GRANT ACHATZ TROUT AT ALINEA
When we ate this “Escoffier course” in January, we had no idea it hinted at what chef Achatz had in store for Next, his period-piece restaurant slated to open in early 2011. All we knew was the combination of stunning antique serviceware and a classic French recipe made this the most memorable dish in a very memorable meal.
JASON MCLEOD ANY SEAFOOD AT RIA
From the amuse (a pristine hama hama oyster sharing its shell with caviar) to the first course (luxurious langoustines) on through the entrées (delicate turbot), chef McLeod has proven he owns the oceans—at least inside the Elysian hotel’s serene restaurant. If forced to choose one dish, we suppose we could survive on the butterlike lobster.
TAKASHI YAGIHASHI CHILLED FRESH HOUSEMADE TOFU AT TAKASHI
Every plate at Yagihashi’s restaurant defines elegance and balance. But his light, refreshing tofu redefines bean curd.
PAUL KAHAN SEAFOOD TOWER AT THE PUBLICAN
With countless great meals at Kahan’s restaurants (including Big Star, Blackbird and Avec) under our collective belts this year, it was the three-tiered presentation of mussels, clams, oysters, shrimp, octopus, crab and lobster that most represented the chef’s ability to make simple, high-quality ingredients a cause for celebration.
RICK BAYLESS HAM-AND-CHEESE EMPANADA AT XOCO
He’s a Top Chef Master, favorite of Obama’s, consultant on one of the hardest restaurants to get into in Los Angeles, and we’re giving Bayless props for…an empanada? What can we say, we’re simple folks with simple tastes.
STEPHANIE IZARD BEEF TONGUE WITH MASA AT GIRL & THE GOAT
Full disclosure: TOC critic Heather Shouse is co-authoring a cookbook with Izard, but even people who don’t know the chef (like TOC’s other critics) are heaping on praise. Our favorite of the Top Chef winner’s small plates: the beef tongue—braised tender and tossed with shards of crispy housemade masa and punchy salsa verde.
DIRK FLANIGAN HOUSEMADE PAPPARDELLE WITH MAINE LOBSTER AT HENRI
Perfect noodles, sweet lobster, an impossibly rich sauce. It’s the only dish at Henri that’s as decadent as the decor.
| Burgers, pizza and hot dogs
| Small bites
| Soups and sandwiches
| The 101st best thing we ate: slow-cooked farm egg at June
| Dish wish list (PDF)