This list is comprised from my personal likes and eating habits, not new restaurant openings or what was hot or trendy. That being said...enjoy, it was a lot harder to compile this post than I ever imagined! Haha.
Ceviche Verde: La Casita Mexicana
Its not always on the menu, but when it is, make sure to bust the mission all the way down south to try this regional Mexican spin on the classical Ceviche. This dish even made Chef Ludo lick the plate clean and reconsider the seriousness of Mexican cuisine. The all-fish version (no filler ingredients like tomatoes and onions) is actually native to the coastal state of Veracruz and is marinated in a palatable sour sauce of Epazote, Cilantro, Lime and Chile Serrano. The crispy tostadas that you will devour with this fish are fried just minutes before you ordered your dish.
Crispy Tofu Balls: Starry Kitchen
I remember first reading about this L.A Foodblogger cult favorite and being curious as to why everyone made a big deal out of it. In my mind, I just pictured it, well...fried tofu balls. That was until I made it down to the opening party, where they were bringing out trays of the bright green balls. Apparently, the tofu is pressed, dipped in buttermilk, then battered in an ultra crispy layer of glutinous, green rice. And nothing goes better with crispy fried things than something creamy, here it is a few thick squirts of their Sriracha Mayo.
Hama Kama (Grilled Yellowtail Collar): Izakaya Haru Ulala
2010 was also the first year I was introduced to the illustrious buttery flesh of Japanese Hama Kama. It is literally the "neck" part of the fish, simply grilled with salt and served with grated radish. The skin cracks loudly as you dig in to its bone-in flaky meat. Its so juicy, all the clear fish juices run down the plate as you gnaw it down to the bone. Damn, I think I must have this dish after I finish writing this post!
Bahn Xeo: Veggie Life (Rosemead)
This is an old school favorite. My dad's shaman friend recommended this place to me maybe 3 years ago, I've been going back ever since. I have yet to find a better-- CRISPIER--version of this dish, meat or not. The fried crepe takes up a whole oval-size plate and it is crispy all over, not just the edges. It's probably all in the batter, the ideal balance of rich coconut milk, yellow bean flour and rice flour, with a couple of meaty dried mushrooms in it as well. This Vietnamese cousin of the omelet is stuffed with boiled bean sprouts and pieces of the latest state-of-the-art veggie Ham and more of those wondrous mushrooms. The lettuce that accompanies it is always fresh and abundant, same goes for all the aromatic Vietnamese herbs. The sweet, 'veggie' fish sauce will take some getting used to but you can always BYOFS?
...What? Ok, maybe you don't have to be as hardcore as me.
Korean Fish-Fed Duck: Sun Ha Jang
I was introduced to this place by the homie Neil Kwon to show me his favorite Korean spots in the city. The first place he took me to was of course, his aunt's restaurant! All the ducks sold on premises are raised on small fish, which makes for a flavorful yet ultra light meal. The fowl is prepared table side with lots of whole garlic that fry's in the extracted duck fat. The server will impress you as she dunks her finger in the hot fat with no burn or the slightest whimper. Whether you get the freeze-dried, thin pieces that will crisp up or the fresh meaty, moist option, you will be in for a treat. The lightly dressed bowl of shredded salad is endless and you will need it to make you feel better after eating probably 1/2 cup duck fat(at least). Yes, that includes all the oil soaked up by the fried purple rice they make you with all the leftover shimmering duck fat.
Pescado Sarandiado: Mariscos Martin (La Puente)
El Compa Chuy Tovar was the mediator between this invaluable La Puente local gem and I. Martin's specializes in Pescado Sarandiado, a notable staple fish dish in many Mexican coastal states. Here, it is magnificently prepared in the style of Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco and the fish of choice is a Red Snapper. A whole new definition to the term 'blackened', here the fish is rubbed with nothing else than a Red Chile adobo, unlike the differently tasty cultural norms of adding butter, mayo or oil that is celebrated in other states. Thus, the meaty flakes will therefore be a little more dryer but all the better to soak up their unrivaled "Salsa Sarandeada", the corequisite oil based salsa that is made from toasted chili seeds. I assure you, this is not the Chinese chili seed oil that is commonplace for dumplings but its damn close. A word of caution, don't go on a Sunday morning if you don't want to wait an hour for your table.
Falafel Combination: Wahib's Mediterranean (Alhambra)
A High School favorite, I used to walk/run here after long, lonely days at Gay-Hambra High School. While all the other kids would stop at Burger King, I kept walking further and would splurge on the awesomeness of their falafel combination platter. A Lebanese-meal-sized order that came brimming with their signature creamy hummus, chunky. earthy babaganoush, their tart house salad and of course 5 of their flaky, crispy, heavily spiced herbs of fried legumes. They are also a bakery with the best baklava I have ever had, anywhere.
Tom Kha Noodle Soup: Noodle World
Noodle World was another place I found myself frequenting on an almost weekly basis sometimes this last year. I'm surprised I didn't come here sooner. But no matter what else I try on their menu, I always come back to their Seafood Tom Kha. A milky, light coconut broth with just the right amount of fish sauce to be considered "aromatic" and not stinky. The rice stick pho noodles in this dish is never consistent in portion (sometimes a huge bunch, sometimes a baby fist sized amount) but no matter how much they give you, they will ALWAYS be al dente enough to make any Italian grandparent smile. The surimi is kind of weirdly sweet but the fish cakes are tasty. But hey! This huge bowl is only $7! PS. Cash only and ask for an plate of sprouts and basil 'pho setup' for no extra charge.
All-You-Can-Eat Lunch Buffet: New Delhi Palace (Pasadena)
I came here a startling amount of times for their daily $9.99 buffet during my first two years at PCC. And now that I took this semester off, I find myself trying to go for lunch every chance I get (but people exist out there that don't like Indian Food?). It's the veggie pakora's that keep me coming back. They are always crispy, and if they are not, all you have to do is ask and they will bring you a fresh batch right to your table. They use only chickpea flour here and their spice mixture makes them as addicting as a bag of Flamin' Hots. The house mint chutney is of the rustic, chunky, fresh mint variety, not the artificially bright, sweet stuff. Well, that and their smooth and creamy Spinach Saag to complete it. And on Wednesdays...they have all you can eat boneless lamb curry!
Spicy Miso Salmon Shabu-Shabu: Shaab
And last but not least (my absolute favorite) is... The Salmon Shabu-Shabu with Spicy Miso Broth at Shaab in Pasadena. Yup, believe it or not. Sure, the popular Shabu-Shabu house in Little Tokyo might be the winner when it comes to traditional beef (their Ponzu dipping sauce is nonpareil), but Shaab keeps it fresh with a "Doug's Salmon" option of Shabu-Shabu and their signature spicy miso broth. They are generous with the wild cuts of Salmon as well as the plate of vegetables. But the real reason I love this place is because of their signature sesame dipping sauce. Thicker, creamier and less sweeter than other places in town, the seed derived sauce screams out umami as you dip your vegetables in it. Also, you don't have to be tortured in an hour long wait before you eat. Come here for lunch or face the consequences of paying double for dinner.
Bonus! (Honorable Mentions)
Chinese Lion Peppers with Almond Skins, Honey, Soy, Violet Basil and Fig: Red Medicine
Shishito peppers are blistered and then dusted with crumbly raw almond meal. The odd preparation comes together with the brilliant pairing of soy and honey. Then cut through with the aromatic lemony-ness of the basil. The fig was there just for pleasant sweet kicks (although know "dates" took it place on the menu). Drama aside, this dish is bad ass. And what is even better is that you can get this creative dish until 2 AM.
Kale Salad: Elf Cafe
This place has kind of gotten forgotten in the L.A blogger-dom but its still packed with the locals almost every night. I took the carnivore tablemate here a while back, I remembered it had left a good impression the first time I went like 3 years ago when they first opened. And, they came through. In particular, we were both wowed by their raw Kale Salad. A heaping mountain of tender kale dressed with--what I recollect to be--ripe avocado, feta cheese, some other stuff and a lot of lemon.