The past few years we've enjoyed highlighting the best meals we as Foodbeasts have had within the calendar year. However, this year we've decided to let some of our friends and beloved industry experts chime in as well. So not only will you see the culinary highlights that we've experienced this past year, you'll also be privy to the best meals acclaimed chefs like Michael Cimarusti and Adam Perry Lang have had. So kick back and try not to drool all over yourself as we share the absolute best meals we've had in 2018!
Rudy Chaney: Foodbeast
Best Meal: Majordomo; Los Angeles, CA
My girlfriend Ashley took me here with fellow Foodbeast Chris and Liz. I hadn’t been to a Dave Chang restaurant in years and really wanted to try it out after following the opening on his podcast. We ordered a lot of bing, including the cave aged butter and the micro-planed foie, lots of uni, some scallops and the ribeye. The fries that came with the ribeye were easily the best I’ve had in my lifetime. I don’t eat like a Foodbeast as much as I used to so this was truly special.
HONORABLE MENTION: The Coop Deville Sandwich at The Crack Shack; multiple locations
Chef Louis Tikaram: EP & LP
Best Meal: Som Tam Jay So; Bangkok, Thailand
This simple street side stall in the heart of Bangkok was my favorite meal in 2018. During a recent Asia family vacation, I ate at a few Michelin star restaurants, though this meal had the biggest impact on me and was the most memorable. All the meat and seafood were slowly cooked over charcoal for a perfectly tender and smoky finish. The intensity and balance of the grilled and chopped catfish and Galangal Laap were mind blowing, while the fresh Som Tam complemented the insanely tender and tasty meat. Put that together with the zingy Nahm Jim and Jim Jaew for dipping and I was in heaven! I ate here every single day during my trip! That good.
HONORABLE MENTION: Bak Kut Teh "Meat Bone Tea" at Ya Hua Bak Kut Teh; Singapore
Chef Michael Cimarusti: Providence, Connie and Ted’s, Cape Seafood and Provisions, Best Girl, Il Pesce Cucina; Los Angeles, CA
Best Meal: Chefs Table at Brooklyn Fare; New York, NY
The meal was truly perfect from beginning to end. The attention to detail, the quality of the product, and the execution was at a world class level. Chef Cesar Ramirez has created a restaurant that allows him to cook at the highest level with perfect ingredients.
HONORABLE MENTION: My Taco; Highland Park, CA
Chef Alvin Cailan: Eggslut; Host, First We Feast's "The Burger Show"
Best Meal: Butcher's Feast at Côte; New York, NY
Côte is a fun place, the quality of their dishes are supreme and best of all, they have an amazing staff that keeps you smiling all evening.
HONORABLE MENTION: Bavel; Los Angeles, CA
Izzy Rocha: Foodbeast
Best Meal: 2 Shredded Beef Burritos and a Double Del Cheeseburger at Del Taco
When Del Taco brought back its shredded beef burritos, I couldn't care less. But I still ate them for a month straight after work, which probably helped accelerate my 12-pound weight gain to end the year. Also, I added a Double Del Burger one night just to really feel like an asshole.
HONORABLE MENTION: McNuggets dipped in nacho cheese; McDonald's
Chef Claudette Zepeda-Wilkins: El Jardin; San Diego, CA
Best Meal: Lorea; Mexico City, Mexico
Lorea in Mexico City is singular. I brought my sous chefs with me this past year. Two courses in, we literally all looked at each other and said that we could have left at that very moment and it would have been the best meal of the year. The team is so good about making you feel like you are meant to be there. Every time I visit, I’m just blown away by how good a restaurant can be if you are not just focusing on food and making sure that you take care of every element in the entire experience. My favorite bite from the tasting menu was a very unassuming one of local yogurt and honey. It was incredible.
HONORABLE MENTION: Aqui; Houston, TX
Constantine Spyrou: Foodbeast
Best Meal: Culina; Beverly Hills, CA
In the United States, Italian cuisine is oft relegated to pizzas and pastas, but Chef Luca at Culina opened up a world of so much more, and it was amazing. He presented us with an entire spread off his menu that showcased the best of Tuscany. From the Sformatino di Bietole (Swiss Chard flan) to a wild boar sugo with fresh pappardelle and a tiramisu with popping candy, every dish was a work of art and a strong piece of evidence that Italian cuisine has so much I still have yet to taste.
Honorable Mention: JenRed Pork and Emerald Chicken Combo Plate at Chino Bandido; Phoenix, AZ
Elie Ayrouth: Foodbeast
Best Meal: Lo Mein Cacio e Pepe at Comstock Saloon; San Francisco, CA
Foodbeast video producer Ricky and I went here on a whim one rainy night while working in San Francisco. We were lured in because we heard they had a "rainbow tartare" on the menu, a Foodbeast clickbait if there ever was one. Comstock is situated on the borders of SF's Little Italy and Chinatown and the food is a perfect melting pot of Italian and Asian sensibilities in a saloon thematic, with history dating back to 1907. I'm about to rattle off some crazy dishes, but know that none of these are expensive (especially for those accustomed to regular Bay Area prices), and all of them are better than the last. Imagine CAVIAR CHEXX, or a "20 Dollar Mozzarella Stick." Their Chef Jason Raffin just seems to be having a helluva time in the kitchen, and even lets you order "Family Meal," where you just ask your server to serve you what the staff will eat after hours. As part of one of the best meals I had all year, you gotta order their Lo Mein Cacio e Pepe. It's the perfect representation of rich ass San Francisco, takes from Chinatown, the three finger wag of Little Italy and a perfectly constructed fusion of pecorino, parmesan and Szechuan pepper.
HONORABLE MENTION: Forn Al Hara; Anaheim, CA
Nastassia Johnson: Influencer; @letmeeatcake
Best Meal: LASA; Los Angeles, CA
Chase and Chad Valencia have long been at the forefront of the Filipino food movement, and all of the insanely delicious meals I've had this year prove that they are continuing to lead the pack. Whether it was their Kesong Puti Dumplings (with roasted & raw carrots, carrot ginataan, and queso de bola) for dinner or Bistek Burger (with a double beef patty, toyomansi stewed onions, and queso de bola on a potato bun) for lunch, every dish consistently left my mind blown — and seriously impressed with their passion and creativity. No wonder they got a nod as one of Food & Wine's best restaurants of 2018.
HONORABLE MENTION: Pikunico; Los Angeles, CA
Chef Adam Perry Lang: APL; Hollywood, CA
Best Meal: Chivichanga at Sonoratown; Los Angeles, CA
I was first introduced to Sonoratown’s Chivichanga by Javier Cabral, my LA Mexican food guru. I was struck by the lightness of the hand pressed flour tortillas and the impossibly delicious chicken. The team at Sonoratown is just as incredible as the food they serve. Every time I visit, they welcome me like family.
HONORABLE MENTION: Sushi Park; West Hollywood, CA
Andy Nguyen: Co-Founder, Afters Ice Cream
Best Meal: Joe's Kansas City Bar-B-Que, Kansas City, KS
The ribs were amazing but it was the Z-man Sandwich that had my mind blown. Imagine sliced smoked brisket, onion rings, smoked provolone cheese, barbecue sauce, all on a Kaiser roll. It was so satisfying with every bite. I need to recreate that thing somehow.
HONORABLE MENTION: BCK in Houston, TX for their version of Spaghetti-O's
Analiese Trimber: Foodbeast
Best Meal: Giant Bento Situation at Kuroshio Kaiko; Renjoji, Ainancho, Minamiuwa-gun, Japan
Everyone knows about the Americanized version of the Bento box, but I can tell you, it's way better in Japan. This unassuming restaurant is located in one of the smallest towns in the Ehime Prefecture. Fellow Foodbeasts Marc, Chris, and I were taken here after a shoot for our bluefin tuna project by a fisherman and CEO of the company, who ordered for us. We had no idea what to expect. After some hot green tea and pleasantries, all of a sudden our server appeared at our table with these giant Bento-looking boxes filled with an array of goodies. There was fresh, sashimi-style Skipjack tuna with fresh wasabi, thick slices of meaty bonito nuzzled in between the folds of onion salad, crispy, fresh-out-the-fryer tempura, miso soup, a salad, and another dish that I would soon learn would infiltrate my taste buds and dreams for the foreseeable future — in the best way possible, of course. Before me was a bowl full of rice with thinly sliced raw sea bass nestled delicately underneath a shiso leaf. Next to it was a raw egg and soy sauce. We learned to use our chopsticks to mix the yolk and then stirred in the soy sauce. The next step was to pour that mixture over the fish and rice. One bite in and I was sold. Our translator told us this dish was a staple among the Japanese vikings back in the day. Each bite was perfect: the fattiness from the egg yolk, salt from the soy sauce, intrigue from the shisho, and a meaty, blank canvas type of fish ready to absorb all the flavors. As we were leaving, we noticed a tiny sign in the lobby signifying the restaurant had a Michelin star, which solidified our meal. Here was this unassuming, unpretentious restaurant with one of the highest culinary accolades in the world, serving a wholesome lunch service and doing what I wish more restaurants did — letting the food, not the awards, do the talking.
HONORABLE MENTION: Caviar Tacos at rose.rabbit.lie, The Cosmopolitan Hotel; Las Vegas, NV
Chef Casey Lane: Viale dei Romani at the La Peer Hotel; West Hollywood, CA
Best Meal: Kobe (Stone) Steak at Aburiya Raku; Hollywood, CA
The Kobe beef, topped with garlic slices, is cooked on a super-hot stone with paper (with liquid fire poured over it table side); the thinly slivered potatoes are laid on the stone underneath and finished table side with a cognac jus – simply perfect. The most delicious meat ever, and a meal that never disappoints.
HONORABLE MENTION: Sushi Sushi; Beverly Hills, CA
Reach Guinto: Foodbeast
Best Meal: Suckling Pork Neck at Restaurant Alcalde; Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico
Chef Francisco "Paco" Ruano is crafting masterpieces here. It's no wonder that Restaurant Alcalde is recognized as one of 'Latin America's 50 Best Restaurants'. His cooking is thoughtful and beautiful, paying due homage to the ingredients and flavors of Mexican cuisine, all with a whisper of European influence. I'll never forget the experience of having had the suckling pork neck with black mole sauce there. Already from the jump I was captured by the exquisite plating of the dish — I'd hang the picture I took of it on my wall if I could. But beyond the visually arresting aesthetics were the fork-tender pork neck, the creamiest beans ever, and the viscous, unctuous ink and 20-hour labor of love that was Chef Paco's irresistible black mole sauce. Unforgettable, really.
HONORABLE MENTION: Miso-Braised Ox-Tails at Alta West Adams; Los Angeles, CA
Chef Jessica Largey: Simone; Los Angeles, CA
Best Meal: The Charter Oak; St. Helena, CA
The warmth of the hearth and each dish prepared on it matched the incredible hospitality. The food was beyond delicious (we ordered the soy dip three times in one meal...) and the interactive service touches like the dessert cart made for a very memorable experience.
HONORABLE MENTION: n/naka; Los Angeles, CA
Sam Brosnan: Foodbeast
Best Meal: Shin Sen Gumi Hakata Ramen; Los Angeles, CA
A hearty meal consisting of chicken rice balls, miso soup, and a tuna bowl topped with a raw quail egg stands out to me as one of the most enjoyable of 2018 (washed down with iced green tea and a little plum wine). Shin Sen Gumi is always a filling favorite after a day of exploring LA.
HONORABLE MENTION: Hand-Pulled Noodles at Shandong Restaurant; Oakland, CA
Peter Pham: Foodbeast
Best Meal: Smoked Chicken Wings at Ember Barbecue; Santa Ana, CA
Myself and fellow Foodbeast and Latin Lothario Isai Rocha were working late one evening and were trying to figure out what to get for dinner. There was a sensual moment where we locked eyes with one another, stared into each other's souls, reached deep down and pulled the answer from each others' innate desires: Wings. A new joint, Ember Barbecue, opened a few blocks away that offered amazing Kansas City-style barbecue. Pitmaster Derrick Foster, a former Marine and native of Kansas City, opened the location up with his wife. Ember's wings are smoked for an hour with hickory wood before Pitmaster Foster flash fries them for a few seconds to crisp up the skin. As Isai and I both gestured for each other to go first, our fingers touched tips, igniting an electricity in our persons that have not and may not be seen since. Famished incisors tore into crisp chicken skin, unleashing the smokiness of the meat. In our carnivorous state, we didn't notice there was a cup of sauce to the side of our platter. Isai plunged the tip of his pinky into it and tasted, suckling the sauce and studying its components. His eyes lit up, a fire scorching the surface of his pupils. We drowned what was left those wings with the sauce and continued our thrust to finish off the succulent platter of poultry. We ate in silence, only stopping to wipe the sweat from each others' brows with a dirty napkin. Once we finished, we sat there in silence, hands covered in grease, sauce, and sinew. Exhausted. Satisfied. Sleepy.
HONORABLE MENTION: Anything with the chili oil that Costa brought back from 99 Ranch
Josh Elkin: Recipe Development Expert and Self Proclaimed Champion of Breakfast
Best Meal: Double Cheeseburger at Burgers Never Say Die; Los Angeles, CA
Here's the deal. In a city like LA where everyone is trying to make the best Impossible Burger, elevating it with truffle, fancy cheese and buns, all I'm looking for is the contrary. I want a stick-to-your-ribs, greasy and simple all beef burger that I know will be consistent every time. Intro Burgers Never Say Die. It's a backyard burger place that has become a cheeseburger heaven. The burgers are smashed ultra thin, piled on with American cheese and stacked two high. Its not that big of a deal for a 2x2 burger as these ones are so thin you can't even realize. I've had millions of burgers in my life, and this one is by far the best I've ever had.
HONORABLE MENTION: Otium; Los Angeles, CA