Another year has passed, and it’s once again time to reflect on all the journeys and meals of the past 365 days. And what a year of travel it was! In 2023, we explored 30 cities in fourteen different countries. As has become our winter tradition, we began the year in sunnier surroundings, spending time in Kaitlin’s hometown of Los Angeles, and revisiting a favorite destination of ours, Mexico City. Then, we returned to Asia for the first time since the pandemic, where we ventured deeper into Japan, traveling by bullet train from Tokyo to Kyoto and Osaka. From there, our travels continued to Finland where we had some of the absolute best meals of the year. (We loved Helsinki so much we have already planned a return visit in 2024!) In the summer, we embarked on an epic road trip around Slovenia, which ended up being one of our favorite trips ever. What a gorgeous and delicious country! As always, we spent lots of time in Norway and Sweden, and we traveled a bit around Europe, to Spain, France, Austria, Estonia, Latvia, and Poland. When we weren’t on the road, we spent our time in our home base of Copenhagen, testing all the new restaurants and revisiting old favorites. Next year will hold many milestones in our life, including Kaitlin’s 30th birthday, Anders’ 40th, and our wedding! Of course, we will celebrate these occasions the only way we know how – with good food.
It’s our yearly tradition to highlight the best of the best, the standout bites that defined this year of dining for us. We spent the last week reflecting on everything we ate this year, looking back over our pictures and reminiscing on our favorite meals and dishes. We ended up with a short list of almost 100 top dishes, which we argued and debated over, and narrowed down until we had our final list. That’s right, it’s time for our annual roundup of our top 25 best dishes of the year!
The Food Trends of 2023
What were the food trends of 2023? Korean food is in the spotlight! From Los Angeles to New York and all the way to Copenhagen, Korean cuisine is taking over the international culinary scene. (And we’re loving it!) South Korea is at the very top of our travel wish list – maybe we will finally make the trip in 2024! We saw tinned fish and other canned preserves take over the snacky sections of menus (a section that formerly only housed nuts and chips), and we saw caviar everywhere! No longer are those glistening pearls confined to fine dining restaurants – you can get your salty fix just about anywhere these days. We ate quite a few fish collars this year, most memorably at Angler in L.A. (RIP) and at Claud in NYC. We saw variations of stuffed chicken wings all over the world, from Em in Mexico City to Levi in Copenhagen. And, tougher to swallow, we saw “optional” 4% surcharges on pretty much every bill in the U.S. (Ugh! The tip culture and hidden fees in the States are out of control at the moment!) While we understand there are high costs to run a restaurant, we’d prefer for these extra fees to be baked in to the prices already. (Who’s gonna be the person that asks for that fee to be removed, anyway?)
What will 2024 bring? Non-alcoholic drink alternatives continue to rise in popularity, and we expect that trend to continue to strengthen. Studies are showing that the newer generations are consuming less alcohol, and even alcohol-free bars are opening now. (Copenhagen producer Muri remains our favorite in this beverage category!) Local, seasonal food remains center stage in top restaurants, and, thankfully, we don’t think that’s about to change anytime soon. Meatless alternatives continue to flourish – we’ve seen many a mushroom step into the protein power player role this year (and sometimes we’ve even preferred them to their meaty counterparts!). Happily, natural wine is showing its staying power, continuing to infiltrate its way onto many shelves and wine lists around the world. We’re thrilled! Maybe we’ll see AI and chatGPT playing a bigger role in the restaurant industry, too.
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Join The Hungries!
The most exciting thing to come out of the pandemic for us was the launch of The Hungries, our food community. Three years later, we have 500 members spread out around the world, and they give us the absolute best recommendations when traveling. Join the club if you’re looking to make food friends (both online and offline), if you love sharing your restaurant experiences, and if you want to hear the restaurant rumors and unfiltered reviews we don’t publish anywhere else. The Hungries get first access to all our content, and VIP members get special perks at partnering restaurants and hotels around the world. We currently have Community Leaders hosting frequent events in Copenhagen, Oslo, Malmö, and Slovenia, and we’re hoping to add more around the world later this year. Sign up before January to get two months free on an annual membership!
Our Top 25 Dishes of 2023
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. 25 and no. 11 are not too far apart! We will follow the same rules as always: the dishes have to be 1) from a restaurant that is currently still open, 2) from the regular menu, and 3) extraordinarily memorable. For the sake of diversity, we also don’t allow repeat dishes from previous years, or multiple dishes from one chef. Without further ado, these are the very best bites from the top restaurants we visited in the last 52 weeks. Enjoy!
No. 25 – Tea and Sake Tasuki Shinpukan in Kyoto, Japan
We’re always on the hunt for kakigori (shaved ice) when in Japan, and this year it’s safe to say that we’ve officially peaked! We summitted a snow-capped mountain of ice (not dissimilar in appearance to Mt. Fuji), at Tea and Sake Tasuki Shinpukan, a sleek dessert shop at the Ace Hotel in Kyoto. The flavor we can’t stop thinking about is the Strawberry Daifuku, their interpretation of the famous Japanese mochi dessert. The kakigori is carefully constructed with freshly shaved snow layered between sweet creams, house-made fruit syrups, chewy mochi pieces, and crunchy cookie crumbs. (There are lots of textures hiding within that pristine exterior!) As we dug into this dessert, our spoons caused avalanches of toppings to cascade down the side with each scoop. The fluffy ice dissolved on our tongues like snowflakes, leaving us craving more with each bite. Without a doubt, this is the best kakigori we’ve ever had.
No. 24 – Majordomo in Los Angeles, USA
Despite our love for Momofuku and David Chang’s culinary talents, we had yet to visit Majordomo, his L.A. restaurant, until this year. Well, our Majordomo experience was a major success, and our favorite bite of the whole night was the bing, which ended up being one of our favorite dishes of the year. This Chinese flatbread is somewhere in between a naan, a pita, and a buttermilk pancake – a yeasty, fluffy wonder, served warm with various spreads of sweet and salty varieties. (You’ll need at least one bing per person – you won’t want to share!) We slathered our bings with various toppings, and our favorite dip was the whipped ricotta with chili crunch – creamy, with just a touch of heat. We also loved the butter, honey, and black truffle combo, for a sweet and savory moment.
No. 23 – Boulevard in Helsinki, Finland
One of our favorite meals in Helsinki was at Boulevard, a fish-focused French bistro run by Sylvester Soisalo, who was previously the chef de cuisine at the two-Michelin-starred restaurant Palace. Here the dishes are just as tasty as ones you’d find in a fine dining restaurant, but served in a more casual, laidback setting. While the puff pastry-wrapped turbot en croute delivered a show-stopping performance, it was to the uber fresh lobster cocktail that we gave a standing ovation. With citrus fruits, avocado, and vanilla, this is the best version of this dish we’ve ever had.
No. 22 – Mei Lai Wah in New York City, New York
Mei Lai Wah, a Chinatown street food stall, is renowned for its pork buns. Their signature dish is the pineapple bun with roast pork, a fusion of two beloved Cantonese bakery items: the pork bun and the pineapple bun. Despite the somewhat misleading name, there’s no pineapple in the bun. Its moniker comes from the bun’s yellow color and pattern, which resembles the tropical fruit. The fluffy milk bun is coated with a sugary, crispy exterior, reminiscent of Mexican pan dulce. As you take a bite, the sugary crust shatters and crumbles, creating a delightful contrast with the sumptuous filling of fatty, roasted pork bits in a sweet sauce.
No. 21 – Edith’s Sandwich Counter in New York City, New York
Edith’s is a must-try breakfast sandwich hotspot in New York, taking Jewish deli classics and modernizing them. (Some of their sandwiches have latkes stuffed inside them!) Our favorite item here is the Sephardi Breakfast Wrap, which combines chicken sausage, cheesy scrambled eggs, pickled Fresno peppers, herbs, and harissa mayo, all wrapped in a fluffy malawach (flatbread). For us, this is the ultimate breakfast sandwich, with a buttery, layered bread filled to the brim with goodies. Be sure to wash it down with their oat milk and tahini coffee slushie!
No. 20 – Máximo in Mexico City, Mexico
While Mexico is more known for tacos than burgers, you’d be remiss to leave Mexico City without trying Máximo’s cheeseburger. This has got to be the best burger in Mexico. Perfectly cooked wagyu beef is served on the fluffiest brioche bun, with lots of caramelized onions, two types of cheese, and a rich and slightly spicy sauce that wraps it all together. This beefy beauty is served with buttery, creamy potatoes. We love chef Eduardo García’s cooking so much that we visited Máximo three times in one trip.
No. 19 – Quique Dacosta in Dénia, Spain
The World’s 50 Best Restaurants ceremony brought us to Valencia, Spain this year, so we had to venture slightly outside to Dénia to visit Quique Dacosta. The highlight of this three-Michelin-starred meal was one of the first snacks – though this sweet and savory bite could have easily been part of the dessert lineup. It was a twist on the local almond turrón candy, but Quique’s version transformed it into an almond ice cream sandwich, with the luxurious addition of candied Andilla black truffles. This frozen treat was served with a warm truffle and almond foam. We loved how this dish played with contrasts, both visually with its black and white presentation and in terms of the hot and cold temperatures. Truly a mind-blowing creation!
No. 18 – The Taco Stand in San Diego, California
The Taco Stand is a chain with ten locations across the States – but don’t let that fact mislead you into thinking that you won’t enjoy one of the best tacos of your life here. This chain delivers top-notch quality Mexican food, and it’s where we savored one of our best tacos this year. Our go-to item here is the al pastor taco, featuring fresh, juicy pork meat sliced from the trompo. We prefer our tacos “gringa” style, served on a flour tortilla with melted cheese. Toppings include fresh pineapple, diced onions, chopped cilantro, and a cilantro crema that was so fantastic that we wanted to drizzle it on everything.
No. 17 – Betong in Oslo, Norway
Betong just might serve Oslo’s best value-for-money tasting menu. Chef Jonathan Hagen’s aim is to make fine dining accessible to all. From teens in sweatpants to men in suits, Hagen wants everyone to break bread together in a relaxed and fun atmosphere. The set menu changes frequently, with punchy flavors and a lot of spice. Don’t leave without adding on the signature “world-famous cold curry” – this aromatic, Thai-inspired dish was a standout of the meal. It’s made with coconut milk, coconut cream, lime leaves, lemongrass, sugar, lime, fish sauce, cucumber balls, cabbage, and crispy onions. A true taste of Thailand!
No. 16 – Hiša Franko in Kobarid, Slovenia
Hiša Franko, a gem in Slovenia’s culinary scene, celebrated its 50th anniversary with a bang. Chef Ana Roš crafted a special “50 Shades of Life” menu, a tribute to the restaurant’s legacy and local flavors. The highlight dish? A delightful twist on traditional polenta: a corn beignet stuffed with fermented cottage cheese, smoked trout roe, and chives, served warm and bursting with creamy, salty goodness. Having dreamed of dining here since 2016, the experience exceeded my expectations. Hiša Franko isn’t just a restaurant; it’s a cornerstone of Slovenia’s gastronomy, attracting global food enthusiasts and supporting local producers. Fifty years on, it remains a must-visit culinary destination.
No. 15 – Kadeau in Copenhagen, Denmark
Kadeau, one of our favorite Copenhagen restaurants, always seems to find its way onto our Best Dishes list – and this year is no exception. During an intimate meal in the private dining room with The Hungries, we savored many stellar dishes. But the showstopper was a serving of burnt leeks, kale, and Oscietra caviar in a buttermilk sauce. The sauce was such a hit, we convinced them to leave the pot so we could relish every last drop.
No. 14 – Été in Tokyo, Japan
Été used to be invitation-only, but chef Natsuko Shoji recently opened bookings to her private dining concept. After falling in love with her cake (one of our best bites of 2019), we were eager to try the full Été experience on our next Tokyo visit. Although it’s hard to pick, our favorite course was a luxurious lobster pithivier (a puff pastry pie) with a buttery crust, and a rich shellfish bisque. My, oh pie, what a wonderful savory finish to an absolutely splendid meal. Été blurs the line between food and art, offering a visually stunning and deliciously memorable meal that was a highlight of our Japan journey.
No. 13 – Addison in San Diego, California
2023 brought us some major life moments, including a few surprises from Anders – a romantic getaway at the Fairmont Grand Del Mar, a meal at the newly minted three-Michelin-starred restaurant Addison, and some bling (a ring!). That’s right – we met at Maaemo, had our first date at Frantzén, and got engaged at Addison. Addison is one of our favorite restaurants in the country, and we couldn’t imagine a better way to celebrate the special occasion. The masterpiece of this memorable meal was the Tom Kha Goong, a Thai coconut soup with king crab. This bowl was packed with bold flavors and bright acidity, a nice amount of heat, and fragrant Thai basil that instantly transported us to Asia. On the side was a small plate of tender fried chicken oysters (the best part of the chicken!) with a wedge of lime.
No. 12 – Maaemo in Oslo, Norway
Maaemo has really put Oslo on the culinary world map, and it’s got a special place in our hearts too. Anders and I first met there back in 2018, and we just had to go back this fall with a big group of Hungries to celebrate our five-year anniversary. Chef Esben Holmboe Bang never disappoints, whipping up some of our all-time favorite dishes again this year. The standout? Norwegian scallops cooked in honey butter and chicken fat, served with brown butter, juniper, and a killer scallop bearnaise. As Norway’s sole three Michelin-starred restaurant, Maaemo is an essential stop for both local gourmets and culinary tourists.
No. 11 – Sézanne in Tokyo, Japan
British chef Daniel Calvert, who formerly worked at Per Se in New York, Epicure in Paris, and Belon in Hong Kong, now shines at his Tokyo restaurant, Sézanne. A master in sauces and an expert at enhancing Japanese ingredients, he skillfully blends French elements into his seasonal menu. The uni tart was the star of an exceptional meal – Murasaki sea urchin from Hokkaido was served atop riz au lait. This bite was dessert-like, melting in our mouths, with the uni’s sweetness harmonizing with creamy rice pudding, encased in a crispy, buttery tart shell.
No. 10 – ÄNG in Tvååker, Sweden
Michelin-starred restaurant ÄNG built a stunning new dining room that finally matches the high level of the food that chef Filip Gemzell and his team are serving. (In our opinion, the restaurant has the bones of a three-star restaurant, soaring into our top restaurant spaces of all time.) One of our favorites from ÄNG’s new menu was a Frøya scallop brushed with chili caramel and served with Gemzell’s take on a beurre blanc. It’s no secret that we’re suckers for Norwegian scallops, and this was an exceptional serving. Huge, meaty slices of the world’s best seafood, drenched in rich, decadent sauces. We only wanted more!
No. 9 – Miro in Honolulu, Hawaii
Miro, a neighborhood restaurant in the heart of Kaimuki, was our favorite restaurant in Honolulu. Chef Chris Kajioka offers an unbeatable five-course tasting menu for just $88. Besides the main menu, they’ve got some can’t miss add-ons, like the signature buttermilk brioche. Topped with Oscietra caviar and dollops of maple gel and buttermilk cream, it’s an absolute stunner. One bite, and we knew it would make it to this list. Think Wendy’s French toast stick, but way better – crispy, buttery, sweet, and salty, all jazzed up with luxurious caviar pearls.
No. 8 – Varemottaket in Oslo, Norway
Varemottaket is a collaborative venture between chefs Halaigh Whelan-McManus and Peder Støylen and Annis Pølsemakeri, Oslo’s best butcher shop. Specializing in top-quality meat from the butcher shop, the restaurant offers a set tasting menu featuring open-fire grilling on a fancy Australian grill. While it was tough to choose a favorite dish, the dessert truly stood out. Despite its seemingly simple flavors, it was expertly crafted and now holds the title of our favorite dessert of the year. A perfect Tahitian vanilla ice cream was served atop a fluffy pumpkin cream, studded with a few salted, deep-fried pecans. Yes, we asked for seconds.
No. 7 – Kato in Los Angeles, California
Self-taught chef Jon Yao showcases the Taiwanese flavors of his childhood at Kato. In our opinion, Kato is the most technically precise, unique, and delicious fine dining restaurant in Los Angeles right now. The showstopper of the meal for us was Yao’s yóutiao, a Chinese doughnut filled with sea urchin, brown butter emulsion, topped with a slice of jamón, and seasoned with kelp salt. This dish was somehow even better than it sounds, light as air, warm, and not at all fishy tasting – the uni was just a buttery center. I became Meg Ryan in When Harry Met Sally when I put this dish in my mouth. (Apologies to the neighboring tables for the moans and groans.) Obviously, we begged for another, which they kindly proffered – and they also informed us that this dish is always available à la carte at the bar for $20 a pop. Score! (Why don’t more restaurants do this?! It’s brilliant!) On our second serving, we asked if it was possible to have it topped with a little caviar. That certainly didn’t make it worse!
No. 6 – Mi Compa Chava in Mexico City, Mexico
We absolutely adored Mi Compa Chava, a Sinaloan restaurant that serves incredibly fresh seafood and punchy margaritas in a hip, industrial setting. There are no reservations for this Mexico City hotspot, but it’s well worth lining up to score a table – it’s where we had the best bite of our entire trip. The costra de camarón is a taco unlike any other, with fresh, juicy shrimp nestled in a cheesy, beany cocoon, topped with avocado, cilantro, and pickled red onion. We’ve never had anything like this, and we’ve craved it ever since.
No. 5 – Panu in Oslo, Norway
We knew Oslo was in for a treat when the dynamic duo Maciek Sulk and Anders Erlandsson opened a restaurant together, and we weren’t wrong. Panu exceeded our already sky-high expectations, instantly soaring its way into the top tier of Norwegian restaurants. The seven-course tasting menu showcased innovative dishes, our favorite of which centered around turbot. The fish was served swimming once more in a whey and mussel stock sauce, with pickled kohlrabi, chives, chili oil, and caviar. That sauce was a game-changer, perfectly balancing salt, heat, and umami. This dish had us dancing in our chairs – and not just because TLC’s “No Scrubs” was playing.
No. 4 – Signum in Mölnlycke, Sweden
Signum, located just outside Gothenburg in Sweden, is a culinary gem led by chef Thomas Sjögren. The standout dish of our meal was an exquisitely prepared lobster tail, served with lacto-fermented carrot, lobster claw meat, and freshly shaved white truffles. The dish was a symphony of flavors, with the succulent lobster perfectly balancing the rich truffles, rounded out by a buttery sauce that kept any strong shellfish flavors at bay. Complementing this was a zesty, lemon-infused lobster brioche roll with salted butter. Given such innovative dishes, it’s no surprise Signum earned a Michelin star within a year of opening – and we expect more will follow.
No. 3 – Milka in Kranjska Gora, Slovenia
Slovenia’s most ambitious new restaurant, Milka, nabbed its first Michelin star within just three months of opening and a second a year later – but we expect that’s just the beginning for this passionate team. Chef David Žefran’s tasting menu is Nordic-inspired, with a focus on foraging, fermentation, and sustainability. Our favorite dish on the menu showcased beetroot, steamed and pickled with spruce branches, and served with a creamy sauce made from bear fat spread, fig leaf oil, and a generous scoop of Oscietra caviar. It’s one of the best beet dishes we’ve ever had, blending intense smokiness with the root’s natural sweetness and earthiness. This is a signature dish of Žefran, and it’s easy to see why.
No. 2 – Koan in Copenhagen, Denmark
In April, chef Kristian Baumann’s restaurant Koan finally moved into its permanent home in Copenhagen after years as a pop-up. Almost instantly, Koan received two Michelin stars – a new record in the Nordics. One of our favorite dishes from the absolutely flawless tasting menu was a seasonal rice serving, made with two types of rice (one for texture and one for flavor). The fluffy rice had been cooked in a cast-iron pot, and was served with Australian winter truffles, grilled corn, Icelandic seaweed, and beech nuts, and drizzled with truffle-infused soy sauce and cep mushroom oil. The dish tasted like the essence of summer, like biting into a grilled corn on the cob. But it’s the umami-packed oils that really tied everything together and made the flavors pop. Echoing Korean traditions of sustainability, Baumann also served the crispy rice from the bottom of the pot with a sauce made from lobster leftovers. The sauce was so buttery, fluffy, and foamy, almost like a hollandaise.
No. 1 – Grön in Helsinki, Finland
Our meal at Grön in Helsinki was the best meal we had this year. Executive chef Toni Kostian and his team are serving some of the tastiest and most interesting food in the Nordics. Every single dish delivered a flavor explosion in a way that very few meals achieve – we wanted seconds of practically every course. Our favorite bite of the meal was a fluffy beignet filled with lobster tail poached with butter and thyme, høost (hay cheese), cloudberries, and sweet corn, and topped with smoked salt and Rossini caviar. The beignet was so light and airy, with an explosion of sweet corn cream inside. This was a truly amazing bite – and the very one that ended up being the most memorable for us in 2023. Grön currently has one Michelin star, but this restaurant strongly deserves a second.
What were your favorite dishes in 2023? Please share in a comment below.
Here Are Our Top Lists From Previous Years:
The Top 25 Best Dishes of 2022
The Top 25 Best Dishes of 2021
The Top 25 Best Dishes of 2020
The Top 25 Best Dishes of 2019
The Top 25 Best Dishes of 2018
The Top 25 Best Dishes of 2017
The Top 25 Best Dishes of 2016
The Top 20 Best Dishes of 2015