My 38 Best Dishes of 2015

Happy New Year!

2015 is behind us now, a year I’m not sad to see go, for numerous reasons. But as is tradition here on Eataku, it’s time to look back at the travel and the food of the past twelve months.

I did my math… 11 countries visited. 32 cities explored. 245,821 miles flown.

And there were countless meals.

Here’s a look at the best 38 dishes I ate around the world in 2015, from street stalls to high-end eateries, in no particular order. Why 38? I’m not sure, to be honest. I went through my entire photo collection for the year and these were the dishes that jumped out at me. (My ‘15 Best Meals’ post is still coming.)

Here we go…

No steak was better than the A5 Miyazaki wagyu beef that Chef Hiroki Abe grilled for us at NYC’s Japanese Brasserie EN

These simple ginnan (gingko nuts) at Aburaya in Roppongi, Tokyo were perfectly prepared and packed an unbelievably bitter bite…

This was one of the two best things I ate all year, actually, the black pepper beef intestines at The Grand Stage in Western Market, Hong Kong

Make a pastrami sandwich using a sliced knish? Genius. Surprised more delis don’t steal this idea from Ben’s Best in Rego Park, Queens

The homemade spaghetti with a light, creamy surf clam sauce from Chef Luca Fantin at Bulgari’s Il Ristorante in Tokyo was a revelation, elevating vongole to another level…

The deep, earthy flavor that Chef Malcolm Lee of Candlenut in Singapore coaxed from the spices coated and complemented the melt-in-your-mouth beef in this Pernankan rendang…

These shrimp paste wings with house made chili paste at the new Chomp Chomp in New York City’s East Village are the best in the city, courtesy of Chef Simpson Wong…

Yuba, uni, dashi jelly and fresh wasabi; this deceptively delicious dish at Den in Jimbocho, Tokyo showcases the savory simplicity of Japanese cooking, served by Chef Zaiyu Hasegawa…

I did not expect to like this dish as much as I did, rice rolls stuffed with spring rolls, but the combination of tastes and textures blew me away, at Dim Sum Square in Hong Kong

I went to the Dominican Republic and fell in love with sancocho, a stew that is their national dish, but this stripped down version, with chickpeas and ham rose above all others, at The Westin in Punta Cana…

One bowl to rule them all… the best ramen I had this year was the shrimp broth with tender chicken at Ebikin in Tsukiji Market in Tokyo…

Not sure if this dish is officially on The Luminary’s menu or not, but I still cannot forget this incredible plate of escargot topped poutine that Chef Eli Kirshtein made for me in Atlanta…

People are finally coming around to eating bonjiri, or “chicken butt”, but here at Ganchan in Roppongi, Tokyo, they butcher theirs a little differently, called “bonboji”, leaving some cartilage on, adding some crunch to the flavorful fattiness…

The pastrami sandwich at General Muir in Atlanta, topped with chopped liver on rye, is every bit as decadent as it is delicious…

I think this picture about says is all; The Happiest Hour makes the best burger in New York City…

Chef Sean Brock can do no wrong in my book, so I had to hit Husk in Nashville when I was there, and his house cured charcuterie plate dazzled us…

A couple glasses of Husk’s Old Weller 107 whiskey helped enhance the experience…

This was an eye-opener, squid stuffed with karasumi (think Japanese bottarga) and left to dry and age for six months, at the Kurogi Ryokan in Kaga, Japan…

I learn so much about beef every time I visit Nanbara-san at Jambo Yakiniku Hanare in Tokyo, and this time he surprised me with a new concept, “wagyu sushi”, which was truly outstanding…

At Kin Khao in San Francisco, Pim Techamuanvivit is famous for her homemade Thai chili jam, and it was absolutely marvelous here when fried with clams…

I am not a big believer in mixing meat with fruit, however, at Yakiniku Kin in Shibuya, Tokyo, the way their beef is marinated and served with sliced apple brought me around to the combination of sweet and savory…

Kobe beef ramen, with broth made from the beef bones, and the finest cuts of marbled meat you can get from Tajima, from Kobe Beef Ramen Yazawa, located in Sannomiya, Kobe…

An off-menu item from Chef Koji Hagihara of Hakata Tonton in Manhattan’s East Village, these pig’s ears with spicy mentaiko fish row and white onion made me wish he served it every day….

I love horse meat, especially served raw as ‘basashi’ in Japan, and here at Kushi Dining in Chiba, right near Tokyo Disneyland, they even serve horse heart, which I enjoyed for the first time…

Available for only two weeks a year, noresore, or baby conger eels, are one of the world’s rarest delicacies, and none are better than when prepared by Chef Sono at Kyo Ya in the East Village

My friend Gunho took me to Mama Han’s, a small mother & daughter run shop near his home in Seoul, Korea that specializes in these marinated and fermented shrimp, which were so good I ordered three plates…

Take one of Mission Chinese Food’s perfect D.O.P. oven-fired cheese pizzas, top it with spicy mabo tofu, and you have the most unlikely combination of culinary cultures that you just cannot stop eating…

Poke may be all the rage across the States now, but nothing compares to the finest Hawaiian bowls of it, which are found at Ono Seafood in Honolulu…

The “Lechon Diva” herself, Dedet de la Fuente, prepared us her famous French Lechon with Truffled Rice at a Pepita’s Kitchen pop-up in Manila and I tasted firsthand why she is such a treasure in the Philippines…

You may feel the burn of the XXXHot fried chicken at Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack for days after you’ve eaten it, but that taste is also now burned into my memory and has me craving another order every time I think of it…

From the shrimp to the squid to the seaweed, every fermented food in the small “chinmi” stand in Omi-Cho Market in Kanazawa, Japan was to die for, but if I had to pick a favorite, it was the ‘takowasa’, aged octopus with wasabi pieces…

An all-vegetable dish makes the cut; the grilled asparagus with fiddlehead ferns, pearl onions and hazelnuts at Rebelle in the Lower East side of NYC was simply stunning…

Restaurant Riki in midtown Manhattan serves some of my favorite meat preparations in the city, but their tontoro pork cheek with raw wasabi is at the top of that list…

Sapp may call itself a “coffee shop”, but don’t be fooled, they serve some of the finest Thai comfort food in Los Angeles, and there’s no better breakfast than their #3, boat noodle soup with beef…

We went to Tasty & Spicy in Flushing, Queens to try a few of their famous seafood dishes, but felt the best thing on their menu was the cold “ beef salad”, made of tripe, tongue and tendon, tossed in chili oil…

Our guide ordered in Chinese and we didn’t get much of a description of the dish, but these razor clams with garlic, rice noodles and Chinese wine from Under Bridge Spicy Crab in Hong Kong proved more memorable than the restaurant’s namesake dish we went for…

The homemade estrella pasta with chicken liver,  sherry, rosemary and sage by Chef Justin Smillie at Upland in NYC was so good, I had to go back a few days later to eat it again…

There are thousands of BBQ places all over Seoul, Korea, but the grilled intestine platter at Dae Ba Yang Gop Chang was the tastiest I had all year…

Served with a side of raw liver…

I may have grown up eating Polish food my whole life, but it wasn’t until I visited Poland for the first time this fall that I discovered “zapiekanka”, foot-long sandwiches covered with the toppings of your choice, like this one, with cheese, mushrooms, kielbasa, mayo and “special sauce”, at Zapiekarnia in Lodz

And the best pizza of the year, the Spicy Shrimp Casino, at Zuppardi’s Apizza in West Haven, CT, which is worth driving three hours from Manhattan for…

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etsyfindoftheday 3 | 2.11.16

theme thursday: i heart these finds!

black ceramic mug with gold heart by hadasshallom

whether you dig coffee, tea, or cocoa, this mug’s for you. the teeny gilded heart is a pretty accent on the shiny black glaze — wouldn’t you love to get one this february 14th?