Best Dishes 2009 - Los Angeles
12 Tiny Eggs Sunny side up – Huevos a la Cubana “Andy Garcia” – a crispy rice cake was topped with 12 fried quail eggs, crispy shavings of Jamon Serrano, dabs of an intense, spicy tomato puree, crispy bacon and topped with some diced chives.
Jamon Iberico de bellota Fermin – acorn-fed, free-range Iberico ham
Philly Cheesesteak”- air bread filled with oozing cheddar cheese and topped with Wagyu Beef
Cotton Candy Foie Gras
Church and State
Sardines, cherry tomatoes, white beans, arugula –
Pate de campagna with green peppercorns, Duck liver with hazelnuts, Jambon persillade, rabbit pate, saucisson sec
Beignets de Brandade de Morue, salt cod, saffron aioli
Crispy Farm Egg, Salmon eggs, Cucumber, Frisee –
Chorizo, Cantaloupe, Cornichon – this was off the charts perfect – chunks of cantaloupe, onion ice, an intense flavor of chorizo
Crispy Veal Sweetbread, Foie Gras, Asian Pear, Imaginary Charcroute, Mustard –
Chocolate Cup Cake, Foie Gras Chantilly, Candied bacon, Almonds, Maple
Riva - (no longer Riva, now Fraiche)
Tonno di Tonnato, big eye tuna, tonnato sauce
White Corn Agnolotti, Shaved White Truffle
House-Smoked Salmon served on a Lemon Herb Blini with Dill Crème Fraiche, Chives and Salmon Eggs
Risotto with Maine Sweet Shrimp, Santa Barbara Uni and Baby Japanese Zucchini
Toro, monkfish liver. Shiso, mirugai, turnip from Kyoto, scallion, Japanese red leaf, shiso flower
Salmon eggs from Hokkaido, small ebi (shrimp), shitake mushroom, mizuna, edame tofu, topped with gold leaf –
Beef from southern Japan served as tartare topped with caviar and pickled radish
Blue fin tuna, red snapper, a pickle from Kyoto, nori, uni, caviar and gold leaf
Hand-made Strozzapreti (priest chokers) with mozzarella and oxtail ragu.
Boudin Noir – blood sausage with potato puree and caramelized apples
I'll play! Here's my eye-closing, toe curling, moan-worthy top 3 (whittled down from 7):
1. TORIHEI, Torrance: Hanjyuku egg (soft boil egg topped with salmon roe).
2. BREAK OF DAWN, Laguna Hills: Smoked salmon eggs benedict.
3. MARCHE MODERN, Costa Mesa: Alsatian pig, head-to-toe.
Oh, good post! My top ten bites for the year are not all from LA restaurants but pretty damn close:
1. Church & State, Los Angeles, CA -- foie gras mousse: hard to pick exactly the best thing here since it's all delicious, but the foie gras mousse is food of the gods (and people who like torturing geese). The chef makes the charcuterie in house and it was difficult to restrain myself from finishing the whole jar myself.
2. Mangosteen, Fresno, CA -- kabocha soup: I never would have guessed that one of my best meals this year would come from an unassuming little a Vietnamese place in Fresno (or that I would wind up in Fresno). This was an incredibly simple dish, but the kabocha was perfectly cooked and I think this was the cleanest, brightest tasting broth I've ever tasted.
3. Hot Doug's, Chicago, IL -- chicago style hot dog: Hot Doug's is a sort of haute hot dog stand in Chicago that fries its french fries in duck fat on Fridays and Saturdays. Like you, I eat duck fat whenever I can, so my brother and I had to brave the 2.5 hour line in the cold and rain in order to try them. When we finally got to taste the fries, they tasted exactly like...fries! The chicago style dog was the first I tried of the six dogs we split between us and I don't know if it's because I was starving or because hot dogs and dill pickle spears go together, but it was amazing (the duck sausage with foie gras mousse was damn good too).
4. The Publican, Chicago, Il -- roasted bone marrow: I haven't had anything from the Publican or from Paul Kahan's other restaurant, Avec, that wasn't delicious, but the bone marrow here is incredible. It looks like it comes from gigantic dinosaur bones, it's perfectly roasted, and it comes with the most amazing grilled bread and the traditional accompaniment of parsely salad to cut the richness. The spicy pork rinds here are also damn good.
5. Spago, Los Angeles, CA -- sweet corn agnolotti: I don't even really like corn that much and this is so good that it still made my list. It's such sweet, pure corn essence that it actually gave me chills. The pastry chef came by while we were moaning in pleasure and said that eating it everyday is what keeps her young.
6. Animal, Los Angeles, CA -- pig: I couldn't pick just one dish from my favorite restaurant. Both the pork belly sliders and the pig's ears with fried egg make me feel like that if there's pig heaven, the pig who supplied dinner is probably looking down and feeling like he died for a really great cause.
7. Ludobites, Los Angeles, CA -- polenta with cantal and oxtail: not everything that Ludovic Lefevbre cooks works (chocolate cupcakes with foie gras frosting are as wrong as they sound) but this did. The tang of the cheese in the polenta was a fantastic complement to the rich oxtail hidden at the bottom of the dish.
8. Anisette, Santa Monica, CA -- raisin pastry: I'm clearly not a sweets person at all, but this pastry is practically perfect. It's not too sweet and incredibly flaky. The canele from Europane in Pasadena is almost tied with this for favorite pastry in LA.
9. Chez Lesley, Pasadena, CA -- braised fennel: if the only way you've tried fennel before was in salads, then you haven't really tried fennel. Lesley Balla made this dish on a whim for our Thanksgiving dinner and it was a complete revelation. I think I've made fennel lovers out of everyone I've prepared it for since, even though Lesley's version is superior.
10. La Espagnola, Harbor City, CA -- jamon iberico de bellota: this is really freaking expensive ham. Like more expensive than drugs. there's a less pricey version, jamon iberico, that became available to import to the US before this did that I had tried and found pretty amazing so I had to make the trip down to Harbor City to make the comparison and it did not disappoint. Eating jamon iberico de bellotta with your fingers with the fat from the ham melting all over your face just makes you feel sexy.