Best of the Year: Restaurants, Chefs and More

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We have done something new this year: We’ve expanded our annual Best Chefs issue to include lots more restaurants spanning 1s different categories. Surveys show that, by far, one of the favorite topics of New Orleans Magazine’s readers is eating. That suits us just fine because food is something we like to write about. In many categories the competition is intense, and the difference that puts one restaurant ahead of the other is slight. That is why we call our selections “Best of the Year,” allowing us to pinpoint something that made a difference within the last dozen months but holding open the possibility for new winners next year.

A committee consisting of our editors and our dining and spirits writers made the selections. For our purposes “new,” as in Best New Restaurant and Best New Chef, encompasses the period from October 2008, when the selections were made for last year’s issue, to the present.

So that old acquaintances will not be forgotten, we continue our Honor Roll category in which we spotlight a long-established restaurant. This year’s choice is headed by one of the area’s most colorful chefs. His restaurant just celebrated a significant anniversary.

We know that the competition is keen and in every category there are worthy contenders, yet we feel good about this year’s choices. All the more reason to try area restaurants, and to encourage all the “Bests” to be even better.
 

Latin Restaurant of the YEAR

Rio Mar
If you can’t decide which of the ceviches tempts you the most, order a sampler that includes all four. Chef Adolfo Garcia’s paean to seafood turns out the best Spanish and Portuguese cuisine in the city, offering a refreshing alternative to our predominately regional preparations. There is no other place like it. Save room for the Tres Leches dessert.

800 S. Peters St., 525-3474

Continental Italian Restaurant of the YEAR

Ristorante Del Porto
Until recently, Ristorante Del Porto was one of the few sophisticated Italian restaurants in the area not serving “Creole Italian” cuisine. Chefs David and Torre Solazzo opened the restaurant in 2002, and after moving to its current, larger location in downtown Covington, have continued to produce outstanding, contemporary Italian cuisine that consistently earns praise from diners and critics alike.

501 E. Boston St., Covington, (985) 875-1006
 

Classic New Orleans Restaurant of the YEAR

Antoine’s
After what has sadly been a typically disastrous experience with Hurricane Katrina and the rebuilding process, Antoine’s has bounced back to remain one of the classic restaurants in New Orleans and the U.S. With the newly opened Hermes Bar, which faces St. Louis Street, Antoine’s continues to grow without changing what New Orleanians love about the place.

713 St. Louis St., 581-4422
 

Vietnamese Restaurant of the YEAR

Hoa Hong 9 Roses
Ana and Jeff Nguyen, the owners of 9 Roses, opened the restaurant in 1996 with recipes from Southern Vietnam provided by Ana’s mother, and from the northern city of Hue that Jeff called home. The result is a huge variety of choices, and the menu also includes a healthy selection of Chinese dishes. Fresh ingredients and consistently outstanding.

1001 Stephen Court, Gretna, 366-7665
 

French Restaurant of the YEAR

Flaming Torch
Not to be confused with Creole or Cajun, we’re talking about the cuisines from the old country. Competition is growing in the category with at least two new French restaurants opening during the past year. For now we say oui to the tres interesting Flaming Torch and its splendid renditions of French Continental Cuisine. It would be hard to find a better Coq Au Vin anywhere east of Marseille.

737 Octavia St., 895-0900
 

Thai Restaurant of the YEAR

Chill Out Café
Cuisine you expect from a great Thai restaurant: Phat Thai, Phat Woon Sen, Curry, Pad See Ewe, Pad Kee Mao. Something you don’t expect: American breakfast. Dining Room full? Enjoy a table on the porch.

729 Burdette St., 872-9628.

Traditional New Orleans Italian Restaurant of the YEAR

Irene’s Cuisine
An outstanding example of how this city embraces classic cuisines and makes them her own. In this case, it’s Italian. The sturdy menu offerings are almost impossible to resist, but then there are the always-stunning Daily Specials. The only logical choice when dining at Irene’s is to do the “New Orleans Dinner Dance,” with each person at the table ordering something different, then sharing with everyone else.

539 St. Philip St., 529-8811
 

Chinese Restaurant of the YEAR

Royal China
Miss Shirley and her husband Teng keep their loyal customers happy with Chinese standards as well as the city’s best selection of Dim Sum. Kick back with some Chrysanthemum tea and pick and choose your way through the tempting picture book of tiny, savory dishes.

600 Veterans Memorial Blvd., 831-9633
 

Japanese Restaurant of the YEAR

Horinoya
Chef Komei Horimoto presides over the city’s most authentic Japanese restaurant. You won’t find crazy, Americanized rolls here; instead, the focus is on super fresh ingredients, carefully prepared and thoughtfully presented. Omakase tasting aside, the appetizer section of their menu is a treasure chest. The Saba Shioyaki (grilled mackerel) is wonderful, as is the Ankimo (steamed monkfish liver), which melts on the tongue like a delicate paté.

920 Poydras St., 561-8914.
 

Creole Soul Restaurant of the YEAR

Lil’ Dizzy’s
Folks gush about the gumbo, jambalaya and the bountiful brunches – all for good reason – but nothing tops Lil’ Dizzy’s classic fried chicken, a specialty of the Baquet family.

1500 Esplanade Ave. 569-8997

 

Middle Eastern Restaurant of the YEAR

Jamila’s Café
Moncef and Jamila Sbaa have the only Tunisian restaurant in town, so we’re lucky that our exposure to the cuisine of the North African nation is so good. Jamila, who runs the kitchen, works wonders with cous cous, spicy merguez sausage and the flaky “brik” pastries representative of Tunisian cuisine. Her husband Moncef is as gregarious a host as you’ll find. A combination of wonderful food and generous service.

7808 Maple St., 866-4366
 

Steakhouse Restaurant of the YEAR

Crescent City Steakhouse
Krasna Vojkovich and her sons Anthony and Frank are keepers of the flame at their white-tile-and-booth-bedecked Broad Street destination with an ambiance plucked from the early 20th century. To dine on their sizzling rib eye is to travel back in time. This unassuming steak destination is the opposite of the overblown iterations more typical of the genre.

1001 N. Broad St., 821-3271
 

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