As usual, I ate a lot of amazing food this year. I eat in restaurants almost daily – sometimes twice or even three times a day. Not everything ends up being delicious, sadly. But in the end, I always find more good than bad, or else I wouldn’t have continued doing this for the past 20+ years. And as yet another year comes to a close, here’s what stands out most from my dining adventures, both at home and on the road, in 2015.
- Prawns in Peranakan-style coconut curry with kaffir lime and birds-eye chilies at Candlenut Kitchen in Singapore
2. Ruby snapper with saffron pearls in the Crystal Dining Room as the Crystal Symphony sailed through the South China Sea
3. Larb moo tord, aka Northern Thai-style deep-fried pork sausage with toasted rice and herbs at Koh Thai Kitchen at the Four Seasons resort in Koh Samui, Thailand
4. Pork and beans from La Marea at the Viceroy, on the outskirts of Playa del Carmen in Mexico’s Riviera Maya. (Bigger story coming soon.)
5. Perigord truffles from Manjimup, Western Australia. OK, so this wasn’t in a restaurant. It was in my home kitchen. The Perigord truffles from Manjimup are in season from June to August, and this year’s crop was AMAZING. After ordering my truffles from the Wine & Truffle Co, I took three days off from restaurant dining and stayed home to cook. Truffles every meal for three days straight. Never gets old.
6. Rib steak cooked over mesquite charcoal at Buenos Aires Bistro in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico
7. Pork shank braised in Dr. Pepper, served over grits, at Grits in Fullerton.
8. Black-foot chicken soup at Lung King Heen in Hong Kong. It looks so simple, yet this little bowl of soup is deceptively complex.
9. Tuna aguachile at Taco Maria in Costa Mesa. Sushi-grade tuna with avocado and watermelon radish, a splash of citrus and a wee hint of chili
10. Tofu three ways — with caviar, truffle and ginger and scallions — at Sushi Roku in Newport Beach. Granted, the truffles weren’t nearly as good as those from Australia (these were summer truffles from Italy), but the housemade tofu is mindbogglingly sublime.
11. Pork chops crusted with peanuts, served with fried pork skin that’s wrapped with rice noodles, at Mon An Quang, in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
12. Marinara pizza at Pizzeria Sapori in Newport Beach. I ate a lot of pizza in 2015 (working on the ultimate pizza guide to O.C., and this was the best I ate all year). Very simple. Awesome dough topped with Marzano tomatoes and basil, cooked in a wood-fired oven. Perfection.
13. Croque monsieur at Bistro Papillote in Costa Mesa. A grilled cheese as only the French know how to do. Sheer brilliance.
14. Northern-style red-curry sausage at Bangkok Avenue in Huntington Beach. Beautiful, delicious, fragrant and savory.
15. Garlic crab at Garlic & Chives in Garden Grove. It’s greasy and messy and garlicky as hell.
16. Tomatoes for dessert at Nico in San Francisco. It was the height of summer, when tomatoes were at their peak. I never expected to eat (or like) tomatoes for dessert, but these were extraordinary. Refreshing. Sweet. Elegant. Eye-opening.
17. Bun cha Hanoi at Tra House in Garden Grove. This is the best bun cha in O.C.’s Little Saigon, and it’s the closest I’ve found to the bun cha I fell in love with in Hanoi.
18. OG Burger from Vaka Burger in Los Angeles (formerly a truck, now a brick-and-mortar in Boyle Heights). Holy cow, this is an incredible burger. It might very well be the best burger I’ve ever eaten.
19. Pork and beans at Axiote in Playa del Carmen. This is the second pork and beans on this list. Both are from Playa del Carmen. One of the most memorable dishes of the year. (Bigger story coming soon.)
20. Avocado toast at Plant Food & Wine, Venice. Yeah, I know. It’s just avocado on toast. But it’s so much more than that. This is truly a work of art. Every bite is unique.
The search for something delicious continues.