My Favorite Restaurants Throughout the World
Good food starts at home. Here are my favorite dishes of all at home:
- Spicy Udon Noodles are so good that it is easy to wonder if this is the best recipe of all time. Wow. They are spicy but also very flavorful too. The hoisin sauce complements the orange rind, garlic, ginger, mint, basil, and cilantro. And the shrimp and noodles are amazing in the sauce. Amazing.
- Note: Relish Magazine site might be down. See this link for a cached version.
- Steak Diane (from our Good Houskeeping Cookbook). Our friend Bob said that it was the best thing he ever put into his mouth. Lots of effort in pounding the meat but the rest is really fun (flaming the brandy, smelling the shallots, mmmm).
- Sea Bass with Ginger-Soy-Wine Sauce--adapted from the Today Show but now missing from their recipe database. This might be the best ever. Fantastic.
- Spiced chicken -- Another Today Show recipe missing from the database. Why do they leave the best ones out? It's called "spiced chicken." I found it on the Seattle Times site (thanks Google). I don't do the extra sauce--it seems very flavorful and juicy without it. Don't overcook and it's best to do white meat and dark meat separately.
Also see my list of favorite restaurants and dishes in Oakland contributed by several Pitt faculty.
Restaurants still in business (I hope)
These are not in any particular order, except the first three are my most favorite of all.
- Wild Ginger, Seattle Washington. (and now Bellevue). Note: while the Yelp ratings don't reflect the super-high Zagat ratings, I still think this is the best restaurant I've ever visited world-wide (tied with the more expensive Asolare below). Our most recent visit was superb as usual, and we were very fortunate to experience the wonderful humor and expert guidance provided by our server named Dell. Ask for Dell, you won't regret it! We have stories about Wild Ginger. At an ICIS planning meeting in Seattle in 2001 or 2002, Cynthia Beath asked where a group of about 10 of us should eat. I raised my hand and said: "I know a place!" We had a fabulous meal and at the end Cynthia said that it was so good that everyone should chip in and pay for my meal! So I ate for free and better yet, I showed my group of famous researchers a great meal experience. During ICIS itself, I was there for 5 days and ate there 3 of the 5 nights. We went to a steak house one night and I was wishing I was back at Wild Ginger. Try the 7 flavor beef, the Siam Lettuce Cups, the Chilean Sea Bass, Wild Ginger Fragrant Duck, and Black Pepper Scallops. Brilliant! And while all of the wait staff seem to have a fun attitude about the place, Dell will figure out quickly what you like and lead you to the best meal experience! Blackberry sorbet with a little fragment of mint leaf in each bite leads you to food paradise! Ditto with the mint sorbet.
- Asolare, St. John, US Virgin Islands. When you pull into Cruz Bay there is a tall hill (Caneel Hill) on the left. Go directly up there and have a fabulous fusion meal. Bring a few extra bucks--it ain't cheap! There is a limited menu but oh what preparation!
- A place on the Greek island of Mikonos calledLotus had the most unbelievable moussaka, and has spoiled me forever. All other moussaka seems bland to me now and I crave the amazing flavor of cloves and other spices in the Lotus version.
- Sao Paulo Brazil
- a sushi buffet in Sao Paulo called NAKOMBI (Pinheiros 11 3814-9898 Av. Brigadeiro Faria Lima, 254) is unbelievable--a "don't miss!" I know, "sushi in Brazil?" The sushi in Brazil is fresher than you could ever believe.
- a Brazilian Churrascarria in Sao Paulo (and also in Atlanta, Boston, Dallas, Houston, NY, Philadelphia, Baltimore) called Fogo de Chao
- Denver, Colorado
- in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Rudy Hirschheim introduced me to Bistro Byronz, where I tasted the best pot roast ever. They are famous for that dish, but curiously do not point that out in their menu.
- in Memphis, Corky's was just fabulous BBQ
- Boston, MA area
- Boston: I never thought I would buy a $25 (2015 update: it's now $29) sandwich, but the Lobster Rolls at Neptune Oyster were so good, I daydream of it once in a while. The chowder and clam strips are touted as fantastic too, but I wasn't impressed. Just get the lobster roll.
- I know Legal Sea Foods is sometimes shunned by locals, but as a person who lives in Cambridge 7 weeks a year, I feel like a local who can buck the crowd. Try their steamed lobster. They know how to cook a lobster. Fresh, cracked expertly, and on the high side of being reasonably-priced.
- Took a while but I discovered that Posto Pizza has DOC-certified Neopolitan Margherita pizza. It is EXACTLY what I have come to expect with DOC--00 flour, San Marzano tomatoes, bufalo mozzarella. Mmmm.
- It took 7 years of teaching in Harvard's summer program to find the Rod Dee Thai restaurant. I first tried their Penang Beef and found it amazing, nearly as good as Spice Island in Pittsburgh. Then I tried their disappointingly dry Thai Basil Beef. Then, wow, Carole tried their Basil Pad Thai. I'm going to have that several times before leaving Boston in 2015.
- After class I sometimes walk to Charlies Kitchen on Harvard Square for their whole steamed lobster. Tastes as good as Legal's, but only $23
- Mr. Bartley's Burger Cottage has fabulous and alarmingly thick burgers and wonderful milkshakes (which are called frappes in New England).
- Rino's is my favorite Italian restaurant in the Boston area. There is a Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives video about it. Ten tables and they take no reservations. 3 subway lines from Harvard. Ugh. But the homemade fusili is out of this world.
- Santarpio's, 111 Chelsea St at the Blue Line Airport stop. Wow. It took me two years to finally get there, and Rino's was too busy and I was under time pressure given that it took me 3 subway lines to get there. Italian Cheese, Sausage and Garlic. OMG. I actually went back and walked past Rino's to try their skewered lamb. A little rough around the edges, but wow, every bite puts you in heaven on both of these dishes.
- in Cambridge, between MIT and Harvard, Mary Chung had amazing Won Ton Soup and great Suan La Chow Show (spicy-sweet Won Ton Soup). They are both appetizers but the two will make a great meal for under $10. The Won Tons are simply the best in the world--the dough is fresh and delicious, and the won tons are huge, generous, delightful! I tried a few other dishes recommended on Yelp.com but nothing compared to these won ton twin dishes!
- in the Back Bay area, another Fogo De Chao. See my review for Sao Paulo, Brazil above.
- Pittsburgh World Class
- I was excited to find that Pittsburgh has certified DOC , that replicates my recollection of how pizza tasted in Italy, in a place in the South Hills called Il Pizzaiolo. Just get plain Margherita DOC. Perfection!
- in Pittsburgh, I've found an ultimate fusion restaurant called Tamari. Believe it or not, it is a fusion between Asian-Mexican styles of cooking. Sounds strange, but try it!
- at Lulu's Noodles the vegetable pad thai is the moistest and best in the world (especially after adding cilantro, which they do for $.50). Don't forget the thai iced tea. Note: the chicken pad thai seems a little dry to me.
- in Oakland, on our campus, my favorite Indian restaurant is India Garden.
- in Oakland, on campus, Uncle Sam's Philly Cheese steak is better than any I tasted during my year at Temple. Some other ex-Philadelphians agree with me. I share the Unique Ultra cheesesteak and get lettuce, tomato, and mayo. Otherwise it is a little bland. Add a little dash of salt for a little extra "wow" experience. Fries are amazing.
- in Shadyside, Tessaro's makes the best burgers in the world. Close to that is Annie's Parlor in Dinkytown, Minneapolis.
- in the North Hills of Pittsburgh, the fettucini with lobster chunks is too good to be true at Rico's. I see it is now "fettucini with assorted seafood," so maybe my favorite dish is a little different.
- Great Stuff in Erie, PA
- My favorite wings in Erie (and among my favorite anywhere) are the "Herbies" flavor at Park Tavern. If you try to get them for lunch, they take almost 45 minutes. But they are worth it!
- A new Thai place has opened in downtown Erie, called Like My Thai?. They have my favorite Thai Basil I can remember, and spice level 2 out of 5 is perfect for me. Maybe Vietnam Palace in Philadelphia comes close. My sister loves their Vietnamese Caramel but I have not yet tried it with my targeted spice level (2 out of 5) because the Thai Basil has my heart. The owners are extremely personable and friendly, and very knowledgable about many types of cuisine. The chef was trained in French food and pastries. Go figure.
- Heaven in Philadelphia
- I could never get enough of Cuba Libre. Don't let your spouse get the coffee-coated lobster or you might never be able to go back. Mine loved this place until she had that dish and somehow it turned her off of this restaurant forever. The beef dishes in sauce were great. I think Churrasco a la Cubana is my favorite.
- Coincidentally, another one of my favorites is also a Cuban restaurant, although more upscale. Alma de Cuba is one of those rare places where you can get a great dish even if you throw a dart at random at the menu. I've tried many dishes and could not believe how good each one is. Bring your reading glasses and a flashlight; it is darned dark!
- Perhaps my favorite for the price is Vietnam Palace. Their basil sauce is fabulous, on your choice of base (beef, chicken, shrimp, etc.). We also had their sea bass and crispy spring rolls. Great Thai Iced Tea.
- My favorite salt-baked trio (shrimp, squid, scallops) of all time is found at Shiao Lan Kung Restaurant on 630 Race St. Just make sure you ask to have the shrimp shelled or you will lose the pepper/salt flavoring if you remove the shells before putting them into your mouth. You can, of course, do the authentic thing: chew the shrimp shells and spit them out at the table, but I never got accustomed to this practice and I doubt the shells add anything meaningful to the flavor. I also had the best lemon chicken I've ever experienced here but never warmed up to many other dishes. This is one of the places that gives you orange slices at the end. Kind of a dull smell hits you when you first go in the door but it disappears quickly and wow, the two dishes mentioned are absolutely wonderful.
- Heaven in Prague
- My favorite in Prague: At Ambiente, the Margarita DOP pizza tastes exactly like Pizzaiolo’s Margarita DOC in Mount Lebanon. Margarita = fresh tomato sauce, fresh basil, Buffalo Mozzarella cheese. Mmm. No toppings, and simple heaven. It would not be good with toppings--I think they have to use other sauce for toppings, but then you're into traditional pizza. And in Prague that means that it is served dry and with little sauce.
- Another favorite in Prague is SasaZu. I wish it weren't so expensive, or smoky, or I'd probably eat there every other night (alternating with Pizza Nuova). Come on, people, put those stupid cigarettes down for an hour or two and enjoy the taste and smell of the food (and let others do it too!). Maybe when civilization progresses a little, all indoor areas will be off-limits to smoking. Try the Cha-Zu-Rha for an unforgettable experience. Ignore the fact that it is a roll with chicken and a little banana--take my word for it--it works! Everything we had was great!
- One of my favorite meals in Prague is a dish called "Kharouf Bilforn" in a Lebanese restaurant called "El Emir." The Kharouf Bilforn is described as "Baked leg of lamb served with basmati rice and special sauce." This dish does NOT have a strong lamb flavor--it is superb and succulent. I spread the sauce on the rice and prolong the ecstasy.
- Café Wow is a low-rated restaurant with mediocre (at best) service at 9 PM but I thought the following dish was REALLY nice: 200 g STEAK OF VEAL SADDLE with chorizo-and-onion salsa, mashed potato, rocket and fried onion rings
- For some really nice classic/good quality Czech food in a castle basement, try Usadlu. One dish used to not be listed on the English menu, from an email from a student in Prague:
"Staroceská mísa pana Buška z Bezdružic- cena na osobu - výber ztypicky ceských jídel (pecená kachna, pecená marinovaná žebra, veprové koleno pecené na kmínu, pecený stehna, uzená a pecená krkovice, cervené a bílé zelí, špenát, špekový, bramborový a houskový knedlík, bramborácky, zelenina." It might be listed on the menu now but priced per person for 2+ people. This is a selection of Czech meat dishes (duck, ribs, knees, pork, and so on...). One local says don't get fish. The dish with the world's record long name was wonderful! Big, but wonderful. I didn’t have a prayer at finishing it. If you want good quality classic Czech food without the horrendous dumplings (which are usually just like white bread withough the crust), then do this.
- In Hong Kong, I really loved Spring Deer restaurant, but it might be hard for me to choose my own entrees to duplicate the meal that a colleague ordered.
- In Chennai India, I was thrown for a loop by the unbelievable cooking at Taj Coromandel
- On the Big Island of Hawaii, I went crazy over the quality of the Hawaiian-style at Roy's (there is a location in Philadelphia, of all places). We found a recipe that brings Roy's home (and maybe even surpasses it) from the Today show -- see the recipe at the link at the top of this page under my favorite dishes at home.
- My favorite deep dish pizza is from Lou Malnati's
- OK, I had another favorite deep dish pizza: Green Mill Too in Minneapolis; however it does not taste so good any more. Big disappointment showing that you really can't always go home.
Restaurants that are gone
- Kleiner Deutschmann had this truly stupendous veal shank that you sometimes had to order earlier in the day to be guaranteed this slow-cooked delight. It was like osso bucco, where the veal just falls off the bone into a fabulous sauce. They would wrap it up, bone and all, for you to take the other half home because you could only eat half. They would ring the jingle bells, deservedly so, each time they served one of these. The price of the dish zoomed from $27 to something like $45 per serving in just a few years and then the place closed. They offered to sell us the recipe for $400. We're still thinking about it.
- Thai Phoon in Shadyside was simply amazing. We ate there for the first time on the 2nd to the last day they were open. My neighbor had to keep switching beers because they kept running out. I joked "are you closing down or something?" The server said, "yes, tomorrow is our last day!" OUCH! Sad.
- Thai Garden in Oakland (owned by Bikki)
- In Tampa (in an area called Ybor City) I was amazed by "Dish," the best Mongolian Barbecue I've ever experienced. Gone is a powerful incentive for me to go back to Tampa.
- Pastamore in Oakland (owned by Bikki) (fusion of Italian and Chinese, believe it or not. The szechuan shrimp fettucini and ginger chicken on angel hair pasta were amazing. Bikki, where did you go?)
- Peking Gourmet Kitchen in Squirrel Hill - I miss the fried Wontons and the Ocean Flavor Chicken
- Oakside Inn near Oakland on Craig Street - the Chicken Teryaki was unique and the sushi was fine!