The seafood pancake at Hazel features calamari, shrimp, Fresno peppers and shavings of bottarga. (Photo by Dixie D. Vereen/For The Washington Post)

There’s good food, and then there’s the sort of food you can’t seem to forget. These are our favorite dishes of 2016. And trust us, we ate a lot.

Seafood pancake at Hazel

One of the go-to dishes on Korean restaurant runs for Rob Rubba, the chef at Hazel, is the typically wheel-size seafood-scallion pancake, or haemul pajeon. At the worldly Hazel, he gives the popular drinking snack a mouthwatering upgrade, cooking calamari and shrimp in garlic, ginger and miso butter and slathering the surface of the crust with house-made garlic mayonnaise. There’s more: sliced Fresno peppers for a little kick and sesame and flax seeds for a subtle crunch. While the chef, an advocate of “medium” plates, says he hopes he’s serving a dish “most Koreans would know,” he finishes the plate-size pancake with shavings of bottarga. The pink filings appear to dance, prompting some diners to cry, “It’s alive!” A moving dish, we agree. $15. 808 V St. NW. — Tom Sietsema

Eggplant parm at All-Purpose

Further proof that moms know best: This “Jersey-style” dish is inspired by chef Michael Friedman’s own mother. Be prepared to share the hearty plate, which features roasted — not breaded and fried — eggplant swimming in a slow-cooked tomato sauce that’s layered with mozzarella and Parmesan then topped with bread crumbs. $15. 1250 Ninth St. NW. — Becky Krystal

Beef brisket at Texas Jack’s Barbecue

No cut proves as difficult to smoke as the brisket, an ungainly hunk of beef that never cooks evenly. Whatever technique pitmaster Matt Lang uses at Texas Jack’s, it works spectacularly. He’s turning out briskets that are smoky and succulent, the standard by which all others in the D.C. area are judged. Perhaps you think that’s a low bar? Think again: Lang’s brisket recently earned a salute from the Houston Chronicle’s barbecue columnist. $12 per half-pound. 2761 Washington Blvd., Arlington. — Tim Carman


The liang pi noodles at Northwest Chinese Food glisten with chili oil and aged vinegar. (Farrah Skeiky/The Washington Post)

Liang pi noodles at Northwest Chinese Food

There may not be a better introduction to the electric pleasures of the Shaanxi table than liang pi, or “cold skin” noodles, a bowl of innocent wheat-flour ribbons glistening with chili oil and aged vinegar, which will immediately light up your mouth with acid and heat. Fortunately, the bowl’s other ingredients — peanuts, mung beans, tofu, cucumbers — act as fire suppressants, the kind that can never quite control the conflagration. $7. 7313 Baltimore Ave., College Park. 240-714-4473. — Tim Carman

Brown rice bread at Tail Up Goat

Brown rice bread sounds more wholesome than delicious, but don’t let that stop you from ordering the dish; in the hands of Tail Up Goat chef Jon Sybert, it’s a remarkably delightful treat. Toppings vary seasonally — think fermented and fresh turnips with toasted hazelnuts, mint and Greek yogurt — but the premise remains the same: a flavorful bread, leavened with a five-year-old starter, that’s consumed most gracefully not with your hands, but with the help of a knife and fork. $13. 1827 Adams Mill Rd. NW. Emily Codik

The Bentley at Timber Pizza Co.

Layers of chorizo and soppressata weave smoky and spicy notes through the melted provolone and mozzarella in the Bentley pizza at Timber Pizza Co., while Peruvian sweet peppers provide a splash of sweet and sour that cuts through the heat. The crust is still king at this bustling Petworth spot: Charred from the wood-fired oven, it’s crispy enough to turn a 12-inch pie into a single serving if you’re not careful. $16. 809 Upshur St. NW. — Matt Brooks


The lobster jambalaya at Fish serves two to four diners. (Photo by Jennifer Chase for The Washington Post)

Lobster jambalaya at Fish

It makes perfect sense that José Andrés, prince of paella, would make jambalaya the signature dish at his new seafood restaurant at MGM National Harbor. The restaurant is all about showing the links between Spanish and American seaside fare, and the saucy, spicy rice, studded with okra, andouille and shrimp, is perfect for sharing with a big group. It has a beautiful tableside preparation, too. $48, serves two to four. 101 MGM National Ave., Oxon Hill. — Maura Judkis

Chicken karahi at Afghan Bistro

Like it hot? Ask for the chicken karahi at Afghan Bistro. The firecracker is actually two dishes prepared by chef Sofia Masroor: chicken thighs slow-cooked with onions, cilantro, turmeric and black pepper combined to order with a roasted eggplant stew (also ignited with black pepper). Just before it leaves the kitchen, the strapping entree is dressed up with pungent cilantro, garlicky yogurt and fresh Thai chili peppers. Spicy and soothing, each bite pushes multiple pleasure points. Further testament to its charm: Once a chalkboard special, chicken karahi graduated to Afghan Bistro’s standing menu in the new year. $15.95 at dinner. 8081 Alban Rd., Springfield. — Tom Sietsema


The Stacked sandwich at Smoked and Stacked features pastrami, cole slaw and Dijon mustard. (Becky Krystal/The Washington Post)

Stacked at Smoked and Stacked

The thick slices of overnight-smoked brisket in the Stacked sandwich are tender enough to chew through without dragging the whole pile off the bun. The house-made milk bread is buttery, slightly sweet and sturdy enough to hold up to the dripping juices from tangy coleslaw, bright Dijon mustard and meat. It’s the perfect vessel for a pastrami sandwich that packs a serious flavor punch. $13. 1239 Ninth St. NW. — Matt Brooks

Rava sada dosa at Balaji Café

Not to be confused with the masala dosa, its more popular cousin, the rava sada dosa is a large, lacy crepe that simultaneously dominates your table and looks like nothing at all. Prepared with semolina and rice flours, the fermented batter is griddled into a thin, honeycomb-like pancake that crackles under teeth while perfuming the air with cumin, chilies and ginger. It’s art. It’s sustenance. It’s unforgettable. $6. 298 Sunset Park Dr., Herndon. — Tim Carman

Haneeth at Marib

Never had a taste of Yemeni cuisine? Poke your fork into the meltingly tender lamb at Marib, and you’ll come running back to this Springfield restaurant again and again. The grass-fed meat, cooked long and slow with about 16 spices, sits atop a generous mound of rice, each tiny grain perfectly thin and fluffed. The fried onion topping is delicious, too. $19. 6981 Hechinger Dr., Springfield. — Emily Codik


Shouk's veggie burger is served with a side of harissa and pickles. (Becky Krystal/The Washington Post)

Veggie burger at Shouk

This pita pocket is so refreshing because it’s not masquerading as some kind of meat substitute. Instead, the dish embraces its vegan assets, which include a patty made with legumes, cauliflower, beets and scallions and such top-notch garnishes as roasted tomatoes, charred onion and pickled turnips. $9.75. 655 K St. NW. — Becky Krystal

Cubano sandwich at Bread Furst

Mark Furstenberg, the master baker at Bread Furst, is less interested in making idealized versions of some dishes than in making sure they have the flavors he desires. Take his Cubano, a layering of roasted pork butt (“for fattiness,” he says), house-made bread, butter pickles (“for sourness”), ham (“for smokiness”) and Gruyere (“to bring them all together.”) The ingredients are packed into a slightly underbaked Palladin roll, allowing the sandwich to linger on the griddle and marry the many tastes. Open wide: The stack is enormous — hugely pleasing, too. $10. 4434 Connecticut Ave. NW. — Tom Sietsema


The pao bhaji at Bindaas in Cleveland Park features such vegetables as carrots and cauliflower. (Becky Krystal/The Washington Post)

Pao bhaji at Bindaas

Chef Vikram Sunderam’s take on the popular Indian street food centers on mixed vegetables (carrots, cauliflower, potatoes) that are cooked with onions, tomatoes and a spice blend before being pulverized with a potato masher. The result is pretty much a vegetarian Indian Sloppy Joe, served with a roll that’s been, of course, generously griddled in butter. $10. 3309 Connecticut Ave. NW. — Becky Krystal

Crab rangoon at Haikan

One of the guiltiest of American Chinese food pleasures, the crab Rangoon was long overdue for an upscale update. Haikan provides it, stuffing the four-folded, deep-fried pouches with bechamel in addition to the customary cream cheese for an ultrarich and oozy pre-ramen snack. $7. 805 V St. NW. — Maura Judkis

Read more:

The restaurants Tom Sietsema loved the most in 2016

The family-style restaurant dinners that are perfect for big groups

The forgotten D.C. area restaurants that all diners should try