It’s time to reflect and pick my top food experiences of 2017! This year, I had a fun variety of meals – from high end tasting menus to bun cha served on the side of the street. My Vietnam trip was a major highlight – how cool to experience my favorite cuisine in its country of origin! It was also my first time in Thailand, and one restaurant there made my top three list.
As for something closer to home, I finally visited Las Vegas (what took me so long?), and ate two memorable meals that garnered an honorable mention. My number one pick though was something quite casual – a sandwich spot in New Orleans that I’m still dreaming about.
Three – Gaggan, Bangkok, Thailand
The third spot was the hardest to pick. I had a handful of restaurants that were fairly equal, but Gaggan edged its way into the top three due its uniqueness. This was my first time trying an Indian-inspired tasting menu. The powerful flavors, combined with modern techniques, great presentation, and secret ingredients, made for a memorable and fun experience. For a recap of all 25 bites (including goat brains, hidden in a cute roll), read my blog post here: Dinner at Gaggan – Bangkok, Thailand (Honeymoon Pt. 4)
Two – Eight Tables, San Francisco, California, USA
For having such a large Chinese population, San Francisco lacked a true fine dining Chinese restaurant prior to Eight Tables. Having grown up with Taiwanese and Chinese food, this meal was especially dear to my heart. The elevated menu retained authentic flavors. From crispy duck skin to dong po pork belly, this was some of the best Chinese food I’ve tasted. Eight Tables – Chinese Fine Dining in SF
One – Turkey and the Wolf, New Orleans, Louisiana, USA
I love sandwiches and salads. In college I ate one or the other daily. Even still, I was surprised at how much I could enjoy a humble sandwich and salad. I was blown away by the Vietnamese-inspired flavors in the cabbage salad, and the collard green melt was definitely the best sandwich I’ve had all year. This was hands down my favorite restaurant experience of 2017. I’m still kicking myself for not going back to Turkey and the Wolf for another meal that trip! Turkey and the Wolf – Life-changing Sandwiches in New Orleans
- Sparrow + Wolf, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA – The chef’s tasting menu was course after course of decadent food with a California-style fusion of flavors – Japanese, Indian, and Mediterranean to name a few. This meal was so creative and some of the best service I’ve experienced. My yelp review.
- Secret Garden, Saigon, Vietnam – This is a hidden gem, located on the roof of an unassuming building down an alley. After trekking up five floors of stairs, you arrive at a cute rooftop setting with lots of greenery. The menu is very English friendly with plenty of photos. The food was so good – of higher quality than the average street food but with vibrant flavors that were still authentic. You can see photos of the meal towards the end of my blog post – Two Days in Saigon.
- é by José Andrés, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA – This restaurant is within Jaleo at the Cosmopolitan. A nine-seater, you reserve tickets well in advance and sit in a private dining room with a view of the chefs preparing each dish. While the setting and presentation (it was like a show watching the intricate plating and molecular gastronomy) were absolutely fantastic, the flavors themselves weren’t memorable enough to make my top three. My full blog recap here.