We were lucky enough to experience a lot of good meals in 2012. We honeymooned in France and Italy. We had a weekend getaway in Las Vegas. I got to try the number #1 restaurant on my bucket list. And got to experience not just one, but two 3-Michelin star restaurants. I can only hope to be as lucky in 2013.
Here’s the round-up of my most memorable meals from 2012:
#13 Seasons 52
DH was shocked when this made my favorite meals of 2012. But I really loved my meal here and I am in awe of the flavors they were able to accomplish while still keeping the meal under 475 calories and not cooking with any butters or creams. I predict many more visits in 2013.
#12 Le Chateaubriand
No set menu, one menu a night, rebel chef. This was one fun dinner. I was constantly kept on my toes with the different combinations paired together on our plates. It’s also one of the few restaurants listed in the 50 World’s Best Restaurants 2012 Guide (ranked #15) where you can experience a multi-course meal without breaking the bank (60 euros per person).
Alright, I only technically love two things here: chao tom cuon (grilled shrimp paste spring rolls) and nem nuong cuon (grilled pork paste spring rolls), but since our first meal consisted only of these two items, it still makes the list. The spring rolls plus the mysterious dipping sauce were one of my favorite bites this year and I’ve been back about half a dozen times to order large quantities of the rolls for take-out.
#10 Flavor Del Mar
DH and I were both so happy with our meal here. It was our favorite date night meal in San Diego this year and we are going back again soon.
#9 Nana San
We loved everything about this place: the atmosphere, high quality fish, efficiency and reasonable prices. We’ll definitely be back again next time we’re in the area.
I almost forgot about this when creating my list because it wasn’t a regular meal. But I think it still counts. I was impressed with Pearl. While my regular dining experiences at Pearl have been alright, they really stepped it up for the wedding banquet food and it was on par with Chinese wedding banquets I’ve experienced in the past. DH has been bugging me ever since wondering when we’ll get to experience eating a Chinese wedding banquet again.
# 7 Ad Hoc Addendum
If you want to get a taste of Thomas Keller on a budget, this is the way to go. His fried chicken was by the far the best classic fried chicken I’ve had. I plan on taking DH soon. We tried to go during this last trip home but unfortunately, they are closed for the winter.
#6 Scarpetta Brunch/Dinner (not yet blogged about)
I had two fabulous meals at Scarpetta this year, but didn’t feel that they warranted two spots on the list, since I liked almost the same things from each meal. Last year Scarpett’s brunch made the list. They upped the ante this year by adding on additional side dishes prepared to order from the kitchen, which is included in the brunch price. These sides include the most amazing creamy polenta. I’ve never enjoyed polenta until experiencing Scarpetta’s.
I haven’t had a chance to blog about the dinner, but we were equally pleased with our first dinner here. I was especially impressed with the attention to detail with the service. The complimentary stromboli bread was one of the best bread starters I’ve ever eaten (such a difference eating it at dinner where it’s served hot and fresh rather than sitting under a heat lamp during brunch) and the meal itself was great too.
5. Chez Dumonet
My mouth still waters every time I think of that perfectly cooked duck confit. I must find my way back to Paris for this restaurant alone. We had so many wonderful meals in France, but this little bistro produced our very favorite meal of all, even with the not so friendly service.
If there’s a meal that I talk about the most or think about the most, it’s my meal at Raku. This off the strip Japanese grill restaurant isn’t very well known to the general public, but it’s well known to people in the food community. The fact that some of the best chefs come to dine here on their down time, including Joel Robuchon, should give you a clue on how good it is. It was a little on the pricey side, but almost every item we ordered was flawless. If I had time for only one meal in Vegas, it would be at Raku.
Underground dining, eating with a table of strangers. It’s not something I ever thought I’d experience. And while it felt surreal, it was also an amazing meal. Getting to be up and close in the kitchen and talking to the staff and chef while they prepared the nine course donation based meal was a huge plus. Chef Thorton also made the best pork belly dish I’ve ever tasted.
When I wrote my initial post, Chef Thorton was still pretty mysterious with very little divulged in publications. However, recently an in depth piece was published in The New Yorker which is an interesting read if you’re curious about his background and operation.
#2 The French Laundry
This was number one on my bucket list of restaurants I must eat at. So many of you may be surprised that it’s not the best meal of 2012. No one is more surprised than me. I had the #1 spot pretty much reserved for TFL from the minute we secured our reservation. I’ll be blogging about the meal soon and explain why. But basically, while my group had a great time, there were some ups and downs in the meal. Not everything was flawless. And while we left having enjoyed a great experience, none of us were super eager to return soon.
I was blessed enough to dine at TFL and The Mansion this year. I think many people who have dined at both may disagree with this ranking, but keep in mind that while I had a full tasting menu at TFL, I only had a six course tasting menu here. Perhaps I would be singing a different tune if I had opted for the full menu at The Mansion ($425 per person) and might have felt that the meal wasn’t worth $425 a person. But based on the meal I did have, everything was amazing.
I loved the lavishness of the bread cart and desserts, and was delighted with the creativity that went into his dishes. Almost from the minute we left, I was plotting my return trip, which is why it gets my number 1 spot
So that’s the end of my list. I can only hope I will be as lucky again next year to experience such great meals. You can read my previous list from 2011 here.