There’s a common sentiment among restaurant critics: We have to eat a lot of poor quality and mediocre food before we taste something memorable. But, oh baby, when that over-the-top bite hits your mouth, you know you’ve found it. Something about the drink, dish, or dessert pushes it above the hundreds of thousands of other bites you’ve taken over the year.
The following items rocked my senses in 2011. In no particular order, and off the top of my head, they are:
- Italian “English” muffins at Eatzi’s. (Extra points for the McCutcheon’s preserves.)
- The Scarf Dancer cocktail at Marquee Grill and Bar.
- Fried avocados at The Commissary.
- Ox eyes stacked enchiladas at Mi Dia From Scratch. (Blue corn tortillas, beef, cheese, and onion enchiladas, topped with New Mexico red & green chile sauces, crema & fried eggs. (The best bite of the year.)
- Lemon cake at Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steakhouse.
- Steamed swordfish with a salad of fresh summer greens at Lucia.
- The salad of chopped iceberg lettuce, diced tomatoes, crumbled blue cheese, avocado, and crispy prosciutto at Maggiano’s. (A good chopped salad is hard to find.)
- A double-double animal-style burger at In-N-Out Burger. However, the fries are forgettable.
- I got straight past the pizza and Cane Rosso and dive face first into a Cuban sandwich: a magnificent mess of tender Berkshire pork shoulder braised with beer and onions; layered with prosciutto, baby Swiss cheese, and horseradish pickles; and piled on puffy, hot bread spread with spicy mustard and Calabrian chile aioli.
- The green curry chicken served in an iron pot at Malai Kitchen.
- The charcuterie plate at The Grape.
- The slow-cooked oxtail scented with hoja santa and served with a cob of roasted corn and masa dumplings at Mesa.
Most Pleasant Meal of the Year: Dinner at Lavendou. Sometimes the taste of the food is elevated by the overall dining experience. Usually it happens spontaneously. One cold, rainy evening I went to dinner at Lavendou with two dear friends. The dining room was crowded and festive, but not loud. The service was friendly, but not in-your-face. The food was delicious and the French wine stimulated our conversation for hours. We left full of more than food. We shared a meal that was more than just a sum of its parts on a cold, rainy Monday night.