I absolutely love how full of super old school places the New Orleans high-end dining scene is. There are tons of these places that remain as popular, famous, and incredible as they were when they opened well over 100 years ago. But, of course, that's not all that New Orleans has to offer. There are plenty of young upstart chefs doing extremely innovative things, evolving the long-standing culinary traditions.
The Japan Center Mall is a mysterious maze-like shopping center full of stalls selling Asian miscellany and a wide variety of authentic Asian eats. There are many places you could choose to eat at – with specialists for just about every Japanese food type you could think of. There are in fact a number of sushi options, but there is only one sushi purveyor inside of this massive mall that I find myself consistently returning to. It's called Isobune and its a truly special place.
Everyone that's even partially aware of the Austin dining scene has heard of Uchiko. It's generally regarded as one of the top dining destinations in the city and I've known for many years that I needed to see what all of the excitement was about for myself. I think the restaurant may have actually first come to attention when the now-famed chef Paul Qui tore his way through Top Chef Season 9. He basically wiped the floor with his competition utilizing his signature Asian fusion style and I took notice. Paul has since moved on from Uchiko to work on other Austin ventures such as his food truck East Side King and namesake restaurant Qui. But, Uchiko remains as exciting and buzz-worthy as ever.
If you're ready to drop some bills on serious sushi in San Francisco, Akiko's is the place to do it. All of the fish is ridiculously high-quality and a good portion of it is even imported directly from the famed Tsukiji Fish Market in Japan. All of their preparations are utterly impeccable and do that magnificent fish the justice it deserves.
Once again, I was back in downtown Historic Campbell, California, this time to check out an unusual sushi joint called Sushi Confidential. I should start by telling you that this is not your average sushi joint. In fact, there's very little that's traditional about this place at all.
There are tons of sushi joints in Silicon Valley, especially in Mountain View. A lot of these places are pretty mediocre, but one stands above the rest with its vastly superior fish quality. This place is Sushi Tomi. As you'd probably suspect with a place of this caliber, the word is out. So any night you try to stop by, you will inevitably need to contend with a line out the door. It's worth it. You may have noticed that I normally don't ever wait in lines for food, but this evening we waited a very reasonable twenty minutes for a table for three and were treated to some amazing high quality fish for our patience.
I love new restaurant openings. There's always this energy in the air, an excitement, the mystery of what the gut gamble might uncover. That's why I was so excited to be invited to the soft launch of Union Bar & Kitchen in West SoHo.
One of the biggest takeaways I've gotten from all of this time I've been spending in Silicon Valley is that everything in California closes early. Offices become ghost towns at 6:00. Most Happy Hours end at 6:00, maybe 7:00 if you're lucky. Bars stop serving at 1:30 AM and worst of all, most restaurant kitchens close at 9:00. If you end up working late 'til say 9:00 or later you're pretty much screwed when it comes to getting a decent dinner. In all of my digging, I have thankfully found a few places that keep their kitchen open 'til around 10:00. But there is one place I've found in Santa Clara for quality late night dining called En Japanese Tapas Restaurant where the kitchen stays open until a glorious 11:30 PM.
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!