Looking back on 2016 brings up many memories, including a few delicious ones. We asked some members of our team and a couple of our friends about their fondest food memories of last year and needless to say, we were not disappointed. Read more to live vicariously through their stomachs.
Jonathan Jay Lee, artist
The best thing I ate was at a La Boeuf, a yakiniku place near my brother’s place in Yoga, Tokyo. It was memorable not only because it was an amazing dinner of grilled beef and cold beer on a cold winter day, but it was also the last dinner with my brother and his wife before they got married.
Alex Maeland, co-founder of MAEKAN
I grew up eating chicken tenders and buffalo wings. So this year, I had my inaugural experience with a “fine dining” establishment in Mexico City called Pujol. I was put onto Pujol through Netflix and David Gelb’s “Chef’s Table” docu-series on some of the world’s best Chefs.
Pujol is known for many things, but two of my favorites were its aged Mole and its hand-made tortillas. The menu is presented in a wax-sealed manilla envelope on feather-light paper stock that exudes an art-like experience as soon as you sit down.
Minimal and clean, my eyes were immediately drawn to a hand-written section towards the bottom that read simply: “1042” with the words “days” printed adjacent. One of Chef-owner Enrique Olvera’s most celebrated elements of his menu is the ongoing mole that is mixed in-house and then aged day-after-day with new seasonings and ingredients to create an incredibly fragrant and ambrosial flavor.
The “Street Tacos,” as they were called, were chef Olvera’s way of bolstering the authentic simplicity of his menu with a uniquely Mexican dish that is commonplace within the city, but uniquely Pujol in the preparation and ingredients used. Pujol makes its own tortillas from regionally harvested corn varieties.
Tracy Wei, Owner and Pastry Chef of Peace of Cake
I absolutely love noodles of all kinds – ramen, pho, fried noodles, and even instant noodles. I was in Tokyo last spring for hanami and the most memorable dish of 2016 were the soba noodles I had from Dosanjin. We went there for lunch and put our name down on a clipboard at the front. Although we waited 35 minutes, we didn’t mind too much since we were enjoying the cherry blossoms along the Meguro River.
At Dosanjin, they make all their soba from scratch. I ordered the Sudachi Soba, which is served in a nice hot broth with thinly sliced sudachi on top of the soba. The soba noodle is a bit thicker, which gave it a nice chew. There is a wonderful balance of umami, acid, and a slight bitterness from the sudachi. I slurped every last bit of noodle and finished all the broth. I will definitely go back next time I’m in Tokyo.
The best thing I ate in 2016 was a slice of pizza in, of all places, Okinawa, Japan. During my trip to Okinawa in April, I wasn’t expecting to have some of the best pizza I’ve ever had, but that was the case when I went to Bacar. The pizza at Bacar only comes in two varieties – Margherita and Marinara – but they’re prepared so perfectly that it’s really all you need. The Chef and the staff at Bacar are amazing, and they literally run the pie to you immediately after it comes out of the wood fire oven.
The BEST thing I ate in 2016 was Chef André Chiang’s warm foie gras jelly topped with Périgord black truffle coulis. I was invited to a special Four Hands lunch with Chef André Chiang and Chef Richard Ekkebus at the two-Michelin-starred restaurant Amber in Hong Kong. The intimate meal was a preview for the release of Chiang’s cookbook, Octaphilosophy. The all-star duo teamed up and created a collaborative menu featuring some of the Chef’s signature dishes and new creations. The meal was all phenomenal, but Chef André’s creamy, warm foie gras jelly topped with Périgord black truffle coulis was the dish that I could not stop thinking about.
Erik Idos, Owner and Executive Chef at CHINO HK
The best thing I ate in 2016 were the fried gyozas from Kouchi Meibutsu Yatai Gyoza No Ebisu Yasubee. This restaurant is in a nondescript area that we found while exploring the Ebisu area. There was a long line around the restaurant and everyone was waiting for gyoza, the main dish that this restaurant serves. They have five people working inside – one folds the gyoza, one fills them, one cooks, one makes drinks, and one serves. Every 30 minutes, they switch stations to keep things efficient.
I had to try it, so we ordered fried gyozas, steamed gyozas, and a couple high balls. The steamed ones were super juicy and the fried gyozas were game changers. The skin was thin and crispy and the filling was so juicy. The fried gyozas are made to order so that they’re perfectly crispy and melt in your mouth. We polished six plates of gyozas and eight highballs and were completely satisfied, and then went back two more times after that with friends.
I’ve dined at Sushi Yoshitake in Tokyo twice in the past four years and it’s indescribably better than any other sushi experience I’ve ever had. The best thing I ate was during my second experience there when I had blowfish liver with Beluga caviar. It had a thin skin that burst when you ate it and although it was slightly cooked on the outside, it immediately melted in your mouth.
Chef Masahiro Yoshitake has a certain touch and feeling in the way he serves his sushi. The same piece could be served by another person and his would somehow be better. I think it’s because he smiles and always seems to be enjoying what he’s doing. He’s happy to be there and loves to entertain his guests.
Feature Image Courtesy Alex Maeland at Pujol.