As that fictional cartoon critic in Ratatouille so succinctly put it, "In many ways, the work of a critic is easy. We risk very little yet enjoy a position over those who offer up their work and their selves to our judgment."
The hardest part of the job (and even this isn't that hard) is making end-of-the-year lists of favorites, especially when you are limited to five. There have been too many great meals this year, eaten at too many great places. So I used one question to hasten the process of elimination, "Would I go back to spend my own (not the Weekly's) money?"
Those that I answered with an unequivocal "Hell yes!" are listed after the jump. In fact, in most of the cases, I already have.
1. Harry's Deli
If you read this blog, or our
I have a soft spot for noodle soup, and an even softer spot when it comes with the meat of at least four different animals. Trieu Chau's Chao Chow noodle soup, also known as hu tieu or mi nam vang, is just that dish, topped with shrimp, liver, fish balls, chewy flaps of fish cake, ground pork meat, slices of roast pork and, last but not least, roast duck. And of course, the broth! Oh that broth! It's a deep-flavored, marvelous, golden, soul-nourishing nectar, wrung from the bones of bird and hog, and probably MSG. 4401 W. First St., Santa Ana, (714) 775-1536.
4. Lua Bistrot
If there's one dish that warrants the woefully under-appreciated Lua Bistrot to be on this list (and why you should try it), it's the steak and egg--a meal we featured in our
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I didn't expect to like True Food Kitchen, much less love it. But top among the dishes that melted my cynicism is the chicken chopped salad, a salad to end all salads--a salad that should have a rainbow bursting out of it. It's crunchy, bright-as-summer, studded with mango, manchego cheese, avocado, apple, shatteringly crisp marcona almonds, lettuce and pieces of chicken so perfectly cooked and tender it seems to break some law of physics. 451 Newport Center Dr., Newport Beach, (949) 644-2400; foxrc.com/ true_food_kitchen.html.