Turn the page for all 100 dishes. Or, if you're feeling really organized, you can download and print out our 100 Favorite Dishes menu via pdf file. Tape it on your refrigerator, or maybe to the dashboard of your car. Just the thing to look at when you're stuck on the 10 in miserable traffic, right?
1: Spago's Veal Filet Mignon Tartare.
When it arrives at your table, Wolfgang Puck's iteration of veal tartare may look more like a Sally Mann photograph than your dinner. But inside the twin marrow bones is not, well, marrow, but the centerpiece of a beautifully orchestrated dish. A perfect dice of raw veal -- neither too coarse nor too fine, the mistake some chefs make with tartare -- is topped with a thin layer of smoked mascarpone, a visual reference to the fine strata of fat that comes atop many ramekins of pâté.
2. Philly Cheesesteak at The Bazaar.
Aside from "spatchcock," it's possible there's no better word in the culinary lexicon than "espuma." At least if you have the sense of humor of an 8-year-old boy, which we do. And what's better than the word "espuma" than being told by a waiter, repeatedly, that you need to eat this dish over a plate because the cheddar espuma will likely rupture from your "air bread" and spill out uncontrollably?
3. Roasted Kabocha Squash at Lucques.
The fall salad is a fairly ubiquitous menu item, and one of those things that's a safe bet almost anywhere you go. There will be some squash and nut elements, perhaps some pomegranate, a cheese of some sort, and usually a flurry of greens that don't do much in the way of harm or excitement.
It's dishes like these, that are an easy sell and good enough, that often miss out on the chance to truly shine. But at Lucques, chef Suzanne Goin's lovely, grown-up yet laid back West Hollywood restaurant, the best dish during a recent meal was just that: a beautifully elevated fall salad.
4: Butterscotch Budino at Mozza.
There are many, many reasons to spend time at the glorious food complex that is Mozza on the corner of Melrose and Highland. The fennel sausage pizza. The porchetta (!). Salumi Thursdays. The pizza classes. The myriad bowls of pasta at the Osteria. The many incarnations of the stunning gelato. The gingerbread pigs. (One could go on.) But maybe the best dish on the menu, or at least the one that would engender the most uproar if it was ever removed, is the butterscotch budino. Pastry chef Dahlia Narvaez's dessert is neither ground-breaking nor anything assembled from foams or wacky foodist techniques. Basically it's just a butterscotch pudding, albeit an extraordinary one.
In Narvaez's hands, the pudding -- which at Mozza goes by the appropriately Italian name of budino -- is more a study in caramel than it is an ordinary pudding. Topped with a thick strata of salted caramel and a spoonful of whipped crème fraîche, the dish also comes with a few rosemary-pine nut cornmeal cookies. Again, both a simple cookie and far more than the sum of its parts.
5. Crispy Pig Head at Animal.
A certain brand of excess has quite rightly given Animal a reputation as a purveyor of dude food: meat-heavy, no-holds-barred, calorific glory. But the true secret to Jon Shook and Vinny Dototlo's success is actually the lightness with which they present their ingredients, giving fat-dense components a delicate touch, and enough acid to make every dish balanced and delicious.
6. Mole de los Dioses at Rocio's Mole de los Dioses.
This colorful Sun Valley restaurant, tucked into a small strip mall off of I-5, has many menu items that might lure you out there. The aguas frescas are fantastic. The empanadas, made with vibrant green nopales (cactus) masa, are savory and delicious. The spicy guacamole, made with serrano pepper and passion fruit, is as good as it sounds. But there's really one reason you've come to Rocio's: the moles.
7. Water-Boiled Fish at Chung King.
There are many excellent reasons to head down San Gabriel Blvd., although maybe not if you're former U.S. Commerce Secretary John Bryson. Probably the best reason of all is to eat at Chung King, the much-lauded Sichuan restaurant that looks more like a tiny laundromat than it does the best Sichuan restaurant in America, at least according to a recent somewhat emotional -- who knew "tonguegasm" was a word -- story in The New York Times.
You may or may not agree with that accolade, but I'm certainly not arguing against it, having last year eaten at Chung King roughly eighteen times over a 6-week period, or the duration of a severe cold when the only thing that tasted good, or really tasted at all, was the Sichuan peppercorn and chile-laced cuisine dosed out at this particular restaurant.
8: Smoked Salmon with Mango at Kiriko.
Few itamae balance the stylings of modern and classic sushi with the flair of Kiriko's Ken Namba. Some nights there will be plump tomato geleé or pale lozenges of skipjack topped with yuzu rind and shaved pink sea salt. He might even surprise you with a bowl of cooked tuna mashed with bits of okra, green onion and grated yamaimo, a dish that would be well received at any PTA potluck.
Kiriko is a place where it pays to be a regular -- that albacore sashimi with ponzu jelly from one night might transform into a seared filet dusted with fried garlic the next. Of course, sitting at the gorgeously rough-hewn sushi bar, all dark and mahogany, with Namba calmly doting overhead is reason enough to inspire regular visits.