Today marks the 28th day of the 12th month of the Year of the Cat, and it’s not the Year of the Rabbit because I’m Vietnamese. This year started with a piping jeongol at Casserole House and will be ended with a cup of Tieguanyin in bed. This year my luck has brought me new friendships with some admirable people and bolstered old friendships that have last almost a decade. I’ve eaten more, and I’ve disliked more. But there are meals that I truly like. In this list of no particular order, the setting and the price are secondary to the taste, and not all of the dishes are breathtaking (but they’re good). These meals are the best because each of them either has something that I remember (most often the dessert :D) or was shared with someone that I like. 🙂
It would be unfair to include Little Mom’s meals in this list, they’d take up the whole list. 🙂
1. My first (and still only) Cambodian dinner at Battambang, Oakland. I’m not sure if I should continue exploring the Cambodian front. If I do, it’d be more for linguistic purpose than culinary adventure because the tastes are too similar to the typical Vietnamese menus. Regardless, what makes this meal standout was the dessert: jackfruit in warm coconut milk, simple but so satisfying.
2. A less typical taste of Huế at Hương Giang, Houston. Most Vietnamese shops in the States feature Southern Vietnamese cuisine, the most Central Vietnamese things one can get are bánh bèo and bún bò Huế. Hương Giang doesn’t have a strong outlook, but its food is memorable.
3. Dining with the culinary experts at To Hyang, San Francisco. I stayed quiet the entire night to listen to everyone’s stories and wondered when I’ll know as much as they do. An educational dinner with extra-rich braised oxtail and extra-fresh pork belly salad to boost.
4. Lunch at the Super H Mart food court, Houston. It’s fast and tasty. The jajangmyeon (Korean black bean sauce noddle) from Daddy & Daughter is the best jajangmyeon I’ve ever had. The food court doesn’t charge less than the restaurants, but you could say that the convenience makes up for the ambiance.
5. Lunch at Saigon Buffet, Houston. Sadly, this place has closed.
6. Dinner at the Belgian restaurant La Frite in San Antonio. The crowd was huge, the food was slow to come, but everything tasted as it should. Its expected perfection is memorable.
7. Probably the most cost-effective three-course lunch anywhere, at Il Piatto, Santa Fe. Another perfect meal where everything was delish. And the company was great. 😉 I would include in this list the windy afternoon when Yookyung, Jen, Hyunmi and I lazed out at the rooftop bar overlooking Santa Fe, but I don’t think margaritas and Coke count as a meal.
8. Dinner with Rau Om in Palo Alto. There’re too many memorable things here to list, so please just click on the link. Oh, and I would really like me some amazake now.
9. Dinner at the House of Prime Ribs, San Francisco. It was fun, the company was excellent, the food was hearty, the vegan bread stick was the best.
10. My first time at an izakaya: Kiraku in Berkeley. I can still feel the crunchy lotus root chips and corn fritters.
11. The gargantuan dinner at Myungdong Kalguksu, Houston. The atmosphere cannot get any more family-like. They don’t have a consistent opening hour, but they have the best pajeon (Korean pancake) in town.
12. Christmas Eve dinner at Kata Robata, Houston. Everything is good, but the sesame panna cotta was the best dessert of the year. 🙂
Thank you, Cat! And welcome, Dragon!