Today marks the third year anniversary of this blog. Who knew it would last this long? Honestly, I had no expectations when I started this so I can’t say I did. Each year has brought something new and different, chronicling where I’ve been and much of what I’ve eaten.
As with all of my other anniversary posts, I’ll recount here the top 5 meals of the last 366 days.
This past third year brought about an unexpected international flavor, having spent almost two of the past twelve months abroad. This included short stays in India and England, with the most significant (6 weeks) being in Japan. This was definitely the highlight for me – I love Japanese food. The opportunity to pig out on bowls of udon, soba, and ramen, plates of curry rice, tonkatsu, tempura, yakitori, and multiple sushi, kaiseki and French meals (adding up to a cumulative 32 Michelin stars) was something I’ll never forget. Not surprisingly, my stay in Japan is well-reflected in this list.
This was the best Western meal I had in Japan and perhaps the best service I’d seen in Tokyo (and therefore, ever). The lunch was highlighted by perfect execution from a meltingly rich foie gras atop risotto to a really nicely textured amadai (tilefish), cooked with its scales on. The bread cart, just like at the Las Vegas outpost, never ceases to amaze me.
I had a number of sushi meals in Tokyo but this one stood apart in its variety (of course, quality too). Trying 30-or-so different cuts of fish was by far the most of any single meal and it was amazing to be able to sample so much (most from the chef’s native region Hokkaido). Getting to dine here with a native Japanese speaker was a huge plus, too.
The best all-around sushi I had in Japan and probably the best sushi meal I’ve ever had. The sashimi to start off with was exquisite, highlighted by tender abalone in its own liver sauce, monkfish liver with yuzu, and a smoked bonito. The sushi courses that followed maintained the high notes, yielding one of my best meals in Japan.
This was an excellent meal from start to finish. Chef Yamamoto presented a modern kaiseki menu highlighting the ingredients (and seasons) of Japan with flawless execution. Highlights for me included an awesome fried uni, excellent unagi and surprisingly the best soba I had during my stay. I still think about the crispy, juicy unagi; I’ve never had anything quite like it.
This wasn’t a clear-cut decision, but there was something about the whimsical, playful nature of this meal that set it apart. There was a sense of anticipation and excitement that came with each dish, keeping us all on the edge of our seats for hours. Combined with the fact that the ‘entertainment’ value of the dishes did not outshine the flavors, this was a wildly successful meal…and a whole lot of fun.
I’d like to extend a big THANK YOU to those whom I’ve had the pleasure of dining with, and to all who have stopped by this blog in the past year (especially multiple times)!
Honorable mention (in chronological order):
Commonwealth (San Francisco, CA) – 11/26/11 Another previous year’s meal showed up on last year’s list and I had another great meal here. For me, it’s a ‘must’ on any extended dining visit to San Francisco.
The French Laundry (Yountville, CA) – 11/27/11 Celebrating my grandmother and aunt’s birthday in one of my favorite restaurants in California is a sure-fire way to make this list.
Saison (San Francisco, CA) – 12/17/11 Truly an excellent meal and one of the best I’ve ever had in San Francisco.
5×5 Chefs Collaborative @ Melisse (Santa Monica, CA) – 4/29/12 The lone entrant from LA was the best of the 5×5 dinners I attended. The all-star cast put together a very strong meal.
Pierre Gagnaire (Tokyo, Japan) – 11/11/12 Honestly I wasn’t sure what to expect at Gagnaire’s Tokyo outpost, but I was surprised (in a good way) and thoroughly satisfied with the creativity balanced with flavor.