A highly personal list of the best dishes I ate in 2022. I eat a lot. Only a few dishes made the cut.
2022 was good and bad. I spent a lot of time in Florida looking after my father and in Arizona looking after my mother. I got to visit New York City (THE City as my friends from college will tell you) not just once but twice. I divided a month in Europe into an incredible culinary and history adventure in Naples and Rome, Italy, and relaxing family time in Switzerland. And I have the good fortune to live in the San Francisco Bay Area where I ate my way through San Francisco, the North Bay (Marin, Sonoma, Napa), Oakland and beyond.
From food trucks and pop-ups to sit-down restaurants that still have the gumption to grace a table with linen, excellent eats are everywhere. These are just some of my favorites. I hope you will share some of yours!
The Best Dishes of 2022
- Re Lazzarone stuffed squash blossoms, Naples, Italy
My boys and I discovered this petite restaurant after a visit to the nearby National Archeological Museum. The walls are graced with drawings of Maradona, who famously played for the local soccer team, and there was the blissful hum of an air conditioner in July. Stuffed with Neapolitan salame and ricotta, zucchini flowers are flash-fried, the flower crisp, the cheese creamy, the entirety impossible to stop eating.
- Mijoté beef tartare, San Francisco
The tight menu of six nightly dishes lists the tartare simply as “beef eye of round, geen bean, pistachio,” giving little hint of the floral and rhubarb tang or cured egg yolk that elevated a classic raw beef dish into something entirely unexpected.
- Osito/Liliana heirloom melons, San Francisco
Chef Seth Stowaway serves the same menu of Michelin one-star Osito at its adjoining bar/restaurant, Liliana. I stopped by for a glass of wine and discovered a plate of chef’s seasonal caroselli melon. Amplified with almond salsa macha, crispy garlic and finger lime, the dish was a play on sweet and sour, crunchy and soft and a whole lot of umami. Every melon deserves to be treated this well.
- Bodega banh cuon, San Francisco
We’ve all had rice paper roll, no? Luminescent, the ground pork and wood ear mushrooms straining to escape their glistening rice paper wrapper, the dish is not elegant. But one dip in the nuoc mam with a slice of fried garlic and fresh cilantro will have you thanking the restaurant gods that owner Matt Ho was able to stay in the business.
- Singapura five spice pork roll, New York City
Its tofu skin fried until crisp and glazed with spicy-sweet sauce, its minced pork and shrimp seasoned with fragrant five-spice, an appetizer captured the essence of culinary Singapore in a single dish. It was so good, I ordered another.
- Angler radicchio with XO sauce, San Francisco
Having waxed rhapsodic about the whiskey-paired meal and the XO-drizzled radicchio, I am here to remind you of the chicory’s delicate sweetness balanced by the savoriness of fish sauce, an ideal salad course for a meal aswirl with balanced brininess at every turn. Don’t forget to wear your bib – sauce splashes are common.
- Izakaya Gazen tofu lunch, Los Angeles
Served as a spin on a bento box, house made tofu – fresh, in salad and as a dumpling – was revelatory both for its flavors and its textures. Miso soup, seaweed salad and green salad complete the meal.
- Bear bison tartare, Napa
Great chefs know how to hook a food writer using texture and flavor. Chef Garrison Price utilizes a toolkit of cheffy tricks – colatura (a type of garum) to buff out the beef and add briny flavor, cured egg yolk shaved and sprinkled for a one-two punch of creamy, zingy flavor, and tendons turned into puffy crisps – adding grace and elegance to an earthbound dish.
- Arlù, eggplant timbale, Rome
Ok, ok, the actual name of this dish is Parmigianina Sfiziosa. My translation into English from Italian may not be adequate to describe the thinly sliced, fried eggplant layered with tomato sauce and cheese and baked before it is served with pesto and Parmesan. Discovered at a restaurant just outside the walls of Vatican City where the beautiful hum of air conditioning was again most welcome.
- Ancora celery Caesar, San Francisco
As I wrote earlier this year, celery can have a bad rap but chef Nicholas Anichini pulled together crispy bits and crunchy flavors in a way that made sense for the anise-flavored green, amplifying the humble ingredient to a new, better-than-you-can-make-at-home place.
- Kientz Hall lamb burger, San Anselmo
If you take away the harissa, Valbreso feta cheese, herbs, pickled onion, and charred scallion aioli that make this sandwich utterly irresistible, you still have the superior meat on a bun. But don’t do that. Appreciate what chef has done here and keep ALL the flavors.
- Sula Fuyu persimmon salad, Sausalito
The reincarnated restaurant at the Lodge at Cavallo Point unites fromage blanc, endive and red oak lettuces, dried cherry and hazelnuts with a Sherry dressing into a salad that not only showcases each ingredient’s flavor but makes the greens irresistible.
- Camino Alto Japanese sweet potato tacos, San Francisco
Roasted until creamy then topped with pickled onions and radish before wrapped in a fresh blue corn tortilla, the humble sweet potato becomes something grand.
- The Speakeasy fish sandwich, Novato
Chef Munther Massarweh understands that less is more. Placed onto a bun (gluten-free for me), arugula and tomato and a tartar sauce plumped up with griddled lemon turns a fish sandwich from leftover fare into a centerpiece.
Other exceptional dishes:
Lobster XO at Animo, Sonoma
Eggplant basil at Z& Y, San Francisco
Gnesdo at Birch & Rye, San Francisco
Garlic noodles with crab at Bistro Viz, San Anselmo, California
Crudo at Sorella, San Francisco
Crab wrap at Delicious Dish, Sonoma (also wrote about them in this Eater piece)
Hot dog at Schaller & Weber’s Stube, New York City
Buckwheat bhel, Sona, New York City
Sushi rice with ikura and raw beef at Ernest, San Francisco
Grilled asparagus at Table Culture Provisions, Petaluma, California
Floating pond dessert at iChina, Santa Clara, California
Rose hip salmon at Cellarius Kitchen at Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars, Napa
Enchiladas mole poblano at Colibri, San Francisco
Stuffed gluten-free pasta at Fauno Bar, Sorrento, Italy
Gluten-free pizza at Pizza in Trevi, Rome (I would brave the Trevi crowds to eat here again)
Crudo at Big Alma, San Francisco
Lobster thermidor at The Vasper, New York City
Pork tacos at Lagunitas, Petaluma, California
Enchiladas de mole at Ofrenda, Cave Creek, Arizona
Misoyaki black cod at Anzu, San Francisco
Mushrooms at Terrene, San Francisco