The Best Bites of 2019
From a hauntingly beautiful bowl of pasta to a spectacular salad worth donning a bib for, these outstanding dishes stayed on our Restaurant Editor-at-Large Jordana Rothman’s mind long after the last plates were cleared.
Dish of the Year (Prawn Toast, Nightshade, Los Angeles)
Chef Mei Lin’s homage to shrimp toast, topped with minced prawns and fried curry leaves, sits in a fragrant bowl of Cantonese curry flavored with garlic, chiles, ginger, lemongrass, and coconut milk. It’s just one reason Nightshade is a 2019 F&W Best New Restaurant.
Best New Burger(s) (Steamburger at Canard, Portland, OR)
In times of war and times of peace the burger battles rage reliably on, true as the tide. The latest, greatest entrant into the discourse offers a hat tip to a lesser known style, the Connecticut steam burger, most commonly associated with White Castle sliders. 2007 F&W Best New Chef Gabriel Rucker has dreamt up a revision of the low brow icon for his PDX pub Canard: a griddled patty seasoned with French onion soup mix in an overcoat of American cheese, wedged between squishy halves of a sweet Hawaiian roll. Order a bunch (three is a good place to start) for $6 apiece and $3 during happy hour.
Most Soul-Rattling New Pasta (Morcilla creste di gallo, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Philadelphia)
Why creste di gallo isn’t an ubiquitous pasta shape baffles the mind. The sweet, sweet love child of elbow macaroni and ruffly mafaldine, creste—so named for its resemblance to a rooster’s comb—is a sauce-capturing superhero. And that’s exactly why Philly chef Chad Williams chose it for his instant-classic ragu, a chunky, minerally, astonishingly savory mix of blood sausage and sticky pork skin, depth charged with funky Parm. For a sauce so special, no other shape could do.
Jawdropper of the Year (Guinea hen yakitori, Birdsong, San Francisco)
Christopher Bleidorn knows you’re going to have to take a photo of it, so go ahead and take your time. The chef serves a stunning, deeply personal tasting menu at his SF hit, but it’s this mid-meal stunner that will stay with you: Bleidorn shapes ground guinea hen into something between a French quenelle and a Japanese tsukune, skewers the meatball on the bird’s roasted talon and serves it on a bed of speckled feathers. The end result is as gorgeous to behold as it is to eat.