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Feature

December 18, 2019
The Infatuation Editorial Team’s Favorite Reviews Of 2019
Our favorite reviews of the year, as chosen by writers and editors.

Eating, writing, editing - a beautiful (and only occasionally harrowing) cycle we’ve completed hundreds and hundreds of times this year, to create hundreds and hundreds of restaurant reviews across nine cities.

Here are the 60 reviews the Editorial Team loved most this year - as submitted by writers and editors.

8.0
LDN

Review:

Flor

Read

“Can something be completely brilliant and utterly impractical at the same time? Your heart says no, but your head, and Twitter addiction, say something quite different. So too does Flor, a small plates restaurant next to Borough Market that will leave you stuttering in enjoyment from a single flatbread, as well as scratching your head as to whether its name is a very intentional pun.”

7.0
NYC

Review:

TAK Room

Read

“Imagine spending several years in a basement working on a machine that could send a piece of paper across the world in a matter of seconds. You work nights and weekends, and when you finally finish, your friends and loved ones inform you that you’ve just recreated the fax machine. Your invention is still useful in limited scenarios, but, much like TAK Room, it isn’t nearly as impressive as it would’ve been 70 years ago.”

5.2
CHI

Review:

Tzuco

Read

“Tzuco is expensive and upscale, but during each of our five visits, we’ve felt like we’re being taken care of by a hospitality J.V. squad. Every dinner has started with hosts having a long, awkward conversation about where to seat us, followed by a brisk escort through the large, crowded dining room full of hundreds of glass boxes filled with dead leaves and twigs. It feels a lot like being at the Field Museum with your parents - which could be fun if the food was better.”

8.7
NYC

Review:

Golden Diner

Read

“The club sandwich is made with a chicken katsu cutlet and creamy purple cabbage slaw. Eat it once and you’ll react to every other club sandwich the same way you react to your fiscally conservative ex’s LinkedIn updates.”

8.6
LA

Review:

Broad Street Oyster Co.

Read

“Sitting in here feels like you’ve just joined a secret society of hard-partying, oyster-shucking pirates, which probably explains why they’ve got $2 Bud Heavies during Happy Hour. If you enjoy a party - or ever wondered “What would happen if Spicoli from Fast Times At Ridgemont High was really into seafood?” - beat a path directly to Broad Street.”

8.1
LDN

Review:

Circolo Popolare

Read

“Dating someone you can’t have is a real joy. Of course, that’s only if your idea of joy involves comparing a human being to class As, and saying ‘I really, really couldn’t care less’ at the same time as checking when they were last online. You want them. You hate them. You become obsessed. You start seeing other people as a petty half-hearted distraction. We understand this. Not because we’re dating an elusive muppet, but because Circolo Popolare is the restaurant we want but cannot have.”

8.4
CHI

Review:

Jeong

Read

“When you visit an amusement park, you need to prioritize the rides. They’re all fun (except for the log flume, which is objectively terrible), but some are just more exciting than others. And when a very good restaurant offers both a tasting and an a la carte menu - with different dishes on each - you’re faced with the same kind of dilemma. This is the case at Jeong, an upscale Korean restaurant in West Town. You’ll have a great meal either way, but the tasting menu is the can’t-miss ride.”

7.9
NYC

Review:

Kāwi

Read

Minute 80: The foie gras terrine kimbap roll arrives. This is the most ridiculously excessive dish here. There are twelve pieces laid out in a circle, creating a huddle around a bowl of soy sauce. Each roll is wrapped in rice and seaweed, and tastes distinctly like biting into a stick of unsalted butter. No one needs to spend $40 to experience it. Where are the windows? Help.”

9.4
MIA

Review:

NIU Kitchen

Read

“When you live in Miami, you get used to the fact that large portions of this city are off-limits. You may never get to take a yacht to dinner or see the inside of a Faena penthouse. Those kinds of things are reserved for Russian oligarchs and Jamie Foxx. We are a playground for the rich and famous, and they get first dibs on the swingset.”

8.4
LDN

Review:

Bob Bob Cité

Read

“Before we even tell you about this huge £25 million restaurant inside the City’s Leadenhall skyscraper, you need to be in the right mood. Take your humble brag, set it on fire, listen to Goldfinger at full volume, and then recite ‘I’m a winner’ in your head 50 times. Feeling good? Perfect, because there’s no point in going to Bob Bob Cité unless you’re ready for a proper show.”

8.3
NYC

Review:

Au Cheval

Read

“Au Cheval arrived in New York City, and like the Roman army planting its flag in a conquered city, it planted its burger in Tribeca. The “single” has two crispy medium-rare patties, gooey American cheese, and a soft brioche bun. Top it with thick-cut, peppery bacon, and we’re not sure anyone is knocking that flag down.”

8.5
NYC

Review:

Zooba

Read

“It is, by definition, a fast-casual chain. But unlike most of its fellow species, Zooba serves sandwiches, salads, and dips that are so excellent, you won’t be able to stop saying the restaurant’s name out loud, like a percussive a cappella warm-up, or some sort of pagan chant.”

8.5
PHL

Review:

Vernick Fish

Read

“Fine dining places can, after a while, all start to sort of mesh together. Sure, one might have dishes that arrive on tiny down pillows, and another food that was flown in from a small village in Bora Bora. But, in general, they all tend to have a lot in common - white tablecloths and high-backed chairs, outrageous prices, and people in fancy clothes having conversations straight out of American Psycho.”

8.4
LDN

Review:

Koya Bar City

Read

“The space is part rustic Tokyo diner, part ‘Cabin Porn’, and the perfect homely beige background to conversations that will get sidetracked by the arrival of a bowl of cider-covered pork belly that smells like Babe bathed in Bulmers. Then there’s the entertainment of an impromptu chopstick fight over the last piece of tonkatsu, or excitedly watching the open kitchen as fresh udon is pulled out of boiling water with a net so big that even Jaws would give it a wide berth. It might be casual here, but it’s never boring.”

7.7
NYC

Review:

Vatan

Read

“But there’s a place in Kips Bay where moderation is as extinct as woolly mammoths and Myspace. A place where you can take off your shoes, sit next to a wishing well, and mentally flip off anyone who ever told you, “You don’t need twelve lava lamps, sweetie.” It’s called Vatan, and while you’re here, you can have as many refills of vegetarian Indian food as you want.”

6.6
NYC

Review:

RH Rooftop Restaurant

Read

“Meatpacking has become a place where people go to convince the world they’re living the good life, rather than to actually party. And no place embodies this superficial evolution as much as RH Restaurant.”

3.9
LDN

Review:

Brasserie Of Light

Read

“The thing is, when you first walk in to Brasserie of Light you might be impressed. It’s like Black Beauty ran away, got discovered, had a wing job, and decided to open a restaurant. Honestly, if you’d brought us here at the height of our My Little Pony phase we probably would have had a coronary and fallen head first into someone’s pathetic shrimp and avocado burger. ”

8.8
LA

Review:

Pasjoli

Read

“From the second you walk in and spot well-dressed people sipping Cognac and gleaming duck presses being wheeled around the dining room, adulthood - or the idea of it - surrounds you. But thanks to a menu filled with fantastic, exciting food, and an atmosphere that feels exclusive (but never exclusionary), it’s an adulthood that, at least for a few hours, is both tangible and downright euphoric.”

8.1
NYC

Review:

Kichin

Read

“Kichin is cooler than you are. We don’t mean to be offensive - it’s just that if you and this Korean spot in Bushwick went to high school together, it would probably do donuts in the parking lot while you tried to gain a teacher’s approval with a Marxist reading of Wuthering Heights.”

8.4
CHI

Review:

Cellar Door Provisions

Read

“Along with the baked goods, there’s a full, rotating daytime menu where you’ll probably find an absurdly custardy quiche that’s a must-order for anyone who likes eggs, pie crust, and wants to eat the center of that Venn diagram. You may or may not see a chewy mushroom cavatelli or BBQ-glazed carrots with a light ajo blanco, but there will be something that you didn’t know you needed - like when you go to Target for laundry detergent and leave with an air fryer.”

8.6
LA

Review:

Mapo Galbi

Read

“Langer’s #19. The Focaccia di Recco at Chi Spacca. Mariscos Jalisco’s tacos de camaron. They’re the first things we feed out-of-towners after they’ve grabbed their luggage at LAX, and the last things we cite when shutting down East Coasters who think good food in LA must involve Moon Juice.

In other words, they’ve earned their spots in our LA Food Pantheon. Now it’s time for them to make room for a new member - the dak galbi, a spicy Korean chicken stir fry served at Mapo Galbi.”

7.9
LDN

Review:

Kama By Vineet

Read

“Kama By Vineet is a little 26-seater next to a bunch of other mini restaurants inside Harrods’ dining hall. It’s like a millionaires market where the prices are high, the oysters are cold, and the jaw-dropper ceiling is more royal crypt than restaurant hall. It’s sophisticated and surprisingly intimate once you’re seated, but the dining hall closes when Harrods does - a PG, pre-watershed 9pm. How are you expected to finish work, three courses, and a bottle of Chablis before Channel 4’s even allowed to show a single nipple?”

6.7
PHL

Review:

Pod

Read

“The early 2000s were a weird time. Upgrading your phone meant standing in line to get the new Motorola RAZR, and you had to ask a stranger to take your photo in front of the LOVE statue with a bulky digital camera. While most of the things we loved back then have since been put behind glass in museums, some are still roaming the planet alive and well, but mostly forgotten - like Livestrong bracelets and the song “Over And Over Again” by Nelly and Tim McGraw.”

7.5
SEA

Review:

Haymaker

Read

“When restaurants get rid of a dish we love, as if it were someone getting axed in a drama series, we are just as emotionally gutted. This is especially true in the case of Haymaker, an otherwise-great Italian spot in West Seattle. The menu changes so often that the best things we’ve tried here have been whacked, like Christopher Moltisani on The Sopranos.”

9.3
SF

Review:

Rich Table

Read

“At first glance, the place looks like any other neighborhood spot, and the food doesn’t sound super exciting. In fact, there are similar rotating menus at places across San Francisco: individual small bites, some appetizers, a few creative pastas, and mains - and even the individual dishes don’t sound particularly revolutionary. But at Rich Table, what you read and what ends up on a plate in front of you is like someone telling you about their new Jaguar before opening the garage to show you a large jungle cat.”

8.2
NYC

Review:

Babs

Read

“Babs is what we like to call Rich Person Casual, or RPC for short. You’ll be able to sense it the second you walk in. After you’re seated at a particularly luscious green velvet banquette next to a floor-to-ceiling window, you’ll browse a short menu with a typeface that would make most wedding invitations feel self-conscious. Part of the experience at Babs is eavesdropping on your table neighbors - who have probably been to the Creative Arts Emmys. We once overheard a woman wearing jeans and a pajama-adjacent sweater next to us say, “Honestly, I told her she’s just wasting her time if she’s not on the board of the Guggenheim.” Some people might find the act of swirling a wine glass while throwing art world shade a bit snobby. But for the woman in the sweater, this is just a casual, $85 Wednesday night at Babs.”

7.2
NYC

Review:

The Smith

Read

“At most restaurants, your server will ask you something like, “Still or sparkling?” But here, you automatically get both - and this might be our favorite thing about The Smith. Actually, we’re going to award an extra tenth of a point just for this. The Smith is now a 7.2.”

5.6
MIA

Review:

Ember

Read

“Certain creative endeavors could benefit from having someone in the room who is willing to say no - like every DJ Khaled album ever. “Sir, maybe you only have to scream your name once per song,” is a sentence our ears wish happened at some point. Instead, we can’t turn on our car radio without feeling like Mr. Khaled has burst through our rear windshield like the Kool-Aid Man.”

9.4
NYC

Review:

Chef’s Table At Brooklyn Fare

Read

“When was the last time you heard about the discovery of a new species? You were probably perusing Twitter at work, or watching an educational YouTube video that auto-played after six clips from Shark Week. You may have felt some brief excitement before moving on with your day, but somewhere out there, a scientist was doing the scientist equivalent of popping bottles. Maybe drinking schnapps out of a graduated cylinder.

You’ll have some understanding of that scientist’s feelings after dinner at Chef’s Table At Brooklyn Fare. It’s technically a fine dining restaurant - but it really belongs in a category on its own.”

5.1
LA

Review:

Craig’s

Read

“Walking into Craig’s is not at all what you would expect from a restaurant where the Kardashians fight for Thursday night reservations with the Carters. The sterile, dimly-lit room has a vague NYC-in-the-’50s aesthetic that feels both forced and tacky. There’s a bar where you’ll find two flat-screen TVs inexplicably playing Sportscenter. The booths are filled, but there’s an eerie silence in the air, as if everyone’s waiting for their ex-wife’s lawyer to walk in the door. And there’s so much space between each booth, you feel like you’re eating in your own little cubicle. Craig’s feels more like a celebrity funeral than a celebrity restaurant - and the food tastes like it came from one too.”

8.3
BOS

Review:

Santarpio’s Pizza

Read

“But here’s the thing: about ten minutes later, you’ll look down and see that, whoops, you ate that entire pizza by yourself, even though you promised you’d bring some back to your significant other, and now there’s going to be some tense, doing-the-the-dishes-in-silence moments back home tonight.”

9.0
PHL

Review:

Pizzeria Beddia

Read

“There’s probably a part of you that wonders if this pizza is worth the two-month wait for a reservation, or two hours if you walk in. And, sure, maybe it won’t live up to the Mount Everest of pedestals you put it on. But it’s f*cking delicious pizza, so who cares, really?”

8.7
NYC

Review:

Win Son Bakery

Read

“Our children are going to replace us. Just look at what happened to Oedipus’ dad. And check out O’Shea Jackson Jr. pretending to be his real-life father in Straight Outta Compton. Something similar is happening in East Williamsburg, and it involves an extremely good restaurant called Win Son and its excellent counter-service offspring, Win Son Bakery.”

4.8
CHI

Review:

Pizzeria Portofino

Read

“If there’s a Marriott in Cabo with poolside appetizers, they probably taste similar to this. The tuna is slightly warm, almost like it’s been relaxing outside, and tastes very ocean-y in a bad way.”

8.3
SEA

Review:

Dacha Diner

Read

“Eating at Dacha Diner, an Eastern European restaurant on Capitol Hill, is kind of like eating inside a humongous doily. White lace curtains cover the windows and door, through which tons of natural light pour in, even if it’s pouring rain. The plates beneath the blinis and reuben sandwiches are mismatched and decorated with floral prints. There’s an antique dresser in the corner, and a quiet hum about the whole place, even when it’s packed. Think of Dacha Diner as the well-mannered understudy for your living room, only with way more latkes and vodka (probably). It’s there to take care of you when you don’t have time to take care of yourself.”

8.7
LDN

Review:

Master Wei

Read

“If the beef biang biang noodles had their own profile we’d manically stalk their account, entirely in love, and scared shitless that we accidentally like a picture from four years ago. So yeah, you could say we’re obsessed.”

9.4
LDN

Review:

Endo At The Rotunda

Read

“This hand-to-hand eating style is encouraged. And it’s a far more enjoyable high-end restaurant instruction than learning a turnip’s genealogy, or curtsying to a slice of ham.”

8.8
CHI

Review:

Galit

Read

“The fluffy pita is so good that, days later, you’ll find yourself shouting “Objection - pita!” at the TV while sitting on the couch watching reruns of Judge Joe Brown.”

4.0
MIA

Review:

Barton G. The Restaurant

Read

“If you have a good experience at Barton G., it’s only because you were too distracted by the decapitated mannequin with cotton candy hair to notice the offensively phoned-in food on the plates in front of you. Yes, we are a city that loves flashiness, but the best parts of Miami combine that flashiness with actual substance. The worst parts are hollow on the inside, just like Barton G.”

4.3
LA

Review:

Chinois On Main

Read

“If you look closely enough at a boa constrictor, you can see two small bumps where its hind legs used to be. Birds that can’t fly still have wings, and humans still have tailbones, even though it’s been a very long time since anything resembling a human had anything resembling a tail. These are vestigial structures - at one point they served a purpose, but now, they all just sort of exist.

It’s something we’ve thought a lot about after our recent dinners at Chinois On Main, Wolfgang Puck’s vestigial Santa Monica restaurant.”

9.1
SEA

Review:

Kedai Makan

Read

“Your friends who haven’t been here won’t be able to relate. “OK, sure, it’s fried rice, but it’s operating on another level that fried rice usually doesn’t compete at,” you might say to them after dinner. They’ll shrug between bites of celery, because in this elaborate vision, they’re eating dry crudite and listening to Sheryl Crow. Kedai Makan is like seeing the Grand Canyon, riding a roller coaster, or smoking weed: it’s hard to understand what the hype is all about until you experience it. Once you do, it’ll become clear that you just completed a Seattle rite of passage, and anyone who doesn’t get it will just have to go on this sambal and fried shallot-filled ride themselves.”

8.2
NYC

Review:

Sushi By M

Read

“The fish might vary slightly from day to day, but you can expect things like hamachi and lean tuna to start, followed by some richer pieces like Hokkaido uni and toro topped with caviar that will stalk you in your dreams like Freddy Krueger or the first person you made eye contact with at a middle school dance. The overall experience is kind of like having an in-home chef with a high-quality supply of arctic char, sea scallop, and creamy botan shrimp.”

4.2
LDN

Review:

Norma

Read

“Our next visit to this restaurant was a different story. Those excellent pastas became congealed, boring messes or fish-loaded nightmares. We were left with a lot of questions. Bad ones, like, do we really want to eat this lukewarm sea bream from the raw bar? And, will we ever taste anything but sardines after one mouthful of this tagliolini? And, when can we leave? That first visit seemed like a distant memory, a mirage of tasty pastas, grated pecorino, and truffle. Did we imagine it all? Were we rocking a fever? It was the first time we’ve been gaslit by a ragu. And it hurt.”

8.2
NYC

Review:

Roll N Roaster

Read

“The next time you pass any fast food place, walk inside and ask for a bottle of champagne, a cup of melted cheese, and a free thin-crust pizza. You will, most likely, be escorted from the building and maybe also memed to death by a 12-year old who’s exceptionally good at Twitter. But there’s a place where you can fulfill all these desires. A place where melted cheese is as plentiful as tap water and everyone gets a free pizza after spending $35. It’s called Roll N Roaster, and it’s somewhere you should have on your to-visit list alongside iconic spots like P.J. Clarke’s and Bamonte’s.”

8.3
LDN

Review:

Gloria

Read

“You enter Gloria as an extra, and the restaurant is your manic, medley, film set. Upstairs is the Baz Luhrmann and Paolo Sorrentino collaboration that nobody’s asked for but everybody needs. It’s full of pastel colours, plants, and all kinds of people having a good time. For every Aperol spilt there’s a cushion to cover it up, though none of the Disney-ish staff would care as everything here is very much molto bene. This gloriously naff production is a daytime number. It’s light and bright up here, and your plate of San Daniele ham, or oozy burrata cremosa will look even better in real life. Or, maybe more importantly, on your phone.”

7.1
NYC

Review:

Gotham Bar And Grill

Read

“When Napoleon escaped from exile on Elba, a continent went to war. When the Spice Girls announced their reunion tour, tickets sold out so fast that Posh probably asked Mel B if there was still room for one more. And when Gotham Bar and Grill, an iconic fine-dining spot in Greenwich Village, brought in a new chef and overhauled the menu after 35 years, we expected a similarly noteworthy splash. But unlike a defeat at Waterloo or a triumphant show at Wembley, the result of this comeback is just an exceptionally average restaurant.”

8.7
SF

Review:

Flour + Water Pizzeria

Read

" Considering that going out for great pizza in SF usually involves waiting in line for around an hour - or giving up .0325% ownership of your company - being seated faster than it takes a five-year-old to blow out birthday candles is a small miracle.”

8.1
BOS

Review:

Umami

Read

“When it comes to personal - really personal - dining experiences, there’s a mother bird feeding her chicks straight from the beak, and then there’s sushi omakase.”

6.9
NYC

Review:

Mission Chinese Food Brooklyn

Read

“There are certain things you really only need to do once. Like cage dive with great whites, argue about politics with your father-in-law, or drunkenly get a tattoo. Even though you claim you don’t regret those Semisonic lyrics on your forearm, you’re probably not going to go back for the second verse. For us, dinner at Mission Chinese Food in Bushwick falls into the same category. Experiencing it once is enough.”

8.1
LDN

Review:

Seoul Bakery

Read

“The walls of our Infatuation office are covered in doodles. We have colour-coded boards covered in the names of restaurants we want to write about. We have a long list of new openings. And we have the word ‘swish’ in capitals to remind us to never, ever, use it in a review again. Basically, our walls are like A Beautiful Mind if you replaced every pi symbol with the word ‘chicken’.”

9.0
BOS

Review:

Tanám

Read

“There are a lot of factors that go into making something cool - after all, your face tattoo won’t get the job done on its own if it reads “Live, Laugh, Love,” in kanji. If you want to see a place that not only combines all of those factors into one shipping container-sized room but also, in so doing, creates something that makes Boston more complete, head to Tanám.”

4.9
LDN

Review:

Parrillan

Read

“Self-service is the best worst thing in the world. For every self-checkout that wordlessly beeps another pack of Tangfastics, there’s an ePassport gate that laughs and rejects your teenage My Chemical Romance fringe. It’s seamless until it isn’t seamless, and all of it has been leading up to Parrillan: a King’s Cross grill-it-yourself terrace restaurant that turns DIY into a big old FU.”

8.8
SEA

Review:

Maneki

Read

“The main dining room is consistently crowded, but the best way to experience Maneki is in a private tatami room in the back. After you kick your shoes off, kneel down on your personal pillow, and get the sake flowing, everything else seems to fade away. It’s just you, people you hopefully like, and this quiet room that’s closed off from the rest of the restaurant where someone periodically stops by to give you raw fish and beer.”

8.3
LA

Review:

Chiba

Read

“To understand Chiba, you have to experience spotting the hulking, standalone building off in the distance while driving up Lankershim. A 10-car valet line snakes out of their parking lot at 1pm every day of the week like it’s La Cienega Boulevard on a Saturday night. And yet, you’re surrounded by warehouses, smog shops, and discount sporting good stores. This isn’t even Noho’s bar-lined Arts District or nearby Ventura Blvd’s sushi row.”

8.5
NYC

Review:

Sushi Azabu

Read

“When the apocalypse eventually comes for New York City, you’re going to have to find a good basement to bunker down. If you had your pick, where would you go? The underground archives of The Met could be cool. Or the storage area of a Trader Joe’s might be a more strategic choice. Reality is, you’d probably end up in the basement of your own apartment or office building, clutching the water heater for emotional support.

But if we did have a choice of a basement to be stuck in, we’d pick Sushi Azabu.”

5.8
NYC

Review:

10 Corso Como

Read

“Somewhere between Dali’s cookbook in the back corner and the giant bar of soap up front, you might find something you’re happy to spend money on at 10 Corso Como. It just won’t be in the restaurant.”

8.4
LA

Review:

Birdie G’s

Read

“There are exposed rafters, cement brick walls, and a long bar looking into an open kitchen. If that all sounds familiar to you, it’s because - as nice as it is - the interior doesn’t look much different from other upscale restaurants these days. Luckily, once you examine the menu, you’ll realize you won’t be grinding through another over-priced, run-of-the-mill meal tonight. Birdie G’s serves comfort food, but it’s comfort food we’ve never seen inside an LA restaurant before.”

5.2
PHL

Review:

Aether

Read

“But besides drinks and a few oysters, Aether is pretty much useless. Just like the 2011 Eagles (and, really, most Eagles seasons), it will go down on a long list of Philly things that should be great, but just aren’t.”

8.2
MIA

Review:

Versailles Restaurant

Read

“Versailles is a restaurant the same way that Mount Everest is a mountain, or Muhammad Ali was a boxer, or Pitbull is just a bald guy from Miami. Sure, it’s a fact, but it’s also a massive understatement. Versailles isn’t just a Cuban restaurant - it’s Versailles. It’s one of those celebrities who only need to go by one name. It’s Bono, if Bono smelled like pork and coffee.”

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