Welcome to Year in Eater, an annual review of some of the best and notable openings and restaurant news that took place in Los Angeles over the past year. Eater LA asks writers, editors, and food luminaries to pitch in to help summary the incredible year in dining that was 2019. Here now, LA food writers and editors talk about the best meals they had in the past year.
Gary Baum, features writer and restaurant critic for The Hollywood Reporter
The runners-up are Dear John’s, capped by the tableside Caesar, and Trois Mec’s Table D’Hote series in November, capped by the lobster bisque. The winner is Pasjoli, capped by the whole roast duck presentation.
Andy Wang, writer, Food & Wine
Somni is a singular experience, so creative and delicious and transporting and high-degree-of-difficulty, and eating there with my pal Maria Nguyen was tremendous. Taking my pal David Landsel to Northern Thai Food Club and seeing him freak out over the quality and value of the khao soi and larb was a great time. But I’m going to sort of cheat and say that my best meal at a restaurant was Dear John’s when my pal Melanie Dunea was shooting photos for her Don’t Play With Your Food LA art exhibit. Guests came dressed in their finest threads and most resplendent bling to make a mess while they ate Dear John’s’ spaghetti with clams and Majordomo’s short rib and Felix’s focaccia and Din Tai Fung’s soup dumplings and Mexicali’s tacos (among many other iconic L.A. dishes). It was a beautiful night that showcased how L.A. dining really has everything,
Hadley Tomicki, freelance writer
Addison in San Diego. Long after it’s over, one gets the sense that they’ve passed through some sort of beautiful dream.
Andrea Chang, LA Times food section deputy editor
Cheeseburgers for breakfast at GGET.
Oren Peleg, LA food writer
Hard to beat a late-night stop at Los Originales Tacos Arabes. And the bastillas at Tagine are so good it’s stupid.
Joshua Lurie, FoodGPS founder
The first meal that comes to mind took place in Kanazawa, Japan, a late lunch with my wife and our over-tired daughter. Nodoguro, black throat sea perch from the nearby Sea of Japan, is a beautifully fatty fish that’s ubiquitous in Kanazawa, but a precious find anywhere else. I ate it every meal possible, and Nodoguro Meshi Hompo Itaru provided the best experience, featuring broiled nodoguro served over rice in an iron pot and eaten in stages: solo, dressed with wasabi and scallions, and finished with nodoguro broth. I also enjoyed bran-pickled mackerel, another local specialty, along with boiled oysters and tiny deep-fried white shrimp. Ultimately, the food was so good that it was worth testing my family’s patience, though they may view the meal differently.
Euno Lee, Eater LA contributor
My mother’s 60th birthday at Majordomo… my mother is a first-generation immigrant, and she invited her church community of first-generation immigrants who were so instrumental in supporting one another in adapting to life in the States in the 1980s.
They got to experience firsthand how far Korean-Americans had come as a culture, which was all thanks to people in their generation paving the way. They prayed in front of a giant David Choe mural to bless the meal, and ate Dave Chang’s APL short rib with ssam, and desserts and cake prepared for the event by Yoonjin Hwang. It’s one of those meals you never forget.
Bill Esparza, Eater LA contributor
The special 10-year anniversary menu at D.O.M. back in July. It was a retrospective of a decade long innovation by chef Atala that was breathtaking. His tribute to cassava distracted me so much I was half-way done before I realized I hadn’t snapped a picture, and the buttery, soft cupim might be the best meat course I’ve ever had on a tasting menu.
Esther Tseng, LA food writer
Hayato. I love Brandon Hayato-Go’s kaiseki. His ingredients arrive from Japan the afternoon before service, and the sourcing alone is the perfect topic of intimate conversation at the 7-seat bar. Hayato-Go creates each dish with such thoughtfulness and precision; each course is a progression through a journey that you don’t want to end.
Stephanie Breijo, Time Out LA editor
This one’s so tough. It’s hard to argue with the Parm Boyz pop-up, which feels more like a party than any sort of formal affair, and you’re practically buried under cheese and red sauce by the time you’re done, which, by the way, is how I would actually like to be buried (executors of my estate, please make note).
Mona Holmes, Eater LA reporter
While chef Becky Reams was still leading the kitchen at Lately, she hosted a five-course Game of Thrones dinner. Reams is clearly a super fan and built that obsession into a GOT menu. There was an especially masterful touch when she added the LA-based chamber music group Salastina, who played actual music from the HBO show. I’ll remember this meal fondly in the wars to come.
Roberta’s in Culver City.
Pasjoli absolutely blew me away. Probably the best meal I’ve had in awhile.
I just came from Antico last week, and am still obsessing over the delicately charred vegetables and cavatappi with cheek and tongue ragu.
Chef Dan Barber hosted a private dinner in October called Chefs x Breeders: A Dinner from the Ground Up. I wasn’t sure what to make of this, but knew it’d be worth the trek with local chefs like Michael Cimarusti, Jeremy Fox, Mei Lin, and Nancy Silverton preparing the menu. Barber paired chefs with actual seed “breeders,” who optimized the flavor of vegetables by producing the actual seeds. I sat next to a seed breeder who spent a decade designing a squash for a specific taste and texture. Imagine eating a newly designed vegetable grown specifically for flavor, and having one of the aforementioned worked magic with a new dish. The 300-person room was gorgeous, wine pairings were plentiful, and was unlike any food event I’ve ever been to.
Arca in Tulum is sexy. It has the most beautiful outdoor dining room, and chef Jose Luis Hinostroza makes food that you want to keep eating while in one of Mexico’s most beautiful landscapes in perfect 90% humidity.
Cathy Chaplin, Eater LA associate editor
Dinner on the patio at Bon Temps. From start to finish, every course was a feast for the eyes and palate.
Farley Elliott, Eater LA Senior Editor
The full omakase at Sushi Note, with wine pairings. I’m not usually a “sushi above all” kind of diner, but there’s something so fun, fulfilling, and outright delicious about an up tempo omakase at Sushi Note, one of the city’s best Japanese restaurants.
Matthew Kang, Eater LA Editor
I loved sharing a pescado zarandeado at Coni’Seafood for lunch with friends. I loved the full omakase at Nozawa Bar, but for its personal nature I remembered every meal I had at Kura this year. To cap off the year, I recently an incredible experience at Pasjoli with my Eater colleagues. Outside of LA, my wife and I had epic meals at David Toutain and L’Ami Jean in Paris, and Elkano and Etxebarri in Spain. One of the most fun ‘meals’ I had was waiting over an hour at Frangasquiera Nacional in Lisbon, seeing the cook grill peri-peri chicken and very slowly, painstakingly, work in the most inefficient, least effective way I’ve ever seen. It took over an hour to serve the two people in front of me (seriously). But I finally lugged the spicy, greasy, glorious bird to my hotel room and absolutely destroyed one of the best plates of chicken in my life. I’d do it again in a heartbeat.