Over the past year, we’ve eaten thousands of meals, and now the part of our brains that used to be responsible for things like dry cleaning and groceries is filled with thoughts about pasta, prawns, and premium bologna sandwiches. Finding the Best New Restaurants Of 2019 is what’s kept us busy all day - but it’s the dishes that have kept us up at night. Specifically, a very select group of dishes, which we discovered in ten cities from LA to London. Here are the 20 best things we ate in new restaurants in 2019.
Our Favorite New Dishes of 2019, From LA to London
Chicken Katsu Club from Golden Diner in NYC
The chicken katsu club at Golden Diner is like an excellent pillow. Once you experience it, this sandwich becomes a vital part of your life. It’s made up of layers of BLT, purple cabbage slaw, and panko-crusted fried chicken cutlet, all held in place by three pieces of toasted soft white bread. It’s crispy and creamy, hot and cold, sweet and salty, and we swear we heard smooth jazz start playing when we took our first bite. This has officially become the default food we think about whenever someone says “sandwich.”
Scarlet Prawns from Flor in London
If the sea was two parts butter and one part Fanta, then everything coming out of it might taste as good as these three scarlet prawns with orange yuzu kosho. Put simply, this is a higher class of crustacean. So rich that the bodies don’t need to be cooked, while the heads arrive grilled separately, ready for a hot and juicy makeout session. In a city where a pint will cost you upwards of a fiver, £18 for a plate this good tastes like a relative bargain.
Tandoori Momos from The Momo World in Chicago
The tandoori momos from The Momo World are an enigma wrapped in a dream wrapped in a spicy dumpling wrapper. Slightly soft from being steamed, a little crispy from being fried, and slightly charred from being grilled, a bite of one will put you in a contemplative trance. And once you have that experience, you won’t just remember how it tastes - you’ll remember how it makes you feel.
Ragoût D’Oignons Caramélisés from Pasjoli in LA
We would argue there are few things better than a really good French onion soup. And this dish is exactly that - only in tart form. After you taste the crumbly pastry, sweet caramelized onions, and baked gruyere, you’ll wave over your server and promptly order one for each person at your table. Will you remember doing it? Probably not. That’s just what happens when you experience something as incredible as this dish - you briefly black out, then wake up next to another serving of it.
Duck Nigiri from Llama San in NYC
When the duck nigiri at Llama San arrives at your table, each bite-sized piece wears a nasturtium leaf like a big floppy hat, as if it’s about to walk a miniature red carpet in the year 1921. And under that leaf, you’ll find a creamy banana slice, a strip of aged duck with just the right amount of chew, and a little mound of cilantro-flavored rice. Intuitively, this doesn’t seem like the kind of combination that would flawlessly meld together into a single bite that works as well as milk and cereal or biscuits and gravy - but that’s exactly what it does.
Square Pizza from Circles + Squares in Philadelphia
Circles + Squares may have only opened this year, but their square, Detroit-style pan pie is without a doubt the greatest pizza in Philadelphia. Each one is baked by the guy who owns the place, and you’ll see him drizzling oil and sprinkling cheese behind the counter every time you’re here. The thick, fluffy dough is topped with not-too-sweet tomato sauce, and cheese that creates a crispy, caramelized crust on the outside of every slice. You can choose to get toppings (if you do, pepperoni is the way to go), but our pick is to order it in its purest form - with nothing but layers of cheese and tomato sauce.
Sea Urchin from The Shota in San Francisco
The first of 15 dishes that you’ll experience at The Shota, this “sandwich” arrives at your table inside a golden orb wrapped in a silk scarf, perched on a bed of moss. In other words, it makes a Xerxes or Regina George entrance look low-key. It’s two profiterole halves filled with uni pate, yuzu-persimmon marmalade, more uni, caviar, and edible flowers - and while it’s only about the size of a York Peppermint Pattie, it’s so salty, sweet, creamy, and crispy, that you’ll wonder how anything that comes after could live up to it. But somehow, everything that follows at The Shota does.
Le Gran Carbonara from Circolo Popolare in London
If you’re someone who enjoys either excessive doses of cheese, Idina Menzel performances, or Liberace’s stage costumes, then you’ll be very into Le Gran Carbonara. It’s dramatic, it’s theatrical, and it’s somewhat enchanting. This huge carbonara is cheesy, creamy, and salty in all the best ways, and it’s mixed tableside before being served out of a big wheel of pecorino that gives it an extra tang. It’s not just a fantastic dinner, it’s also a fantastic show.
Scallop On The Half Shell With Uni from Ceviche Project in LA
The first time we ordered this dish at Ceviche Project, the chef grabbed a scallop out of the ice chest, popped it open, and used tweezers to assemble the ingredients on a tiny half shell, like a doctor operating on a hamster. He sliced the scallop, added uni, pomegranate, serrano pepper, tangerine segments, a blade of cilantro, a sprinkle of salt, and a drop of olive oil. Overkill? We thought so - until we tasted it. All of the small components shine individually, but together they create a sweet, salty, acidic burst of flavor that heats up the buttery scallop like a slight sunburn. For a dish to taste any more like summer, it’d have to involve sand and SPF 30.
Thit Heo Xao Lan (Sauteed Fried Pork) from Ban Toi in Boston
If we were in charge of the sports world, coaches wouldn’t get Gatorade dumped on them after winning the championship. They’d get bathed in a bowl of the sauteed fried pork from Ban Toi. The greatness of this dish isn’t the pork itself (although it’s tender, juicy, and wonderful on its own) - but the broth it’s cooked and then served in, which tastes like the type of dish made from a recipe that’s kept in a safe deposit box. It’s buttery, tangy, and gold. The color of victory.
Smoked Bologna Sandwich from Lady Jaye in Seattle
Bologna gets a bad rap - it’s considered an insult if someone calls you full of it and it’s constantly overlooked in favor of more “elite” cold cuts like turkey, pastrami, or prosciutto. But the smoked bologna sandwich at Lady Jaye, a BBQ restaurant and cocktail bar in Seattle, puts this lunch meat back on the map. This glorious sandwich is stacked with fried bologna smoked in-house, shaved dill pickle slaw, potato chips, and yellow mustard, all on a big squishy bun crowned with an American flag toothpick. If you time-traveled and brought this sandwich for lunch in elementary school, all of the other schoolchildren would be pooling their Dunkaroos and Gushers together to try and trade you.
Sakoo Sai Hed (Tapioca Dumplings) from Kalaya in Philadelphia
Let’s state the obvious: these are bright blue dumplings. But that’s nowhere near the most surprising thing about these mushroom and nut dumplings from Kalaya. Once you get past the color, you realize that the outside is coated with gummy tapioca, which makes biting into one feel like you’re digging into a large, savory Fruit Gusher. On the inside, they’re filled with a delicious mixture of ground mushrooms and peanuts that’s sweet and spicy at the same time. It’s that combination of sweet, spicy, savory and surprising that takes these dumplings from being just photogenic to a dish you’ll be telling your children about someday.
Bacon, Egg, and Cheese on a Scallion Pancake from Win Son Bakery in NYC
We’ve been eating bacon, egg, and cheese sandwiches for just about as long as we’ve had teeth. We’ve had them on rolls, hoagies, croissants, and bagels. But we had never had a BEC on a scallion pancake until Win Son Bakery came around. Now, we want nothing else. Just by itself, the flaky scallion pancakes at Win Son Bakery are worthy of numerous awards and standing ovations, and when you add scrambled eggs, thick bacon, and melted fontina, you get the gold-plated superyacht of breakfast sandwiches.
Bone Marrow Tacos from Comedor in Austin
There are so many tacos in Austin. You could eat a different one for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, every day, for five years - at least. But this year, there’s one in particular that occupied most of the taco-shaped part of our brain (which is also the biggest part of our brain): the DIY bone marrow tacos at Comedor. Normally bone marrow can be pretty heavy, but here it’s bright, salty, and smoky - thanks to the pecan gremolata, lime, and bitter greens sautéed in a smoked butter. You get to scoop the marrow out of the bones and build your own tacos on blue corn tortillas, and then later, you can do a mezcal bone luge. Yes, that’s a real thing.
Sai Oua from Northern Thai Food Club in LA
Filled with lime leaves, coriander root, dried chiles, lemongrass, and turmeric, there is nothing subtle about this wildly aromatic and spicy Thai pork sausage. It’s the standout dish at a restaurant that quickly established itself as one of the best spots in the very busy Thai Town scene of Los Angeles. Plus, at just $7 a plate, you don’t have to stress about your finances while you consider ordering it for the fourth time this week.
Japanese Milk Bread from Kumiko in Chicago
At Japanese-inspired small plates spot Kumiko in Chicago, nothing is more than a couple of bites, including the brûléed Japanese milk bread. But you don’t need more than a bite to realize how good this thing is. It’s soft and squishy, topped with honey ice cream, and has crispy edges that shatter along with your dreams of this dish becoming magically bigger. We haven’t been this excited about a tiny piece of bread since that French toast cereal in the 90s.
Squid Ink Fried Rice from Paju in Seattle
Paju is an outstanding Korean restaurant where every dish on the menu, much like jigsaw puzzles and elaborate magic tricks, is better than the sum of its parts. And the absolute best dish here is the fried rice - with briny squid ink-infused rice, spicy kimchi, crunchy pieces of bacon, and a smoked quail egg yolk. After mixing up the runny yolk, you get a salty, savory situation with equal parts fluffy grains and crispy bits. It’s the kind of highly-comforting bowl that we’d like to eat on the couch under a blanket until further notice.
The Rachel from Stephen’s Deli in Miami
Like the Friends character it shares a name with, we could waste hours of our lives watching a TV show starring this sandwich. But unlike Rachel Green, this thing actually exists - and you can find it at Stephen’s Deli in Miami. The Rachel is essentially a Reuben sandwich that swaps pastrami for the usual corned beef. Every bite is perfect. The grilled rye is crunchy on the outside, soft and chewy inside. There’s enough pastrami - but not too much - like one of those overstuffed deli sandwiches that requires you to unhinge your jaw like an anaconda. And the Swiss cheese and coleslaw cut through the fattiness of the pastrami like sun through a meaty cloud. It’s a sandwich that will make you feel like a bunch of beautiful sitcom actors splashing around in a public fountain.
Brown Sugar Ricotta Kubaneh Toast from K’far in Philadelphia
While eating this kubaneh toast, you will at least briefly forget about every breakfast food you’ve experienced before it. It’s sweet and creamy from the whipped brown sugar ricotta, salty and crunchy from the buttery brioche-like toast, and the blueberry drizzle on top adds the perfect amount of acidity to round it out. Eating this is like counting the licks to the center of a Tootsie Pop - you know you should savor every single bite, but you can’t help scarfing it down in just a few mouthfuls.
Steak Tartare Impérial from Bob Bob Cité in London
Chopped Scottish rump of beef, 20g of Siberian Sturgeon caviar, and a soft-boiled quail egg. No, that isn’t Louis XVI’s shopping list, it’s the ingredients in the steak tartare impérial from over-the-top luxury London restaurant Bob Bob Cité. Although the caviar and dainty little quail’s egg will make you feel like someone with regular access to a Cannes villa and a private jet, it’s the steak tartare itself that’s important here. This is the best one we’ve ever had.