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Dining Experts Share Their Best Meal of 2016

From Denver's high end restaurants to sushi bars and Cuban sandwiches

Sushi Den
Sushi Den
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As is the tradition at Eater, our closeout of the year is a survey of friends, industry types, and bloggers. This year, we asked the group eight questions running the gamut from restaurant standbys, newcomers, best word to describe the year in dining, biggest restaurant grievances, and more. All will be answered by the time we turn off the lights at the end of the 2016. Responses are related in no particular order; all are cut, pasted, and (mostly) unedited herein. Readers, please do add your survey answers in the comments.

What was your single best meal in 2016?

Callie Sumlin, 5280 Magazine assistant food editor

This is a very hard one to answer. Departure’s Peking duck was a highlight. I also had a very special dinner at Sushi Ronin with a large group of friends that none of us will soon forget.

Gigi Sukin, Eater Contributor, CoBiz editor

I had the omakase at Sushi Den – it was the most satisfying and graceful food experience I've ever had.

Justin De La Rosa, freelancer and Denver Post contributor

Dinner at ChoLon on my birthday back in May. That restaurant has always been special to me because it's the first place I ate at when I was planning a move to Denver. Both food and service were great without knowing it was a special occasion.

Adam Larkey, Eater Denver photographer

Single best meal of the year was a seven-course, wine paired meal on an island inside a restored WWII bunker in Amsterdam...epic. But some local dishes that stole my heart: the #28 at Bar Fausto, the salt and pepper lobster at Star Kitchen, hamachi sashmi and burger at Stoic, falafel sandwich at The Kitchen, toro at Sushi Den and cheese curds at Ophelia’s.

Denise Mickelsen, 5280 Magazine food editor

In Denver, hands down, it was a recent dinner at To The Wind Bistro. From start (a perfect Vieux Carré) to finish (a simple, exquisite pear tart), it was a delight. Away from home, Redbird in Los Angeles was an incredible dining experience.

Laura Shunk, Westword contributor

Bar Dough's Segretto. It's thrilling to see Max MacKissock and Blake Edmunds cooking like that again.

Lori Midson, Denver Life Magazine Food Editor

Dinner at the Clove Club, in London, was otherworldly. Genuinely lovely service, exquisite food that pushed the culinary envelope in sensible ways, unmatched plate artistry and the crowning glory: literally the last two drops from a bottle of red wine that dated back to 1904. It was a completely unexpected gesture from the sommelier that made me feel like royalty.

Rebecca Gart, Colorado Homes & Lifestyles food editor

Hop Alley — summer sashimi, steamed eggplant, soft-shell crabs wrapped in Bibb lettuce, and Sichuan chicken that literally left my tongue numb… but I can’t stop thinking about this meal and how I’d like to go back weekly. I’ve got it bad. Quite the scene: My 10-year-old son was the youngest patron in the restaurant and my husband was the oldest!

Rachel Greiman, Eater contributor and photographer

Every time I ate the Cuban sandwich from Buchi Cafe. We had plenty of fabulous true dining experiences too (Fruition, Coperta, Table 6, etc.). But when I think about this year, it was the year of this sandwich. Over and over.

Lauren Rapp, Westword contributor

In Denver it was a one-off Polynesian cocktail dinner at Mizuna. I didn't have any expectations, and it was just so wonderful, whimsical and fun. Elsewhere? Definitely Gaggan in Bangkok.

Grace Boyle, Eater Denver contributor

Korean barbecue butterfish with long beans, petite bok choy, umami mushrooms, radish, and fish caramel at Jax Fish House.

Rebecca Treon, DiningOut editor

Ocean Prime serves a pretty incredible menu. From the shellfish tower and tuna tartare to filet mignon and au gratin potatoes, everything on the menu tastes like the best version of itself.

Andra Zeppelin, Eater Denver editor

In Denver, I've had amazing meals at Matsuhisa, Acorn, Departure, and Avelina. At the Aspen Food & Wine Classic, I was blown away by the Blackberry Farm dinner at the top of Aspen Mountain. Away from Colorado, I traveled to Italy this summer and had the privilege of dining at Osteria Francescana, which was an experience I will never forget. The other major travel highlight was Staplehouse in Atlanta.

Amanda Faison, freelance writer, former 5280 Magazine editor

Single best meal was at Select Oyster in Boston. So simple and clean. Other serious highlights: Bar Dough’s wood-oven roasted carrots with puffed farro and chickpeas, Cart-Driver’s tarragon soft-serve, Hop Alley’s Shanghai rice cakes, Sushi Ronin’s omakase, Blackbelly Market’s roasted eggplant special, Uncle’s salt and pepper quail. The Plimoth’s spinach spaetzle, artichoke gratinée, glazed golden beets, ajo blanco, Mister Tuna’s brown butter crab, To The Wind’s vegetable clafloutis, Basta’s half chicken and polenta.

Josh Dinar, DiningOut publisher

Single best meals are always at least as much about circumstance as they are culinary experiences. My ten year old aspiring chef made a shrimp scampi stuffed beef tenderloin and lemon parmesan risotto for a family celebration dinner, and it didn’t get any better than that.