I don't know if you've noticed, but I also don't know how you could have possibly missed it. Over the summer of 2015, fried chicken was quite the hot trend, completely dominating all mainstream food media outlets with hyped up content. With big name heavy-hitters like David Chang opening his much-hyped Fuku and Danny Meyers launching a fried chicken sandwich at his much-loved burger shop Shake Shack, seemingly everyone was scrambling to get into the fried chicken game. Every place was busy concocting their own signature breading type, fry-style, and of course secret spice blend. But, there's one fried chicken variant that I had this year that was invented long before all of this summer's madness and I still can't seem to get it out of my head. This insane fried chicken creation has literally crept into my dreams on more than one occasion like Freddy Krueger, taunting and torturing me to return from within. Unfortunately, this unconscious itch can only be scratched in one place — and this unusually creative shop called Red's Chinese is located in a way-off-the-beaten path New Orleans neighborhood called Bywater. If you're in NOLA without a car, Red's Chinese is not the easiest to access, but if you've got one, it's an absolute cannot-miss. Actually, you better book your flights to NOLA now, you're gonna want to experience this one for yourself.
If you've got a car and are willing to drive to strange strip malls in Silicon Valley, there are plenty of interesting Asian foods to find. It's always hard to know if a dingy shop is one of the good ones or the bad ones until you try it for yourself, so as I approached Shanghai Flavor Shop in Sunnyvale, I prepared myself for the whichever side of the coin it was going to land.
So, I'm back on my quest to find all of the comfort foods I used to rely on in NYC in the Bay Area. This journey's mission: Soup Dumplings aka Xiao Long Bao and Hand-Pulled Noodles. I'd heard great things about the cheap, authentic, Bourdain-approved Chinese food at King of Noodles in the Inner Sunset so one hungover Sunday morning when that particular craving struck, I hoped in my car and headed over to check it out.
What a year!! I did something like this last year too, but oh boy was 2014 a doozy. I started off living in NYC, then a started a new job that whisked me off the San Francisco and Silicon Valley for a few months before ultimately relocating to San Francisco permanently. And along the way, I squeezed in a couple of vacations too. Sooooo, I did a LOT of epic eating this year. And truth be told, I found it particularly difficult to narrow down my list as concisely as last year's, but I somehow managed. So, without further ado, I present the winners (and runner-ups) broken down by category. I tried to cluster similar dish types together, but really they are in no particular order. Let's begin! And if you wanna hear about the 2014's Best Cocktails, read more here.
Transport yourself to Hong Kong. And you don't even need to leave the cushy confines of Palo Alto, California. Just a block off the main drag on University Avenue, there's a massive dim sum parlor that would be all too easy to miss while walking by. Despite its enormous front signage, there's nothing about its appearance that would actually draw a pedestrian inside to experience an authentic Hongkongese dim sum meal.
I drove 20 minutes across Silicon Valley to quench a Xiao Long Bao craving at Shanghai Dumpling and was sternly turned away at 8:35 by a strong "we're closed". The restaurant was still full and running at full speed, which led me to wonder if my blatant whiteness got me rejected from the nearly entirely Asian-filled restaurant. Um, hello, Yelp says you’re supposed to be open until 9:30 on Sunday nights! Way to be racist, Shanghai Dumpling. I acted quick on my feet and went elsewhere to get my Asian food fix that night. As it turned out, this particular shopping center was a sort of Cupertino Chinatown with a number of Asian dining options to choose from. Directly next door to Shanghai Dumpling there was a similar looking restaurant called QQ Noodle. Sure, why not. It was bright and clean looking and had pretty standard Asian restaurant decor. I figured I'd give it a shot and try to remedy my Asian dinner dilemma.
OH DEAR GOD, what have I done? Why the hell was I out 'til 4 in the morning last night? Why on earth did I drink so damn much? Ergggghhhhh. Does this sound familiar to you? I guess from time to time it happens to the best of us and when it does, you're gonna want to fix that hangover as soon as humanly possible. For me, it's become a bit of a hangover tradition to come to Congee Village for that awful New Years Day hangover. I almost always head there for a soothing and healing meal but New Years is certainly not the only excuse I need to go.
On these stingingly cold winter days we've been experiencing, there's nothing better than a steaming hot bowl of noodle soup. So if you want the best, you should head over to Lam Zhou in the lower east reaches of Chinatown. There's not a lot going on in this remote corner beside Lam Zhou, though one could argue that Lam Zhou itself isn't a whole lot.
Given the number of insanely delicious things I've eaten over the past year, selecting the best of the bunch is a very difficult task. Over on Foodspotting I've released a long version that's over 200 items long which includes every single dish jaw-dropping dish from the last year. Here, instead, I've chosen the very best in select categories. In no particular order, let's begin!
*Editor's Note 2/19/15: This restaurant recently changed its name from Fu Run to Fu Ran for some reason and listed prices may be outdated When you think of Chinese food, what comes to mind? Maybe wonton soup? Lo mein? General Tso's chicken? Dumplings? Maybe even Peking duck? I'm willing to bet you were not thinking of lamb. Though you may not realize it, there are a some regions in China that do specialize in lamb and make it quite well. These regions are mostly located near the northern reaches of China with proximity to Mongolia or the Middle East. The lamb is often heavily treated with Middle Eastern spices, especially cumin. On this visit to Flushing, with my friend Harrison in tow, I was questing to sample these unique Chinese cumin spiced versions of lamb.