50 Best Tastemakers share their top meals of 2016

Emer Schlosser - 22/12/2016


Header images: Abalone at Noma Australia (Ms I-hua); Duck leg noodle soup at U.E. (PocketFork) and Paella mixta (Eating with NJ); Tastemakers from left to right: Cheryl Tiu, Zoe Bowker, Camila Vera Falabella, Oscar Barrera Marengo, Hungry Hipsters Bre and Christian.

As the year draws to a close, it’s time for reflection – and what else would we look back on fondly if not food? We asked the 50 Best Tastemakers – our band of international gastronomes and social media pros – to share their favourite dish of 2016. Here's what they picked.

Aaron, AKA PocketFork

Based in: New York, USA

Best dish of 2016: The place was called U.E. Noodle Restaurant in Cabramatta, New South Wales, Australia. It was listed simply as "duck leg noodle soup". The way those simple ingredients came together was pure alchemy. An incredible broth that I could sip all day. Complex and alluring. I hardly ever use this word, but it was really just perfect.

Hat tip to @angiehong52, Dan Hong's (AKA @hongstagram) mother, for the recommendation. My wife Diana (@onceuponabite) captured it way better than I was able to.

Food plans for 2017: Next year, I look forward to rekindling my relationship with Paris.

Bre and Christian, AKA Hungry Hipsters

Based in: New York, USA

Best dish of 2016:
Snails and sunchokes (the dish I'm holding) at The Cynical Schnauzer in Brooklyn, New York. We tend to eat with our eyes first, and this plating is so beautiful. It had a sweet and salty taste that we just couldn't get enough of.

Food plans for 2017: Besides our wedding (ahh!), we can't wait to see what the new craze is for brunch. Last year it was all about different versions of avocado toast and this year we didn't go to a single restaurant without an acai bowl on the menu. We're deliciously waiting (with a mimosa in hand) to see what's in store for 2017.

Cheryl Tiu

Based in: Manila, Philippines 


If you've been missing chef Jordy Navarra (formerly of Black Sheep Manila) like I have, worry not as his Toyo opens its doors on March 29. Located at Pasong Tamo Ext., it has something for everyone: an ala carte menu, set menu (P1,000 for 3 courses) and a tasting menu (P2,900 for 6 courses). I personally think that Toyo offers a heightened Filipino experience. For instance these are-- quintessential comfort Filipino food as we know it-- but dexterously created in that 1) pork BBQ here is 3 cuts of pork layered together to play on flavors & textures before skewered and cooked over charcoal and wood, and finished in pork bone broth. And 2) silog rice here is infused with soy, dried tuna roe, garlic, chicharon and topped with egg yolk. Just a little glimpse of what you can expect. Phone +639177208630 for reservations. #Toyo #toyoeatery #toyoph #jordynavarra #porkbbq #silogrice #newrestaurantalert #chinoroces #pasongtamoextension #makati #filipinocuisine #philippines

A photo posted by Cheryl Tiu (@chertiu) on

Best dish of 2016:
The best thing I ate this year was the pork BBQ with silog rice at Jordy Navarra's Toyo Eatery in Manila, Philippines. Pork BBQ skewers is a popular Filipino street food that we all had growing up. But at Toyo, chef-owner Jordy Navarra uses three cuts of pork (shoulder, butt and liempo) and layers them together to play on flavors and textures before skewering and cooking over charcoal and wood, then finishing in pork bone broth, taking a total of 12 hours to make. Navarra creates a heightened Filipino food experience starring local produce and quintessential comfort food crafted dexterously.

Food plans for 2017: I’m looking forward to the demise of the whole snooty, "hipster" restaurant service, wherein instead of the paying customer being king, certain restaurants make customers feel like they should be so lucky to wait for hours in order to snag a cramped, uncomfortable seat, which they have to vacate in an unreasonably short period of time. I'm definitely looking forward to a return of restaurants that value their customers' comfort and satisfaction.

NJ, AKA Eating with NJ

Based in: Seattle, USA 


Paella Mixta by yours truly 🙏. . . Recipe is on my BLOG. Link in bio! Paella is a classic Spanish dish that I love to make. It showcases the perfect combination of beautiful ingredients. You get the intoxicating aromas of the saffron, the smokiness of the Spanish Paprika, and the oceanic sweetness of the seafood. . . For my "loaded" Paella Mixta, I used prawns, mussels, scallops, chicken, and chorizo de Bilbao. I also used Valencian rice I that I heavily infused with saffron and pimentón. For produce, I used piquillo peppers, onions, garlic, tomatoes, Lima beans, Granja beans and green peas. I used lemons and parsley to garnish this beautiful dish. For all your Paella needs, I recommend visiting The Spanish Table @spanishtable at Pike Place Market @pikeplacepublicmarket. They have all the ingredients and the "paellera" pan essential in cooking Paella. Then you can grab some beautiful seafood at City Fish Co. and fresh produce from Socio's Produce and start cooking Paella! #paella #homecooking #truecooks #chefstalk #rollwithus #seattle #seattleeats #pnw #saffron #cnnfood #bonappetit #spain #seafood #blog #paellamixta #gastroart #gastropost #igfood #huffposttaste #professionalchefs

A photo posted by N.J. Soler (@eatingwithnj) on

Best dish of 2016:
It is my Paella-Mixta dish. I consider it to be the "best" because it represents a culmination of many things – the influence of travel in my home cooking, relationships I built with local Seattle markets and food vendors, and the countless dinner parties where I have cooked this for my family and close friends.

Food plans for 2017: I’m most looking forward to travelling and visiting the beautiful restaurants in Mexico City. Also, I am relocating and calling San Francisco my new home!

Perm, AKA The Skinny Bib

Based in: London, UK 

Best dish of 2016:
This freshwater crab dish at Longjing Caotang (Dragon's Well Manor) in Hangzhou, China, is so tasty and mind-bendingly pure. It is prepared nearly entirely from a single ingredient. This style of cooking pays greatest respect to the produce as well as the tradition.

Food plans for 2017: I'm looking forward to chefs cooking with more common sense and honoring their farmers and suppliers (who actually do all the hard work, even though we rarely get to hear of it).

Valerie, AKA Munchie Nom Nom

Based in: Amsterdam, Netherlands 

Best dish of 2016:
This dish from Librije Zusje was my favourite of the year – langoustine, oyster, caviar, crispy tulip bulbs, verbena and bellota ham. I loved it because it was so balanced, light like a cloud and had such a full-bodied mouth feel.

Food plans for 2017: I'm looking forward to more vegetable-dominated menus where vegetables are placed in the spotlight.

Ms I-Hua of Ms I-Hua and Zeboy

Based in: Melbourne, Australia 

Best dish of 2016:
This year, one of the best dishes we had was at Noma Australia. We really loved the abalone schnitzel and bush condiments that René Redzepi had as a last savoury course.

Litti, AKA Litsfree

Based in: Bangkok, Thailand 


Best dish of 2016: It's the hardest thing to name my best dish of 2016 but if I have to… When a dish of 'egg yolk cured in fermented kangaroo' tastes so good it makes you cry (and you still vividly recall it six months later), it has to be the best dish of the year.

Food plans for 2017: Noma 2.0 – all three iterations of it.

Camila Vera Falabella AKA Camipot

Based between: New York, USA and Santiago, Chile 


Best dish of 2016: I’m training to be a pastry chef so my favorite dish is, of course, a dessert. It's from Indian Accent in New York and it's called Doda barfi treacle tart. It’s based on a traditional Indian dessert and the main ingredients are dates.

Amelie Vincent AKA The Foodalist

Based in: Brussels, Belgium 


Best dish of 2016: Salmon from Hoddenfjord with almond, celeriac and juniper at Søllerød Kro in Denmark. This dish could have tasted like something else, but it was exactly the opposite: it was surprising. The delicious brown butter and the crispiness of the almonds, mixed with the celeriac and juniper made this dish very unique, elegant and refined. Just like the place where I had it, this creation showed the perfect balance between tradition and innovation that I’m looking for.

Food plans for 2017: I’m looking to discover new herbs and ingredients that could lead us to change our food habits and help save the world against hunger and waste.

Alex of Gastropodden.se

Based in: Stockholm, Sweden  

I couldn’t choose just one so I had to pick two...  


Best dish of 2016 part 1: From Oaxen Krog, Stockholm, Sweden, it was the Swedish dry-aged fillet of beef with roe from Kalix, an emulsion on chicken stock, lovage and frozen buttermilk. The dish, with fairly few components, is a match made in heaven. Local Swedish produce makes it one of my favourites.


Best dish of 2016 part 2: From Fäviken, Järpen, Sweden, it has to be Kalvdans, a dessert made from local colostrum, seasoned and served with meadowsweet. This was a magical treat – both to the eyes and to the palate. At first sight an “easy to make” dessert, but the craftsmanship behind this is truly amazing.

Food plans for 2017: I want to see more elaborated beverage pairings to tasting menus. Champagne and wine in all its glory, BUT why not mix it up more with beer, cider and juice. Just to mention a few. Finally, I long for a visit to Alinea.

Zoe Bowker

Based in: Dubai, UAE 


Best dish of 2016: It comes from my favourite restaurant of 2016, Azurmendi. The dish showcases mushrooms in many textures (including as noodles), bookended by fried quail’s eggs and topped with garlic flowers. So rich and decadent! An amazing dish from a wonderfully memorable meal.

Oscar Barrera Marengo

Based in: Santiago, Chile 

Best dish of 2016: It was one I ate recently at Boragó. It’s a double dessert: on the right side it’s an ice cream sandwich with Atacama desert rose petals – so indulging, floral, perfect sweetness. And on the left side an ice brûlée made with herbs that grow from an altitude of 2,500m with a top crust made out of ice. Genius!

Food plans for 2017: I’m really looking forward to seeing how the new Noma develops. The location, the creativity and, above all, the food. Will they keep up?

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