1. Maude was without a doubt everyone’s favorite bite. We were eager to try Curtis Stone’s food since reservations are so hard to come by for his 7 table restaurant. The small plate of white asparagus foie gras mousse, braised mustard seed and pearl onion was pure heaven. I kneel down and thank the gods that foie gras is back. This mousse celebrates everything that is beautiful and rich about foie gras with none of the occasional whisper of offal. The fried toast was the perfect vehicle to escort this classic into your mouth. Ten out of ten.
2. Sqirl won this city’s heart by putting a lot of thought into perfecting simple dishes. They were definitely no slacker at Essentials. In spite of being right next to the heavy hitters like foie gras, Squirl’s simple porridge made us come back for more, a rarity at tasting events. Their organic brown rice porridge with blood orange marmalade and a rosemary pine nut brittle is the breakfast I want to eat every single day from now on.
3. Lukshon’s Sang Yoon did not get to where he is today by half-assing it. His kurobuta pork Sichuan dumplings with spicy ma-la vinagrette, sesame seeds and peanuts, exploded with flavor, all vying for your taste bud’s attention and finally melding together into something that is more than the sum of its parts.
4. True, there is nothing new and innovative about Phillipe’s the Original. That is the beauty of it. It has everything that needs to be there to make a perfect sandwich — soft rolls, freshly carved meat, and a dip of flavorful jus. There is also nothing that doesn’t need to be there. Unless you count their signature mustard or a little horseradish, they are perfect unadorned. We only wish that they had served their lamb sandwich as well, the most underrated Phillipe’s delicacy of them all. We also miss the train cars and sawdust floors, but if you close your eyes and take a big, luscious bite you just might be transported.
5. Considering the way most hard shell tacos are looked upon with disdain, you know Mariscos Jaliscos is killer. Their truck has a cult following and it’s easy to see why. Shrimp are fried into a taco almost like a little hand pie and somehow become more than a taco. They also hinted at being ready to establish roots somewhere soon, as in going brick and mortar. We can’t wait!
6. Known for their Peruvian rotisserie chicken, Pollo a la Brasa Western blew us away with their surprise dessert just as everyone else was closing down. The custardy bread pudding was topped with a sweet fruit sauce, maybe guava? Breadfruit?
7. With a little slight of hand, Crossroads convinced a lot of people that they were eating caviar. The caviar was made with seaweed, topping a bit of carrot “lox” and almond creme fraiche. I have a love-hate relationship with caviar, so I was very pleased that it didn’t have that intense metallic fishy taste. It had just enough of the salt air to hint at the sea.
8. Guerilla Tacos also stepped outside of their comfort zone serving a delicious salmon sashimi mini=tostada with an almond and olive tapenade, heirloom tomato, kumquats, tomatillo, wasabi, and chile de valle. It was surprisingly not too spicy with both wasabi and chile. The clean taste of the salmon made me a convert.