Welcome to Year in Eater 2022, Eater’s annual tradition of celebrating the past 12 months with help from some of the Bay Area’s top food and restaurant industry experts. Between now and the end of the year, Eater SF will post daily questions about the Bay Area restaurant scene with answers from those who know it best.
Can I pick two? Bruce Hill’s final service at Zero Zero — the food was excellent of course (persimmon and arugula salad, squid ink pasta, perfect margherita pizza, and buffalo milk soft serve with olive oil and sea salt), but the best part was that as one of the last diners in the room, I got to join in as Bruce gave a final toast to the cooks and servers past and present who had gathered one last time. Bruce is such a great chef and wonderful person, and it was truly an honor to witness this special moment.
I also finally made it to Cafe Jacqueline for her gorgeous souffles. I was nervous I had over-hyped it in my own mind, but it was absolute perfection. When I peeked in the kitchen and saw Madame herself whisking eggs in her copper bowl, I couldn’t help but get a little teared up. Cafe Jacqueline is such a special, one-of-a-kind place and I am so grateful I got to experience it.
— Sarah Henkin, manager at Omnivore Books
This honestly changes from month to month, but most recently I had fesenjoon at Alborz Persian Cuisine in Walnut Creek. It’s a dish of crushed walnuts simmered in pomegranate sauce with my choice of beef meatballs and yellow Basmati rice as a side. Heavenly.
— Alan Chazaro, food reporter at KQED
Aurum in Los Altos. Very elegant meals with plenty of attention to nuanced regional flavors, making it much more than food, instead inviting us into a conversation about the deeply complex nature of Indian cuisine.
— Nandita Godbole, writer at Curry Cravings
Since I could write a dissertation on all the various meals I loved and how they could all — under the right circumstances — usurp each other, I’ll go with the polenta from Che Fico. The depth of flavor in this simple dish is astounding. Also, I’ll admit I’m 300 percent biased; I ran a polenta pop-up in Seattle and ate polenta pasticciata all the time growing up. This northern Italian dish just wins every time.
— Paolo Bicchieri, Eater SF reporter
For my birthday this year, I tried my first ever two-Michelin-star restaurant: Californios. Dining in the airy, plant-filled courtyard made the whole experience feel more approachable, and I was delighted by everything from a tiny crispy taco with hamachi and yellow peach to the famous grilled cavendish banana with caviar. I certainly can’t make a habit out of 17-course tasting menus, but now I really get what it’s all about.
— Madeline Wells, SFGATE food reporter
This one is tough. But I was really into the velvety, smoky bowl o’ beans and carrots from Bombera. Reminds me of home cooking, but the kind my mom probably can’t make.
— Cesar Hernandez, associate restaurant critic at the San Francisco Chronicle
The first mention goes to Ramen Shop, which hosted a Filipino food pop-up made by the Ramen Shop team back in September. It really dug into Filipino flavors with local ingredients. The crispy pata, the pinakbet, the pickled vegetables, everything was excellent. The second mention goes to Friends Only, which, while on the higher end of menus, really surprised me. I love all sorts of sushi, from the Japanese grocery store to-go options to sushi counter experiences like this one, and was so impressed and blown away with the quality and attention to the fish, the drinks, and the service.
— Dianne de Guzman, Eater SF deputy editor
Pomet in Oakland was an incredible treat. It’s a common story for a chef to begin gardening on a small piece of land to give their restaurant specialized produce, but it’s a real plot twist to have a farmer decide to open a restaurant. So when Aomboon Deasy of K&J Orchards opened Pomet earlier this year, I was genuinely curious to see how it would work out — it’s an entirely different skill set and so daring in this economic climate! But her vision for inventive, farm-centric cuisine that draws from many culinary traditions was my most treasured restaurant meal of 2022. Our staff went there to celebrate in April and everything was so fresh and toothsome and a delight of textures and flavors. Also beautiful to behold. I always remember the maxim “you eat with your eyes first” when I am out in a restaurant enjoying the beautiful plating and arrangements. At Pomet, you have this plus all the gorgeous fruit and jars of fish parts fermenting to look at in the window sills. Their hachiya persimmon fruit is currently aging in front of your eyes to become hoshigaki, the Japanese delicacy.
— Christine Farren, Executive Director at Foodwise
Acquerello. Is it fair to pick a restaurant with 2 Michelin stars? When my family came to visit we went to Acquerello and it was a solid experience from start to finish. My sister’s eyes rolled into the back of her head from the faux “foie gras” pasta dish.
— Patricia Chang, freelance editorial and commercial photographer
Cotogna, a classic.
— Nick Bastone, reporter at Axios SF
It was a banner year of eating but some standouts include my very first House of Prime Rib experience, a birthday dinner at Mister Jiu’s centered around one of those gorgeous whole roasted ducks, two al fresco wine country lunches at Ashes and Diamonds, an end-of-summer lobster and wagyu feast at Vault Garden, all of the pasta at Sorella, a decadent dinner and beverage blowout at Lazy Bear ... I’ll cut myself off there.
— Lauren Saria, Eater SF editor