Welcome to Year in Eater 2016, Eater’s annual ritual of eulogizing the past 12 months through input from the city’s top food writers. For 2016’s final week, we’ll be posting questions daily about the Bay Area’s restaurant scene in the past year, with answers from those who know it best. Today’s topic: What was your best restaurant meal of 2016?
Hillary Dixler, Eater National senior reports editor
This is how a meal at Single Thread in late November started: After a visit to the restaurant’s rooftop, my table had magically been re-set with gorgeous moss-draped wood pieces, atop of which were several small bites to be discovered. A first bite of pumpkin roasted in the restaurant’s hearth was a thrilling taste of fall, while other bites, like a silky tofu topped with uni, would be stand-out dishes on any menu. To list through each one would be to undersell the overall impression: This was shock and awe.
Paolo Lucchesi, The Chronicle food editor
Pound for pound, dollar for dollar: Aster. (Too many great meals to list, both local and elsewhere, but if I had to choose, that was the one that sticks with me. So creative, so thoughtful, so flawlessly executed and at four courses for $65, the perfect length and price.)
The Dapper Diner, local blogger
In SF: Aster’s spring menu and Nightbird’s summer menu barely edge out Mister Jiu’s opening menu, but mostly because I was stuck next to some ridiculously chatty “Instagram influencers” during my best Jiu’s dinner. Outside of SF: A toss-up between Shaya in New Orleans and a return visit to LA’s Wolvesmouth.
Trevor Felch, Zagat SF editor
Blue Hill at Stone Barns. But in SF, our version of Blue Hill at Stone Barns — Single Thread. Many websites and publications (Eater definitely being a leader at that ;) ) have hyped this place to out of control levels. But seriously, this is the real deal in terms of cooking, hospitality and sense of place/connection to terroir. It’s pretty much the perfect restaurant.
Stefanie Tuder, Eater SF senior editor
I hate giving this answer since it’s so inaccessible, but it’s also appropriate given that SF is the country’s fine dining leader: Single Thread, Sushi Hashiri, Californios, and Lazy Bear led my San Francisco meals this year, each offering high amounts of surprise and delight. Taking those out of the mix, I’d say Bellota, Babu Ji, and Mister Jiu’s. (Oh, and outside SF: Bestia in LA, hands down.) Sorry not sorry that this is way more than one meal.
Pete Kane, SF Weekly food critic
Lazy Bear is just in its own league. For new restaurants, it’s probably a tie between In Situ and The Saratoga. Great concepts, seamless service, and top marks on creativity.
Anna Roth, Eater contributor
I don’t know if it was the *best* but one reminder of the important role that restaurants can play in our lives came a few days after the election. Ladies Steak Night at House of Prime Rib had been on our calendars for a while, but that Thursday it took on a new urgency as we drank martinis and stuffed our faces with juicy steak and creamed spinach until we started to feel at least a little better. The places that have endured through all sorts of swings of history seem more vital than ever in these times.
Jonathan Kauffman, The Chronicle food reporter
Aside from a great one in Portland at Farm Spirit, it would have to be a celebration dinner at Aster — I’ve said it before on Twitter, but Brett Cooper is making some of the most interesting vegetarian food in town, so delicate and layered; the meat dishes were great, too.
Ellen Fort, Eater SF editor
Lazy Bear and Nightbird
Luke Tsai, East Bay Express food critic
My omakase meal at Delage, during the tenure of opening sushi chef Masa Sasaki. At $65 a person, it might the best bang-for-your-buck upscale dining experience in the Bay Area.
Marcia Gagliardi, Tablehopper
Single Thread, hands down. It was breathtaking. The level of detail, thought, skill, backstory, flavor, quality, attention, and beauty in every bite (and even every item in the dining room) was truly captivating. The presence of nature in the entire experience was quite touching — so very unique and memorable. I’m still thinking about it.
Jay Barmann, SFist editor
The red sauce dinner at Tosca, for a friend’s birthday. It’s such old-school decadence, with that pile of meatballs and the pork shoulder and pasta — not to mention the salad and garlic knots. I might have had single better dishes or impressive tasting menus elsewhere, but that kind of grandmotherly abundance and generosity in a meal feels refreshing in the era of tweezer food.
Carolyn Alburger, Eater cities director
In SF: an impromptu early dinner at Yuzuki to avoid the rain (tskune, seaweed-Dungeness salad, and uni over grilled rice cakes). In LA: an explosive lunch at Night + Market Song. And the single best bite award of 2016 goes to the guava and fresh cheese pastry from Panaderia Rosetta in Mexico City — impossible to eat without uttering profanities. I went back three times during our trip.
Rebecca Flint Marx, San Francisco magazine food editor
There’s no way I can answer that because there was no single best, but the dinner I had at The Morris three days after the election did give me a reason to believe again.