Farewell, 2022

The 10 Best Things I Ate This Year

Through thick and thin (pizza crusts), from stuffed tofu to flower-shaped croissants.

By Allecia Vermillion December 26, 2022

Clockwise from top left: Ursa Minor, Cafe Juanita, Beast ad Cleaver, MariPili Tapas Bar, Boca Argentine Bakery and Pizzeria, Matia Kitchen and Bar.

All year, I try to be as empirical as possible when considering vegan doughnuts, barbecue, or Indian food. This list, on the other hand, absolutely drips with my own personal biases. You guys: I really like pizza. And rare meat. And fancy Northwest food, apparently. Some of the meals below were committed in service of work, others were pure fun. I loved them all. 


Shaved Lamb Leg in Tonnato

The Walrus and the Carpenter

Whoops, I accidentally ended up at one of the city's most popular restaurants the weekend of Valentine's Day. It was my first time sitting elbow-to-elbow at a bar in a few years, but the dinner, and the service, delivered. Including rare, delicate lamb shavings that got a serious boost from the pool of tonnato. It felt a little Italian, a little French, thoroughly Northwest—and very Renee Erickson.
 

London Royale Steak

Beast and Cleaver

Clearly I cannot stop writing about my experience with this freaking steak. It's rare to see a cut of meat on a menu that's wholly unfamiliar. Turns out, this was just a humble London broil, which butcher-chef Kevin Smith transformed into something delicate and exciting. The butcher shop turns into a restaurant (some nights a wine bar, some nights a tasting menu) after business hours, which just adds to the fun.

Tajarin

Cafe Juanita

Few meals around these parts feel as start-to-finish considered as the tasting menu at Holly Smith's restaurant, which comes in omnivore, pescatarian, and vegan iterations. The petite nest of delicate pasta is really just an avatar for the entire experience of eating here.

Oxtail Fideua

Maripili Tapas Bar

Chef Grayson Corrales fused food legacies from both her grandparents' respective regions of Spain into this rich, homey dish. Her Galician grandmother cooked a lot of oxtail when Corrales was growing up, but her grandfather's side hails from Catalonia, where this rich dish of broken pasta strands originates. One bite of MariPili's version, dotted with green garlic aioli, and this restaurant was officially in the running for our Restaurant of the Year.

Stuffed Tofu

Hakka House Chinese Cuisine

While it didn't quite make the cut for our favorite Chinese restaurants this year, this newish Hakka food destination near the Bellevue Uwajimaya has a lot of upside to it. Namely the warm, personable service and some incredibly memorable cubes of tofu, stuffed with savory thumbprints of pork and still sizzling when it arrives at your table.

Italian Beef Tavern Pie

West of Chicago Pizza Co.

While the city was busy freaking out about our various and wonderful deep-dish pizza situations, Shawn Millard swung the pendulum in another direction with this thin-crust marvel. It's another facet of Chicago's rich pizza culture that's great with pepperoni, even better when you top it with the various components of an Italian beef sandwich.
 

Oregano Tart

Matia Kitchen and Bar

This dish wrapped up a six-course tasting menu in this Orcas Island bastion of seasonality. I'd already marveled at a savory tomato tart, some pork belly, and an entire spread built around stunning sourdough bread. For dessert: a chilly semifreddo that uses oregano in a dessert setting, topped with raspberry and a squiggle of emulsified honey. This has to be the world's subtlest use of this particular herb; like the restaurant itself, chef Avery Adams knows how to find the line between "too much" and "just right."

Albacore with Cucumbers

Ursa Minor

Of the many great things I ate (see above) on a research trip to the San Juan Islands, Nick Coffey's albacore dish stands out with startling clarity. Pressed ribbons of cucumbers, kohlrabi, and perfect, glowing albacore all nestle on top of a pocket of creme fraiche. It feels elegant, but not fancy...which is to say, very Northwest.

Flower Chocolate Croissant

T55 Patisserie

Muhammad Fairoz and Katie Pohl's new bakery in Bothell is busy! But they keep the line moving, and at the end of it await pitch-perfect croissants, pineapple-sichuan financiers, and biscuit-size sweet-salty cookies. Best of all, in my opinion, was the flower-shaped pain au chocolat. Muhammad devised it after Katie complained that traditional chocolate croissants require multiple bites before you get to any actual chocolate. Two weeks of labor yielded this beautiful shape that pulls apart into easy-to-eat petals. And yes, there's chocolate in each bite.

Fugazzeta

Boca ARgentine Bakery and Pizzeria

Rare is the moment when you are confronted by an entirely new species of pizza. But everything at this new bakery cafe on Broadway feels otherworldly (including the absolutely batshit-maddening absence of its own website or social media). This sibling to the city's two casual Boca steak restaurants has a mind-bending spread of pastries, some impressive empanadas, and this Argentine pizza that sprang from the country's historical ties to Italy. It's a deep-dish number, with the requisite caramelized cheese around the rim, topped with nothing but Italian mozzarella, olive oil, and a handful of caramelized onions.
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