Goodbye, 2014. Hello, 2015! It’s time once again to reflect upon the dishes that defined my year in delicious. While The Astronomer and I didn’t travel abroad in 2014, domestic jaunts to Honolulu, Las Vegas, Chicago, and San Francisco, as well as local explorations around Los Angeles, made for some memorable face stuffage. A rough bout with “morning” sickness kept me on the gastronomical sidelines for quite a few months there, but thankfully I managed to rebound, finishing out the year on the tastiest of notes.
Thank you for reading Gastronomy (for the past 8 years!), and without further ado, here are the 10 best savory dishes that I ate this year…
“Beep Beep” from Pot at The Line Hotel in Los Angeles, California
A decadent melange of sea urchin, yuzukosho, and Kewpie mayonnaise served over rice, dreamt up by Chef Roy Choi. The yuzu’s tang and spice played off the richness of the uni and mayonnaise with aplomb.
Coffee Can Bread from The Pig & The Lady in Honolulu, Hawaii
Chicken liver mousse always hits the spot, but add to it pickled grapes, pink peppercorns, candied almonds, and chrysanthemum leaves, and you’ve got an unstoppable combination of flavors and textures. This was one of a slew of damn delicious dishes at Chef Andrew Le’s eclectic Honolulu spot. These grindz had me feelin’ fine. (Full review to come!)
Bucatini from Tosca Cafe in San Francisco, California
The house-made strands were perfectly al dente, lovingly coated in a beautiful tomato sauce with a touch of chilies and smoky bits of guanciale. Every last morsel disappeared under my watch.
“Single” Cheeseburger from Au Cheval in Chicago, Illinois
Despite its name, the “single” cheeseburger was a double patty situation: each one was thin and griddled to juicy doneness. Smothered atop and in between were slices of gooey cheddar and house-made dill pickles. Dijonaise-dressed Z Baking buns added the finishing touch. Burger perfection.
Cơm Hến from Kim Hoa Hue in El Monte, California
A spectacular bowl of steamed rice, baby clams, sesame seeds, fresh herbs, elephant ears, peanuts, pork rinds, banana blossoms, and Granny Smith apples. A light clam broth tied all of the elements together.
Garlic Shredded Pork from Szechuan Impression in Alhambra, California
The thin slices of “oddly delicate” steamed pork belly, served at room temperature and dressed in chili oil, were irresistible. My chopsticks kept coming back for more.
Ribeye Cap from Trois Mec in Los Angeles, California
This dish brought together an unlikely cast of ingredients in the most spectacular way: thin slices of grilled ribeye cap accompanied by charred broccoli, smoked peanut butter, pickled shallots, and shrimp chips. It was wildly flavorful and astonishingly delicious. As with Ludo’s best creations, these seemingly disparate ingredients were destined to come together somehow.
Squid Ink Spaghettini from Orsa & Winston in Los Angeles, California
Even though Orsa & Winston’s five-course menu left me plenty full, I couldn’t help perusing the “antipasti” supplements available, and settling on the Spaghettini. The pitch-black noodles were accompanied by sweet hunks of Dungeness crab, uni butter, sardo cheese, and charred kumquats. Simply superb.
Spicy Garlic Shrimp from Fumi’s Shrimp Truck in Kahuku, Hawaii
Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck may receive all the good press, but it was Fumi’s unassuming shack that captured our hearts and stomachs on the North Shore. The expert ratio of chopped garlic to shrimp, coupled with the perfect amount of heat, made this dish one to remember. (Full review to come!)
Chả Giò Tôm Cua from Bến Lạ Restaurant in Westminster, California
Stuffed plump with crab, shrimp, and pork, then deep-fried twice for maximum blistering, these rolls induced swoons from everyone at the table. Even when tightly wrapped in lettuce and herbs and dunked with abandon in chili-spiked nuoc cham, the cha gio remained unbeatably crisp, the translucent rice paper wrappers shattering with each bite.
Honorable Mentions: mandilli di seta from The Factory Kitchen in Los Angeles, California; chicken leg from Petit Trois in Los Angeles, California, goat patty melt from Little Goat in Chicago, Illinois; oc len xao dua from Café Artist in Garden Grove, California; gazpacho from L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon, baby clam pizza from Mother Dough in Los Feliz, California.