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Restaurant Gurus Share Their Single Best Meal of 2015

They were only supposed to share one, but apparently that wasn't enough for these pro-level eaters.

Al's Place
Al's Place
Patricia Chang

Anna Roth, Eater contributor, SF Chronicle columnist

I was lucky enough to get a seat at Dan Barber's wastED pop-up in NYC, where the whole menu was made from scraps and throwaway ingredients. Of course I knew it would be good--Barber and guest chef Grant Achatz were in the kitchen--but thought it might be more of an academic exercise and was pleasantly surprised that it was hands-down crazy delicious. Highlights were Achatz's cocoa-husk-smoked eggplant confit in a broth made from flat beer and coffee cherry husks, and Barber's "dumpster dive vegetable salad" with damaged vegetable shavings, pistachio vinaigrette, and a dollop of leftover chickpea water whipped into a foam. It gave me hope that we can fix America's food waste problem with a little ingenuity.

Eloise Porter, Eater SF contributor

I was a little late to the party, but Lazy Bear was an incredibly fun dining experience with impeccable food. As far as restaurants opened this year, I had my favorite meal at AL's Place.

The Dapper Diner, blogger

I wish I could say it was a small private dinner cooked by a grandmother in someone's basement, but I'm not precious enough to claim something like that, so it has to be a toss up between Benu and COI.

Paolo Lucchesi, food editor of the SF Chronicle

That first meal at AL's Place was revelatory and above all, just really, really fun. A reminder what dinner can, and should, be, Every time at Rich Table, Liholiho and La Ciccia is a joy.

Favorite out-of-town meal was Jeremy Fox's Rustic Canyon in Los Angeles. Best special dinner was the Beer & Soul affair at Miss Ollie's where Sarah Kirnon cooked an homage to Edna Lewis. Best fancy meal was Manresa. Best not-fancy meal was sitting on the curb outside La Cocina with Bini, eating her Nepalese dumplings and hearing her story.

Rebecca Flint Marx, San Francisco Magazine food editor

Single best meal? Oh balls, that's a tough one, though Octavia probably pokes out most prominently from the recesses of my memory. It was like one of those albums where you want to play every track repeatedly.

Octavia

Octavia [Photo Credit: Patricia Chang ]


Daisy Barringer, Eater SF and Thrillist SF contributor

Ninebark

Allie Pape, Hoodline editor, former Eater SF editor

Maybe this is the burnout talking, but all the great meals I had this year were outside SF. There was an epic Sichuan spread with five friends at Chengdu Taste in LA, breakfast at Sqirl, a meal so good that we could barely talk about anything else besides the contents of our plates. You can buy jars of their mindblowing housemade jam at Rainbow Grocery, but I'm still in unrequited longing for the Malva pudding cake.
Closer to home, Mother in Sacramento has gobstoppingly good vegetarian food, particularly the chicken-fried mushrooms and the squash sandwich. And in the city, the best thing I ate was still from an outsider: Aaron Franklin's brisket, which I consumed about a pound of during his book launch at Smokestack. I spent the next three days eating the leftovers cold from my fridge, which was maybe even better.

Noelle Chun, Eater SF contributor

How to choose?! My personal standby is Trou Normand where you can start with lambrusco and cured meats, cleanse your palate with a pour of brandy, eat a whole plate of pasta with a glass of Rioja, and then have a House Old Fashioned for dessert (a cocktail for dessert is normal, right?). Despite the suspicious coincidence that goes along with choosing Mourad as my other favorite meal of the year because it is in the same building as Trou Normand, I just can't get out of my mind Mourad's family-style meals—a whole moist snapper served with unlimited portions of kale, beans, potatoes, and brown butter cous cous. Lastly, I was in bliss at Old Mandarin Islamic Restaurant eating chili-red hot pot with "La Si Ni"—a dish with chicken and eight kinds of peppers that literally means "spice you to death."

Peter Kane, SF Weekly food critic

It's since gotten a new chef (Anthony Robert Roark), so I'm reluctant to include it in other lists until I eat there again, but damn, I remember my dinner of octopus, polenta, and kabocha squash soup at Parlour very fondly.

Marcia Gagliardi, Tablehopper

Pujol in Mexico City clinched it—such vibrant and personal cuisine. It was on my wish list for far too long, so a big hell yes for living up to expectations and hype.

Jay Barmann, SFist editor

The family-style prix fixe at AL's Place. I wrote about it the first time I tried it with one other person, and went back again with a party of 4, and both times it was just stellar. Aaron London is a master with vegetables without being twee about it, and without being strictly vegetarian about it.

Luke Tsai, East Bay Express restaurant critic

Does a taco crawl on 23rd Street in Richmond that took the better part of a Sunday afternoon count? (Editor's note: Yes, yes it does.)

Stefanie Tuder, senior editor, Eater SF

Food is only one part of the dining equation, and while the food at La Ciccia on its own is very good, the restaurant's charm easily catapulted it to my top meal. You can't fake that warmth.

Ellen Fort, editor, Eater SF

This is a hard one. At the risk of drawing ire for choosing a fancy tasting menu, I think Saison delivered on it's pricey promise. The dinner I had there was fun, creative, beautiful and most importantly, exceptionally delicious along the way. Every course was exciting, and pleasantly unstuffy. Two words: uni toast.

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