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Our Experts Weigh in on Their Favorite Meal of 2016

Which cuisine reigned supreme?

Pao by Paul Qui

As we put a cap on 2016, Eater surveyed a group of friends, writers, and all around experts for their take on the past year. We asked them eight questions: from top standbys to top newcomers, from best meals to restaurants they’ve broken up with. All will be answered by the time we turn off the lights at the end of the 2016. Responses are related in no particular order; all are cut, pasted, and (mostly) unedited herein. Readers, please do add your survey answers in the comments.

Jackie Gutierrez-Jones (UrbanDaddy Miami): A four hour brunch I embarked upon at Izzy's, in which I single-handedly took down a warm lobster roll, lobster poutine, oysters, a whoopie pie and way-too-much rosé. Note: there is no such thing as "way too much" when it comes to rosé.

Carla Torres (Ocean Drive): You’re asking me to single out one experience from 365 days worth of food (or maybe 300 when you take my fasting days into account). Either way, that’s a lot of meals to remember and I don’t even remember who I was this morning. I did have a pretty mind-blowing dinner just Friday night at Bazaar Mar. Jose Andres is the mad hatter, and Bazaar Mar a trip down the culinary rabbit hole where whole lionfish (that may or may not have been spearfished by Jose himself) is fried and seaweed funnel cakes topped with blue crab are an edible reality.

Laine Doss (Miami New Times): The best restaurant meal I had this year was sitting at the bar eating a burger at GreenRiver in Chicago. Just the absolute perfect burger -- thick, juicy and perfectly salted. Plus the view is killer and the bartender was a revelation. For Miami, I'd have to say Upland has given me my favorite experience overall for its warm ambiance and its cacio e pepe.

Evan Benn (Indulge Miami): During NYCWFF in October, we dined with a bunch of friends at The Cecil in Harlem, chef JJ Johnson's African-Asian-American gem (which, sadly, is closing at the end of the year). There were 11 of us, and the restaurant has an option called The Full Cecil, where they bring you literally everything on the menu -- every app, every entree, every side, every dessert. Everything. And it's not a tiny menu. A great value for outstanding food and the ideal way to eat with friends.

Giovanny Gutierrez (Chat Chow TV/Eater Miami Contributor): Compère Lapin

Matthew Meltzer (Thrillist Miami): The Wonderland restaurant onboard Royal Caribbean's new Harmony of the Seas was an absolute trip. It's a Lewis Carrol-inspired place where the menus are written in invisible ink, the food comes out smoking, steaming, or otherwise causing a visual distraction, and the servers wear these sort of purple Harry Potter robes. You go through something that looks like a rabbit-hole to get in there, and the decor is all trippy, through-the-looking-glass type stuff.But it's not all show, the food backed it up, and it's only like a $50 upcharge for dinner there. If you go on this ship, it's a must-eat.

Steven Scharf (The Chowfather): As usual, I've enjoyed several outstanding meals in Miami this year and it's impossible and unfair to only pick one. But the best of the best includes Cobaya Miami's Experiment #67 with Paul Qui and his then chef de cuisine Derek Salkin at Pao and the killer Kaiseki Dinner at Pao with Paul, Derek and visiting chef Yoshi Okai from Otoko in Houston which included a fantastic off the cuff cameo from chef Makoto.

Sara Liss ( Shameless plug here for Saffron Supper Club but I honestly swooned over our Persian New Year's "Nowruz" dinner at Byblos earlier this year. Every dish was perfection from the duck kibbeh and truffle pide at the cocktail reception to the Turkish manti dumplings in yogurt sauce, the Persian chicken and sabzi rice and dessert of yogurt mousse with Persian cotton candy floss. The dinner allowed the restaurant to do what they do best and went beyond our expectations.

Olee Fowler (Eater Miami): I’ll be honest, when I walked into the Alinea Miami pop-up (and the first night of service, mind you) I didn’t think there was any way the restaurant could live up to the hype. But holy hell, it did meet expectations and exceeded them.


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