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What Was the Biggest Dining Surprise of 2013?

As is the tradition at Eater, we're rounding up the year with a survey of friends, industry types, bloggers and others to get a feel for the highlights and lowlights of the last year in eating in New Orleans. We've discussed Top Restaurant Standbys, Favorite Newcomers, and friends of Eater offered One Word Descriptions of 2013. We've also covered Best Dining Neighborhoods, and Single Best Meals. Now our panel of restaurant experts divulge the Biggest Dining Surprises of 2013. Feel free to add your description to the comments.nam12%3A30.jpg Namese [Photo: Brasted]

Q. What Was the Biggest Dining Surprise of 2013?

Lorin Gaudin, NOLA Food Goddess and author: La Fin Du Monde (RIP and re-birth as Oxalis)

Anne Berry, cocktail whisperer, Where Yat contributor: I enjoyed my first visits to Milkfish (divine food, plus Lindsay Allday's fun cocktails) and Apolline (bartender Mark Schettler's easy banter and clever drinks are matched by top-notch cuisine).

Kim Ranjbar of Suck The Heads and Where Yat: I'm not sure if this can be construed as a surprise, per se, but when going for my first, stellar lunch at Kingfish, I got to meet three fabulous chefs in one afternoon; Greg Sonnier, his wife Mary Sonnier and Kristen Essig from Ste. Marie Brasserie.

Poppy Tooker, author, legend, host of Louisiana Eats: How incredible Marti's was ALREADY within it's first week of operation!

Rene Louapre, Blackened Out blogger, cofounder of Hogs For The Cause: Desserts, breads, and pastries have come a long, long way in New Orleans.

Gwendolyn Knapp, editor of Eater NOLA: The pho explosion. So many new wave Vietnamese restaurants opened this year, and I'm a huge fan, especially of Ba Chi Canteen and Namese. It's nice to see younger chefs and restaurateurs stepping up and bringing some contemporary elements to the mix. With Mopho and a slew of other pho joints opening up soon, pho is pho-king owning the New Orleans' dining scene this year.