Chefs love to eat out, but it can take a lot to impress them. However, when they are wowed, they don’t ever forget it. Here 11 chefs share their favorite meals of 2018 at restaurants on OpenTable that left them wanting more and what made it such a special experience. Read on and book your tables for the year ahead to dine like a chef.
Jeff Vucko of Travelle, Chicago, Illinois
“I recently went back to Proxi for the fifth time. Chef Andrew Zimmerman and his team are cranking out worldly street food with subtle twists that will blow your mind. They play with textures and there are flavor bombs at every turn. My favorite dishes were the fish collars with Thai garlic-chili sauce and tuna with ginger sorbet. Pastry chef Sarah Mispagel is a genius so you will end your meal on a high note every time.”
Todd Gray of Equinox, Washington, D.C.
“We’ve been to Mayahuel at least six times in the past year, which is pretty unusual for us. It’s a great neighborhood spot and they have a dog-friendly patio so we can bring the pups when the weather is nice. I love the ceviche, which has fresh shrimp, bay scallops, fresh lime juice, cilantro, serrano chile, corn, cucumber, avocado, and yellow corn tostadas. So good. My wife, Ellen, usually goes with the yuca frita and plantains. Of course, we get the queso for the table, as well as a pitcher of their killer margaritas. The owner is a great guy and the staff is always really accommodating. All around, a chill spot to hang out after a long week.”
Kathy Fang of Fang, San Francisco, California
“My recent dining experience at Angler was fantastic. The space has a great balance of refined luxury and rustic charm. You’ve got brick, open kitchens, and old-school seafood motifs, which are offset by refined modern chairs, tables, and tableware. The location is also a plus, as you have great views of the bay and the bridge. The cuisine is straightforward but complex at the same time. It’s a seafood-heavy restaurant, which reminds me of classic seafood and steakhouses. And yet every traditional item is presented in a new manner. It really stands out from the other new restaurants that have opened in San Francisco.”
Sriram Hariharan of Fyve, Arlington, Virginia
“Rasika West End is a shining jewel in the crown of D.C.’s finest restaurants, so it was the most natural choice to celebrate a family get-together with my in-laws. We gorged on their famous appetizers of palak chaat and crispy fried cauliflower spiced with curry leaves and black mustard seeds, along with mainstay dishes like smoky black lentils and stuffed baby sweet peppers in a traditional Indian tomato sauce. The level of refinement, complexity, and elegance was well matched with traditional techniques and authentic flavors. The more we enjoyed, the more we ordered – including a flavorful assortment of tandoori breads and many unique vegetable curries. The crescendo to this gourmet symphony was a round of desserts. Our favorite was their signature cardamom ice cream, which has a rich, smooth, velvety texture and just the right amount of green cardamom. It was great to meet the man behind this culinary gem, chef Vikram Sunderam, who stopped by the table and ensured that we had an amazing dining experience. We were in awe of this successful chef, who is still very humble at heart.”
Gabe Fenton of Bourbon Steak, Aventura, Florida
“My favorite meal recently was at Miami’s Ariete from chef Michael Beltran. We tried almost every dish on the menu. Highlights were the wood-grilled oyster with bone marrow butter and lemon; the smoked short rib pastrami-style with shaved vegetable Cesar; and the Frita Cubana with chorizo, spicy ketchup, onion, and papitas. We also had some of the cocktails from our recently departed AGM Rafael Vasquez, who looks amazing and refreshed in his new element as their director of operations.”
Peter Prime of Spark, Washington, D.C.
“I love the Michel Richard inspired short ribs at Unconventional Diner, which is overseen by Richard’s protégé, David Deshaies. Having worked for Michel myself, it brings back nostalgic memories of being in his kitchen. I also love David’s fried chicken with stellar hot sauce and the chicken pot pie.”
Leigh Omilinsky of Nico Osteria, Chicago, Illinois
“I ate at Marisol in Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) and absolutely loved it! I’m a big fan of chef Jason Hammel and chef de cuisine Sarah Rinkavage. The best part about their food, besides the sheer deliciousness of it, is that it’s all super seasonal, very thoughtful, and locally sourced. Marisol is interesting to me because the dining room blends seamlessly into the MCA’s first floor. It’s sleek and modern, just like the rest of the museum. We started our meal with the sunflower hummus with flaxseed crackers, which was so interesting and so good. We then had the fried quail with cashew butter and smoked date honey and the spaghetti squash salad with mushrooms. Again, everything was so thoughtful. I love spaghetti squash, but you hardly ever see it on menus. We then had the casoncelli pasta with eggplant and hazelnut. It was the perfect amount of pasta — and perfectly executed. We followed it with the whole trout a la plancha and the poached salmon with pumpkin broth. Considering my dining companion and I can eat an impressive amount of food, we absolutely ordered dessert, which was honey panna cotta with figs and a cherry chocolate ice cream cake.”