It’s the last day of January, which seems like as fitting a time as any to finally reflect on my favorite dishes of 2019. Thank you for reading Gastronomy these past thirteen years—it’s been a genuine thrill getting to share my culinary adventures and endeavors on this space. And without further ado, here are the 10 best bites I ate in 2019…
Gambas a la Plantxa at Otoño in Highland Park, California
Chef Teresa Montaño has found a new home in Highland Park at Otoño since closing her six-year-old Basque restaurant Racion. By the time we were through with the griddled blue prawns with cherry tomatoes, garlic, and Brandy de Jerez, the only thing that remained on the plate were the blackened shrimp tails. We ate every last morsel—head, whiskers, flesh, and all.
Lamb Sausage Pizza at Cotogna in San Francisco, California
After years of hearing my cousin Michael espouse the glories of Cotogna, we finally had the opportunity to dine there together. Of all the memorable plates that evening, the lamb sausage pizza lingers in my mind for its exceptional crust and balanced toppings.
Tom Yum Onion at Nightshade in Los Angeles, California
Nightshade’s menu is chock full of unexpected Asian American mashups, and the best one is the Tom Yum onion. Here, Outback Steakhouse’s iconic appetizer receives the Top Chef treatment—expertly fried, Thai-spiced, and served with an airy coconut dip. It was hard not to feel giddy unfurling the onion’s copious layers.
House-made Spam at Liho Liho Yacht Club in San Francisco, California
This Hawaiian spot in the heart of San Francisco has been on my list of places to eat for years now. While in the Bay for a conference, I grabbed a seat at the bar and ordered the off-menu house-made Spam that was served over rice with a serious shaking of furikake. Followed by a baked Hawaiian for dessert, I was in aloha heaven.
Clam Congee at Best Friend in Las Vegas, Nevada
What’s an Angeleno doing traveling all the way to Vegas to eat at a Roy Choi restaurant? Two words: clam congee. While it’s fair to consider if there’s anything new, novel, or even necessary about dining at Best Friend, Choi’s Las Vegas debut on the ground floor of the Park MGM, just make a reservation and experience it firsthand. The awesomely loud and thoughtful homage to the City of Angels has enough twists to delight those who grew up on a steady diet of Kogi’s short rib tacos and Chego’s “ooey gooey” fries. There’s a saucy rendition of Yang Chow’s famous shrimp on the menu and a soulful porridge brimming with clams and spice that can cure even the gnarliest of hangovers. Best Friend tastes like LA through the eyes of one of its most beloved sons.
New Orleans’s Greatest Hits in New Orleans, Louisiana
The Astronomer and I traveled to New Orleans together this past July and spent 68 hours eating, drinking, and exploring the city. Since it was my first trip to the city, I focused the itinerary mostly on the city’s incredible dining institutions and boy did they deliver. Pass the beignets at Cafe Du Monde, muffuletta at Central Grocery, and fried chicken at Willie Mae’s.
Caviar at Angler in Los Angeles, California
Dinner began with a bang, as caviar service arrived on a gold-plated cart. General manager Bryce Vaughan generously dolloped a full ounce of caviar atop warm banana pancakes slathered with banana butter. The banana’s ripened sweetness paired delightfully with the intrinsically salty caviar. The unexpected flavors, textures, and temperatures made this first bite one to remember.
Steam Burger at Canard in Portland, Oregon
As soon as we deplaned at PDX, The Astronomer, June, and I grabbed a Lyft and high-tailed it to Gabriel Rucker’s Canard for a late lunch. We feasted on oeufs en mayonnaise with trout roe and maple syrup, a ham jam sandwich with goat cheese butter, the greatest cinnamon toast ever, and a magnificent steam burger with pickles, onion, mustard, and glorious American cheese. There is no doubt that cheeseburgers are the way to my heart.
Borrego Tatemado at Dona Estella in Valle De Guadelupe, Mexico
The house-special borrego tatemado, shredded wood-roasted lamb, was simply unforgettable. Served on the side of the crisp and flavorful meat were freshly made corn and flour tortillas, chopped onions and cilantro, limes, and warm consomme.
Green Mango Salad with Snails at Oc & Lau in Garden Grove, California
The texture and flavor of unripened mangoes hardly resemble their sweet fleshed counterparts. Pleasantly tart and snappy some, green mangoes are primed to take on savory flourishes. At Oc & Lau, the mangoes are treated to fish sauce, chiles, torn coriander, and best of all, thinly sliced snails. Eaten straight up or perched atop shrimp chips, the gorgeously balanced salad steals the show.
Honorable mentions: cold noodles at Yang’s Kitchen, Green Tea Mille Crêpes at Lady M Confections, coconut waffle at Here’s Looking At You, and thousand layer pancake at Joy.
- 2010: Best Recipes
- 2010: Best Savories
- 2010: Best Sweets
- 2011: Best Recipes
- 2011: Best Savories
- 2011: Best Sweets
- 2012: Best Recipes
- 2012: Best Savories
- 2012: Best Sweets
- 2013: Best Recipes
- 2013: Best Savories
- 2013: Best Sweets
- 2014: Best Breads
- 2014: Best Savories
- 2014: Best Sweets
- 2017: Best Bites
- 2018: Best Bites