Amy T. Granite, Discover SD: My single best meal of the year was at The Cork & Craft in Rancho Bernardo. In my opinion, executive chef Phillip Esteban is the talent to watch, experience, and cheer on in 2016—and Abnormal Co. is equally on fire with its beer and wine programs. I’d go as far to say that the Wagyu beef tartare here was the single best item I ate all year; it absolutely shows off Esteban’s style and perfectionism with its cured egg yolk, aerated umeboshi, nori croutons and pickled radishes. Mixed together with the silky, finely chopped beef and smeared across long, toasted baguette slices, it’s so good that words simply cannot do it justice—except to warn against being intimidated by mysterious sounding ingredients on the menu here. Just trust the chef and eat—he’s a pro at making high brow cuisine approachable for all.
Michael Gardiner, San Diego CityBeat: It is impossible for me to decide between my two best. First, was Chef Diego Hernandez’s five course tasting menu at Corazon de Tierra in the Valle de Guadalupe, rightly listed as one of San Pellegrino’s 50 best restaurants in all of Latin America. But Davin Waite’s omakase at Wrench & Rodent Seabasstropub in Oceanside is an experience like no other. Indeed, Waite’s food is like that of no other. Sushi but not, high end but not fine dining, it is some of the most creative food being done anywhere.
Barbarella Fokos, San Diego Reader: La Bonne Table, hands down. We began with a phenomenal plate of imported French cheese, and then enjoyed an expertly prepared Trout Almandine with asparagus. My man loved the duck confit, and you can’t beat the ambience.
Michele Parente, San Diego Union-Tribune: It was the opposite of the lavish, multi-course extravaganzas I went to at Addison, Stake, Misión 19, Corazon de Tierra and the Grant Grill: Su-Mei Yu held a traditional Buddhist blessing ceremony at Saffron on October 19 to celebrate the restaurant’s 30th anniversary. Prayers were chanted, flower petal were thrown and Su-Mei’s grateful tears flowed. Afterward, guests ate standing up on the sidewalk, off paper plates, from a Thai vegetarian buffet set up outside on the patio. The food was predictably Saffron-satisfying but beside the point. It was a delicious honor just to be there.
Frank Sabatini, Jr., San Diego Community News Network: It was at the long-established Athens Market Taverna on the quiet, west side of F Street. Dinner began with sirloin-stuffed dolmades dressed in lemon-egg sauce followed by herby lentil soup, stellar mousaka, and then slow-baked lemon chicken. Best Greek food I’ve had in years, and in a comfortably elegant setting to boot.
Erin Jackson, Thrillist: It'll be a long time before anything beats the anniversary dinner I enjoyed with my husband at the chef's counter at Juniper & Ivy. Any meal that starts with a biscuit topped with a giant pat of smoked butter and ends with two desserts makes for a pretty great night.