The 10 Best Things I Ate in Metro Phoenix in 2014

Peking duck from Hong Kong Asian Diner
Peking duck from Hong Kong Asian Diner
Jackie Mercandetti

In 2014, there were too many good bites to remember -- and some I'd be happy to forget. But each dish on this list stands out not only for the flavors achieved by talented chefs, but also as a memorable experience that revolved around food. Some dishes are unlikely to ever be replicated in exactly the same way, while others have become some of my favorite plates to return to time and time again.

See also: 10 Best Places to Drink in Metro Phoenix

Peking Duck from Hong Kong Asian Diner

This Tempe restaurant doesn't look like much from the outside or, for that matter, the inside. But Choi and Bai Kuang's restaurant is a temple to simple, well-executed Cantonese cuisine. The Peking duck is a sharable dish that begins with a plate of crisp duck skin served with a side of fluffy white buns. Build your own miniature sandwiches of fat-lined skin, sweet and salty hoisin sauce, and slices of green onion for a melt-in-your-mouth experience of contrasting flavors and textures. The secondary plate of moist, flavorful meat makes this a dish that keeps on giving. (9880 S. Rural Road, Tempe, 480-705-7486)

Little Miss BBQ offers a range of perfectly-smoked meats.
Little Miss BBQ offers a range of perfectly-smoked meats.
Jackie Mercandetti

Brisket from Little Miss BBQ

This year, we entered a new age of barbecue in the Valley, the age of Little Miss BBQ. At this point, it's nearly unanimously accepted that this South Phoenix restaurant is where you'll find the hands-down best barbecued meats in metro Phoenix, and as at all Texas-inspired 'cue spots, the brisket is king. Owners Scott and Bekke Holmes dry-rub their brisket with pepper, salt, cayenne, and garlic before leaving it in a wood-fired, custom-made R&O Smoker for 11 hours. After all that time at a steady 250 degrees, you end up with moist, flavorful meat that's pretty much perfect. (4301 E. University Drive, 602-437-1177, www.littlemissbbq.com)

Chef Shinji Kurita's spectacular omakase-style dinner changes daily.
Chef Shinji Kurita's spectacular omakase-style dinner changes daily.
Lauren Saria

Tsukuri Six from ShinBay

Though the menu at Scottsdale's ShinBay changes almost constantly, the Tsukuri Six has become, more or less, chef Shinji Kurita's signature dish. This ever-changing bento box of small seafood bites can include a wide variety of flavors and textures, making it just as visually stunning as it is fun to eat. Some of the chef's go-to bites include finely chopped bluefin tuna tartare made with pine nuts, avocado, and fresh wasabi and a single delicate oyster served with ponzu gelée, a slice of cherry tomato, and a spot unctuous uni, or sea urchin. (7001 N. Scottsdale Road, Scottsdale, 480-664-0180, www.shinbay.com)



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