rest of the best of 2014…

2nd Course: Tajarin

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Here are ten more dishes from 2014 that I couldn’t leave without mentioning.  At the bottom of this post, you’ll  find a link that will return you to the “best dishes of 2014” post.

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26. SKATE
Miso of grains, mustard greens.
(In de Wulf; Dranouter, Belgium)

It’s rare that I encounter skate that is both cooked well, and nicely sauced. Flemish chef Kobe Desramaults served a small fist of skate that was as soft as soufflé, glazed in a tart, briny sauce made of miso.

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27. AJI “ESCABECHE
Verjus, grape, and celery.
(The Restaurant at Meadowood; St. Helena, California)

This dish, in a slightly different form, was one of the ten best dishes I had in 2013.  It returns this year, no less a pleaser.  The fish, which is oily and rich, with a wonderfully relaxed texture, and balanced against a finely calibrated acidity, is the highlight of an otherwise beautiful carousel of colors and flavors.

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28. UNI TEMPURA
Shiso.
(Fukamachi; Tokyo, Japan)

This was very simple: a tongue of sea urchin wrapped in a shiso leaf, battered whole, and deep-fried. Creamy, fragrant, crisp; wonderful.

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29. TAJARIN
First of the season white truffles.
(Quince; San Francisco, California)

In a fit of generosity, Michael Tusk came to our table and presented us with three pastas, all of which he blanketed with a coat of first of the season white truffles.  The pastas at Quince are virtually nonpareil, and this buttery twirl of tajarin was an unforgettable example of that.

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30. PEKING DUCK
In two services.
(Yan Toh Heen; Kowloon, Hong Kong)

Very few restaurants have the wherewithal to pull of a proper Peking duck in two services; it’s rarely attempted, and even more rarely accomplished.  The Michelin-starred Yan Toh Heen at the Hotel Inter-Continental in Tsim Sha Tsui did so effortlessly, first carving the skin off the duck, table-side, and presenting the golden, glistening rind with paper-thin wrappers and a buffet of dressings (including the traditional plum sauce and julienne of scallion), and then offering an array of options for the second service.  We chose to have the meat carved from the bird and stir-fried with vermicelli, mung bean sprouts, and vegetables. (Disclaimer: the hotel and restaurant were hosting us for a weeklong tour of Hong Kong.)

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Porcini

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31. CRAYFISH ON TOAST
(Bakfickan; Stockholm, Sweden)

I love the heartiness and honesty of Swedish food, which, at its best has a simple, rib-sticking appeal that helps you weather the harsh winters there.  From my cozy perch at this historic “back pocket” café of the Swedish state opera house, came this wonderful mound of creamy crayfish served with some buttered toast, a drizzle of olive oil, and a bright spritz of lemon. I highly recommend it.

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32. PORCINI
Wagyu, huckleberry gastrique, sour onions.
(Aubergine; Carmel-by-the-Sea, California)

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33. THE “FAIRFAX”
Soft scrambled eggs, chives, cheddar cheese, caramelized onions and Sriracha mayo.
Served in a warm Portuguese bun.
(Eggslut; Los Angeles, California)

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34. DUMPLINGS
Button mushrooms and Pecorino Sardo.
(estela; New York, New York)

Like quite a few other entries on this year’s list of my favorite dishes, I had the pleasure of having this dish twice in 2014, once at chef Ignacio Mattos‘s restaurant Estela in New York City, and again when he cooked at this year’s Twelve Days of Christmas at the Restaurant at Meadowood.  Of it, I wrote, “…those moist, pillowy dumplings, made with ricotta and punchy with cheesy umami (there was a healthy amount of Pecorino Sardo added) – beloved by almost all who have eaten at Estela – were easily the crowd favorite. The dumplings were coated in a buttery sauce and blanketed with a shingled layer of thinly sliced button mushrooms.  The sharpness of the cheese and the butteriness of the sauce paired extraordinarily well with the 2011 Domaine William Lafeve Chablis poured with it, perhaps my favorite wine pairing of the entire dinner series.”

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35. SPANISH ANCHOVIES
With Ramps “Ibizan Lifeguard Style”
(casa mono; New York, New York)

This is the sort of lusty, flavorful, Mediterranean fare that I’ve come to love about casa mono.  Seized by the ramp frenzy of New York in May, chef Anthony Sasso and his crew added wilted ramps to this otherwise summary love affair between tomatoes and anchovies.

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Peking Duck: First Service

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CLICK HERE to return to the “best dishes of 2014” post.

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Photos: Shaving white truffles over tajarin at Quince in San Francisco, California; a grilled porcini with wagyu at Aubergine in Carmel-by-the-Sea, California; the first service of the Peking duck at Yan Toh Heen at the Hotel Intercontinental in Tsim Sha Tsui in Kowloon, Hong Kong.


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