The Docsconz Top 25 Restaurant Meals of 2014

Chef Matthew Lighner and his kitchen team at Atera

Chef Matthew Lighner and his kitchen team at Atera

This list is entirely subjective as they always are. Food is certainly the biggest single factor in my rankings, but ultimately the rankings are determined by the entire experience from food to service to ambiance to the mood that I was in or that developed for me. I was once again extremely fortunate to enjoy a year of outstanding dining, including many at restaurants that fell shy of this list. I hated to leave so many great meals off, but if I included every one, the value of the list would be reduced. Twentyfive is enough to provide depth, but not so many as to be unwieldy. These below, were the restaurant meals that meant the most to me over the year. The most difficult rankings to differentiate were 2-4, as all three meals were absolutely incredible. I ultimately chose to give the highest ranking to 41º in honor of its progenitor, elBulli. It was a worthy heir that itself has since closed awaiting yet another iteration as the forthcoming Enigma.

Albert Adria at Pakta

Albert Adria at Pakta

  1. Atera – NYC – August 15th – Brilliant and perfect in every respect. It would have to have been to have come in ahead of Albert Adria’s powerhouse restaurants. Everything about the restaurant just clicks with me. The food is creative, interesting, beautiful and delicious. The beverage program is second to none and the ambiance and service straddle that fine line between luxe and comfort that make it both coddling and comforting. Chef Matthew Lightner and his team do things the right way and it shows.
  2. 41º – Barcelona, Spain – January 30th – Albert Adriá had taken the spirit of elBulli and transplanted it into another setting, that not the equal of Cala Montjoi, has its own magic. 41 plates of delicious creativity was the result.

    My son's expression at 41º says it all.

    My son’s expression at 41º says it all.

  3. Pakta – Barcelona, Spain – January 31st – Adria’s foray into Nikkei cuisine, the fusion of Peruvian and Japanese cooking, is nothing short of mind-blowing, with dish after delicious dish.

    Chef Jorge Muñoz of Pakta

    Chef Jorge Muñoz of Pakta

  4. Bodega 1900 -Barcelona, Spain – January 30th – The most traditionally Spanish of all the Adriá restaurants, Bodega 1900 is set up as a Vermuteria. The cuisine is stunningly good, even by sensational Spanish standards.

    Chef Pedro Gabriel Asensio Vadillo of Bodega 1900

    Chef Pedro Gabriel Asensio Vadillo of Bodega 1900

  5. Pujol – Mexico City, Mexico – May 22nd – Enrique Olvera’s food is high end, but with real soul. It is creative, respectful, beautiful and absolutely delicious. Along with the likes of Albert and Ferran Adria and Massimo Bottura, whose restaurants I have visited multiple times, I have never experienced anything less than a sensational meal. His food has been consistently great over time.
  6. Bar Las Compuertas – Riacheros, Sanlucar de Barrameda, Spain – January 24th This was a fabulous experience that represents the dream of discovery, thanks to my great friend and guide, Gerry Dawes. Of course we weren’t the first people to dine at this remote, little fishing shack in the middle of nowhere near Sanlacar de Barrameda, but it sure felt like we were. The seafood was pristine and wonderfully prepared from the shrimp fritters to the angulas to the grilled “Capitan” and more. This was some of the finest seafood I have ever had.

    El Capitan

    El Capitan

  7. Laurel – Philadelphia, PA – December 3rd – Laurel is the real deal with a passionate, skilled chef, Nicholas Elmi, cooking passionate, delicious food at very reasonable prices in a cozy, romantic setting.

    Nicholas Elmi slicing white Alba truffles.

    Nicholas Elmi slicing white Alba truffles.

  8. Rose’s Luxury – Washington DC – November 22nd – A truly wonderful all-around restaurant that truly “gets” the meaning of hospitality. It is genuine and it is wonderful. It is a real, honest “feel good” story of a restaurant if ever there was one.

    Chef Aaron Silverman of Rose's Luxury

    Chef Aaron Silverman of Rose’s Luxury

  9. Sylvain – New Orleans, LA – October 9th – I did not expect Sylvain to be as wonderful as it was, but then how could I have. Chef Alex Harrell’s food blew me away in a cozy, funky French Quarter setting. He has since left to open his own restaurant in a space that I hold near and dear – the old Stella! space. I look forward to returning to experience the magic anew.

    Chef Alex Harrell in the kitchen of Sylvain

    Chef Alex Harrell in the kitchen of Sylvain

  10. Estela – NYC –  March 23rd – Chef Ignacio Mattos has style with his food, but he also has substance. The food is creative, delicious and fun and the bar is also outstanding. If I lived in NYC, I would definitely be a regular.

    Ignacio Mattos of Estela

    Ignacio Mattos of Estela

  11. Semilla – Williamsburg, Brooklyn, NY – December 12th – Chefs Jose Ramirez-Ruiz and Pamela Yung, who both previously worked with Ignacio Mattos at Isa, can no longer be considered just proteges. They are an outstanding team who are able to transform the normally mundane into something special. Is there any bread more satisfying than what Yung is baking at the restaurant?

    Jose Ramirez-Ruiz aka "Chez Jose"

    Jose Ramirez-Ruiz aka “Chez Jose”

  12. El Rincon del Jabugo – Avila, Spain –  January 20th – As much Iberico as we could eat, sliced by one of the greatest jamón slicers in the world and pretty much just for us in an otherwise non-descript hole-in-the-wall of a restaurant? Tell me this wouldn’t make your list! Oh and the rest of the food from the kitchen was dynamite too, not to mention the G&T’s! Thanks again to Gerry Dawes for having great friends and a true insider’s knowledge of Spain.

    One of Spain's superstar cortadores, Florencio Sanchidrián slicing Jamón Iberico de Bellota at El Rincón del Jabugo in Avila, spain.

    One of Spain’s superstar cortadores, Florencio Sanchidrián slicing Jamón Iberico de Bellota at El Rincón del Jabugo in Avila, spain.

  13. Birch – Providence, RI – March 28th – Chef Benjamin Sukle’s cooking continues to grow and mature with a voice that has become confidant and entirely original.

    Chef Benjamin Sukle plating his Crab and Carrot dish at Birch

    Chef Benjamin Sukle plating his Crab and Carrot dish at Birch

  14. Kabuki Wellington – Madrid, Spain – January 29th – It is amazing how well Japanese and Spanish cuisines mesh. This meal proved that the great meal I had there a few years back was no fluke.

    Chef Ricardo Saenz at Kabuki Wellington

    Chef Ricardo Saenz at Kabuki Wellington

  15. El Mesón de Candido – Segovia, Spain – January 20th – My first meal in Spain on this trip was roasted suckling pig – heaven!

    El cochinillo de Candido

    El cochinillo de Candido

  16. Betony – NYC – December 13th – Tightly conceived, constructed and cooked, Chef Bryce Shuman’s food is precise and delicious; the bar program is sensational; and the room is delightfully elegant.

    Chef Bryce Shuman in the upstairs dining room of Betony

    Chef Bryce Shuman in the upstairs dining room of Betony

  17. Rosetta – Mexico City, Mexico – May 21st – Exquisite and delicious Mediterranean influenced Mexican cooking in great company makes for a wonderful meal.

    Rising superstar Elena Reygadas of Rosetta

    Rising superstar Elena Reygadas of Rosetta

  18. Zahav – Philadelphia, PA – December 4th – Pure deliciousness that redefined Middle Eastern cooking for me.

    Chef Michael Solomonov at Zahav

    Chef Michael Solomonov at Zahav

  19. Cosme – NYC – December 6th – A very good restaurant from Enrique Olvera with the potential to be truly great. It is not Pujol, nor is it meant to be. It does a great job of mixing the flavors and textures of modern Mexico with a NYC sensibility.

    Enrique Olvera at Cosme

    Enrique Olvera at Cosme

  20. a.kitchen – Philadelphia, PA – December 3rd – High Street on Market has received much of the deserved notoriety for chef Eli Kulp, but his newest venture at a.kitchen is an even greater stand-out.

    Chef Eli Kulp at a.kitchen + bar in Philadelphia

    Chef Eli Kulp at a.kitchen + bar in Philadelphia

  21. La Puerta Falsa – Villanueva de Córdoba, Spain – January 25th – The last of our dehesa visits led us to this small restaurant near Córdoba. Rolling in all of the best cuts of fresh Ibérico, expertly grilled and augmented by a phalanx of totally delicious traditional regional dishes, this was a meal that illustrates why dining in Spain is so special.

    The major cuts of fresh Cerdo Iberico de Bellota in the heart of the Andalucian dehesa at La Puerta Falsa

    The major cuts of fresh Cerdo Iberico de Bellota in the heart of the Andalucian dehesa at La Puerta Falsa

  22. Daikaya – Washington, DC – May 25th – Great flavors, great execution and a great vibe at  these two restaurants (ramen and izakaya) make the election of a meal here a landslide.

    Chef Katsuya Fukushima and his ramen at Daikaya

    Chef Katsuya Fukushima working the ramen line at Daikaya

  23. Racine’s – NYC – October 16th – Both food and wine are extremely well served and outstanding values for the quality provided. It’s not a revolutionary concept, but it doesn’t need to be.

    Chef Frederic Duca and staff in the kitchen at Racine's.

    Chef Frederic Duca and staff in the kitchen at Racine’s.

  24. Juni – NYC – October 25th – Elegant, creative and an unabashed modernist in a world generally focusing elsewhere, Shaun Hergatt’s beautiful restaurant doesn’t get the notoriety that it deserves.

    Chef Shaun Hergatt in his kitchen at Juni

    Chef Shaun Hergatt in his kitchen at Juni

  25. Frankie’s 570 – NYC – August 9th – Comfort food, family and memories made for a great time. The lightness of the gnocchi was remarkable and the braciole stupendous.

    Chef Ryan Bartlow of Frankie's 570

    Chef Ryan Bartlow of Frankie’s 570


This entry was posted in Bistronomic, Fine Dining, Food and Drink, Mexico, New England, New Orleans, New York City, Philadelphia, Places, Regional, Restaurants, Slow Food, Spain, The Southern USA, Top Restaurant Meals, Top Tastes, Traditional Ethnic, Travel, Washington, D.C. and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to The Docsconz Top 25 Restaurant Meals of 2014

  1. Spain is a real powerhouse. What a great year.

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