity. They draw inspiration from other cultures for their hand rolls. For example, the Chojang adds heat to this sea bass temaki.

Laser Wolf, Grilled Chicken

Two weeks ago, the world was at an absolute standstill. I dined at Laser Wolf’s new restaurant by Steven Cook and Mike Solomona. Andrew Henshaw gives a tribute to the shipudiya in Israel, or skewer houses. It’s easy to order: Choose your meat and a wide selection of pickles, dips, and vegetables called salatim. These are Middle Eastern-inspired and can be used to make fresh pita bread or to eat lamb merguez. Henshaw and his team expertly executed the chicken grilling over the coals as a vehicle for all of the salatim.

Lobster Bolognese, Truffle Sauce, Melissa

My birthday was going to be spent in quarantine as the pandemic progressed. So my wife bought me something fancy for the evening. Melissa, which reopened just months before the Covid-19 shutdowns had taken place, used some of its old hits to create its takeout tasting menu. It featured the crowd-pleasing Josiah Citrin lobster Bolognese, with truffles. I was able to make it myself because why not.

Grand Café, Pike Quenelle

Jamie Malone’s Grand Café, Minneapolis, will not be returning in its original form after the pandemic. She has moved to a new model for meal kits and takeout that she operates out of her Twin Cities restaurant Eastside. Her quenelle was a throwback dish to Lyonnais, a poached egg mixture with rich crayfish sauce.

Lamb Curry, Seem

Agyapong Nismo’s Seem was packed on a February afternoon, with many people enjoying Eric Nelson, co-owner and bartender’s cocktails. You could blame it on me being in Portland where young people retire. It was due to the Thai barbecue restaurant that serves great food and drinks in an enjoyable atmosphere. The perfect combination of warm spices and lamb was this Thai messman curry.

Hestia, Everything They Serve

Folks, this is why I named it the best new restaurant in America. The latest venture of Kevin Fink, Tavel Bristol-Joseph creates delicious dishes that have a rustic heartiness without sacrificing precision in flavour. Although Hestia may look like a modern steakhouse, the innovative lion’s-mane mushroom makes it stand out. The mushroom is served with a sauce made of miso and smoked oil, and topped with thinly sliced Badger Flame beet rounds. The mushrooms have a satisfying, deep char while the flesh retains the chewy, unctuousness and fat of fatty pork. Even vegetarians can feel like carnivores. The restaurant, named after the Greek goddess of hearth, is worthy of its name. There was also the Wagyu bavette with oysters, smoked tomato, king crabs, oysters, koji tarts, chestnut mushrooms, mackerel, avocado, sweet potato cakes, and many more. Every single dish satisfied.

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