The Absolute Best Restaurant Dishes We Ate In 2023

For food lovers, finding the perfect meal can create lasting memories. For even the most utilitarian of eaters, an exemplary singular dish from a restaurant can turn a satisfied customer into a loyal one. Selecting just one memorable dish is also an incredible ask thanks to the litany of delicious dishes on a single menu and the multitude of restaurants serving innovative and delicious food. Thankfully, the writers and editors of Tasting Table proved they were up for the challenge. 

While some lists might only focus on the newest, we decided to cast a wider net to showcase the best restaurant dish that members of our team have tried this year regardless of the older status of the property. Our recommendations span from coast to coast in the U.S., before heading across the Atlantic for even more dishes that left a lasting impression. Of course, what is considered "the best" is highly subjective, but the selections on this list are objectively worth the consideration. And with the cost of dinner being higher than ever, sometimes you just need a win. We explain why the following dishes not only won us over, but deserve the title of the best dish we tasted this year.   

Cuban sandwich empanadas at Cafe La Trova (Miami, FL)

Cafe La Trova in Miami is famous for its craft cocktails and lively atmosphere. On any given night, this spot in Little Havana will be pulsing with the beat of a live rumba band with Cuban families and tourists mixing together to enjoy a good party while partaking in some of the best food and drink Miami has to offer. The bar is headed by renowned mixologist Julio Cabrera, and its kitchen is led by none other than Michelle Bernstein, a James Beard Award-winning chef of Jewish and Latin descent who has been pairing those fancy cocktails with equally flavorful meals.

Indeed, the one that impressed me the most on an evening in July was the Cuban sandwich empanadas. Full disclosure: until then, I had never had an actual Cuban sandwich. But I have since, and none of them hold a candle to the burst of flavor delivered by the perfectly cooked lechon, Swiss cheese, and mustard combination I experienced at Cafe La Trova. It was as if the ingredients were dancing the salsa in my mouth, in perfect step with the live band performing beside me, everything in perfect harmony.

– Elettra Pauletto

(786) 615.4379

971 SW 8th St, Miami, FL 33130

Veggie Khao Soi at Uncle (Denver, CO)

Ask any Denver local what their ideal weekend looks like in the winter, and their answer will likely include a trip to one of the many mountain towns. However, whether they make their escape to Steamboat, Aspen, or Vail — all food destinations in their own right — they'll be looking forward to a hot bowl of ramen on their return from one of the best ramen restaurants in America, Uncle. I can attest, considering in the one month I spent there this past year, I must have stopped in at least once a week. Every time, my order was the same: the Chinese eggplant buns as an appetizer followed by the veggie khao soi. I'm drooling just thinking about it.

I should probably mention I don't eat meat, making the veggie khao soi my only option. But I can assure you I would've ordered it anyway. Before I even mentioned the fact, the waitress was the one who recommended it — and she made it clear that she wasn't even vegetarian. It's just that good.

The broth is made from a base of northern Thai yellow curry, invoking all the warmth of spices like ginger, coriander, cardamom, and, of course, turmeric, giving it its gorgeous golden hue. The broth is filled with their springy, curly, perfectly al dente noodles and some rather magnificent-looking king trumpet mushrooms. It's then topped with a healthy helping of chili jam, pickled mustard greens, cilantro, and red onion.

– Claire Redden

(303) 433-3263

2215 W 32nd Ave, Denver, CO 80211

La Fameuse Pâte Á La Truffe at Ober Mamma

The TikTok famous Big Mamma Group is behind a number of Italian restaurants across Europe. Serving up classic Italian favorites with modern twists is only half the fun of the Mamma restaurants — the experience is in the details. Everything from the wallpaper down to your cutlery is carefully chosen to fit the aesthetic, bohemian, yet whimsical style.

I went to Paris in July on a trip, and after having the La Fameuse Pâte À La Truffe at Mamma Primi, I knew I couldn't leave the city without having it again. I tried it again a few days later at another one of the Big Mamma Group restaurants, Ober Mamma. It was equally executed and delicious at both restaurants, with each truffle sauce-coated bite melting in my mouth. This pasta is creamy, and not your ordinary truffle pasta. The mascarpone cheese adds to the decadence, and the crispy mushroom adds an unexpected umami element to the dish. 

– Julia Collins

+33 186 76 0611

18 Rue Boursault, Paris 75017

Cochon De Lait Eggs Benedict at Commander's Palace (New Orleans, LA)

Anytime I'm in New Orleans, there's one restaurant that's a requisite: Commander's Palace. The Garden District icon, open since 1893, is the kind of historic property that feels simultaneously preserved in time, while constantly asserting itself as a force of contemporary Creole cuisine. That's a testament to the restaurant's consummate hospitality, as well as its chef, Meg Bickford, who brings a penchant for modernity to classic Creole ingredients. Every time I'm here, it feels familiar — but tastes completely fresh and new. And my most recent visit for jazz brunch revealed my favorite dish yet: cochon de lait eggs Benedict.

I've never had a Benedict that was so intricate, unique, and layered. Its key ingredient is cochon de lait, a traditional Creole dish of pork that's slowly roasted until meltingly tender. In this case, it's barbecued shoulder cooked for 16 hours, then piled atop warm buttermilk biscuits with a creamy French mushroom sauce called forestière, perfectly poached hen's eggs, and tasso hollandaise, whose spicy notes punctuated the buttery, smoky Benedict to a tee.

– Matt Kirouac

(504) 899-8221

1403 Washington Ave, New Orleans LA 70130

Delhi Chaat at Dilbar (Asheville, NC)

The best dish I ate in 2023 was Delhi Chaat at Dilbar in Asheville, NC. Asheville has no shortage of great restaurants — including several that have won or been nominated for a James Beard in the last year. Dilbar, a newer joint specializing in Indian street food and pan-Asian offerings that'd be at home on the streets of Mumbai. These walk-and-eat dishes are often quickly prepped for workers or visitors.

Dilbar's Delhi Chaat is one of these dishes, and the skillful preparation offers a flavorful and luscious approach to the North Indian vendor specialty. The dish features layers of spiced potato patties smothered in a rich chickpea curry and topped with herbaceous cilantro-spinach chutney, crispy crushed rice crackers, fresh onions, and tomatoes. The juxtaposing textures, flavors, and sweet meets savory bites are addictive, to say the least. The flavors are bright yet luxurious, and the heat that builds with each bite is slow and steady.

– Sarah Nowicki Nicholson

(828) 412-5149

5 Biltmore Ave, Suite A, Asheville, NC 28801

The Flatliner at Revival Denver Public House (Denver, CO)

Tucked away on 17th Avenue in Denver's Uptown neighborhood, Revival Denver Public House is a destination for lively music, great conversation, and even better food and drinks. The first time I looked at the menu, I was intrigued, albeit slightly bewildered. After all, not many restaurants have items as diverse as bison gumbo, chorizo butter oysters, and a blue crab dip pretzel on the menu — but everything sounded delicious. From my first bite, I was hooked.

In time, I discovered the Flatliner: A glorious, dripping, monster of a sandwich comprised of fried chicken thigh, fried pickles, bacon jam, coleslaw, Revival sauce, and American cheese, with the option to add a runny egg. At $15, at the time of publication, the Flatliner isn't something one should be eating every day (not to mention the risk of flatlining in a literal sense), but holy smokes, y'all.

Let's start with the fried chicken: It's a thick slab of chicken thigh meat with that perfect juicy-in-the-middle-but-crispy-on-the-outside combo. Fried pickles add juice, crunch, and brine while bacon jam lends its signature smoky sweetness to the mix. Coleslaw cools everything down, American cheese adds creamy and salty elements, and the special sauce pulls it all together. There's a lot going on, obviously, but somehow, everything works. Pair the Flatliner with an old fashioned during happy hour, and you've got a recipe for a pretty perfect afternoon.

– Sarah O'Phelan

(720) 524-7867

630 East 17th Ave, Denver, CO

Wood-fired Shawarma At Saffy's (Los Angeles, CA)

For Middle Eastern cooking, there are few better restaurants in Los Angeles than Saffy's. Located on a quiet section of Fountain Avenue, Saffy's usually requires reservations, as word of its tasty menu has spread all over town. I dropped by recently, sat in one of the cozy outdoor tables by a heat lamp, and decided to try the wood-fired shawarma. The juicy pieces of lamb and beef are served on a plate with pita bread, and the meat is cooked with tomato, sumac onions, tahini, red ajika, amba, and laffa.

I ordered a plate of shawarma (though you can also choose a sandwich option if you wish) and highly recommend it thanks to its slightly smoky, subtly spicy, and overall mouthwatering flavor. The restaurant also serves a thick, creamy yogurt dipping sauce with garlic on the side, adding some traditional Eastern Mediterranean flavors to the mix. Though the wood-fired shawarma is listed as a main course, it's quite large, which also makes it a great sharing plate for hungry diners.

– Joanna Kalafatis

(424) 699-4845

4845 Fountain Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90029

Cassoulet at The Ledford House Restaurant (Mendocino, CA)

In a small, intimate restaurant overlooking the Pacific Ocean is one of the best dishes I've ever tasted. Rich and hearty and full of spices, it's easy to understand why the cassoulet at The Ledford House Restaurant in Mendocino, California, is one of their most popular dishes.

I love all proteins. It doesn't matter if it's poultry, beef, or pork, if it's seasoned and roasted to fall-apart-tenderness, I'm all in. This cassoulet has all three as well as several nice-sized chunks of lamb, and every single one of those proteins is slow-roasted to perfection. The pork and lamb were so tender they fell apart as soon as I stuck my fork into the pot. The duck leg was thick and meaty but had the added bonus of a delightfully crispy skin that was covered in the perfect amount of salt and spices.

The ingredient that kicked this dish over the top though, were those amazingly creamy cannellini beans. They were so soft, they melted in my mouth and turned this whole dish into a luscious sort of stew. Every bite was better than the last and with each forkful, I delved deeper and deeper into a cozy blanket of pure savory heaven. I will definitely return to The Ledford House and next time I won't even look at the menu: I'm ordering that cassoulet.

– Jennifer Richmond

(707) 937-0282

3000 North Highway One, Albion, CA 95410

Grass-fed lamb burger at Cervo's (New York, NY)

If you're a burger fan, your favorite burger is likely unassailable, the kind of comfort meal you wouldn't trade for anything. But unless you've ventured to Cervo's in New York City's Lower East Side, you haven't experienced the full breadth of what a burger can be. Cervo's is a seafood restaurant that's been around since 2017, and it has the oysters, clams, and crispy shrimp heads to prove it. Those are all delicious options, of course, and highly recommended, but the restaurant's lamb burger (also served at its sister restaurant Hart's in Brooklyn) is hands down the best thing I ate in 2023.

The patty's flavor and juiciness are off the charts, pairing beautifully with the aioli slathered on the bun. Some lettuce and slaw provide plenty of textural contrast, but the real addition that sends this sandwich into the next stratosphere is the anchovies layered atop the patty. These are optional, but not if you want the full experience — the fish's umami dances in perfect step with the lamb and adds just enough body to make this burger as filling as it is delicious. But that won't stop you from wanting to order another the moment you finish that last bite — we say go for it.

– Joe Virgillito

(212) 226-2545

43 Canal St, New York, NY, 10002

Chicken liver terrine with brioche toast at Il Santo Bevitore (Florence, Italy)

Hands down the most delicious dish I had the pleasure of tasting this year was the chicken liver terrine with brioche toast from Il Santo Bevitore in Florence, Italy. Of the eatery's many fabulous dishes that I've been lucky enough to indulge in such as pappardelle with goose ragù or tender braised lamb shank, it's their signature terrine that really trumps it all.

As someone who tends to be indifferent about paté, I can confidently say that the dish will leave your taste buds begging for more. The perfect combination of sweet and savory, toasted slices of honeyed brioche are served with a velvety terrine of whipped chicken liver and woodsy herbs, all before being finished with a warm and nutty Vin Santo reduction. A beautiful contrast of textures and flavors, Il Santo Bevitore's twist on a Tuscan classic is effortlessly elegant, and ultimately, too dreamy not to try.

– Sylvia Tomczak

+39 055 211264

Via di Santo Spirito, 64/66, Florence, Italy

Hand-dived Orkney scallops baked in the shell at The Kitchin (Edinburgh, Scotland)

I had never seen a shell baked into a pastry before. And I had never been served tableside by the head chef of a Michelin-starred restaurant. But at Edinburgh's The Kitchin, chef Tom Kitchin presented a flaky, puff pastry-encapsulated shell before demonstrating how to open the dish. Inside, plump and perfectly cooked scallops were bathed in a sauce I still dream about.

The garlic-flavored white wine base these hand-dived Orkney scallops came resting in provided just enough sauce to dip pieces of the broken pastry crust into. "It's a very memorable dish," Kitchin agrees. "Our Scottish scallops are some of the best in the world, and they are delivered to us straight from the sea, so the flavor is truly fresh and it's a beautiful dish on the plate."

The scallops are collected from Scotland's northernmost coast where the North Sea and the Atlantic merge. Here, the Orkney Islands offer as close to pristine waters as you can get for gathering seafood. The Kitchin's scallops are collected by divers plucking the most mature shells and leaving smaller-sized pieces behind, resulting in a more sustainable approach. The baked shell dish is a signature of Kitchin's, and it comes as no real surprise: The presentation of the tender, melt-in-your-mouth scallops was not simply photo-worthy but, when paired with wine recommended by the restaurant's in-house sommelier, helped create a meal I won't soon forget.

– Michelle Welsch

+44 (0) 131 555 175578 

Commercial Quay, Leith, Edinburgh EH6 6LX

Sunrise scallop maki roll at Sushi Ran (Sausilito, CA)

Sushi Ran is not only an award-winning establishment, it is also (perhaps more impressively) a restaurant that has successfully withstood nearly 40 years of food service in one of California's most culinarily discerning locations.

This year, I was lucky enough to stumble upon an exquisite bite while eating out at Sausalito's most celebrated Japanese restaurant,Sushi Ran. Sushi Ran is not only an award-winning establishment, it is also (perhaps more impressively) a restaurant that has successfully withstood nearly 40 years of food service in one of California's most culinarily discerning locations.

But, before I get too carried away, let's bring it back to my best bite of the year: Sushi Ran's sunrise scallop maki roll. To describe the taste in one word? Sublime. With more words? The sunrise scallop roll is a celebration of the subtle interplay between sweet and savory, rich and refreshing. From the very moment I saw it appear on the table in front of me, looking all gourmet on a black plate, I knew (objectively speaking) that I had made a fantastic order for the evening. The sweet, fresh scallops glisten and spill generously from the soy wrap and rice base, accompanied and contrasted by miso aioli and a jewel-green array of avocado, kaiware sprouts, and shiso leaves, all gloriously crowned by a halo of golden tobiko on top.

All-in-all, the sunrise scallop experience at Sushi Ran is like the sushi equivalent of opening the suitcase in "Pulp Fiction" — unforgettable and an instant classic.

– Isabella Cook

(415) 332-3620

107 Caledonia Street, CA 94965

Yukhoe at Anju (Washington D.C.)

I'll start by saying that I'm not a fan of steak tartare. I recognize the dish is essential for some people. For me, the texture-flavor-combo isn't something I crave. I'd rather that ground beef be smashed onto a sizzling flattop until the edges crisp, then served on a toasted brioche bun. Call me simple.

Yet when I was told that I absolutely had to order the yukhoe from Anju in Washington D.C., the choice presented a good reason to reconsider that opinion. Studded with pine nuts, topped with bright, poppable chili basil seeds, and served alongside crisp lotus roots, this dish was one of the best I tried during a year that was, personally, filled with extraordinary plates eaten from Berlin to Bangkok.

Yukhoe is a traditional Korean version of tartare, which includes Asian pear, a sesame oil dressing, and an egg. Execute Chef Angel Barreto's version has some elevated twists; palm sugar is infused in the sesame dressing to create a smoother texture, and the egg is served grated overtop. But it's the pear that's most unique. Barreto has it diced and frozen so that it keeps the beef cool while providing a slow release of flavor as you eat. In my case, it matched the speed with which I'm coming around to tartare as a worthwhile order, though I doubt I'll warm up to any but this one very quickly.

– Brandon Rich

(202) 845-8935

18th St. NW, Washington D.C. 20009

Potato tostones at Zhug (Cleveland Heights, OH)

Looking through the menu list at the Cleveland-based Zhug, it might be easy to skip over the potato tostones in favor of more complex dishes like the za'atar roasted carrots with whipped feta or the nigella seed and burnt onion hummus. But, you shouldn't. Thankfully, with a menu that encourages variety and sharing, you can have it all, including what I consider the best potato dish I've eaten all year.

Zhug's potato tostones are prepared similarly to plantain-based tostones, giving them their deeply satisfying crunch. The dish is made by roasting small, buttery Yukon gold potatoes not once but twice before frying until crispy and dusting them with a generous amount of salt and chives. The process is a labor of love, taking what would be considered simple ingredients and making them so memorable I'm still salivating over the memory of them some four months later. As chef-proprietor Doug Katz tells me via email, the dish is "simple ingredients that eat so well together."

Dunking a perfectly fried potato tostone into its accompanying aioli, peppered with wholegrain mustard, is a duet of textures and flavors: cool, creamy, and earthy meets crunchy and salty. Like the rest of the dishes which covered the table, this was shared with friends. However, I would just as easily hover over my very own plateful until all that was left were a few specs of chive. Chefs kiss!

– Adrienne Katz Kennedy

(216) 862-2508

12413 Cedar Rd, Cleveland Heights, OH 44106

Tom kha beef cheek at Maenam (Vancouver, BC)

Vancouver is home to a wide array of culinary influences as evidenced by the eclectic cuisine at local restaurants. Maenam describes itself as "Thai cuisine inspired by fresh West-coast ingredients," and the result is as delicious as it sounds. It's no surprise that the establishment continues to be considered among the country's best restaurants, recently earning itself a Michelin recommendation when the guide made its debut in the coastal city. Whether you're looking for gourmet take-out, lunch, or a multi-course Chef's tasting menu, Maenam has the goods.

I had the pleasure to experience the latter, which consists of a family-style dining experience. I had to choose one dish to share from a series of categories, and flavor-packed snacks to whet the appetite made an appearance too. Let's just say, it wasn't easy making these mouthwatering decisions, but I settled on the tom kha beef cheek for my soup. The rich coconut milk broth was brimming with flavor from savory aromatics that infused the beef cheek as it braised. The meat itself practically melted in my mouth, perfectly complemented by the subtly sweet broth. The silky smooth soup was an absolute delight, further amplified by a sharp bite from Thai basil leaves sprinkled throughout.

Maenam has a cookbook with many of its top-selling dishes if you want to venture your hand at a similar soup, but for me, experiencing this lively tom kha in its natural element was a total treat worth remembering.

– Lucia Capretti

(604) 730-5579

1938 W 4th Ave, Vancouver, BC V6J 1M5, Canada