Today marks two years since I started this blog. It has been quite a year trying new foods and meeting new people. There’s been so many memorable food experiences (both good and bad), but in keeping with “tradition” I’m going to try to sum up and rank the top ones. It’s not necessarily the most delicious, more like most memorable – the experiences that will stay me going forward.
This list won’t include last night’s meal from The French Laundry given that I have yet to fully digest it (literally and figuratively); there’s a good chance it would’ve cracked this list though.
So here we go, here are my top 5 meals of the blog year:
A reliably excellent meal, to me Urasawa is the ideal special occasion restaurant in LA. No molecular gastronomy here, everything is kept very simple. Flavors are thoughtful, clean. Urasawa’s plating and sushi-making is so meticulous, yet seems so effortless at times. And it’s the best sushi I’ve ever had, by far. I just wish it wasn’t so damn expensive.
Pictured: sesame ice cream, red bean, black truffle, gold flake.
My first underground dining experience was fascinating. One man, Craig Thornton, put together a suite of interesting and tasty dishes with a very small team in a downtown loft. One oven. Four burners. I haven’t been able to go back since, but I’m sure I’ll have my fill at an upcoming 40-course meal next weekend.
Pictured: Dungeness crab, meyer lemon, malt vinegar sabayon, old bay profiterole, mustard mizuna.
This was a relative bargain at $110 for a meal featuring such names as Urasawa, Manzke, and Cimarusti…especially as all proceeds went to Japanese earthquake relief. The food lived up to expectations, including one of the best (in both presentation and taste) dishes I ate all year – Cimarusti’s soymilk panna cotta with sea urchin, geoduck and wasabi (pictured).
Everyone was seated at a small counter where we could watch as each of the ~20 dishes took shape. Maybe the most intimate and personal of the meals I had during the year, almost each dish came with a story from Jose Andres’ experiences in food. The food was very good, and the service may have been even better. A clear step above the Saam Room at the Bazaar.
Pictured: A whole lobe of foie gras baked in salt then sliced, yielding one of the best foie gras preparations I’ve had.
Easily the best meal I’ve had at a Bouchon, but that alone wouldn’t make this list. Thomas Keller was in the restaurant for this special event and dined on one course at each table. He sat right next to me for the cheese course. That experience pushes this one straight to the top.
Pictured: carnaroli risotto with summer truffles, English peas, sweet pea shoots & parmesan mousse.
Honorable Mention (in chronological order):
Test Kitchen: Closing Night (Los Angeles) – 12/13/10 The closing of such an intriguing concept, and an all-star chef cast to send it off.
Commonwealth (San Francisco) – 12/28/10 Just a very good meal. I returned two days ago and it was even better.
Spago (Beverly Hills) – 2/25/11 23 courses at Wolfgang Puck’s flagship is my longest meal ever.
Joel Robuchon (Las Vegas) – 3/28/11 Truly an extravagant meal, but just fell short of this list.
Walter Manzke @ Biergarten (Los Angeles) – 4/10/11 Tons of meat, fantastic french fries and craft beer from one of my favorite LA chefs.
Test Kitchen Reunion (Los Angeles) – 9/19/11 Another all-star chef cast came together to celebrate Test Kitchen.
See also: First Anniversary: Top 5 Meals