A very Happy New Year to all readers. I do apologise for the lack of post for the month of December – it has been a very busy month for me but hopefully I will be able to dedicate more time to the blog with the holiday season now over. This would be a good opportunity to highlight the top 10 best dishes I have had the absolute pleasure of eating in 2015.
In no particular order they are:
#1 ‘Umami’ at Bo Innovation, Hong Kong
Umami – Toro, Har Mi Oil, Mixed Noodles, “Wok Air” Powder
Our entire meal at Bo Innovation was awe inspiring but for us, this was the dish which captured the spirit and essence of what the restaurants is all about. A dish made of various elements high in umami including the staple Cantonese ingredient of dehydrated shrimp or har mi which is infused into an oil as well as used to make the glass noodles. On the side, an innovative ‘wok air’ powder is made from burnt leeks to evoke the taste of noodles which are wok fried. This may seem like a random collection of ingredients but tasting it was truly magical.
#2 Yeasted Cauliflower at the Typing Room, London
Yeasted cauliflower, raisins, capers & mint
It is a testament to Lee Wescott’s skill as a chef that I have an entirely vegetarian dish on the list. I am a big fan of cauliflower and the love and attention that is given to this humble vegetable deserves special mention. A lot of loving care is taken in caramelising the cauliflower resulting in an almost beefy flavour. This is a dish that could almost convince me to give up meat entirely.
#3 Sushi at Sushi Shikon, Hong Kong
For a true sushi-ya experience outside Japan, you cannot go wrong with a trip to Sushi Shikon. To replicate the whole experience from Tokyo even the water and coal is flown in daily from Japan! Sure this is reflected in the final bill (which is very chunky). The rice here is heavily vinegar and served very loose which is how I like my sushi. For me the best of the lot was the akagai (surf clam) prepared in the traditional way to induce the reflex curling to ensure the shellfish had a crunchy texture to it.
#4 Hare at Caprice, Hong Kong
Le Lièvre de la Beauce – Sautéed Saddle of Hare, Legs à la Royale, Celeriac Parmentier
Hare a la royale is one of my favourite dishes when it is done well. I was very impressed with the version served at Caprice which was more of a modern interpretation of the classic dish. A saddle of hare is served with a very rich sauce made from the hare’s blood while the legs were slow braised in the traditional style. The chef has smartly lightened the dish up with some celeriac to ensure this rich dish is not overwhelming.
#5 Mangalica Pork at Tippling Club, Singapore
Mangalica Pork Collar, Nuka Vegetables, Nori, Cinnamon Infused Dashi, Pickled Sesame
One of the biggest finds and wows of my entire year was the discovery of the wooly pig (Mangalica pig) which is as marbled as Kobe beef. This gives the pork a completely new dimension. The richness of the pork at Tippling Club is carefully balanced with Japanese-style pickled vegetables and an cinnamon infused dashi.
#6 Îles flottantes at Robuchon au Dome, Macau
If there is one dessert I cannot resist it has to be Îles flottantes or floating islands – so named because the poached meringue sits on top of a pool of custard. I have eaten this dish many times but the version at Robuchon au Dome is by far the best I have eaten, hands down. The meringue was lighter than a cloud and the custard sinfully good. To be honest, the rest of the meal was a complete tour de force in gastronomy but this simple dish only highlights how talented the kitchen is at making such a simple dish magical.
#7 Hairy Crab & Cabbage at Man Wah, Hong Kong
Braised Shanghainese cabbage, hairy crab
Yet again, this dish makes the list because I was amazed by how amazing the Shanghainese cabbage (surely one of the most boring vegetables in the world) is made to taste like Beluga caviar. The slow braised cabbage is smothered with a sauce made from the roe of the seasonal hairy crab. Underneath it lay a bed of picked crab meat. This just goes to show that with a little love (and a lot of talent from the kitchen) any humble vegetable can be made to taste amazing.
#8 Dexter Beef at the Square, London
Roast Short Rib of Dexter Beef, Calves Sweetbreads with Caramelised Onion, Parsley and Garlic Purée, Duxelles of Girolles and Red Wine
I will hold my hand up and admit that I don’t have a very high opinion of British beef which I often find rather lacking in the flavour department. However, the beef short rib at the Square quickly changed my mind. The beef comes from a small produce who clearly puts a lot of care into animal husbandry and it shows on the plate with beef that is full of flavour and has amazing texture. If only more producers are able to replicate such high standards in their produce, we would not need to import any USDA beef.
#9 Cholesterol Bowl at Shinji by Kanesaka, Singapore
Rice. Sea Urchin. Salmon Roe. Chopped Otoro. Nuff’ said.
#10 Cassoulet of Clams at Michael Wignall at the Latymer, Bagshot
Cassoulet of razor clams and cockles, cuttlefish gnocchi and wafer, poached quail egg
An insane amount of work has gone into this little bowl of treasures but each element is timed perfectly. There is not a hint of chewiness from the clams or squid and the quail’s egg is perfectly poached. This is a hearty dish but is a perfect showcase of the bounty of seafood which are readily available from our shores.
There you have it. That is my Top 10 most memorable dishes of 2015. Hopefully 2016 will bring as much excitement to the dining table.