Dec 2013

The Year in Delicious: Top 10 Savories of 2013

The Year in Delicious: Top 10 Savories of 2013

As 2013 comes to a close, it’s time to reflect upon the dishes that defined my year in delicious. The City of Angels fed me well, as always, contributing to half of the list—Eastside, represent! Travels to Shanghai, Tokyo, Chengdu, and Portland rounded out the top ten. While last minute trips to Las Vegas and Charleston provided some solid contenders, all were ultimately shut out this year—it’s tough competing for my noodle-loving heart.

Thank you for reading Gastronomy, and without further ado, here are the 10 best savory dishes that I ate this year…

Sushi Kanesaka - Tokyo

Ikura from Sushi Kanesaka in Tokyo, Japan

Impeccably fresh salmon eggs do not pop when bitten into. Instead, each orb smoothly unleashes its oily sheen with the gentlest of pressure, flooding the palate with oceanic bliss. Topped with grated yuzu zest and served over warm rice, the ikura was unforgettable.

Ha Tien Quan - San Gabriel

Bun Mam from Hà Tiên Quán in San Gabriel, California

An anchovy-laced brew brimming with pork belly, chunks of catfish, shrimp, Japanese eggplant, and chives won my heart completely with its heady, unabashed funk. Hidden beneath the dark broth were smooth and slippery rice noodles.

Pok Pok - Portland

Ike’s Vietnamese Fish Sauce Wings from Pok Pok in Portland, Oregon

One of Pok Pok’s most storied dishes. Marinated in fish sauce and palm sugar, deep fried, then tossed in more fish sauce and fried garlic, these wings tasted as awesome as I had imagined all these years. Sticky, sweet, and salty, these clucks had it all.

Marugame Monzo - Little Tokyo - Los Angeles

Zaru Udon from Marugame Monzo in Los Angeles, California

Served chilled on a bamboo mat, these noodles had the most wonderfully satisfying bite. After dressing up the equally chilled broth served on the side with grated ginger and daikon, scallions, and a few panko crumbles, I dipped and slurped until all the noodles were gone.

Ci Fan Tuan - Shanghai, China

Ci Fan Tuan from South Yunnan Road in Shanghai, China

My favorite morning-time delight while in Shanghai: a carbohydrate bomb comprised of sticky rice, a freshly-fried you tiao (cruller), pork floss, and pickled mustard greens, all mashed together like a snowball. Every morning ought to start with one of these, along with a warm cup of soy milk.

"Home Common Food" at Zha Zha Mian Jia Chang Cai - Chengdu

Twice-Cooked Pork from Zha Zha Mian Jia Chang Cai in Chengdu, China

The process of preparing this Sichuan specialty involves simmering pork belly in water and aromatics, refrigerating the belly until firm, slicing it thinly, and then cooking it once more in a scorching wok. The result is intensely flavorful meat with beautifully caramelized edges simply flavored with scallions and chili oil. The best!

Bestia - Downtown - Los Angeles

Cavatelli alla Norcina  from Bestia in Los Angeles, California

It’s impossible to say which element of this dish was tops. From the house-made pork sausage crumbles to the delicate ricotta cavatelli to the avalanche of black truffles—goodness gracious this dish was great. Best of all was the intense aroma released by the black truffles, a whoosh really, that sent everyone at the table into a tizzy.

Zheng Zong He Nan La Mian Guan - Shanghai - Hand-Pulled Noodles

Henan-Style Hand-Pulled Noodles from Zheng Zong He Nan La Mian Guan in Shanghai, China

These “dry” hand-pulled noodles, delicately flavored with browned, almost burnt, scallions, and a bit of soy sauce, were nothing short of stupendous. I live for noodles.

Allumette – Los Angeles (Echo Park)

“Bread and Butter” from Allumette in Echo Park, California

Allumette gets my vote for the greatest complimentary bread course in Los Angeles—a spear of grilled and buttered focaccia served alongside a thyme- and mascarpone-infused “tater tot.” While Chef Miles Thompson may have intended for the latter to be slathered upon the former, I enjoyed each component separately, with each rich bite balanced by bread and char.

Chengdu Taste - Alhambra

Cold Noodle with Garlic Sauce from Chengdu Taste in Alhambra, California

The sauce, a  mixture of crushed garlic, vinegar, and chili oil, is potent yet well-balanced, while the toothsome strands soak up the flavors just so. Sichuan cuisine isn’t always about the numbing heat.

Honorable mentions: Fried Chicken at Martha Lou’s Kitchen in Charleston, South Carolina; Pimiento Cheese Fritters at Poogan’s Porch in Charleston, South Carolina; Pommes Puree at L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon in Las Vegas, Nevada; 18 ounce Bone-in Ribeye at Tom Colicchio’s Heritage Steak in Las Vegas, Nevada.


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5 thoughts on “The Year in Delicious: Top 10 Savories of 2013

  1. thanks for a great year, filled with wonderful stuff: santa even left a copy of your book for me 🙂

  2. The Astronomer’s Top 11 savories (too many amazing dishes this year–I just couldn’t narrow it down any further!):

    – Creste di Gallo (“mohawked” macaroni with Calabrian sausage, chilis, radicchio, and breadcrumbs), Tasting Kitchen, Venice
    – Bee Sting Pizza, Roberta’s, Brooklyn
    – Lamb Dumplings in Red Oil, Mission Chinese, New York City
    – Fusilli Lunghi al Sugo di Capra (fusilli with braised goat, ricotta salata, and pistachio oil), Bestia, Los Angeles
    – Dum Biryani, Mayura Indian Restaurant, Culver City
    – Cold Noodle with Garlic Sauce, Chengdu Taste, Alhambra
    – Toothpick Mutton, Chengdu Taste, Alhambra
    – Camarones Borrachos, Coni’s Seafood, Inglewood
    – Wood-Fired Goat, Tar & Roses, Santa Monica
    – Kima Platha, Daw Yee Myanmar Cafe, Monterey Park
    – Henan-Style Hand-Pulled Noodle Soup, Zheng Zhong He Nan La Mian Guan, Shanghai

  3. Pok Pok, here I come! These pics are all amazing. And I gotta agree with the Astronomer on the Camarones Borrachos–soooo goooood. Happy 2014!

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