Like last year, this year I’ll be recapping the favorite 5 places I ate at and blogged about in the past year along with listing the 5 places I most look forward to eating this year.
As usual, I wasn’t able to make it to all of the places I was hoping to go to. However, I managed to go to three of them: Chengdu Taste, Lung King Heen, and Tita’s Kitchenette. All were pretty good and lived up their hype. I may have been surprised by Lung King Heen’s lack of innovation or Tita’s Kitchenette’s gargantuan servings, but they did little to detract from the quality of the food.
That said, there were plenty of restaurants which impressed me that were not on my list of top 5 eateries to go to in 2016. Some were spur of the moment choices while others were places on my bucket list and exceeded expectations. So without further ado, here they are:
Biang! – This year was the first time I ate Shaanxi cuisine (the cuisine of Xi’an). Of all the Shaanxi places that I ate at and blogged about, Biang! was the best. It might be a bit pricier than other places, but the food was excellent, especially their very flavorful hand pulled biang biang noodles.
Chengdu Taste – The toothpick lamb and Mung Bean Jelly Noodle With Chilli Sauce were extraordinary, with an impeccable balance of flavors rarely found in other Sichuan restaurants in the United States. The balance of the spices that are just enough to accentuate the flavors of the ingredients without overpowering them is one of many reasons why it continues to reign in Southern California’s fiercely competitive Sichuan dining scene.
Little Serow – Little Serow’s dinner set menu may be a little strict, but is a wonderful introduction to Northern Thai food. The quality and the execution of the dishes like the pork ribs are amazing and a set tasting menu of only $49 offers incredible value. If it weren’t for the many other great restaurants popping up in DC, I would eat here again.
The Slanted Door – I’m glad a half dozen of my friends decided that they also wanted to go with me and eat at the Slanted Door. Because of that, I was able to sample a larger amount of dishes than I normally would be able to. While some dishes were alright, others like the Wood Oven Roasted Branzino were amazing in their perfect execution. To boot, they also serve one of the best Hong Kong style milk teas I have had in the Bay Area (which is an impressive feat!).
Yan Toh Heen – It was hard to pick which dim sum place that I went to this past year was the best, but Yan Toh Heen narrowly tops out T’ang Court because its execution and service was more exceptional than T’ang Court, even if it doesn’t beat out in innovation (though please try the innovative Yan Toh Heen Superior Dumplings if you go). Of course, the view of Victoria Harbour from the windows of the restaurant doesn’t hurt as well. (Lung King Heen was out of the running as I have not blogged about it yet)
Forward to 2017
After a year of excellent food in 2016, what’s next for me in 2017? Given the continued proliferation of Shaanxi and Sichuan cuisine, especially in California, I’ll likely be blogging about other Chinese regional cuisines more and a little less about Cantonese cuisine. My travels will also be less Hong Kong centric this year, so this year you can expect food reports on what various East or Southeast Asian cuisines are like in London, Mexico City, and other cities across America like Albuquerque (my old home) and Atlanta.
Given all of my different travels this year, here are the top 5 dining establishments I am aiming and looking forward to going to in 2017:
Bad Saint – During my last trip to DC, I literally missed the opening of this lauded Filipino restaurant by a matter of days. This time I will be sure to go sample the dishes that have garnered rave reviews from a 3.5 (of 4) star rating in the Washington Post to the Bib Gourmand recommendation in Michelin’s first guide of Washington, DC.
Din Tai Fung (Xinyi Road) – Okay, this is cheating a little bit as I have already gone here since the new year. However, this place was one of the top places I wanted to go to when I was in Taiwan. I have now been to the original location and am excited to blog about it soon!
HKK – This is the flagship restaurant of the international Hakkasan chain (yes, the same chain that has a Las Vegas location more known as a popular nightclub with well known EDM DJs). As such, I’m seeing if their food is as up to par with the refined decor and expensive prices, especially given that even the dim sum items are more expensive than the two and three Michelin starred Cantonese restaurants of Hong Kong.
Kowloon Delight – Let’s just say that this type of restaurant isn’t what I normally consider a place to go to. However, despite my low regard for Taishanese/Cantonese style dishes that have assimilated into the palates of North America, cafes de chino are a rich legacy of the Chinese diaspora in Mexico (although Kowloon delight isn’t quite a proper cafe de chino as those have all but disappeared). As such, I would be interested in going here to not only experience Chinese Mexican food but also how it compares or perhaps relates to Chinese American cuisine.
Tim Ho Wan (New York City) – Yes, I have been to Tim Ho Wan in Hong Kong, but they have just opened their first location in the United States. Of course I want to see how it stacks up to the locations in Hong Kong.