Now is the time of year when I sit back, loosen my belt and select the very best things I ate during the past 12 months. In no particular order, I give you my Top 10 meals of 2011. May 2012 be a delicious year for you.

Jin Sho
After reading that Steve Jobs had one of his last meals here I skeptically decided to give it a try. What can I say? Jobs knew design and he knew his sushi. The guys here know their stuff, and the fish selection surpasses most other sushi bars. The Jin Sho salsa ($12.50) was my favorite. It’s similar to tuna tartar, but the addition of cubed avocado, candy-sweet cherry tomatoes, cucumber and a savory, tangy and delicious sauce elevates it into something else.

Dio Deka
Dio Deka remains the gold standard for Silicon Valley Greek restaurants, and on a follow-up visit, I loved the grilled octopus, writing, “If you’ve never had the eight-legged creature before, this is the place to start. If you have had octopus, it’s unlikely you’ve had it better. Dio Deka’s octopus is as tender as roast chicken with a smoky, meaty flavor that’s great swabbed with the accompanying braised borage, which has been reduced to a dark-emerald sauce. The dab of Meyer lemon pudding adds a lighter note.”

Birch St.
Bistro Elan was a gem, an intimate California-French Bistro on Palo Alto’s California Avenue. It’s gone now, but the owners really just relocated to a smaller spot down the street on Birch Street. There’s plenty to like here, but my favorite was the gazpacho. You won’t find it on the menu now, but I hope it comes back next summer. It was a pure expression of the tomato in all its sweet, savory glory.

Steak Out
I guess the fact the grass-fed beef for Steak Out’s burgers comes from Joe Morris, a thinking-man’s rancher, influenced my thinking, but even if I didn’t know the source of the meat, Steak Out serves an undeniably fine burger; juicy, meaty, well proportioned and delivered on a superb, custom-made bun. Add a crisp IPA and fries, and you’ve the all-American meal you can feel good about eating.

The Hay Market
This Willow Glen place was probably my favorite new restaurant of 2011. Its cool, urban style and friendly, neighborhood demeanor made the Hay Market an instant hit. That and the food. My favorite dish was the beef cheeks ($18). The succulent hunks of meat are wet-braised into a beautiful, pleasantly leathery black exterior and wonderfully moist and spoon tender inside.

Station 1
Zack Freitas is no longer chef at the Station 1, and I need to get back to see how the place is doing now under chef Ryan Harris, but I still have fond memories of smoked gnocchi. Crispy outside and silken inside, the little dumplings tasted like cubes of bacon fat. Curling strands of Anaheim chiles added a lively, vegetal counter-note to the rich gnocchi.  The dish was part of a $49 prix fixe menu.

Scratch
It’s hard to stand out on Castro Street’s crowded restaurant row, but Scratch has made its mark with its upscale American comfort food. Top of my list during my visits was the pork belly ($11). It’s a bit of a cliche now, but it’s still good. Two bourbon-glazed blocks of pork are served atop creamy Anson Mills grits and delicious braised greens. Southern-fried goodness.

Tu Mero Mole
I love this place. While I seek out Mexican restaurants that specialize in one kind of regional food Tu Mero Mole manages to make food from throughout Mexico and do it well. The salsa bar is reason enough for going, but my top dish was the cabrito al estilo los altos de Jalisco ($11), roast goat accented with a spicy sweet sauce.