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Pizza at The Little Italy

There’s one thing I can’t seem to get enough of no matter how many places I travel to…good food.  One of my favorite parts about traveling is getting to try so many different restaurants and cuisines.  So, without further ado, here are my best restaurant finds of 2019 ranked good to best:

5. Bandera

Location: 3201 Pacific Coast Hwy, Corona Del Mar, CA 92625

Must order: The Hawaiian (if dining in) and The Whole Chicken (if taking out)

Website: https://banderarestaurants.com

Experience:  Bandera is an absolute must if you’re visiting the Orange County area.  The restaurant is owned by the Hillstone group who also owns Houston’s, R&D Kitchen, and Gulfstream so you know the quality of food is going to be top-notch.  My boyfriend took me here for my birthday.  While it is a very similar menu to Houston’s, it has a completely different vibe due to the Corona del Mar crowd.  Think upscale, trendy, and the definition of “The OC.”

I ordered The Hawaiian, which is a rib-eye, charred on the outside, perfectly pink on the inside, and dipped in a pineapple-soy-ginger marinade.  It was easily one of my favorite steaks and I cannot wait to go back again.  In addition, the service was impeccable.

While dining in, we saw it was possible to order an entire chicken to go.  Later on in the year, we decided to give it a try and we were not let down.  For $20, you can order an entire chicken to feed your family.  It was juicy, tasty, and lasted us a few meals.  Just make sure you place an order ahead of time so they don’t run out!

 

4. Little Sister

Location: 523 W 7th St, Los Angeles, CA 90017

Must order: Anything with lemongrass

Website: http://www.dinelittlesister.com

Experience:  I can’t remember exactly why we ended up trying Little Sister in Downtown LA, but I think it had something to do with missing the food from our recent trip to Bali.  Little Sister is a Southeast Asian restaurant with some of the most phenomenal flavor combinations.  I can’t remember exactly what we ended up ordering, but I highly recommend anything with lemongrass in the ingredients.  Be sure to make reservations because the restaurant is small, and it fills up fast!  It’s conveniently located near everything in DTLA which made parking once and walking extremely convenient.

3. Mama San

Location: Jl. Raya Kerobokan No.135, Kerobokan Kelod, Kec. Kuta Utara, Kabupaten Badung, Bali 80361, Indonesia

Must order: Everything on the menu

Website:  https://mamasanbali.com

Experience:  Mama San is truly a one of a kind experience.  With an open, high ceiling interior, and flavors unlike any other restaurant, there really is no other restaurant in the world I could compare it to.  During this trip, we were traveling with a group of 15, and therefore, ordered a little bit of everything on the menu.  The drinks are made with intention, and the food is high quality, yet authentic.

My biggest pointer, remember where you’re at.  Spicy in Bali means real, mouth on fire for hours, spice.  If you don’t like spice, be sure to ask how spicy your dish is before ordering it.   I ordered a spicy vermicelli noodle with meat dish and it was to die for.  The presentation of all the food was top notch.  Every person I have spoken to recommends Mama San if you’re making a trip to Bali.  Just be sure to make reservations in advance!

2. The Little Italy

Location: 5 Place de Clichy, 75017 Paris, France

Must order: Any pizza!

Website: No Website

Experience:  The Little Italy was recommended to us by our Airbnb host while we were staying in Paris.  We walked in expecting some good food.  But, we came out realizing it was home to the best pizza we’d ever had, including in Italy itself.  Half of our group got pizza and the other half got pasta.  While the pasta was good, it didn’t come close to the taste of the pizza.

I highly recommend ordering anything with pepperoni on it.  Everything tasted SO fresh, like the ingredients are imported every day.  It’s always crowded so be prepared for a small wait.  But, the food is SO worth it!  This may be a bit out of the way depending on where you’re staying.  But make time to visit. You’ll thank me later.

 

1. Girafe

Location: 1 Place du Trocadéro et du 11 Novembre, 75016 Paris, France

Must order: Catch of the Day, scallops with truffle, yellowtail

Website: http://www.girafeparis.com/en

Experience:  Yes, I know it’s ironic that my two top restaurants are in Paris but I don’t care!  The French know how to do food and this proves it.  Girafe was high on my list of restaurants I wanted to try while in Paris.  Situated on the Trocadero, if you’re lucky like we were, you might just snag a seat with a view of the Eiffel Tower.  However, this place is always booked so make sure to make reservations in advance!

Now, on to the food.  Let me start out by saying I’m not a huge seafood person.  I love sushi and sashimi, don’t get me wrong.  But, given the choice between fish and steak, I’ll always go with steak.  Girafe proved to me that when prepared correctly, fish really can trump steak.

We went to Girafe with my boyfriend’s business connection and his wife.  We started with a few appetizers: sea scallops with truffle, yellowtail, and tuna.  Each dish seemed to be more delicious than the last.  The sea scallops came with true truffle, not just truffle oil like we’re so used to seeing here in the United States and yes, it tastes wayyyyyyyy better!  The yellowtail was melt in your mouth quality fish that had a flavor I couldn’t quite put my finger on but absolutely loved.  The tuna was probably my least favorite, but still as good as the best fish I’ve had in The States.  It was a little plain when compared to the other two which left me wanting a bit more.

The real diamond though was the catch of the day.  Our table split a whole sea bass which was absolutely cooked to perfection.  But, let me back up.  Apparently, the sea bass took a little longer than usual to cook (which I don’t think anyone at our table noticed).  Our waiter came out to let us know the chef was sending over another dish as an apology.  I’m not sure quite what it was..some type of a ravioli in frothy buttery goodness.  But it was amazing and added to the experience because it was on the house due to our delayed fish.

The sea bass came out and I don’t think I’ve ever tasted fish this good before.  Our waiter presented the whole fish to us, then took it back to the kitchen to be de-boned, and divided amongst the 4 of us.  The French are phenomenal at their use of sauces.  It had the perfect amount of salt, butter, and tart tastes.  And again, melt in your mouth quality fish.  I cannot wait to get back to Paris to try more on the menu!

Girafe took the top spot because everything about the meal was perfect.  Our waiter was kind and personable without being too into our conversation, the food was better quality than I’ve ever had before, the service was impeccable (bringing out a free appetizer because our main dish was taking too long, without us asking about it), and how can you beat a view of the Eiffel Tower throughout your whole dinner?

It’s not a cheap meal, but it’s worth every penny.  If you’re in Paris, this is an absolute must-visit.  In fact, I’d say it’s worth making a trip to Paris just for Girafe alone!

 

Well, there you have it!  My favorite foodie discoveries from 2019.  I already have my eye on some places I’m hoping to try in 2020.  Be sure to comment with any restaurant suggestions throughout the world that I need to experience!

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