The Best Meals Chefs Had In 2016

From Shuko in NYC all the way to a spot in Mumbai

The best chefs we know rarely leave their kitchens. But that means, when they do dine out, the meal better be good. We asked seven chefs and one sommelier who we admire about their best meals of 2016 (outside of their own restaurants, of course). Here's what they had to say.

① Michael Solomonov of Zahav in Philadelphia:

"Shuko in NYC!! The rice was mind-blowing!" 

② Travis Milton of the upcoming Milton's in St. Paul, Virginia:

"I've had a lot of really amazing meals this past year, but my favorite was at Buxton Hall BBQ in Asheville, North Carolina. Elliott Moss made sure I sampled the entire menu—both lunch and dinner—in a single sitting. I thought I was going to keel over, especially after tasting that amazing hash and rice." 

③ Belinda Chang of Maple & Ash in Chicago:

"I have a few favorite meals of 2016 tied for first place: sliders at Gibson's in Chicago with a gin martini shaken and placed onto the bar counter before I even got my butt into the bar seat; dinner with Alice Waters outdoors at Blackberry Farm, where the sommelier was sabering double magnums of Champagne; but the most notable was Bad Hunter [in Chicago] just last week. I did not expect to love this restaurant—I was actually prepared to be annoyed by it. What is 'veg forward'? And who wants a low-alcohol cocktail, anyway? But from the tempura sorrel with green radishes and matcha salt to the golden doughnut with yuzu curd and saffron ice cream, I was sold. I cannot wait to go back." 

④ Kwame Onwuachi of The Shaw Bijou in Washington, D.C.:

"When I was in Mumbai, I went to a café called Taste of Kerala. I was breaking bread with friends I hadn't seen in awhile, and the restaurant just made it so special. The meal was family style and included dishes like fish cooked in curry, grilled fish on a huge banana leaf, and plenty of rice and bread. We ate with our hands, and it was the feeling of being with friends and good food."

⑤ Dan Kluger of Loring Place in New York City:

"Paowalla [in New York]. There is no other cooking like Floyd [Cardoz]'s, and it's always so amazing to experience all of the flavors in his food. Dining at Paowalla and seeing him in the kitchen in his element is like going back home."

⑥ John Shields of Smyth and The Loyalist in Chicago:

"We went in to Momotaro just for a few bites at the sushi counter, and they just started throwing all kinds of dishes at us. One I really loved in particular was a chilled dashi with uni, roe, rice and a few other things. It really blew my mind."

⑦ Greg Baxtrom of Olmsted in New York City:

"One of the best meals I've had this year was at Karasu, tucked in the back of Walter's in Fort Greene [in Brooklyn]. I already loved Walter's, and this was just another reason to head there. The design of the space is really cool, and chef Yael Peet is so talented. Last time I was there, I had this really delicious sashimi dish; sunomono octopus; and crispy, addictive karaage. Also, the cocktails are fun and interesting, and it's worth heading there for the drinks alone."

⑧ Sean Brock of Husk and McCrady's in Nashville:

"I was lucky enough to eat all over the world this year. The meal that stands out the most in my memory is Saison [in San Francisco]. Joshua [Skenes] is cooking on a level that few others are these days. Driven by a passion for perfection, new flavors and minimalism, Joshua crafts a meal that will leave you shaking your head in amazement."