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Friends of Eater Name Their Single Best Meals of 2014

From New York's high end restaurants, to sushi bars in Tokyo, to a family feast in Nairobi, these are some meals for the books.

As is the tradition at Eater, our closeout of the year is a survey of friends, industry types, and bloggers. This year, we asked the group eight questions running the gamut from meal of the year to top restaurant newcomers. Their answers will appear throughout the week. Responses are related in no particular order; all are cut, pasted, and (mostly) unedited herein. Please, add your answers in the comments.

Erik Torkells, Tribeca Citizen founding editor:
Semilla. I went two weeks ago and I can still describe every dish, including the bread.

Bret Thorn, Nation's Restaurant News senior food editor:
The whole pig roasted in a Caja China by chef José Enrique during a pork crawl in Puerto Rico, made into a sandwich with farmer cheese and pickled onions on a fluffy roll.

Robert Sietsema, Eater NY restaurant critic:
A meal at Pok Pok with enough friends to eat at least half the menu.

Mitchell Davis, Executive Vice President of the James Beard Foundation:
Cosme. Everyone's been saying for years that Peruvian food is going to be the next big thing. Then along comes a new Mexican restaurant that blows everything out of the water.

The sleek, dark dining room at Cosme with wooden tables and black walls Daniel Krieger/Eater

Cosme by Daniel Krieger

Tejal Rao, Bloomberg restaurant critic:
A massive feast of paya, the goat trotter curry, at my aunt's house in Nairobi. We ate it squashed around a too-small, wobbly table with lots of family and lots of crusty bread, which is the best way to eat paya.

Not one of the fancier places I tried, but Glady's, the Caribbean spot in Crown Heights

Jordana Rothman, food writer and editor, cocktail expert:
Al pastor tacos eaten on a sidewalk outside an auto body shop in Mexico City. The shop turns into a taqueria called El Vilsito in the evening, and it serves what is probably the greatest taco I've ever had in my life. I think I ate 10 of them.

Michael Kaminer, New York Daily News restaurant critic:
Not one of the fancier places I tried, but Glady’s, the Caribbean spot in Crown Heights. Great food, but also huge heart.

Charlotte Druckman, food writer:
Prune, multiple.

Danyelle Freeman,
While I'm totally loyal to New York's dining scene, my best meal of 2014 was Trois Mec in Los Angeles. It reminded me of Ferran Adria's Tickets in Barcelona, which is one of my most unforgettable meals to date. You buy a ticket online for a set tasting menu served that night. You get to this strip mall and you have to figure out that it's tucked inside a storefront with a sign that reads "Rafallo's Pizza" over the entrance. A funky, oddball collaboration between Ludo Lefebvre, Vinny Dotolo, and Jon Shook, Trois Mec is simultaneously fun and ambitious. There's curiously delicious dishes, like buckwheat nuggets, Dijon mustard creme brulee, grilled baby corn with leche de gigre, and Carolina rice pudding, scented with coffee and cardamom.

Darin Bresnitz, Snacky Tunes/Finger on the Pulse:
Maude (sorry NYC) morels dinner.


wd~50 by Daniel Krieger

Ben Leventhal, Resy co-founder; Eater co-founder:
Final meals at Ko 1.0 and wd~50 were equally tremendous.

Ryan Sutton, Eater NY restaurant critic/data lead:
My single best meal of the year was at Del Posto. That doesn't necessarily mean it was the most mind-blowing from a strict culinary perspective; I awarded four stars to Atera in an Eater review; I thought Forage in Salt Lake City knocked it out of the park; and I still can't stop thinking about my visit last January to Elizabeth in Chicago. But Del Posto made me the happiest. We taxied over from the Cubism exhibit at The Met, we grabbed a few seats at the bar, and we ate and drank well for a few hours. There were amuses that tasted like gourmet Cheetos. There was spaghetti with Dungeness crab. There was orecchiette with lamb sausage grilled in such a way that the meat tasted like the exterior on a Shake Shack burger. And, of course, there were the restaurant's famous Vesper martinis, which I argue are among the best in the city, though when you're in a quiet room with dim lighting and a piano playing it's easy to be swayed. And, as much as I'm a fan of the new, stripped down dining rooms with "designer food at off the rack prices," as they say, sometimes it feels nice to do it old-school, and this didn't just feel nice it felt outstanding. And my plus one dug it too, which made me "two parts relieved" and "three parts stoked," which is a pretty good ratio in my book.

Hillary Dixler, Eater associate reports editor: 
Fall sushi omakase at Sushi Dojo blew me away.

Sushi Dojo [Paul Crispin Quitoriano]

Sushi Dojo by Paul Crispin Quitoriano

Lockhart Steele, Vox Media editorial director; Eater co-founder:
A year of eating across the country and the globe proved again that we've got the best of it in New York City. My meal of the year came unexpectedly in November, when a group of old friends gathered for a new monthly tradition of enjoying dinner at a restaurant deemed special by one member of the group. Our first month's organizer deemed that we'd dine at the original Blue Ribbon on Sullivan Street, for all the reasons that are obvious to anyone who's ever dined there. They gave us the big circular booth near the front of the room, and oysters, and from there it unfolded into the kind of night that confirms why we dine out so often in this crazy, beautiful city.

Helen Rosner, Eater, features editor:
I didn't think anything could top the casual brilliance of my first dinner at Take Root back in June. But I've been back twice since, and each meal was successively better. I don't know how to even put into words how much I love that restaurant: It's the anti-tasting-menu tasting menu. There's no rigmarole. There's no ostentatious, high-concept showmanship. There's no bullshit. There's just a gorgeous series of flawlessly prepared, totally exciting dishes, all beautifully plated and deeply delicious. I'd eat there every week if I could. Every day.

A tie between Betony's lamb two ways and the large-format black goat feast at Ban Ga Ne.

Devra Ferst, Eater NY associate editor:
I've eaten at Smitty's in Somer's Point probably every single year of my life, and I still love it dearly. Clams come from the bay to the plate very quickly. A few raw clams, followed by the house's stellar chowder, fried oysters, and Key lime pie, eaten at the outdoor bar about 12 feet from the bay. Pure pleasure.

Amanda Kludt, Eater editor-in-chief:
Blue Hill at Stone Barns, no question.

Joe DiStefano, Chopsticks and Marrow:
Tough call, a tie between Betony's lamb two ways and the large-format black goat feast at Ban Ga Ne, which one Pete Wells just spotlighted in his romp through Queens' vast K-tropolis.

Matt Rodbard, Food Republic contributing editor:
Omakase at Kura. Everything was pretty much perfect. Norihiro Ishizuka is 70 and a presence in the tiny dining room. I recall starting with red miso soup and something with nori dust followed by horse mackerel, uni x 2, toro and an ethereal green tea ice cream to end. It was my top meal in NYC this year, and even included a visit from the stone-faced health inspector as an intermezzo.

Kat Odell, Eater editorial producer:
Sushi Sawada, a six seat sushi bar in Tokyo. Domestically, Saison in San Francisco.

Andrew Steinthal, The Infatuation co-founder:
Tie between every restaurant I ate at in New Orleans this year. Le Petit Grocery, Cochon, Willie Mae's Scotch House etc.


Nick Solares, Eater NY senior editor:
Sushi Nakazawa.

Greg Morabito, Eater engagement editor:
A sun-dappled three-course lunch in the back corner of Gotham Bar and Grill last June.

Marguerite Preston, Eater NY editor: A summer meal at the Mission Chinese Food pop-up at Frankies. That was the most good food I've gotten for $40 in a long time, and it totally renewed by excitement for the return of Mission Chinese.

Foster Kamer, ComplexFirst We Feast senior editor: 
In Florence, at a place called Trattoria Sostanza. But, rather than try to explain (and possibly over-fetishize) the glory that is housing a bottle of Chianti, some chicken, some steak, and some bread at a table full of Italians-including one who kept jabbering at me and pointing to a picture of a white cow on his phone — I guess the more pertinent answer here is that time my girlfriend's mom had her birthday at Estela for twelve, and we ordered the entire menu, and I walked into work the next morning smelling like the bottom of a sherry barrel, hands swollen like hammers. That was fun.