MSP - Best tastes of 2008
As I think back upon 2008 today, I'm happily remembering my ten favorite restaurant meals of the year.
What's on your list for best of 2008? Here's mine:
- Bangkok Thai Deli. Fabulous Thai food in a bare-bones grocery store. I adore the seafood custard in banana-leaf cups.
- Rotisseria. Amazing grilled chicken with green salsa. I'm glad I went as often as I did, because it's closed now (the tragedy of the year for me).
- Salty Tart Patisserie. I love those amazing coconut macaroons. And I can't wait to try their "healthy" (ha) white chocolate millet cookies.
- Restaurant Alma. We didn't go often enough - only twice this year - but we had wonderful meals for my birthday and our 20th anniversary dinner.
- Be'wiched. Highlights of 2008: tuna confit sandwich, pulled pork sandwich, and consistently the best soups in town.
- Himalayan Restaurant. Yak momos! Need I say more? Yet I shall. I love the curries that are similar to Indian food but are more delicately spiced.
- Brasa Rostisserie. Even better than before, partly because of the spiced braised beef that has been added to the menu.
- Gandhi Mahal. I continue to be pleasantly surprised each time I go - it *is* as good as I remember! Next time, I've gotta try the lassi bar.
- Birchwood. I've become less fond of Birchwood over this year - there seems to be bacon and cheese and aioli in *everything*, making the dishes too rich for me to enjoy - but we had a fabulous dinner from their Valentine's Day "small plates" menu.
- Last but not least, it's a three-way tie between West Indies Soul (FABULOUS collard greens with pork), La Hacienda (excellent Al Pastor torta), and Hoa Bien (best Banh Xeo -coconut-rice crepe- in town).
All in all, 2008 was a great eating year. Here's to an even better 2009!
I'm going to have some repeats from Anne's list...
-Porter & Frye. Did a tasting menu four times, so hard to choose. Highlights were corned veal tongue, duck heart sausage, and butter poached cod. Hands-down, my favorite restaurant in town.
-Be'wiched. I was hooked on the pastrami, until I tasted that tuna confit sandwich. Smack your mama good!
Bombay 2 Deli. My final samosa chaat there before they closed was wonderful, yet bitterweet. I sure hope they re-open in the skyway, like they planned.
Pak Zam Zam. Wonderful daal and other Pakastani homecooking from this new place. A fine replacement across the street from where Bombay 2 was.
Salty Tart. Baker-owner Michelle Gayer calls those macaroons "crackaroons," since so many of us have become addicted to them. The rosemary corn cakes are pretty special, too.
Brasa Rotisserie. When I needed comfort food, I headed down for their slow-roasted pork and jalapeno spinach. Oh, and the grits, too!
Evergreen. After a visit to the MIA, I stumbled upon their salt and pepper shrimp. I could suck down those shrimp heads all day long!
Saigon Restaurant & Bakery. Another comfort food for me was their Saigon Special bahn mi. Will they ever re-open? And here's hoping that some of the "rough around the edges" atmosphere will carry over in their new location.
Red Stag Supper Club. After a real solid lunch of Lobster Egg Salad sandwich, I was blown away by their Heirloom Pear Tart with Rosemary Ice Cream. The best restaurant desert I had all year.
Vincent. I finally got around to trying the Vincent Burger, and was not disappointed. Stuffed with braised short rib and smoked gouda, their twist on the jucy lucy was the best burger I've had in years.
Somehow the top 5 was easier than the top 10...once I got past 5 I wanted to keep going. So here are the 5 most delicious meals in no particular order:
Restaurant Alma - we had the three course menu + dessert in the middle of the summer. I loved the freshness of everything.
Strip Club Meat and Fish - fantastic cocktails and staff, many delicious small plates.
Brasa - I love the braised spicy beef.
Meritage - Tremendously light gnocchi and incredibly tender braised pork.
Maria's - I tried the corn pancakes (with cheese) for the first time and they were indeed amazing.
Wow...I'd have to really sit down and think about this, but here goes. Alma is definitely #1, but the rest of the list is in no particular order.
1) Alma - Absolutely the best restaurant of the year for me. Had 2 meals there in the last few months, both were top notch from start to finish. Highlights included the buffalo tartare and the duck breast.
2) Brasa - The other Alex Roberts venture is my second favorite. I've never had a bad dish there. All the meat choices are delicious, and every single side is just as good.
3) Masa - I love good Mexican, and I think this is the best in town. The crepes are excellent as well.
4) Saffron - I really like what Sameh Wadi has going. It's a shame that 112 is consistently full and Saffron isn't.
5) Chambers - Excellent food, great ambiance. Definitely need to go back.
6) Solera - Usually in there for the late night happy hour bites, but I've never been disappointed.
7) Heartland - Probably close behind Alma. Great meal from start to finish.
I'm sure there are others, but those are off the top of my head. It should be mentioned that I haven't been to 112, LBV, Heidi's, Levain, P&F, and plenty of others that would probably be considered for this list.
Brasa for the chicken, I love that crispy skin.
Fugaise for the mussels on the menu right now, I could drink the broth. Don is awesome, it's a shame that place doesn't get the business it deserves.
Haven't had too many memorable meals lately, but working 80 hours a week in two restaurants will do that to you...
I don't get out as much as you Anne. Let me add my less impressive mini-list as an addendum to your own.
- La Belle Vie - My birthday dinner in June (the BIG tasting menu with the TOP paired wine flight) was the single best dining experience I've ever experienced anywhere. The food... the service... the wine... I decided afterward that I no longer miss Goodfellows. Much.
- Kings Korean - This was the year I truly discovered Korean bbq. Where have you been all my life?! Insanely tasty, and Kings makes it family friendly to boot.
- My Burger - It is not fair to my waistline to have takeout burgers this tasty in such a convenient location in the Minneapolis skyway. I've been sampling FAR too often and I just can't stop.
- The Modern Cafe - Why have I avoided this NE Mpls place in favor of others for so long? This is comfort / diner food taken to an amazing new level. It's always approachable, and yet I always discover something new. And the diner setting is SO familiar, I ease right in.
Apparently I am also drawn to restaurants in the back of grocery stores... (!):
1. Bangkok Thai Deli - we eat there twice a week. Like going home for my wife, which makes me happy.
2. Don Yang Korean - Love what the ladies are doing here. Best Korean in town, hands down. Kings, et al, aren't even close.
3. Mercado Central - several vendors including the Salvadora Papuseria, Manny's Tortas, and the al Pastor tacos from that place in the middle...
4. 112 Eatery - still hooked on the butternut squash with maple syrup and blue cheese among many many lovely dishes here; I also like trying to recreate the tastes from 112 at home.
5. Smalley's BBQ - it's in my backyard, and I LOVE the pimento wood smoking they do. Unique stuff and delicious to boot.
6. Phil's Tara Hideaway - also in my backyard. Can scratch my itch for great Greek food or a great steak anytime. Tiny, kitschy, delicious. Except the pasta, skip that.
7. The Happy Gnome - for the mussels poached in pear cider (they keep the mussels alive before cooking, which is a grade-A plus in my book, not frozen or dead. The housemade ketchup is also worth a trip if you're of a mind. Oh, and the beer list. I have lost many a pleasant evening to their beer list.
8. Brasa - we find ourselves here quite frequently for lunch, and is easily our second most visited place after Bangkok Thai Deli. The black-eyed peas and cornbread dish on offer this week is really nice. Our dogs REALLY like the leftovers too...
To Do list for 2009: More trips to Alma, a first trip to Porter and Frye.