Where to Eat & Drink in 2018

Meg McGuire, Allison Mitchell, Michelle Pulfrey and Kristen Schott | December 18, 2017 | Feature Features National

Best of Food & Drink
Vito Pasquale

BEST CERTIFIED SOMMELIER
At Selanne Steak Tavern, sommelier Vito Pasquale seeks to deliver “the art of his profession” via a vino perfectly picked for your palate. It’s what he’s been doing at the restaurant since it opened in 2013. His list is curated with the utmost attention to drinkable detail, with 375 choices ranging from classic (Screaming Eagle) to eclectic. And at any given time, 10 to 20 sips are “hiding in the cellar waiting for their moment.” Want one? Just ask, says Pasquale, who shares with his loyal oenos if something special is arriving soon (like the 2014 Ovid Napa Valley Bordeaux Blend). “Certain bottles sell out before they’ve even made it to the list,” he says. The most over-the-top experience? A private event during which the 15 guests downed more than three years’ worth of exclusive allocations before their starters hit the table. “It was a night to remember, for sure.”

BEST PRIVATE DINING EXPERIENCE
With a $15,000 price tag for groups of two to 12, which includes park admission, it doesn’t get much more exclusive than 21 Royal. Located in Walt and Lillian Disney’s reimagined family residence in the heart of Disneyland Park, the dining experience features a multicourse feast with wine pairings curated by sommelier and project manager Matthew Ellingson, executive chef Andrew Sutton and chef de cuisine Justin Monson. Word to the wise: Plan ahead—reservations are booked up to seven months in advance. Sutton puts it best: “If Club 33 is hard to find, this is harder.”

BEST GM TO KNOW
Want a seat at Vaca in Costa Mesa, even when the Spanish tapas restaurant is buzzing with convivial chatter over fine cuisine and drinks? Get to know general manager Ghali Benhima. He’ll give you what he calls “his table.” Let him elaborate: “A secret of mine,” he says, “[is] to keep the best table under my name, always. This way, I am capable of getting any VIP a [spot] at any given moment.” Ask what the best seat is, and he’ll tell you it’s at the bar. “A true VIP knows what they want, and they come to feel the atmosphere of Spain.” His clientele travels from all parts of the world, and he’s well-equipped to chat with them: He’s fluent in Arabic, French and English. “When I speak with [diners] in their native language, I... create a stronger bond.” To that end, he personally contacts A-listers to ensure they’re informed about events, like the soon-to-come Pinchos Night. Stay tuned...



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