Our favorite meals of 2019

We have started to really focus on the food aspect of travel because we love to find our next best meal. Sometimes this means we seek out a restaurant with a Michelin star and sometimes it means getting a spot at the most-talked about spot in that city. Either way, we love to eat local food, local favorites, and having local cuisine in a fine dining environment. We find that interesting is because many of the places we go, don’t focus on fine dining. So, these chefs are interpreting their local cuisine into something new, something special, and many times they make it art.

We’ve had some pretty epic meals in 2019 but none of our favorites came from a Michelin star. They came from people who have passion for food in their own way without being pretentious. We’ve also found this year, that sometimes the “must go spot” was not the best. We saw this in Hong Kong. Everyone says to go to the Peninsula Hotel for the best afternoon tea. Nope. We did that last year and were very disappointed. In 2019, we tried the afternoon tea at Palm Court, inside the Langham Hotel — one block from the Peninsula. It was so much better…and cheaper. So, there’s a Hong Kong foodie tip for you!

We love getting recommendations from others who have visited and that’s why we are putting this list together. If you are headed to Vilnius, Lithuania, Hong Kong, or Gothenburg, Sweden, you’ll want to bookmark these spots and make a reservation, if possible.

These aren’t the cheapest spots mainly because, although we love some cheap eats, these were the best meals we had, and quality does tend to cost a bit more. Be prepared to pay about 40-90 Euro per person with these. Make it count!

Check out my new Instagram all about the food we discover on our travels. It’s called Picky Foodie Travels…because I’m a picky foodie 😉

Amandus fine dining in Vilnius

Vilnius, Lithuania | Amandus

Expected price (as of 2019): €60 for dinner or €90 with wine-pairing

Vilnius is full of all kinds of “wow” moments. Dinner at Amandus wasn’t the only one, but it was the biggest wow we experienced.

Here’s the low-down. The chef is basically a Lithuanian sweetheart and might just be the best chef in the country. But, the craziest part was that HE SERVED US! Yes. I did a ton of research beforehand and I was fan-girling a bit and swatting at Sean saying “Look! Look!” and he didn’t have a clue what was going on. But every 3rd course or so, the chef, himself, served our dishes and explained everything. He gets inspiration from all over the world and will surprise you with every dish.

Now, I’m a pretty picky eater, so I’m always a bit nervous when it comes to set menus. Especially when there are ingredients that I know I don’t love. The perfect example was the dessert dish. I don’t like anise, pineapple or coconut, but he had a vision to create this incredible dessert and somehow, all the ingredients came together into a masterpiece that I really enjoyed.

Dessert at Amandus, Vilnius, Lithuania

The dining room looks like an old cave and the whole ambiance is perfect. They do final touches on the dishes right in front of everyone in the room. It’s truly a full experience, not just a dinner.

There’s one seating and you’ll need a reservation. While the wine pairing isn’t mandatory, we highly recommend it. This multi-course, creative, inventive, delicious meal with wine pairing is still (at the end of 2019) under 100 Euro per person. See more in our video restaurant guide for Vilnius, Lithuania.

Happy Paradise rice

Hong Kong | Happy Paradise

Expected price (as of 2019): No set menu, expect at least HK$450 for appetizer, main dish, dessert and cocktail

Like many people, we admire Anthony Bourdain’s take on food. We trust his recommendation and we love watching the stories of people he meets. Happy Paradise was shown on the last season of Parts Unknown. It intrigued us…modern Cantonese. I mean, modernizing something so old is very brave and takes a strong creative mind. Obviously, we had to go.

Happy Paradise waffle

We got some of the dishes Bourdain recommended, but also asked our server for his opinion as well. Everything was bang-on extraordinary. Our favorites were the sourdough egg waffle, Szechuan fried chicken, Char Siu rice bowl (this, I would eat every day for the rest of my life), and the mochi apple pie.

Again, we’d highly recommend reservations. It’s a fun and funky place, enjoy it!

Chef Alvin at Koizen

Gothenburg, Sweden | Koizen Omoya

Expected price for set menu (as of 2019): 795kr (Swedish Krona) or 1200kr with the drink pairing

Our first Omakase experience was at Koizen Omoya and it blew our minds. We knew that seafood is a must-eat thing in Sweden, but this 27-year-old chef, Alvin, killed it!

An Omakase is where you trust the chef and they prepare right in front of you. The sauces he created to make full and interesting flavor profiles are impossible to describe and were pure perfection.

The Swedish couple we sat next to were super nice and the man told us that he went to the restaurant a few days prior and he had to take his wife. So he went twice in a week. If we were there longer, we may have as well. The menu will always change slightly…even from day to day. So, you know there will always be a surprise!

We got the drink pairing which was also awesome, but it wouldn’t break the experience at all if you paired it with one drink for the entire experience.

To think…not long ago I wouldn’t have even entertained the idea of going to a restaurant like this for 2 reasons: I hated sushi (then I realized it is nori I don’t like), and I wasn’t sure I could trust anyone to serve me raw fish when I didn’t know the menu. What if I hated it all?

I am so glad that I went out of my comfort zone. It’s changed how I see seafood. It’s made me so happy that Alvin has a place to share his skill, creativity, and art. It’s an experience I will never forget! Worth every penny if you can budget for it. Obviously, we are glad we budgeted for it. I think it’s actually a good deal considering the quality and entire experience. If we make it back to Gothenburg, we will go again, guaranteed!

See more of the experience in this video that showcases the best foods to try in Gothenburg, Sweden.

Those were our best meals of 2019! I would go back to any of them. What was your favorite meal of the year? Would you like to go to any of these restaurants? Are there any restaurants on your wishlist?

I can’t wait to see what we’ll get into in 2020. It’s so exciting because we assume certain places will blow our minds and they might be good but nothing “wow” special, you know? Ok, I’ve gotta go. I just keep drooling thinking about these meals all over again!

Wishing you joy and travels!

Jessica Cutrufello wearing a green floral dress, glasses and pink lipstick

Hi! I’m Jessica, an American who made Amsterdam her home in 2014. I share European gems through food and memorable experiences. Want to know more? Head to my about page or check out my YouTube channel.

Travel with us - Tuscany October 2022