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Tim Ebner loves the diversity of cuisines to be found at Kaliwa, but ultimately says the crab curry was the best dish he had in 2018. (Image: Courtesy Kaliwa)
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9 of our food writers' most memorable meals in 2018

2018 was a roller coaster of a ride for D.C.'s dining scene, with unexpected closures, a chef unraveling and increased national attention for the incredible restaurants our city boasts. With so many worthy options, choosing where to spend your hard-earned dollars can be a tough choice. So, as our year-end gift to you dear readers, consider the restaurants mentioned below (all recommended by our expert team of food writers) must visits for your foodie bucket list. Happy eating, friends!

"As a reformed picky eater, I am always excited about any meal that reminds me of how far my taste buds, and willingness to try new things, have come. In 2018, tofu continued to be one of the few things I had a blanket moratorium on, but when everyone was raving about the tofu gnocchi with sunchokes, black truffles and white miso beurre monte at American Son, I knew I needed to cave and give the vegan protein a fair shake. The dish not only proved chef Tim Ma's prowess with vegetarian dishes, but reminded me that an open mind is the most important thing I can bring to the dinner table." -- Laura Wainman

"The best meal I had in 2018 was at Kaliwa at The Wharf. I love how the menu is divided into three different cuisines (Filipino , Korean and Thai) and the crab curry is by far the best dish I ate this year. It's filled with lump pieces of Chesapeake blue crab and it has plenty of spicy heat and rich flavors in the curry sauce. Other standout favorites include the pork fried dumplings, crispy pork hash, and the whole fried flounder." -- Tim Ebner

"First, an admission: Until this November I'd never been to Pineapple and Pearls. I know, I know. I blame my kids. And after hearing two years of hype, I wondered if it could ever live up to expectations. It did. Every course was letter perfect, from the amuse right through to the ridiculously over-the-top black truffle soft serve ice cream for dessert. But the real revelation here is the service—perfectly attentive and accommodating without ever feeling suffocating or stuffy." -- Jeff Dufour

" I've had multiple meals at Q by Peter Chang over the course of the year (and even at a Peter Chang restaurant in Connecticut!) and I can safely say that all my visits have been spectacular. The quality of food is incredible, the variety of flavors is stunning, the presentation is beautiful and creative, service is great and the accommodation for vegetarians and food allergies is fantastic. It's hard to nail down my favorite dish, but a few that come to mind include the tofu skin salad, the dan dan noodles with fresh lily, eggplant with garlic sauce, the best Peking duck in the area, superb dim sum brunch with a variety of dumplings and so many of their comforting winter pots. Chef Peter Chang and his family have really upped the ante for Chinese food in the area, and I'm excited for their new outpost Mama Chang to open in Northern Virginia in 2019!" -- Aparna Krishnamoorthy

"The thought that my favorite meal of 2018 would be vegan seems impossible, but it's true. While vegetables are typically always part of my meal, rarely are they the entire meal. The flavorful Zucchini Kofta at Karma Modern Indian is now the exception that I will gladly return to over and over in 2019." --Troy Petenbrink

"This spring, I went foraging for morel mushrooms with the Inn at Little Washington's Patrick O'Connell. The hunt was electrifying; like searching for hidden treasure. We found a pound of the prized fungi – no, I won't tell you his secret spot – which we took back to the restaurant. There he taught me how to transform them into a simple pasta dish, which I'll be making annually, as long as I get just as lucky in years to come. Our lunch concluded with lemon meringue tart evoking the sweet 'n' tart pie my grandmother made me as a little boy. Frankly, it was all so much fun I still can't believe someone paid me to do it." --Nevin Martell

"I’ve had plenty of memorable meals this year, but the two that stand out the most were both at Elle in Mount Pleasant. The first time, we went this summer with another couple and ordered every single dish on the menu. It’s so fun and satisfying to say, 'We’ll take one of everything!' We were more enthralled with every dish we tasted, each full of surprise and adventure without ever sacrificing deliciousness. The second mind-blowing meal at Elle was just a few weeks ago, when chef Brad Deboy wowed our group with an unbelievably thoughtful and creative menu for a holiday gathering. This is the future of food, people, and Deboy is driving the train. I’m all in." -- Rina Rapuano

“My most memorable eating this year was in honor of my birth month. Since I’m an August baby, I decided to take advantage of the fact that everyone goes out of town and brave the lines at Rose’s Luxury and Bad Saint on two Friday afternoons. We loved the squash blossom crab Rangoon at Rose’s so much we had to order a second round before dessert. The crispy fried soft shell crab curry at Bad Saint was the stuff of dreams. Happy birthday to me!” -- Lani Furbank

"I'm a newbie, having moved from Chicago to the DMV area this year. I am nothing but grateful to have entered a food scene that is revving up and impressing hard. In particular, the thriving presence of Thai, Filipino and Indian cuisine brings my immigrant heart and Asian palate tremendous joy. But one that tops the list is, ironically, the first sit-down restaurant I ate at here in D.C. before we had officially moved—Tail Up Goat. From start to finish, the meal was sheer perfection. Those sourdough toasts? The rabbit sausage with pear mostarda, and marinated radicchio? THE LAMB! With that meal, I knew I was in for a good time in D.C. It made for the perfect welcome." --Sabrina Medora


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