Dishes of the Year 2010

“This is really hard,” was the resounding reply when I asked our correspondents in the state capitals for their picks of the dishes of the year. Hard, that is, because this seems to have been a bumper year for good eating. I’d very happily write an all-burger list, topped probably by Shake Shack, taking in the El Doble at Txikito, the Vermont cheddar-soaked Yankee at DBDG, the English muffined number at Prune and the sloppy joy at Bill’s Bar and Burger. Back home (via, naturally, a double-double at In-N-Out Burger on the West Coast), the list hits the wagyu burger at Rockpool Bar & Grill Melbourne, the outstanding Lotus cheeseburger Dan Hong is cooking at Lotus in Sydney and, for sentiment’s sake, the Deluxe at cult Canberra food truck (okay, caravan) Brodburger.

But that would be to leave out the marron with cos and burnt fennel at Marque, and the “Life of Biggie Smalls on a plate”, Dan Hong’s very edible tribute to the Notorious BIG rendered in fried chicken and foie gras, the single best thing to arise out of the much talked about Taste of Young Sydney collaboration. And the fried chicken wings with coleslaw milk and hot sauce at Duke, salvation for anyone looking for a late-night alternative to Golden Century and Five Star Kebab. And the yabby sandwiches with watercress mayo Sean Moran did for the Logan winery dinner in Mudgee. And the deep-fried rabbit with chillies, black beans and spring onions at Spicy Panda. And the pig’s tail sandwiches Dan Hunter and Andoni Luis Aduriz served at their dinner at the Royal Mail Hotel for the Melbourne Food & Wine Festival. And that salad of rice noodles, puffed rice and chilli at the Sakkaline Road night markets in Luang Prabang. And then there was that salad of artichokes, almonds and broad beans I made a few Monday nights ago. Suffice it to say this, friends, is the tip of the iceberg. We hope you’ll hit us back on Twitter to share your own highlights.

Pat Nourse, chief restaurant critic

Rich and noble lobster congee, Rockpool, Sydney
Peanuts, chilli, bready bits and some seriously rich rice action make this a dish to be reckoned with. Just one of the many and welcome Chinese touches on a supercharged new Rockpool menu. It’s a must.

Silk oolong cream with quince jelly, gingerbread and salted walnuts, Garagistes, Hobart
Reason enough alone to book a trip to Hobart right now. It’s all about the salted walnuts.

Sheep’s milk ricotta gnudi with sautéed ramps, Torrisi Italian Specialties, Manhattan 
The surprise hit of New York dining circa 2010: a couple of Batali and Boulud alums doing Italo-American-inspired eats in a deli-like space to a rockin’ soundtrack under the watchful gaze of a portrait of Billy Joel in his 1970s prime. Not convinced? Try the antipasto of littleneck clams on salami bread from the nearby Parisi bakery. And there’s nothing more New York-on-a-plate than ramps in spring. Boo-ya.

Spicy grilled pork ribs and watermelon pickle, Cochon, New Orleans 
New Orleans food is big. New Orleans food is bold. But New Orleans food is rarely all that nuanced. Make it New Orleans Cajun and the maxim is doubly true. And then you find the exception that proves the rule. In this case it’s Donald Link’s unceasingly buzzy Cajun bistro. Everything’s here, the grits, the gumbo, the ’gator, boudin, boucherie, beans and brisket. Only here there’s a freshness and finesse in the kitchen notably absent from the restaurant’s competitors. Check out these exemplary ribs, and the mustard fruit-like stained-glass perfection of the watermelon pickle accompanying them.

Claude Bosi’s pig’s blood, potatoes and cockles, Cook It Raw, Friuli 
Cook It Raw is to other food events as The Sex Pistols was to punk: a complicated story of  groundbreaking expression, uncharted talent and competing agendas, but this international food “happening” doesn’t fake the funk when it comes to what’s on the table. Whether it’s Albert Adrià’s roses carved by hand from apples, Inaki Aizpitarte’s “chabrot” of puréed raw bitter greens, lardo, wild herbs, bread and Radikon Ribolla Gialla 2000, or indeed Claude Bosi, the chef from London’s Hibiscus, throwing down the gauntlet with spiced pig’s blood served at blood temperature with pig’s liver, potatoes and cockles, it’s out-there stuff, and pretty damned tasty to boot.

Sausage with snails, Mà Pêche, Manhattan
Between Dave Chang’s appearances at Cumulus Inc for the Melbourne Food & Wine Festival and at Lotus in Sydney, plus the news that Star City will soon be home to the only branch of Momofuku outside Manhattan, it’s been a very Momofuku year. The highlight might well be the food at Má Pêche, the Indochine-influenced Midtown restaurant that opened in Midtown in the first half of the year. And among its many winning dishes, the Burgundy snails with pork sausage, tarragon and mustard might just scoop the pool.

Mozzarella grilled on lemon leaves, Manly Pavillion, Sydney 
Close one eye and you’re almost on the Amalfi coast. Close the other one as well, and slip a piece of this soft, milky cheese between your lips, and you’re there.

Pappardelle with braised rabbit and St George mushrooms, Vincenzo’s Cucina Vera, Adelaide 
Who says South Australian dining is dead? With all respect to Cheong and Maggie, there are some new sheriffs in town and Vince La Montagna might just be the most interesting of the lot. At his semi-suburban restaurant there’s no menu, and no pricing. You talk about what you might like, your waiter will tell you the sort of hard yards Vince has been putting in, curing his own meats, growing his own vegetables and so on, and then out come the dishes. If you’re lucky, this marvel of languid ribbons of fresh pasta and a gutsy rabbit and mushroom ragu will be among them.

Brussels sprouts, Porteño, Sydney
Maybe it’s a corollary to the much-loved brassica-and-legume combo at Bodega, only instead of chickpeas and fried cauliflower, at Porteño it’s B-sprouts deep-fried crisp and nutty and thrown together with vincotto, mustard and lentils. As with most vegetarian dishes, too, it goes really well with meat, whether it’s char-grilled skirt steak with chimichurri or a pig’s head fresh from the asador. 

Stir-fry of frog, holy basil and three chillies, Nahm, Bangkok 
David Thompson’s latest restaurant is most definitely worthy of a detour to Bangkok – and the frog stir-fried in lard with holy basil, cumin leaves and three chillies and the complementary lon of sweet prawns served with raw green mango and fine slices of white turmeric alone merit a return visit.


Michael Harden, Victoria editor
 
Sea urchin and bottarga linguine,
Bar Idda, Melbourne
Bar Idda’s forte is simple, honest authenticity and this dish, a coiled heap of house-made pasta tossed with lemon, garlic and the sun-warmed rockpool flavour of sea urchin topped and textured with shaved bottarga encapsulates all that’s right about Sicilian cooking.

Duck and dried scallop broth, Easy Tiger, Melbourne
It arrives looking very modern in a designer glass, topped with slivers of spring onions and a flutter of enoki but the deep, salty, invigorating flavours of duck, Chinese anchovies and dried scallops in this sparkling broth make for a satisfyingly, traditionally fortifying experience.

Wild barramundi noodles, Flower Drum, Melbourne 
Wild barramundi, minced and combined with tangerine zest and Chinese sausage, is piped into noodle shapes and poached before being stir fried with mushrooms, beans and garlic shoots to make a dish that’s subtle, slippery, shiny and a whole lot of fun to eat.

Braised goat pappardelle, Café Vue at 401, Melbourne
A velvety pappardelle tossed with goat meat braised into rich and melting submission, the brine of sliced green olives and the creamy saltiness of good quality pecorino combine to produce a dish that’s smart, simple and strangely haunting.

Grilled mackerel with gochujang, Hallah, Melbourne
It takes a sturdy fish to compete with the fiery, brick red fermented chilli paste that is Korea’s gochujang but Hallah’s grilled mackerel, arriving on a grill plate all moist, shiny and bursting with flavour, is more than up for the challenge.

Deep fried custard, Supermaxi, Melbourne
It would take a stout – perhaps even cold – heart to resist deep fried custard, particularly when it’s been prepared by Rita Macali whose crumbed and fried creamy, lemony, brittle-crusted beauty is sweetened with honey and served with excellent vanilla ice cream.

Shredded sand crab with horseradish custard, Loam, Drysdale, Vic
Aaron Turner’s artful way of making seemingly disparate ingredients play nicely together is on full display with this mix of steamed and picked crab sitting on a buttery yellow custard flavoured with horseradish, topped with the slight crunch of a cauliflower cous cous and teamed with little nashi pear balls flavoured with fish sauce.

Sea urchins, MoVida Acqui, Melbourne
Ah, simplicity. MoVida Aqui’s kitchen knows when to leave well enough alone with these fresh urchins served in their spiky shells accompanied by a little lemon juice and oil and some torn sorrel.

Mango mousse with condensed milk Chântilly, Spice Temple, Melbourne 
Messing with something so close to perfection as a fresh mango takes a steady hand and Neil Perry stays the course with this brilliantly coloured and textured, vibrantly flavoured mousse made even better with the sweetly welcome addition of condensed milk.

Steamed crab and corn rice noodles with XO chilli, Huxtable, Melbourne 
Huxtable does a nice line in small, one-bite starters but this little white pillow of steamed crab and corn (gentle, fortifying, friendly) topped with XO chilli (fiery, loud, friendly) tops the list and gives most other one-biters in town a run for their money.


David Sly, South Australia editor

Quail, foie gras, prosciutto, parsley root, liquorice, Celsius, Adelaide 
A rolled roast quail, wrapped in prosciutto and matched with a rich and smooth foie gras mousse, with liquorice foam providing a restrained top note to the dish – the most delicious twist on a game sausage I’ve tasted.

Rabbit pappardelle, Vincenzo’s Cucina Vera, Adelaide 
A simple classic done beautifully, with the perfect silky texture of fresh pasta complemented by the lusciousness of juicy braised rabbit.

Barramundi carpaccio,
Southern Ocean Lodge, Kangaroo Island, SA
Locally farmed barramundi marinated in coconut and lime leaf, served with watercress and Vietnamese mint. Clean, delicious flavours that are sharp and precise.

Blue-eye trevalla, The Manse, Adelaide 
A thick streak of rich red capsicum paint across the bowl melts as warm tahini velouté is poured at the table over the pan seared blue-eye trevalla. This adds gentle flavour to the delicate fish flesh, while the crunch of a toasted scallop cake atop the fish adds a nice accent.

Pistachio beignets, Petaluma’s Bridgewater Mill, Bridgewater, SA 
Le Tu Thai’s desserts are a playground – and anyone expecting anything so humdrum as doughnuts here is in for a startling surprise. The warm, spongy beignets explode in the mouth with pistachio richness and crunch, offset by poached green apple, rhubarb ice cream and jasmine syrup.

Tomato confit topped with basil sorbet, Appellation, Marananga, SA
Oh-so simple but so very impressive. This is the best advertisement for Mark McNamara’s expanding kitchen garden, with the produce picked immediately before gentle cooking – a startling reminder of how good really fresh tomatoes taste.

Stuffed figs, Jolleys Boathouse, Adelaide 
A very smart use of seasonal fare: baked figs filled with a ball of fennel and cumin-spiced lamb on babaghanoush dressed with pomegranate. A delicious meld of sweetness, gentle spice and dark smoky flavour notes, while the firm, ripe fig remains the undisputed star of the dish.

Venison, Mantra on King William, Adelaide  
The sour cherry and shallot pie accompanying this fillet add sharp bite to the deep flavours of the medium-rare venison. Chocolate vincotto dressing on radicchio salad provides a bright counterpoint to the dark meat.

Wild rabbit and boccalaro sausage, Fino, Willunga, SA 
Fried sausage slices are rustic and gutsy with a spike of fennel and pepper and the richness of boccalaro (it’s Calabrese dialect for guanciale, the unsmoked bacon from pig jowls). They’re paired with pieces of poached rabbit loin rolled in gently braised leeks and shredded cabbage, tomato adding fresh acidic zing to the salad.

Suckling pig, The Pot Food & Wine, Adelaide 
A lighter summer twist on suckling pig, resting on a crunchy cabbage, apple and dill salad that goes very well with the snap of excellent port crackling.


Max Veenhuyzen, Western Australia editor

Chestnut, pear, sour milk, Restaurant Amusé, Perth
Roast chestnuts, sliced pickled shiitakes, nashi pear, milk skin and soured milk, all placed reverently on a bed of chestnut polenta, creates the essence of autumn distilled onto a single deep-centred bowl. Manager Carolynne Troy says she and the rest of the team miss having the dish on the menu the rest of the year. So do we. It’s another reason why autumn is my favourite time of the year.

Custard apple and tapioca in coconut cream with glacéed pumpkin, Nahm, Bangkok
Whereas many Asian eateries take their foot off the pedal come dessert, Nahm keeps on trucking. Take this trad, yet contemporary combination: three deep-fried balls of dough, a wedge of sugar-stewed pumpkin, one thin slice of custard apple jelly and a clump of tapioca pearls, all resting in a puddle of coconut cream. It’s hot, cold, crunchy and velvety in alternating mouthfuls but regardless of where your palate is on the flavour-texture axis, this dish stands as a moreish, fitting finale to one of the standout meals of the year.

Rabbit and porcini pappardelle, roast hazelnuts, Gorgonzola mascarpone, Vasse Felix, Cowaramup, WA
Chef Aaron Carr’s greatest talent is his knack for knowing how far he can trick something up before spilling into the try-hard danger zone. On its own, this dish of silky, seatbelt-wide pasta ribbons with deeply flavoured rabbit and tomato sugo would be welcomed in any Italian household, but factor in the richness of the Gorgonzola mascarpone, the crunch of roasted nuts and the latent herbal explosion of a single crisp-fried sage leaf and you’re looking at a game-changer.

Negitoro, Hamacho, Nagano
The union of unctuous tuna belly and onion shoots – finely hand-diced separately before being combined together – presented gunkan-style lends a welcome element of sharpness and freshness to the buttery fish. This poky sushi bar in Nozawa Onsen might be tricky to find but every address in this quaint ski village northeast of Nagano is a brisk stroll away. Hamacho is near Nozawa Onsen’s solitary set of traffic lights and neighbours a ramen joint by the name of Wanryu. Need further encouragement to brave the cold? Warm sake and icy Kirin – both on tap – await intrepid travellers.

Egg yolk, toasted rye, legumes, yeast, The Royal Mail Hotel, Dunkeld, Vic
Even without the serendipitous seasonal addition of shaved truffle or the knowledge that this was Dan Hunter’s reinterpretation of breakfast, the combination of a single, raw-looking egg yolk resting on a mound of cereal equates to damn good eating. Crack the yolk and away you go, the ooze of the egg played against the crunch of the grain to fork-dropping effect.

Roti kaya, Alfa Maju Curry House, Kuala Lumpur
The sweet egg and coconut richness of kaya is a foodstuff very close to my heart, not least of all because of this Asian spread’s cholesterol-laden oomph. And if kaya toast is great, then kaya sandwiched in fresh-pulled roti is godly, the spread generously slathered across the flatbread during its final stages of cooking on the hotplate to warm through. Worth every empty carbohydrate and fat globule. Probably the best 50 cents I’ve spent on eating this year.

Organic root vegetables with ham consommé, Marque, Sydney 
A dish that I quickly flagged as a deconstructed pea and ham soup, courtesy of the pea powder dusted around the bowl. Certainly, the combination of swine, Berridale Farm  vegetables and lentils appeals to my Dutch heritage, but the comforting flavours of this Mark Best creation should find universal appeal. At any rate, it’s a (relatively) understated dish that offers guests a calm moment on a dining rollercoaster that might include such challenging sucker-punches as almond jelly with blue swimmer crab and Campari-filled bon bons.

Bocadillo de calamares, MoVida Aqui, Melbourne
Remember the Momofukurage surrounding David Chang’s pork buns? And the cult-like following EARL Canteen’s ridiculous pork belly baguette quickly attained? Or how about Royal Mail’s crust-off pork sandwich as a heck of a way to kick things off (wait, I think I see a pattern)? I don’t know about you, but I’ll be remembering 2010 as the year the sandwich got its groove back. Of all the good-things-betwixt-bread I’ve scoffed over the past 12 months, MoVida’s menage à trois of crisp calamari, guindilla pepper and mayo is the sanger I pine for the most, its combination of seafood, fat and spice positively invigorating.

Pork pie, West End Deli, Perth 
You can purchase Justin Peters’ triumph of swine dining at his suburban deli in West Perth, but it’s all the better to enjoy this bad boy at the wonderful Helvetica, either at the original downstairs bar or recently opened upstairs area. Why Helvetica? Because among the bar’s 90 or so bottles of whisk(e)y, there’ll be a dram of something rich and warming to match the pie’s jellied, thick-cut porky greatness. Don’t write off the accompanying cornichons and seeded mustard as purely decorative garnishes, you’ll need to have both of them on-side (and on-fork) to cut through the pie’s massive richness.

Marron, cured beef and sea flora, Attica, Melbourne 
My fellow sandgropers, I beg your forgiveness. After all my years of enjoying local marron, it was in Melbourne’s inner southeast where I enjoyed the most thrilling dish (thus far) starring our beloved crustacean. On its own, the tail of peerlessly cooked seafood – the little critters are kept live and spiked to order before being cooked sous vide to gift the flesh an incredible succulence – was enough to incite OMGs, but with the addition of almost papery cured beef and sea succulents foraged from the Bellarine Peninsula that Ben Shewry calls home, my praise shifted from three letters to expressions of the four-lettered variety.


Sue Dyson and Roger McShane, Tasmania editors

Steamed vongole with tashiminori rice polenta, Garagistes, Hobart
It’s obvious really – sit steamed clams on house-ground rice, let the juices seep into the rice and use the clam shells to scoop it all up.  So why didn’t someone else think of it?

Flowery crab with aged Shaoxing wine and chicken oil, The Chairman, Hong Kong 
Our ultimate crab dish. First the meat, infused with Shaoxing wine, and then the freshest of rice noodles to soak up the braising liquid, by then mixed with crab juices and roe.

Gnocchi with sage butter, Hearth, Manhattan
Eating this gnocchi was a very dangerous thing to do. For the rest of our lives no other gnocchi can surely even approach its lightness and pure, elevated heights.

Poached striped trumpeter and onions, Peppermint Bay, Woodbridge, Tas
Unexpected pleasures. We had no idea how suited to poaching this fish could be and were equally surprised and delighted with the success of the accompanying homage to onions.

Chicken stock skin and herb snack, Noma, Copenhagen
Pretty much everything from our meal at Noma could be on this list. We’ve chosen this snack in recognition of the sheer ingenuity in making something so delicious, delicate and beautiful from what everyone else throws out.

Beef seven ways, Má Pêche, Manhattan
Sure, it’s not a dish, it’s a very coherent feast. But if we had to choose just one element it would have to be the mighty braised beef shank that brought us to our knees.

Pla dook foo, Benjarot, Bangkok
This fish fairy-floss for grown-ups is always good but at Benjarot it reaches another level thanks to the addition of small pieces of crisp fish skin.
Thanon Krung Kasem (cnr Thanon Nakhon Sawan), Nang Loeng, Bangkok, +66 2-2820435

Blackcurrant leaf granita, goat cheese and wood sorrel, Trio, Malmö, Sweden
When we thought we couldn’t eat another thing, this light, slightly acidic dessert proved just how wrong you can be.

Salad of five varieties of tomatoes and mullet poutargue, Repaire de Cartouche, Paris
July was a month of great tomato salads in Paris and this one, enhanced by the poutargue’s saltiness, was the very best.
8 Boulevard des Filles du Calvaire (alternative entrance at 99 rue Amelot), Paris, +33 1 47 00 25 86.

Kimchi quesadilla, Kogi, Los Angeles
If this is the new fusion bring it on. The location varies from day to day. Find out where they will pull up on the
Kogi Twitter feed and join the party.

Gareth Meyer, ACT editor

Twelve-hour braised shoulder of lamb, spring vegetables and colcannon, Four in Hand, Sydney
The part the diner plays is one of the things that makes this dish great: the kitchen provides the base elements, and you apportion them to best balance the lamb with its various condiments. Place some of the rich meat atop a kind of pot-au-feu of baby leeks, baby carrots, and rosemary jus, then scrape in some salsa verde or green olive purée for acidity, and a dollop of the creamiest colcannon going around.

Seafood bisque, Pulp Kitchen, Canberra
 
Christian Hauberg’s heady bisque hits the spot when the mercury heads south – crisp soft-shell crab and saffron aïoli are a fine foil for the rich broth.

Croque mademoiselle, Dieci e Mezzo, Canberra
Dieci is quickly winning a band of loyal followers, and this decadent take on the Parisian street snack is one very good reason to join them. Buttery layers of toasted brioche, ham and Gruyère béchamel are crowned with a gooey free-range fried egg.

Rum baba, Cumulus Inc, Melbourne
You’ve gotta love a place that lets you loose on a bottle of seven-year aged Havana Club rum with your baba. Liberally douse the fluffy cake, turn it through the surrounding pool of crème pâtissière, and cherish every boozy morsel.

Whole roast chicken for two, Zuni Café, San Francisco
The Zuni Café cookbook devotes two pages to describing the preparation of this near-legendary dish. The secret? The pre-salting of the chicken? The smokiness imparted by the brick wood-fired oven? Or the wonderfully tangy bread salad of pine nuts, currants, chicken dripping and red wine vinegar? Roast chook will never be the same again.

Focaccia with olive oil, rosemary and sea salt, Italian and Sons, Canberra
Speaking of the magic of brick ovens, when was the last time you had focaccia worth writing home about? Here at Italian and Sons, the smash-hit of 2010 dining in Canberra, it arrives fresh from the wood-fired oven, perfectly crisp on top and fluffy inside. Va bene.

Maki of tuna, tempura prawn and avocado, Matsuei, Lima, Peru
The early stamping ground of Nobuyuki Matsuhisa (yes, that Nobu), Matsuei does standout maki – particularly the tempura-wrapped prawn surrounded by rice and an outer layer carved from avocado and tuna. It’s served with a spicy capsicum-based sauce that usually accompanies anticuchos, the local delicacy of beef-heart skewers.

Coconut caramel brioche buns, Out the Door, San Francisco
A cool warehouse space in the Fillmore perfect for slow-grazing on a predominately Vietnamese-influenced menu. What could be a more ideal follow-up to prawn wonton and noodle soup than a brioche bun lathered in sticky caramel and coconut sauce?

Salad of pink turnips and breakfast radishes, violets, olives, pine resin, balsamico, Quay, Sydney
Like Michel Bras’s signature gargoulliou in far-off Laguiole, this “salad” will have you scratching your head in wonder at its elegance and impact. A goat’s cheese base binds the components perfectly, and fine strips of pickled beetroot are a revelation.

Spicy Korean pork taco, Kogi, Los Angeles
Spicy barbecued pork and soft homemade tortillas – there is no confusion in this interplay of Korean and Mexican cuisines. A lengthy wait in the queue (LA location tweeted daily) is well worth it.

Karen Reyment, Brisbane correspondent

Embutidos y curados, Ortiga, Brisbane 
These smallgoods created from chef Pablo Tordesillas’ ancestral recipes are a standout. Traditional morcilla is beetroot-red inside and satisfyingly rich. Fat-fetishes will be sated with soft, spreadable sobrasada with fat content tipping –  well, let’s not go there.

Carnaroli, porcini and taleggio, 1889 Enoteca, Brisbane
Matt Stubbing has replaced Matt Stone at the coalface of Enoteca and the day I dropped in all was humming. A pool of just-firm carnaroli, porcini, and creamy, stink-tinged taleggio proved a fine hitching-post for a splash of “The Voice of the People”. I declare them to be the finest of friends.

Tonkatsu cups, Saké, Brisbane
The crunch of breadcrumbs surrounds a ball of yielding pork belly with spring onion at its heart. These beauties arrive snuggled in a cupped lettuce leaf with an offering of mustard miso and Japanese barbecue sauce. Saikou!

Churros, Don Churros, Brisbane
What do you get when three Latino families open a suburban eatery? Bloody good churros! Executed crisp, light and golden, they’re things of extraordinary beauty, and that’s how they roll here, plain or filled with oozing dulce de leche.

Crudo di pesce, Tartufo, Brisbane
Wafers of raw kingfish and scallops are bedded down and decorated with capers, chives, herbs (barely out of the crib), a miniature dice of tomato and a splash of golden olive oil. Tony Percuoco describes it as his “little piece of art”. Refined, restrained and as pretty on the eye as it is delicate on the palate.

Breakfast BLT, Pearl, Brisbane
They don’t call Haidee Petersen “Breakfast Chef Extraordinaire” for nothing. Pearl’s twist on the BLT is a fine example of her take on breakfast. Sobrasada takes the place of bacon, smeared on a door-stop of sourdough, rocket stands in for the lettuce and the tomato comes in the guise of house-made, organic green tomato pickle.

Ajo blanco, Vasse Felix, Cowaramup , WA
Chilled soups can leave me a little, um, cold. Not so Aaron Carr’s deftly seasoned ajo blanco. The sweet spot is the pond of PX reduction in the bottom of the shot glass. It leaves me with only one question: does it come in milkshake size?

Croquetas de choco, El Almacén, Jerez
“Da bomb” is an apt description of this tapa served amid an almost impenetrable smoke-haze. Thick and creamy béchamel, dyed squid-ink black, is shaped into tiny barrels, lightly crumbed and plonked into hot oil to feed the hungry hoards.

Repollo frito sobre mosto y bouquet fresco de celeris y Vieira, Casa José, Madrid
We could simply call it “fried head of cabbage on a grape juice foam accompanied by celery and scallops”. The hero here is the young cabbage leaves, more tender and sweet than any I’ve known, grown in the fertile soils of Aranjuez as nature intended.

Pan-fried sheep testicles, La Ferme de la Ruchotte, Bourgogne
These bad-boys were probably my culinary high of 2010. No reinvention of the wheel here by chef Frédéric Ménager: floured, seasoned, and pan-fried in foaming French butter, savoured in a dining room frequented by luminaries such as Rostang, Troisgros and Lameloise.





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