The best things I had in 2023

12 min readJan 3, 2024

I ate a lot in 2023.

While this isn’t exactly new, two things changed this year.

The first is that 2023 was the first year I started to indulge in fine dining. I went to 102 Michelin stars this year, more than the number of stars I had been to in all years prior. Part of this was from visiting more 2 and 3 star restaurants; somewhere along the line there was a mindset shift that fine dining became a hobby, and price no longer became a prohibitive reason to visit a place. At about halfway through the year, I realized I was on track to hit 100 stars by the end, so it became a pointless personal goal. Going forward, I honestly want to tone this down a bit, such that the exceptional is no longer commonplace.

The second is that I started using Beli this year. It’s a food rating app where you can rank every restaurant you go to by comparing it against other places you’ve been. They have a global leaderboard based on the number of places you’ve been to, and it triggered my competitive side to climb this ladder. I saw a ‘strategic’ shift in how I ate this year, prioritizing new places over ones I had been before, as well as smaller meals at more places.

There were too many amazing things I had this year, and I like to make lists. So here goes.

Fine dining

I’m going to rank my favorite fine dining experiences based on overall personal enjoyment. It’s part of human nature to compare, but I want to add a caveat that — like the 50 best guide or college rankings — everything is subjective and ultimately arbitrary. The fact that a restaurant is on the list is perhaps more indicative than its position on the list.

Cuttlefish and peas at Disfrutar
  1. Disfrutar (Barcelona, Spain). A meal at Disfrutar is an epic experience that spans some 25 courses and more than 5 hours. It was a spectacular adventure showcasing multitudes of wizardly technique and avant-garde presentations. Congratulations on the 3 stars this year, truly well deserved.
  2. Singlethread (Healdsburg, CA). A delightfully progressive reinterpretation of Japanese Kaiseki cuisine, with a palpable Sonoma farm-to-table emphasis. Even in the winter season with a much more limited selection of produce, our dinner did not lack variety in any regard. The attention to detail here is amazing and there’s a fascinating story behind every single aspect.
  3. DiverXO (Madrid, Spain). A meal at DiverXO is a lengthy journey into the wildly creative mind of the chef Dabiz Muñoz. The cuisine is fantastical, incorporating pan-Asian inspirations with mostly hedonistic Spanish ingredients that sample unabashedly from exotic luxuries like tomalley or brain. The Chef is a master at taking an original concept and creatively augmenting it so much that it changes personalities.
  4. 新荣记 (Shanghai, China). Xinrongji is the gold standard of Chinese cooking. The cuisine faithfully highlights and brings out the best of each ingredient, which is religiously sourced from the best in season. Service is top-notch and the food makes you want to regularly return.
  5. Atomix (New York, NY). Atomix is a progressive restaurant that is rooted in tradition. Unlike most other fine dining restaurants in the US, its proposition isn’t so much a fusing of global cuisines or modernist techniques, but a deep and masterful revival of Korean history through a modern lens.
  6. The French Laundry (Yountville, CA). The French Laundry exceeded my expectations. Sure I expected the cooking to be top-notch, but I expected it to also be old-school or boring. Chef Thomas Keller commands a mastery of flavor that is unparalleled, and there’s plenty of striking innovation in the details. The most impressive part about our meal was that every single course was consistently excellent.
  7. Le Chique (Cancun, Mexico). Dining at Le Chique was a breathtaking experience. Our meal here was a proud survey on the diversity of Mexican cuisine; the inspired reinterpretations are pleasing even to those unfamiliar with Mexican food from the composition and ostentatiousness alone. Chef Luna also incorporates plenty of surprise throughout the menu.
  8. Alinea (Chicago, IL). Alinea delightfully challenges your perception of food, and manages to pull it off in every single course. The combinations are impressively atypical and at times straight up mind-blowing.
  9. Alo (Toronto, Canada). Alo is one of the few tasting menus I’d happily return to in a heartbeat. Every course was exceptionally delightful and there was not a single miss in the 12–13 course menu. The cuisine felt like a progressive and novel spin on French and Japanese cooking, with a roughly equal portion of originally Japanese dishes and French dishes.
  10. Baan Tepa (Bangkok, Thailand). A meal at Baan Tepa is a culinary journey across Thailand. Chef Pam exudes a masterful control of Thai flavors from a progressive western trained background.
Oysters and pearls at The French Laundry

The next 10:

11. Mont Bar (Barcelona, Spain)

12. Tin Lung Heen (Hong Kong)

13. Kono (New York, NYC)

14. Azurmendi (Larrabetzu, Spain)

15. Sühring (Bangkok, Thailand)

16. Atelier Crenn (San Francisco, CA)

17. Addison (San Diego, CA)

18. Alma (Lisbon, Portugal)

19. Fu1088 (Shanghai, China)

20. Lung King Heen (Hong Kong)

Not fine dining

Outside of fine dining, these were some of the tastiest pieces of food I had, the true 10/10’s:

  • Eggplant Bumbai Curry at Nari (San Francisco, CA): This is undoubtedly the best curry I’ve had. The curry is thick, rich, nutty, spicy, subtly flavored by coconut milk, and with plenty of spices that enliven the curry. The waiter told us that the patrons from the neighboring table come up from LA every two months just to eat this dish.
  • Fermented tofu butter at Tate (Hong Kong): The fermented tofu (腐乳) butter with bread was an ingenious and marvelous creation that stole the show from the kumquat and scallop dish it accompanied.
  • Fish and chips at Dame (New York, NY): These fish and chips are next level; they’re by far the best and chips I’ve ever had, but that endorsement alone doesn’t do it justice. The batter is exceptionally airy yet contradictorily crispy, instantly sublimating in your mouth. The haddock fish has a soft texture as if it were steamed, and its meat is flakier, a little like crab.
Fish and chips at Dame
  • Danny boy at Stretch Pizza (New York, NY): This dandan noodle inspired pizza is wildly perfect, the exact kind of result you’d hope for when Wylie Dufresne is making pizza. The crust is crispy on one side and fluffy on the other.
  • The trumpet mushrooms at Four Horsemen (New York, NY): The trumpet mushrooms are a simple dish — mushrooms grilled to be a little creamy inside, topped with a cured egg yolk sauce and some vinaigrette. The egg yolk adds richness that the vinaigrette promptly cuts through.
  • Mafaldine at Lilia (New York, NY): The chewy and starchy texture of the mafaldine is so satisfying, making each bite thoroughly enjoyable. The pasta is similar to a cacio e pepe but it’s more special — the pink peppercorn is more nasal and a little bit tickly, a novel but enjoyable flavor.
  • Celery and green pea with lemon verbena cream at L’Arpege (Paris, France): This is a simple dish initially all about contrast — temperature, flavor, and even mouthfeel — before it quickly merges together in the palate. The flavors are creamy and delectable with the signature flavor of white celery.
  • Steamed halibut cheongfun at Tin Lung Heen (Hong Kong): The steamed halibut cheongfun will change your perspective on cheongfun. The halibut belly is so soft and fatty it’s like the wagyu of the sea, melting in your mouth. This is wrapped in a matching cheong fun that is also exceptionally tender.
  • Koshihikari rice at Addison (San Diego, CA): The meal honestly peaked right at this point. The course brings together caviar and a smoked sabayon on koshihikari rice, with bits of toasted sesame embedded within. It’s opulently rich, savory, creamy, and with depth, balanced over some rice. The short grain rice is critical in the dish, cooked al dente with plenty of heterogeneity in texture.
Koshihikari rice, smoked sabayon, caviar at Addison
  • Mapo tofu at FuHeHui (Shanghai, China): The secret menu (!) mapo tofu is a must. Without using meat, it has just as much meaty and umami flavor from mushrooms. But at the same time it leaves a clean palate, without much oiliness.
  • Steak and sides at Bavette’s Bar and Boeuf (Chicago, IL): The dry aged bone in rib eye is one of the best steaks I’ve had — chewy, beefy, and with excellent marbling. The sides are all rather exciting: really saucy truffle mac and cheese, delicious cream sherry mushrooms, and the must-get elote style corn with a genius addition of Parmesan.
  • Italian and American hams with zeppole at Torrisi (New York, NY): This combination turns out to be far better than it sounds. The zeppole is like a small donut hole, with a light layer of crisp while the dough is airy and moist that it’s downright wet. The hams it comes with — a prosciutto and a Kentucky country ham — help set the flavors. They combine with an ingenious pineapple wasabi mostarda to create a blissful bite.
  • Congee at Jok Prince (Bangkok, Thailand): I have not quite had a congee like this before. The grain is mushy and disfigured, creating a contradictorily homogenous yet gritty texture. The liver is velvety, the century egg agreeable and deep. The pork meatballs are insanely tender.
  • Smoked brisket at Franklin Barbecue (Austin, TX): The brisket is exceptionally tender and moist, with an enjoyable blend of fat that can become overpowering. It’s plainly seasoned with just salt and pepper to let the pure fatty flavor of the meat shine through.
Brisket, ribs, and sausage at Franklin Barbecue
  • Quisquilla prawns at Ultramarinos Marin (Barcelona, Spain): Spanish quisquilla prawns are incredible — they’re silky, sweet, and their heads are full of richness. The ones at Ultramarinos Marin are served as a contrast with grilled heads but raw tails. The heads are quite juicy and full of flavor that you can eat the thing whole. The tails are cold, a little slimy and sweet.
  • Gems on crab stick at Sorn (Bangkok, Thailand): The pure flavors of crab are on full display here through an outsized bite of blue crab meat covered with semi-cooked mud crab roe. It brilliantly comes with a fresh yellow sweet chili paste that both breaks up the richness of the roe and complements the flavor of the meat.
  • Homeburg prototype #1 at Homeburg (Bangkok, Thailand): The house burger is perfected. The patty is soft and fine, rather fatty in content. The fat doesn’t end there though; it’s layered with crispy bacon, brushed with oil, and a generous amount of the house aioli is applied on both buns. It’s made more complex with zesty notes from lemon syrup, umami in the dashi cheese, and a lightly spicy and sour jalapeño relish.
Burger at Homeburg
  • Red braised pork at Fu1088 (Shanghai, China): This is the best red braised pork I’ve had. The layer of fat feels like it’s been reduced, but its flavor is present without the queasiness to match. The lean part is stringy but not dry, while the skin is jelly like. It’s thoroughly braised with flavor, and of course just enough sweet.
  • Chocolate cake at Landeau Chocolate (Lisbon, Portugal): The chocolate cake is simple, consisting of three chocolate layers — cake at the bottom, cremeux in the middle, and a thin layer of icing on top, before being sprinkled by cacao powder that adds an ephemeral dryness in mouthfeel and a welcome bitterness.
  • Indian Kesar mangoes from Patel Brothers (New York, NY): I went on a slightly obsessive hunt for mangoes this year during the Indian mango season, and was able to find fresh Kesars at my local Indian grocery store that had just been shipped in from India that morning. They were phenomenal — exceptionally juicy and sweet.
  • Melon soda at Yuu (New York, NY): This dessert is based on a treasured childhood favorite of the chef. It serves tiny crown melon balls with melon granita, vanilla ice cream, white port jelly, and a magical melon espuma that tastes both creamy and carbonated at the same time. The combination creates the flavor profile of a melon soda and is breathtakingly elevated — it is clearly reminiscent of the drink but at the same time particularly different in its medium.


I went to a lot of bars too. Here were my favorites:

Grasshopper at Sober Company
  1. Double Chicken Please (New York, NY): I went to Double Chicken Please at the start of this year and I’ve been back basically every other month despite the queues. The drinks are visionary — the owners are able to see an alternate food-based flavor profile in more classic drinks, then build upon that to make it taste like the food.
  2. Bar Pompette (Toronto, Canada): The cocktail options are exciting and they’re all wonderfully sublime. You’ll love the Paloma quemada — it’s exquisite with a toasted marshmallow flavor from the whey and a subtle introduction of nettle.
  3. Villa Frantzen (Bangkok, Thailand): The cocktail program at Villa Frantzen would undoubtedly be a top rated bar if it was a separate entity. The drinks are all clean and subtle, each with a lot of impressive technique and thought put in.
  4. Argo (Hong Kong): Ingenious and delicious cocktails inspired by the cuisine of Hong Kong.
  5. Aviary (Chicago, IL): A molecular cocktail heaven. Each drink goes the extra mile and is unlike anything elsewhere.
  6. Sober Company (Shanghai, China): Finally got to visit one of my favorite bars since the reopening earlier this year. At Tipsy, the grasshopper was one of the most ingeniously strange yet wonderful cocktails I’ve had, crossing over a grasshopper and a rocket salad.
  7. Young Blood (San Diego, CA): An amazing 3 course cocktail experience with no menu, completely driven by the bartenders’ expertise. They were also willing to take risks with my preferences, which all paid off astoundingly well.
  8. Here Nor There (Austin, Texas): The technique is impressive and the drinks are each executed very well. The current menu is based on familiar memories, like a first kiss, a beach vacation, or a campfire.
  9. Tropic City (Bangkok, Thailand): An amazing sort-of tiki bar. The So Fresh and So Clean may be one of my favorite cocktails — it’s exactly as the name suggests with Campari, Lillet, jasmine tea, grapefruit, and sparkling water. My new year’s resolution is to figure out how to make it.
  10. The Old Man (Hong Kong): Very unique and technical drinks inspired by the life of Ernest Hemingway. The Expert of Danger is perhaps the craziest twist on the Negroni I’ve had — it uses gin distilled with pickled cabbage and pine to create a funky acidic yet woody flavor.
So Fresh and So Clean at Tropic City

Bonus: Vibiest Vibes

Because the eyes want to feast too.

  • Moongate Lounge (San Francisco, CA): This place feels simultaneously in the 1870s, 1970s, and 2070s.
  • VoidBKK (Bangkok, Thailand): A very liminal space. The ceilings are low and the lighting is muted. There’s an unsettlingly huge ellipse in the center.
  • Undercote (New York, NY): A dark but green subterranean jungle underneath Cote.
  • Bacaro (Vancouver, Canada): You can find some really good cichetti, chips, and perfected spritzes in a beautiful Neo-Bauhaus dining room here.
  • Genesis House (New York, NY): I consider myself a regular here; I’m a big fan of the quiet, sophisticated, and elegant vibes it exudes. The idea is to project the lifestyle of a Genesis owner beyond the wheel as a marketing tactic I suppose. I wonder how much money this place loses given there isn’t a lot of people and it’s a huge and prime space in Chelsea by the river.
  • % Arabica Empire Tower (Bangkok, Thailand): This is the coolest % Arabica I’ve been to. It’s on the 55th floor with amazing views of the Bangkok skyline.
  • For Rest Bar (Koh Samui, Thailand): A picturesque cafe with beautiful seaside views, perfect at sunset.
  • Qilin (Bangkok, Thailand): This cafe is decorated maximally with antiques, like a movie set prop room meets an Instagram trap. Maybe it is one; the drinks are terrible, they’re from syrup and have no substance.
  • Morning Glory (San Diego, CA): A chaotically vibey brunch spot from Consortium Holdings.
  • Overstory (New York, NY): Located on the 63rd floor, this place affords amazing views of NYC in a posh post-modern art deco environment. It’s especially worth coming at sunset, and there’s plenty of outdoor seating.