Over the past year, Mark and I have had the opportunity to eat at some pretty amazing places. From the top California restaurants to fine dining in New York City, we ate it all. Through multiple courses, many tasting menus, and never ending wine and appetizers, we always found the best and most delicious dishes.
Not every restaurant made the cut for 2015, but these 12 restaurants were particularly spectacular for the ambience, food and service. And having the perfect date was another bonus! Enjoy.
Kai is the top restaurant in Arizona. In culinary school, Kai was talked about as a culinary wonderland and anyone who had ever worked there was almost godlike. And of course, I was dying to go there. So for our 1 year anniversary, Mark took me to the holy grail of food. We were given a unique menu with hand drawn artwork from the native Pima tribe. Our server then told us about the history of the ingredients, their spiritual meaning, and the importance of tradition when creating a native Pima tribe inspired menu. This 13 course tasting menu (with wine pairing) was flawless with absolutely impeccable service!
2) Nobu / Malibu, Ca
Known for it’s Japanese cuisine and delicate sushi dishes, Nobu is perfectly perched on the endless Malibu cliffs. While staying the weekend in Beverly Hills, Mark surprised me with a reservation (made over a month in advance) for lunch, right before we headed back to the airport. We ordered up a storm and tried Nobu’s signature dishes, like the miso black cod. The scallop on a potato chip with shaved truffle on top is fantastic and the dessert platter was a dream. There is no other sushi experience like this!
For Valentines day, we signed up for the 7 course tasting with wine pairing .. which turned into over 19 courses, lasting over 3 and a half hours! The menu was set, however the off-menu dishes kept coming and little tastings seemed to appear out of nowhere. But hey, I am not complaining. One of the best dishes of the night was the black truffle lobster salad. This dish was melt in your mouth with silky raw lobster and truffle shaved on top like parmesan slices; it was a dream.
While at the Coachella Music Festival, I got to experience Outstanding In The Field. This pop-up restaurant has no walls and sets up long, white linen family-style tables in unusual and exciting places. Always using local ingredients, a featured chef will create a multi course menu and guests dine on a beach, in a vineyard, or, in our case, at Coachella. Each family-style dish was fantastic, the company was entertaining and we were perfectly secluded from the music festival chaos. I can’t wait to get tickets to their next location!
5) Nikki Beach at River Horse – Sundance Film Festival, Park City, UT
As a last minute trip, we touched down in Salt Lake City to attend the Sundance Film festival. The snow was gorgeous and we stayed in a huge cabin with a few people from Mark’s company. We found this fantastic restaurant called the River Horse, which was taken over by Nikki Beach, a party company for film festivals. The appetizers were delicious but the most memorable part of the meal was the entree. I ordered the wild game trio with buffalo, elk and venison! Medium rare of course. This was the first time I have tasted wild game and I absolutely loved it. Each flavor was so unique and it only seemed right to try these unique meats while snow was on the ground with gorgeous white capped mountains all around.
I was so excited to go to Wolfgang Puck’s very first restaurant! I felt like a kid in a candy shop, ordering everything with my eyes wide open. One of the most inventive dishes was an appetizer spread served inside of a hollowed bone. Everything was impeccable, my dover sole had a foam sauce and the bananas foster was prepared table side.
The Palace hotel is an elegant hotel on Market street in San Francisco. The Garden Court is located right in the marbled grand hotel lobby and you eat below the intricate glass ceiling. I felt like royalty eating at the garden court and I will absolutely be coming back again.
Located in the famous Rockefeller Center, in a sunken courtyard there are two nice, white table cloth restaurants with views of the skyscrapers above. We decided to have dinner at the Sea Grill and sat outside with the gorgeous Rockefeller building as our backdrop. The food was so fresh; the tuna tartare was silky, crab cakes flakey, with rich lobster rolls. The halibut entree was so moist with a quick sear for the perfect crunch. And of course, we had to end the meal with a french press and the Sea Grill key lime pie. Not only was the food fantastic, but the views were absolutely breath taking with a incredible sense of calm while dinning in the middle of one of the biggest tourist attractions in New York.
Before our evening Broadway Show, Chicago (with Brandy!), we caught a quick dinner at Gallaghers Steakhouse, recommended by the concierge of our hotel. The first striking thing about this particular restaurant is the dry age room where prime steaks are displayed like artwork in rows on shelves in the front window. Except this artwork is edible, and can be yours. I have never seen anything like this before and loved using the aging steaks as a centerpiece for a classic old school steakhouse. The service was impeccable, recommending the perfect wine and sides, while also ensuring we made it just in time for our show.
10) SkyCity at the Space Needle / Seattle, Wa
The SkyCity restaurant is one of the most unique places to dine with breath taking views! The restaurant slowly spins so you get gorgeous views of Seattle and the bay below. As we dined, sea planes flew right by the windows and landed below on the water. It was incredible! Having dinner at SkyCity also means you get a free ticket to the space needle viewing center, which is just a floor above the restaurant. We arrived at the space needle about 30 minutes before our reservation and got to enjoy a drink at the viewing center before dinner, it was the perfect pre dinner entertainment.
While walking through the San Francisco Ferry Building (one of my favorite places in SF), Mark and I stumbled upon this amazing Vietnamese restaurant. We walked around to the back side of the Ferry Building along the water and found a table for two open on the patio. Not knowing anything about the restaurant, except that it had an awesome view, we asked the hostess for the open table we spotted outside. We told the waiter to add some of his favorite dishes to our appetizer round and were guided by big recommendations for entrees. The food was out of this world! I was so impressed with the deep flavors, perfect tenderness of the shrimp, and vibrant colors. After our delicious meal, we found out this restaurant has a cookbook, typically has a long wait list, and is highly recommended by a few of our local friends as one of the best places in SF to eat. I felt so lucky to have run into this fantastic restaurant and popped in on a whim! I love spontaneous surprises.
Tucked away in an alley, behind Pike Market and away from the tourists there is a restaurant with no name, just a painted pink door. Which is also the name of the restaurant. How cute? Recommended by a local guy working with Mark, we decided to check out The Pink Door. The ambience was elegant eclectic and the food was phenomenal. The appetizers were seasonal and fresh, the pasta was hand-made and the wine list was perfect company to our meal. We ended up spending hours at the restaurant chatting about food, wine, and Seattle. The meal was so perfectly rustic with the simplicity of the dishes really highlighting each ingredient. I loved this restaurant and I would defiantly go again!