Another 365 days have passed, and it’s time for the annual roundup of our top 25 best dishes of 2019. One major change from last year is that Kaitlin is now part of the selection process since we’ve joined forces and traveled the world as a party of two throughout the year. However, it was surprisingly easy to agree on this top list, especially when you consider that we’ve narrowed it down from a shortlist of more than 150 dishes.
If you follow us on Instagram (@andershusa and @carnivorr), you may have seen us travel to a total of thirteen countries together in the last twelve months. One of the cities where we spent the most time was Kaitlin’s hometown, Los Angeles. Spoiler alert: you’ll see some entries from the City of Angels below, but check out our map of L.A. if you want an in-depth guide to the city’s best restaurants! Some highlights from the year included our trip to Japan during cherry blossom season (a first for both of us!), and a few weeks in Mexico, where we explored the food scene in both Mexico City and Oaxaca. We’re looking forward to sharing our guides from these cities soon! Did you know that we also make videos? Our YouTube channel hit the 25.000 subscribers milestone recently, so make sure to hit that subscribe button if you haven’t already. There will be lots of exciting food and travel videos coming out soon.
The Food Trends of 2019
As we traveled, we noticed some trends in the dining scene, most notably that 2019 was the year of the Parker House roll. We had variations of these buttery, brioche-like rolls everywhere from Oslo to L.A., most memorably at Maaemo in Oslo, Frantzén in Stockholm, Re-naa in Stavanger, Addison in San Diego, and Angler in Los Angeles. Another food trend we saw worldwide was the exceptional popularity of the Basque cheesecake – La Viña’s signature dish has exploded in popularity, with restaurants Brat in London, Dialogue in L.A., and Hart Bageri in Copenhagen all serving great variations. Sustainability was more than a buzzword in 2019, it was the theme of the year as restaurants shifted their focus with the planet in mind. Some chefs started using food that would normally go to waste as part of their menu, others eliminated single-use plastic from their kitchens – both great steps in the right direction, and an inspiration to the global restaurant industry.
What will 2020 bring? Japanese convenience store-style sandwiches are on the rise, and the natural wine scene is continuing to boom in America. While Noma may not have invented moldy food, they certainly took it to a new level this year with a symphony of dishes where mold was the key ingredient. Will we see other chefs follow suit? We also noticed an interesting technique using oxidation of ingredients to alter the flavor that might inspire others. Caviar is back in black, and more popular than ever – a healthy dollop of fish eggs make every dish better, right? #putafisheggonit
Our Top 25 Best Dishes of 2019
This is one of the very few lists we choose to publish in ranked order, but please don’t put too much thought into that. No. 22 and no. 12 are not too far apart, really. We follow the same rules as laid out last year. The dishes have to be 1) from a restaurant that is currently still open, 2) from the regular menu, and not from a special event, and 3) extraordinarily memorable. Without further ado, these are the very best bites from the top restaurants we visited in the last 52 weeks. Enjoy!
No. 25 – Ille Brød in Oslo, Norway
Is bread even a dish? It’s certainly something that takes years of practice to perfect, and endless knowledge and understanding to master. We are total breadheads and are constantly on the lookout for great sourdough bread. Across multiple countries and continents we’ve tried countless loaves, and the best we’ve ever tasted is from Ille Brød in Oslo. Do yourself a favor next time you are in Norway’s capital and taste it.
No. 24 – Caffe Sicilia in Noto, Italy
Caffe Sicilia (Corrado Assenza’s pastry paradise seen on Chef’s Table on Netflix) is most famous for its gelato and granita, but it was the humble cannolo that stole our hearts. The lightweight and perfectly crispy fried dough shell tastes like a churro, and is filled to order with the dreamiest ricotta we’ve ever tasted – there’s none of that sugary sweet, frosting-like filling here. Corrado’s desserts are what Italian food is all about: showcasing the pure flavors of the ingredients in a seemingly simple, effortless way. After trying most of the gelato and granita flavors and sampling lots of the cakes, we still bought a second cannolo for the road.
No. 23 – Fonda Margarita in CDMX, Mexico
“How did you find out about this place?” asked locals sitting across from us at a communal table in a tiny hole-in-the-wall restaurant. Lucky for us, a few chef friends had given us a heads up about this hidden gem and it quickly became our favorite restaurant in Mexico City. The signature dish here is the refritos con huevos a.k.a. beans with eggs (and, the locals informed us, an added secret ingredient of lard). This egg/bean omelette can be an entree on its own or shared as a side if you also want to indulge in their salsa verde chilaquiles.
No. 22 – Salt’s Cure in Los Angeles, USA
The best pancakes we’ve ever had are Salt’s Cure’s signature oatmeal griddle cakes. They’re a completely unique style of pancake, with a batter made of oatmeal, cooked thin and crispy around the edges. There’s no syrup served here, but you won’t miss it, thanks to the generous amount of cinnamon molasses butter plopped on top. The pancakes are so good that they’re on the menu all day long, for lunch and dinner, too.
No. 21 – Fonda Florecita in Oaxaca, Mexico
Inside Mercado La Merced, we found everything we had dreamt about when we were planning our trip to Oaxaca. Enmoladas with mole black as the night and a distinct chocolate and nut flavor. With the sweet sauce and tortillas as soft as pancakes, the dish was almost like a dessert, yet savory and balanced. This was easily the best mole dish we have tried, and our favorite meal in Oaxaca!
No. 20 – Bar Agrikultur in Stockholm, Sweden
Picture this: an almond cake made with brown butter, super moist and nutty, with salted caramel sauce and a dollop of whipped cream. Proper chef’s food that was so delicious that it made us want to settle down in the area and have this wine bar and eatery as our neighborhood hangout. Bar Agrikultur is the casual sister restaurant of the one Michelin-starred Agrikultur.
No. 19 – Juno the Bakery in Copenhagen, Denmark
Our favorite pastry in the world is not found in Paris, the viennoiserie capital of the world, but in Copenhagen. Juno has perfected the art of pastry – their croissants are buttery, laminated things of beauty. But perhaps their most impressive treat is the kardemummabulla – a traditional Swedish pastry that is typically dense and heavy, but here is transformed into a light and airy miracle of a cardamom bun. It’s fluffy and buttery and oozing with cardamom and sugar, but not in a syrupy sweet way. The best part? Juno bakes their buns all day long, so they never sell out, and they’re pretty much guaranteed to be warm and fresh from the oven. We’d be lying if we said Juno wasn’t a huge factor in our decision to move to Copenhagen.
No. 18 – Mama’s Too in New York City, USA
Upper West Side newcomer Mama’s Too stole our hearts this year with their incredible square pizza. The toppings change seasonally, but our favorite variation was the elote pizza: a doughy, crispy, focaccia-like square with a caramelized crust, topped with cheese, Mexican crema, grilled corn, spices, and more grated cheese. Sweet and salty flavors work in harmony with a creamy and crunchy texture balance. You don’t wanna miss this spot – it’s our favorite pizza in NYC!
No. 17 – Taqueria Orinoco in CDMX, Mexico
Many of the dishes on this list are not easily accessible because they are part of tasting menus in high-end restaurants. But that is not the case with this selection. You might have to line up for half an hour at Taqueria Orinoco, but their food is available from early morning until late at night. When we visited Mexico City for the first time this year, we went here four times in a week! The reason was their northern-style Norteña taco: a burrito-sized flour tortilla, filled with fatty pork meat, crispy chicharrones, melted cheese, smoky peppers, and pickled red onions. Best of all, it only costs $5 USD!
No. 16 – Locavore in Bali, Indonesia
At Restaurant Locavore, 95% of the ingredients are Indonesian. Not only does this reduce the restaurant’s carbon footprint, but it encourages visitors to dive right in and try creative dishes made with Balinese ingredients. Our favorite dish was “Everything Pumpkin” – a whole pumpkin confit in cacao nib oil, candlenut cream, and pickled pumpkin. A beautiful presentation of local ingredients packed with flavor.
No. 15 – Kato in Los Angeles, USA
Tucked in the corner of a Sawtelle strip mall, practically hidden from view, is Kato, where 28-year-old self-taught chef Jon Yao is showcasing the Taiwanese flavors of his childhood. Chef Jon jokingly nicknamed our favorite dish “breakfast soup” – a corn soup topped with onion cream, Kaluga caviar, and an egg yolk. This creamy dish is inspired by a family recipe that he used to eat for breakfast – although, the caviar is a modern addition.
No. 14 – Rest in Oslo, Norway
After Maaemo and Re-naa, Rest is our favorite restaurant in Norway right now. Rest means “leftovers” in Norwegian, and that’s exactly what the chefs are using here to create their tasting menu. Sustainability and zero waste are the themes of the restaurant, so the chefs use ingredients that other restaurants would throw out for being ugly, expired, or difficult to use. Among a series of wonderful dishes, the one that stood out to us was a dessert by pastry chef Vibeke Thomassen: rowan berry leaves ice cream, almond butter, sour cream, pine shoot caramel, meringue chocolate chip, overripe apples, and raspberry granita. While that might sound like a lot of elements, they combined seamlessly.
No. 13 – 108 in Copenhagen, Denmark
Our best meal to date at 108 in Copenhagen started with this brilliant serving of potatoes, egg yolk, hazelnut oil, and Royal Belgian caviar. It was a wonderful balance of flavors and textures with soft potatoes in a creamy egg yolk sauce, and a distinct flavor of hazelnut oil. The salt level was adjusted by the caviar. This spectacular tasting menu came full circle with a dessert composed of the same ingredients. Have you ever tried caviar on top of ice cream?
No. 12 – Bavel in Los Angeles, USA
When people ask us where to eat in L.A. right now, our first answer is always Bavel. Dynamic duo Ori Menashe and Genevieve Gergis, the husband and wife behind the Italian hotspot Bestia, opened a second restaurant, this time paying homage to their Middle Eastern roots. While the entire menu is delicious, the plate that absolutely needs to be on your table is the grilled prawns, marinated in harissa and served with tzatziki, cured zucchini, and radish. The flavors pop in your mouth, salt and spice balanced by sweetness and creaminess. Every bite leaves you wanting more – craveworthy comfort food with a tasty kick.
No. 11 – Addison in San Diego, USA
We often find that our favorite bites balance savory and sweet flavors, as well as creaminess and acidity. If there are interesting textures on top of that, it’s likely to be picked as one of our top dishes. All of this is true for the amazing dish we had at Addison: a one Michelin-starred restaurant in Del Mar outside San Diego. Alaskan King crab was accompanied by vanilla bean, passionfruit, and koshikari rice, with a coconut curry rice cracker on the side. While not overly sweet, this dish could almost have passed as a dessert. Wow!
No. 10 – Lido 84 in Gardone Riviera, Italy
At Lido 84, brothers Riccardo and Giancarlo Camanini use modern techniques while still showing off their Italian heritage. Our favorite dish was the spaghettone topped with Piedmontese butter, and dried yeast that has been cooked inside the oven (like a meringue), giving it a crunch that contrasts nicely with the soft noodles. This creative pasta topping might sound unusual at first, but the flavor profile meshes perfectly with the buttery pasta. This is modern Italian food: all the comfort and deliciousness of the past, but with an innovative touch.
No. 9 – Noma in Copenhagen, Denmark
One among many highlights from the 2019 vegetable season at Noma was the moldy egg yolk pie with truffle, seaweed, and moldy barley grains. It was an explosion of umami balanced by sweetness and bitter flavors. Besides being the best bite of the meal, this unique dish represents the innovation that takes place at Noma every year.
No. 8 – été in Tokyo, Japan
Chef Natsuko Shoji probably makes the best cake in the world and definitely the prettiest. Her exclusive pastries are inspired by fashion, but they’re truly as tasty as they are beautiful. This seasonal fruit tart from été was made with Miyazaki mango, Ibaraki white strawberry, Hokkaido raspberry, whipped cream, and a buttery cookie crumble. We ate the whole thing within hours, and instantly wished we had another one. One of the best desserts we’ve ever had!
No. 7 – Alchemist in Copenhagen, Denmark
Was this the world’s most anticipated restaurant opening of 2019? When something is as hyped as the second rendition of Alchemist, the potential for disappointment is obviously high. However, we found that Rasmus Munk’s food was as much about flavor as it was about technique and presentation. “We wanted to create the perfect omelette,” said Munk when he served us an oval-shaped and velvety soft organic egg fluff made with comté, and topped with lardo and shavings of truffle. This thing was so delicate, you almost couldn’t lift it up without breaking it, and so tasty that you immediately wanted to order another one – if it wasn’t for the 49 upcoming servings.
No. 6 – Sumibi Yakiniku Nakahara in Tokyo, Japan
We were only in Tokyo for ten days, yet we managed to make two visits to Kentaro Henry Nakahara’s yakiniku joint, which was by far our favorite meal in Japan. The star of the grilled meat show and the grand finale of the wagyu-only tasting menu is the katsu sando, a dish invented by Nakahara that has since been imitated all over the world. Nakahara starts with the very best beef in Japan, a prized, top-scoring A5 wagyu tenderloin, which he covers with house-made panko and briefly fries. Nakahara sandwiches this juicy cutlet between two slices of Maison Kayser white bread, which are slathered with house-made tomato puree and butter. At $80, this is the most expensive sandwich we’ve ever eaten – and worth every penny.
No. 5 – Sonoratown in Los Angeles, USA
Sonoratown’s flour tortillas are the stuff of legends. They’re made with melted lard, which gives them a buttery, slightly porky flavor, and they’re so thin that they’re almost translucent in color. This is thanks to the use of Sonoran flour, an heirloom wheat from northern Mexico that is extremely pliable and allows the tortilla to be rolled very thin. Our favorite way to consume these life-changing tortillas is by ordering a “chivichanga” – a small, mesquite-grilled burrito filled with beef, roasted chile peppers, and blistered tomatoes. Sonoratown is our new favorite taco joint in all of Los Angeles, and possibly the world.
No. 4 – Angler in Los Angeles, USA
This summer, former Saison Chef Josh Skenes opened Angler, one of the best new restaurants in L.A. The signature banana pancakes with caviar are not to be missed – this dish walks the sweet and savory tightrope so well you wonder if you should have it as a starter or dessert. Why not both? (Well, if they weren’t $70 per pancake, we probably would have!)
No. 3 – Re-naa in Stavanger, Norway
Re-naa started 2019 by moving to the newly refurbished functionalist-style hotel Eilert Smith. It turns out, this change also marked the beginning of a new era for Sven Erik Re-naa, who has taken his cooking to a new level. One of the absolute highlights of the meal was a piece of perfectly cooked monkfish with a creamy vin jaune sauce and aromatic white truffle; however, the Norwegian langoustine with pumpkin and sea buckthorn could just as easily have been our pick.
No. 2 – Somni in Los Angeles, USA
Our meal at Somni, the new 10-seat chef’s counter restaurant from chefs Aitor Zabala and José Andrés, is further proof that L.A.’s restaurant scene is up to par with European fine dining standards. Chef Aitor has taken his Spanish heritage and experience working at El Bulli and combined it with the flavors of California to create an absolute masterpiece. The shiso tartare was one of our favorite bites of the evening and a highlight in both presentation, texture, and flavor – a tempura fried shiso leaf topped with dry-aged strip loin tartare and covered in borage flowers. Somni is the best restaurant in L.A. right now.
No. 1 – Frantzén in Stockholm, Sweden
Norwegian langoustine with Japanese koshikari rice, which had been carefully deep-fried for a few seconds to make it crispy, was served with a delectable butter and ginger emulsion. This dish was out-of-this-world tasty and a powerful demonstration of what the world’s greatest chefs can do with the finest ingredients available. It was the best thing we ate in 2019, but it was just one of many amazing bites at Frantzén. Even though this is a list of our 25 best dishes of 2019, it is also an indication of the best meals we’ve had this year. The fact that Frantzén tops the list for the second year in a row should be a testament to just how good we think this place is. In our humble opinion, it is the best restaurant in the world right now. Read the full review from our flawless meal at Frantzén here.
What were your favorite dishes in 2019? Please share in a comment below.
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Anders Husa & Kaitlin Orr