GT's best dishes of 2012: Sue Dyson and Roger McShane

Author: Sue Dyson and Roger McShane
Photography: Sue Dyson

1. Roast pigeon, The Stackings
Its accompaniments change - one day onions and mustard leaf, another time sweet roast carrot and crisp saltbush, and a third time walnut purée and beetroot - but in essence this dish is a celebration of the unadorned bird. Its breeder, from Broadmarsh near Hobart, produces in tiny numbers, and the birds grace only a very few restaurant tables (Lebrina is another). In David Moyle's hands the bird's breast, served separately, is rare, rich and juicy. The leg, with each claw on each toe still immaculately intact (a sign of expert handling), is crisp-skinned and its slightly gamy meat succulent. The Stackings, 3435 Channel Hwy, Woodbridge, Tas, (03) 6267 4088

2. Spaghetti alla carbonara vera Romana, 1889 Enoteca
There's no reinvention or deconstruction here, just an impeccable rendition of a Roman classic. Every good sensory button gets some stimulation with this simple combination of excellent spaghetti, melting guanciale, the richest of eggs and finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano. It's a salutary reminder by comparison of how many bad things have been done in the name of this dish and why it's so good when it's done well. 1889 Enoteca, 10-12 Logan Rd, Woolloongabba, Qld, (07) 3392 4315

3. Carrots and calamari, sunflower and sorrel seeds, Royal Mail Hotel
There's something slightly wrong about something so tiny tasting so good. It should have been branded gardening infanticide, yet even the fingernail-sized carrots in this pretty dish pack a flavour punch. Add a very black and very rich calamari cream, multi-coloured flower petals that echo the shapes and colours of the carrots, slivers of lightly pickled garlic, coriander leaves and fried sorrel seeds, and it's a stand-out celebration of the Royal Mail's garden. Royal Mail Hotel, 98 Parker St, Dunkeld, Vic, (03) 5577 2241

4. Calamari cracker and green tomato consommé, Loam
Explosive, stunning, breathtaking. That was our reaction to every moment we had this dish in front of us. It starts as something deceptively simple. A small pile of spaghetti-like strands of calamari - streaked charcoal-grey from the ink marinade -and a krupuk-like calamari cracker on top seem dwarfed in a deep white bowl. But the addition of an intense bright green broth extracted from burnt green tomatoes brings both fresh acidity and smokiness, and it's instantly one of those moments when you know you're eating something extraordinary. Loam, 650 Andersons Rd, Drysdale, Vic, (03) 5251 1101

5. Orecchiette, tripe, chilli and marron, Momofuku Seiobo
Explosive flashes of Sichuan pepper, a touch of heat from chilli, veal tripe in umami rich, buttery juices that become a sauce, all counterbalanced by exquisite slivers of raw marron. They're all perfectly natural accompaniments to orecchiette aren't they? Well, maybe they weren't before this dish was invented, but, trust us, they absolutely belong with one another. Momofuku Seiobo, The Star, 80 Pyrmont St, Pyrmont, NSW, (02) 9777 9000

6. Leek and potato with fenugreek, oyster mushroom and almond sauce, The Bentley
This dish made us wonder why it's taken Australian chefs so long to discover the haunting, complex flavours of fenugreek. Brent Savage is certainly making up for lost time. Dense waxy baby potatoes are confited in fenugreek oil, a clean almond cream is drizzled with fenugreek oil, and pea purée is emulsified with more fenugreek oil. Add smoked leeks, crisp curry leaves, oyster mushrooms and translucent potato wafers and the result is one of the sexiest and prettiest vegetable dishes we've ever eaten. Did we mention the fenugreek? The Bentley, 320 Crown St, Surry Hills, NSW, (02) 9332 2344

7. Girolles, globe artichokes and warm egg yolks, Green Man & French Horn
There's nothing fancy about the food at new London restaurant Green Man & French Horn, but the quality of the produce and the intelligent way it's used makes for the most satisfying eating. In a meal with many really good dishes (the best fines de claire oysters, clams with tomatoes, fat-rich pork rillettes among them) this one really sang. A generous braise of meaty globe artichoke hearts and sautéed girolles begging to be coated in the sunshine yellow egg yolk they surrounded. So simple. So good. Green Man & French Horn, 54 St-Martin's Ln, London, England, +44 20 7836 2645

8. White onion, crayfish and fennel, Relæ
Something from Relæ had to make our list of best dishes this year simply because the meal was so complete. There were plenty of candidates, especially the dehydrated and re-hydrated turnips with chervil and horseradish, their almost meaty density a real surprise. But in the end it had to be a few slivered petals of onions. Impossibly beautiful, and tasting sweet, salty and savoury all at the same time, they came draped insouciantly over the freshest crayfish, finished with just a few individual fennel fronds - spikes of green amongst a palette of white. Relae, Jægersborggade 41, 2200 Copenhagen N, Denmark, +45 3696 6609

9. Mirabelle, prunes and fig-leaf cream, Au Passage
Stories give a dish soul and knowing former Au Passage chef and compulsive forager James Henry had picked the fig leaves in Burgundy a couple of days before and brought them back to Paris to give to new chef Shaun Kelly, another Cumulus Inc. alumnus, somehow had us predisposed to love this dish. Kelly infused them to make a cream, which he then served simply with a scattering of dehydrated olives and halved mirabelle and prune plums, which were at their peak in every Paris markets at the time. Another win for seasonal simplicity - and a good story too. Au Passage, 1 bis Passage, St-Sébastien, Paris, France, +33 1 43 55 07 52

10. Kipfler potatoes in squid ink, house-smoked eel, oca, golden purslane, Garagistes
Picking a dish from what amounts to our local canteen has been a tough exercise. Jet black potatoes infused with squid ink, though, made a startling canvas for three pieces of house-smoked eel, the whole strewn with flavour-packed bright green oca leaves. Ever mindful of texture, chef Luke Burgess finished this dish (pictured above) with fine shards of crisp potato. Garagistes, 103 Murray St, Hobart, Tas, (03) 6231 0558

View Full Site