Dave's Top 5 Restaurants of 2011
It's that time of year again, when we sift through the dozens and dozens and dozens of frankly awesome meals we've had this year, look back, and attempt to pick five (or, in my case, six) that stood out the most. Edwin always says that his chief criterion would be whether he'd spend his own money at a place; for me, I need to want to spend my own money multiple times.
It's a difficult choice, and I'm sure to piss someone off either through omission or through the order I put them in, and someone is guaranteed to be annoyed that food trucks are not technically restaurants; if you're offended, please, try to pick up the broken shards of your life and move past some random food blogger's end-of-year list.
5. (TIE) Taco Maria and Soho Taco
I was hesitant about this. Two luxe loncheras launched late this year: both different, both great, but they tend to travel together. How can I choose between quesadillas de tuétano (bone marrow), amazing pumpkin tacos, and almond horchata on the one hand, and the best vegetable tacos, so-tender-it-melts barbacoa, and that red crack cocaine known as chile de aceite on the other? I can't. Both get a spot. Find Taco Maria via their tweets at @TacoMaria; find the Soho Taco truck via their tweets at @SohoTaco, or hire them to cater a party.
4. Vien Dong
It isn't new; it isn't unknown; every single non-Vietnamese who's ever been to Little Saigon has eaten here. So why is it #4? Because they cook every single thing absolutely right. The bún chả Hà Nội is addictive; they're one of the only places left that drips their cà phê sữa đá through a phin to order; they have wonderful spring rolls; the bánh tôm cổ ngư (yam and shrimp fritters) are an unexpected pleasure, and of course, the entire restaurant smells of their speciality: chả cá Thăng Long, fish rubbed with turmeric, then grilled in a cast-iron pan over what must be a blast furnace with dill and onion... and a bunch of the menu is 30% off. 14271 Brookhurst St., Garden Grove; (714) 531-8253.