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Top Restaurant Meals 2006


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I guess I should get out more, I have two.

We took my husband's boss & his wife to Cielo here in Memphis. Lobster beignets oh my gosh oh my gosh lobster beignets from heaven! We had this roasted romaine salad and a variety of fish & sauces and sage derby stuffed filet, great chocolate pate for dessert. Charming place in the Victorian Village. Great service. Dave, the chef, is awesome.

Then I'm trumping almost everyone. Except this might have been '05? But anyway, sorry, doesn't get any better than this. Go for TFL, whatever you want wherever you wanna go. We had a tasting menu done for us who heretofore had been tastingmenu-less by our own Chef-boy, formerly known as Chef-wanna-be, currently cooking breakfast at The Inn.

It was beyond really awesome. I mean here we are going into Chez Phillipe, yeah sure it lost a star or something, but it's a sentimental favorite, chichi landmark for Memphis, the ducks, The Peabody, the sweet Southern ambiance running amuck, and chef-boy told us to bring our own wine. BYOB to the chichiest place in town, O Come All Ye Hickfuls. So we smuggle in a red & a white in MY PURSE under the multi covered table. I knew enough at least to ditch the brown bag. :rolleyes: So we carefully mention to our fabulous server that we brought our own special 'contribution' to the meal (I mean they kick you out of the movies for bringing your own candy). Our server said with a wave and a flourish, "Well, let's get the white on ice and open the red so it can breath and let's begin with some Champagne, shall we??!!" And why not.

So we had fourteen courses specially made for us to a fair thee well, took us four hours. Our items were cooked to our personal specifications as only a son could do. He did about nine of the fourteen courses himself. He was garde manger at the time. We started with a classic steak tartar and his own carmelized onion business eaten with fried yucca stuffa and cream frache with bladeebla. Followed by tarot root sorbet for moi and durian sorbet for my husband. We had fois gras, truffles, caviar, oh this stunning beautiful green watercress soup of bladeebla. We had these deep fried crispy meltaliscious beggar's purses filled with marscapone and fresh corn on the cob, asparagas speared salmon, wasabi encrusted tuna something or other, lamb, beef, I mean we totally had more than two people could hope to consume, heavenly lobster bisque with caviar, burnt caramel filled chocolates, linzer cookies.

Oh yeah oh yeah, the crowning glory was this ah, you take butternut squash and make long strips of it like adding machine tape and he had it rolled and stuffed with shrimp & crab to absolutely die for. Butternut squash cannelloni with crab & shrimp in cognac that literally, lusciously melted in your mouth. I coulda just parked it right there & gone home. That was nothing short of a perfect dish on a perfect evening for some perfectly proud parents.

The check, that we had to ask for, was for one $1.50 cup of coffee. Which ironically was one of the few liquids we never actually drank that night. We might stash our own bootleg under the table but we spread the love far & wide when we tipped though.

Stellar evening, history was being made and the food was good too.

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John, thanks for starting this topic. I especially agree that the overall meal experience is something that not only transcends food but is also highly personal and, I would add, often tied to a moment in time that will never be repeated.

2006 was not one of the greatest eating years of my life. The birth of our son, PJ, saw to that. Nonetheless, I managed to have more than a few wonderful and in some cases unique dining experiences. Roughly in chronological order:

In January for the first time I was on a panel at the 92nd Street Y ("Restaurants from the Inside Out"). I'd love to say I thought it was no big deal -- I do it all the time! -- but growing up with the 92nd Street Y as a cultural icon, and having attended dozens of events there as both a child and an adult (indeed, our child is now in the "Mini Park Bench" group there), I must confess it was pretty humbling and a bit overwhelming to be up there with Calvin Trillin, being interviewed by Leonard Lopate, talking about my book. But far exceeding that experience was the fact that Dave Scantland ("Dave the Cook") paid a surprise visit from Atlanta in order to attend the talk (rather, he manipulated a business trip to coincide). And he made reservations for the following night at Alain Ducasse at the Essex House. And he had conspired with Ellen to make sure she arranged for my mother to babysit. And Janet Zimmerman ("JAZ") was in town as well, and joined us. I'd like to say it was the best meal I ever had at Ducasse, but it wasn't -- it was the second or third best. It was surely the most pleasant and meaningful surprise, though, and among several other excellent dishes we had one dessert that was the best souffle I've ever had in my life and, I'm pretty sure, that any of you have ever had in your lives: pear souffle with Bartlett pear compote and beurre sale/caramel ice cream, executed with such elegance that even a died-in-the-wool souffle hater would swoon. Yeah, it was a good souffle. Alain Ducasse at the Essex House just closed -- New Year's Eve was the last service -- and will be reinventing itself at the St. Regis hotel later this year. I'll be interested to see what happens.

At the end of January we had the Fourth Annual eGullet Society Asian Lunar New Year Fundraising Dinner & Year of the Dog Celebration at China 46 Restaurant in Ridgefield, NJ. What can I say about China 46 that hasn't been said a million times here already? I won't pile on, but I feel lucky to have this place in my life. And it was at that meal that I started my brief friendship -- all relationships with him were by definition brief -- with Matt Hassett ("M.X. Hassett") who died tragically at age 22 that summer.

In early August, I flew out to the eGullet Society Heartland gathering, arranged by tammylc, in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The dinner, prepared by a group of members, was great, but that doesn't count as a restaurant meal. For lunch, however, we ate at Monahan's fish counter in the market downtown, and that was a fantastic experience. Not only is the fish at Monahan's great, and not only are the french fries even better (I think they toss them in butter or something outrageous like that), but we got to eat standing up around stools and a counter piled with tasting plates that I got to share with several of my most favorite people in the whole world -- I won't name names lest, for example, Kris Yamaguchi ("torakris") feel embarrassed.

At the end of August we spent a week on Cape Cod with my sister and her family. We had many memorable meals, but none more memorable than our final meal (yes, we went there more than once) at Bobs Sub & Cone when Bob himself posed for a photo with PJ. The account can be found at the end of this eG Foodblog post (I was the designated blogger that week).

I'm surprised that only Ulterior Epicure included Sushi Yasuda on his list. Every meal I've had at Yasuda has been just wonderful. I can't think of a year, no matter how well I ate, where a meal at Yasuda wouldn't have ranked near the top of my list. 2006 was no exception. A meal there in September reminded me of many of the reasons I love Sushi Yasuda -- I presented them here.

In October, we took a road trip that touched on, among other places, Ohio and North Carolina. A few of my most memorable 2006 meals occurred on that trip.

In Massillon, Ohio (it's near Canton, which is about an hour south of Cleveland), our friends Eddie and Lori introduced us to the best breakfast restaurant in memory: the Cameo Grill. Though I couldn't shake the feeling that we might get our asses kicked by bikers and mill workers at any moment, the breakfast food was so amazing that we went back almost every day during the week we spent visiting the area.

In Cleveland, I spent time in the kitchen with the inimitable Annie Chiu of Sunluck Garden -- I was doing research for a forthcoming book on Asian restaurants. The food at Sunluck Garden is great, but this particular memorable meal was elevated by the fact that it was the staff meal, served after the lunch service, and I got to sit with a couple of cooks who spoke little English. All my life I had seen staff meals served in Chinese restaurants and wished I could be a part of them. I finally got to do it and the experience didn't disappoint.

In Charlotte, North Carolina, I got to eat at the student-run restaurant at Johnson & Wales, where I was giving a talk. This isn't a restaurant open to the public like the Culinary Institute of America restaurants. Rather, it's an internal teaching operation and the customers are the Johnson & Wales faculty. So, most of the fun of the meal was getting to dine there with Peter Reinhart (the brilliant baker and pizza maven who is a professor at J&W) and Kathi Purvis (the brilliant food editor of the Charlotte Observer) and be served by the students. The food wasn't a revelation by any means, but it was a great experience.

Finally on that October trip, on Oak Island, where PJ's godparents have a beach house on the Cape Fear coast, we had fish at the creatively and memorably named Fish House restaurant. This was a gritty, local place attached to a not particularly nice looking motel and marina. And it was just one of the most pure, peaceful, honest meals we'd had in ages. Really good fish, simply prepared -- hard to beat.

Crap, I only have one slot left, so I'll fall back on an old magazine editor's trick: there's a six-way tie for tenth place! That would be between Ellen's birthday dinner at the Modern, the amazing Chowder Dinner at Beacon, Danny Meyer's book party at Hudson Yards featuring food from all the Union Square Hospitality Group restaurants (even "mini Shack burgers"), a particularly good meal at Sally's Apizza in New Haven CT, a preview tasting of Casa Mono's entry in an international cooking and wine competition, and a media lunch in New York prepared by chef Scott Boswell of Stella restaurant in New Orleans.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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A favorite topic ... not in any particular order:


RK Atelier (Greenwich, CT)

Turtle Inn (Placencia, Belize)

Blue Hill at Stone Barns

Four Seasons (lunch at the bar)

Coco Rumba (Mt. Kisco, NY)


Charlie Trotter's (Mostly because of how much fun we had)

l"Atelier de Joel Robuchon

A Voce

Tie between a diner near the marina in Placencia, and

A beach barbecue at Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic.

Edited to add A Voce, and correct spelling, but can't bring myself to yank the "tied" meals ..they really were terrific.

Edited by FabulousFoodBabe (log)
"Oh, tuna. Tuna, tuna, tuna." -Andy Bernard, The Office
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I'm surprised that only Ulterior Epicure included Sushi Yasuda on his list. Every meal I've had at Yasuda has been just wonderful. I can't think of a year, no matter how well I ate, where a meal at Yasuda wouldn't have ranked near the top of my list. 2006 was no exception. A meal there in September reminded me of many of the reasons I love Sushi Yasuda -- I presented them here.

Yasuda was in consideration for my top ten, but didn't crack it this year despite an excellent meal this past July.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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The best meals I had in 2006 were at Al Di La, Chinatown Brasserie, Franny's, Hearth, Spicy & Tasty, Skyway, Congee Village, Katz's, and Taksim - all in New York (Manhattan, Queens, and Brooklyn).

Michael aka "Pan"


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The best meals I had in 2006 were at Al Di La, Chinatown Brasserie, Franny's, Hearth, Spicy & Tasty, Skyway, Congee Village, Katz's, and Taksim - all in New York (Manhattan, Queens, and Brooklyn).


1. What kind of cuisine: Al Di La? What made the meal so spectacular?

2. Congee Village? Wow, sounds great.


“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)


My flickr account


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u.e., I know it's hard to search for restaurant names like Al Di La. Here's the thread and here's my post on my great meal there, with wine pairings. I believe that the restaurant features dishes from the Veneto. Perhaps some of our Brooklynite members will comment further.

I just realized, the particular great meal at Congee Village that I had in mind was actually on November 20, 2005, so I guess it doesn't belong in this thread. I still think it's a great restaurant, though.

Michael aka "Pan"


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Whew, glad to see this thread was started. Enjoyed reading everyone's so far!

Top 10 Meals 2006

1. The General’s Daughter--Sonoma, CA: Just a great total experience. Professional, courteous service, wonderful generosity from Chef Dishman (I contacted him through eG and made reservations), and not a single off dish or flavor of the night. This place should be huge.

2. Gravitas—Houston, TX: The roasted duck entrée with crackling skin and meltingly tender meat is a craving I can’t shake. A whole mouthful of fall. Too, the fries served with their mussels are some of the best I’ve had in a long time.

3. Dolce Vita—Houston, TX: A casual antipasto and pizza place, an offshoot of the more upscale Da Marco. Loads of fun to be had here.

4. Lanny’s Alta Cocina Mexicana—Ft. Worth, TX: My one regret of the meal is that I didn’t do the chef’s tasting menu, which I hope to remedy some day soon. Braised pork belly with chipotle spaetzle was another top dish of the year.

5. Topolobampo—Chicago, IL: A brief and regret-plagued trip to Chicago (Alinea was out of our price range; Schwa was closed) still turned up one gem: Rick Bayless’s upscale Mexican sister to Frontera. That guacamole!

6. laidback manor—Houston, TX: Now regrettably closed, Houston’s first and only stab at the molecular gastronomy movement deserved much better. Fun, unique and memorable evening. Hopefully chef Rucker will stick around the Houston dining scene.

7. Tasting Room at Lola—Dallas, TX: A few sputters, particularly in service, held it off from being higher. But when it hit, this was some outstanding stuff. Yet another single dish highlight: a lone, raw oyster, its briny liquors mixed with only the faintest hint of citrus.

8. Rouge—Dallas, TX: Another great place that deserves better business in Dallas. Ate there twice this year and both times it was depressingly empty. But the food (tapas with a Basque influence) is solid and service is helpful.

9. Fino—Austin, TX: Another tapas place. Several great meals in Austin on our trip over Memorial Day weekend and this was the highlight.

10. Jasmine—Plano, TX: I might be overlooking a more deserving place, but this Thai restaurant right down the street from us consistently knocks it out of the park. It’s overtaken our Greek restaurant as the place we eat at most often; I’ve even happily eaten there twice in one week. Never had a bad or even disappointing dish there. The food positively sings.

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Thanks for sharing your list, Kevin.

The General's Daughter is a place I very much want to try. Unfortunately my last few trips to California I was unable to work it out.

That is too bad about laidback manor. I would have liked to have tried that as well. Unfortunately modern creative cuisine can be a tough sell to a conservative dining public.

Topolobampo is wonderful. I try to make room for it whenever I am in Chicago. Unfortunately, there are now a number of restaurants that I try to make room for there. Given that I am rarely therre for a long time I may have to put them on a rotation. :laugh:

Lanny's Alta Cocina Mexicana sounds particularly intriguing to me as the alta cocina concept of Mexican hasn't reached anywhere near it's saturation point. There remains a lot of room for successful creativity there.

I can't help but notice the number of tapas places on your list. I think we are likely to see more and more of them on these kinds of lists.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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I can't believe I forgot to mention Chanto in the West Village among my top 10 restaurant meals of 2006. I think it must be because Sethro is no longer Pastry Chef there. But my meal there was not only among my top 10 meals of 2006 but probably among my top three.

Michael aka "Pan"


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I think my best meal of the year happened by accident and therefore it was that much more appreciated. We were passing thru Tampa and staying at grand hyatt tampa bay. being very lazy and tired on xmas eve we opted for Armani - hyatt rest. on 14 fl. To our chargreen it was booked solid and we opted to eat in the lounge.

It's nothern italian cuisine and we ordered veal scallopini with wild mushrooms and brandy sauce and duck breast with raspberry balsamic reduction. saucing was totally superb!

It was really a surprise, since later we went to miami and did sambal (miami favourite), michy - runner up and azul (came only 3rd!).

But the meal at Armani topped them all!

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In chronological order, my top 10 list is definitely regional (Los Angeles-Las Vegas area):

Providence (Apr. 2006)

Robuchon at the Mansion (Apr. 2006)

Noé at the Omni Hotel (Jul. 2006)

Spago (Aug. 2006)

Angelini Osteria (Aug. 2006)

Hatfield's (Aug. 2006)

Mimosa (Sep. 2006)

Mix at Mandalay Bay (Oct. 2006)

Guy Savoy at Caesar's Palace (Oct. 2006)

L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon (Oct. 2006)

Russell J. Wong aka "rjwong"

Food and I, we go way back ...

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Well I'm sure there were reasons besides the food, but here are some of my tops

Le Cinq-Paris-pure bliss and a tour of the kitchen

Tallievent-Paris-the best lunch in my 37 years

ps I got engaged in Paris

Nicky's Vietnamese-NYC-great price and so nice

Le Bernadin-I like fish

Bongo(bar?) Best Lobster Roll in NYC

The Great NY Noodle Town-suckling pig please

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Lanny's Alta Cocina Mexicana sounds particularly intriguing to me as the alta cocina concept of Mexican hasn't reached anywhere near it's saturation point. There remains a lot of room for successful creativity there.

I've heard lots of good things about it, too. One of these days, I need to head over to Ft. Worth to check it out. It's certainly they type of place that can get me to make the drive.

Jeff Meeker, aka "jsmeeker"

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Not the greatest restaurant year. Most of the meals were more enjoyable at home. But here goes:

1. WD-50, NYC & Blue Hill @ Stone Barns, Tarrytown (tied)

2. Berns, Tampa, FL

3. Sideberns, Tampa, FL


5. Annisa, NYC

6. Craft, NYC

7. Saul, Brooklyn

8. Sapori d' Ischia, Queens

9. Parkside, Queens

10. Landmarc, NYC

Honorable Mention - Henry's End; Brooklyn; Chinatown Brassierie (dim sum only), NYC; Room 4 Dessert, NYC; Marlowe's, Brooklyn

Most Disappointing:

1. The Modern, NYC; DiFara, Brooklyn (tied)

2. Bar Americain, NYC

3. Mr. Chow (downtown), NYC

4. Peter Luger, Brooklyn

5. Le Barnardin, NYC

Edited by rich (log)

Rich Schulhoff

Opinions are like friends, everyone has some but what matters is how you respect them!

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Manresa – Los Gatos, CA (8/29/06): 30 courses of pure bliss. Best meal of my life.

THE REST (chronological order only)

Jean Georges – NYC (2/3/06): Is there a better lunch deal in NYC? In a word, no.

Bouley – NYC (3/26/06): Extended off-the-menu chef’s tasting.

Per Se – NYC (5/2/06): Best foie gras I’ve ever had. My thoughts about the meal are here.

Masa – NYC (9/9/07): Definitely an experience. My thoughts about the meal are here.

L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon – NYC (10/22/06): 19-course tasting. Wonderful.

Per Se – NYC (11/7/06): Colgin Cellars Wine dinner. Oh, the kabocha squash agnolotti…

L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon – NYC (11/19/06): The change to the new fall menu was beautiful.

Daniel – NYC (12/16/06): Tandem chef’s tasting menu, ridiculous cheese cart & great company.

Alain Ducasse at the Essex House – NYC (12/20/06): Foie-gras-and-tapioca ravioli and the most perfect soufflé I’ve ever had.


NYC: enjoying the pork & pickled watermelon salad, and the gloriously messy chili crab at Fatty Crab with one of my best friends, and not giving a crap what we looked like while eating it; a warm bowl of trippa alla toscana at Al Di La; a perfect chunk of 6-year-aged parmigiano-reggiano at Del Posto; pumpkin-filled casoncelli, and green apple risotto with foie gras at Alto; pork buns and three terrine bahn mi at Momofuku Ssäm Bar; caviar-pasta, and ‘the egg’ at Le Bernadin; hamburger at Peter Luger; bucatini with pistachio pesto, fagiolini, toasted breadcrumbs, and pecorino at Tempo; shirayaki, anago, and uni at Sushi Yasuda; the polenta with mushroom fricassee at L’Impero; all the other visits to L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon that have become too numerous to count, making it my favorite restaurant in the city right now

ELSEWHERE: breakfast at Tartine Bakery in San Francisco; the rustic simplicity of Chez Panisse in Berkeley; salt-crusted porterhouse for 2 at Table 8 in LA; fish taco from Chapala Restaurant in Morro Bay, CA; wood-fired naan w/ roasted garlic butter at Bin 555 in San Antonio; hamburger at Big’z Burger Joint in San Antonio; prime rib from Kreuz Market in Lockhart, TX

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