Monday, December 31, 2012

10 Best Dishes of 2012

LudoBites 8.0 | Scallop, Leek, Potato, Black Truffle
Our waiter dubbed this Ludo's take on vichyssoise. Simply put this was the best tasting dish of the night. The salty sapor of the fried potato and the gentle creaminess of the leek captured the essence of vichyssoise beautifully. The scallop and truffle were pure luxurious indulgence and though I couldn't really taste the truffle, the scallop was absolutely perfect.

After our faux oyster we were presented with a mirror of sorts featuring a duo of real Kumamotos covered in a thin veil of lardo with mushrooms, scallions, and a chicken jus froth. The lardo gives the tender oysters a sense of richness while the smoke and jus give the dish a hearty sapor; the result conveys the wholesome homey sense of a roast chicken.

Rogue 24 | gyro / tzatziki / butter lettuce / cucumber
abbazia di novacella / keer / alto adige / it / '10
After a brief trip to Japan, we changed gears and headed to Greece for the next course. Despite being unabashedly raw, the lamb tartare is spiced in such a way to give it a savory gravitas while the yogurt provides a tart contrast that cuts through the richness of the meat. The duo is topped with a cucumber blossom and wrapped in lettuce which together add the right level of vegetal succulence to the mix.

Joël Robuchon | 08: Le Saumon - le dos rôti mi-cuit aux graines de moutarde, tagliatelle de mangue à l'hile pimentée
I've always been a fan of lighter preparations of salmon, but I have to say this was easily one of the most amazing pieces of salmon that I've ever tasted. The fish itself is very lightly cooked which gives the flesh an exquisite and unique texture. The flavor conveys an abundance of sweet mustard that feels somehow balanced when taken with the oiliness of the fish while the shaved mango "tagliatelle" gives the dish a playful tropical tone.

n/naka | Mushimono (Steamed Dish) - Foie Gras, Black Abalone, Root Vegetable Dashi, Black Truffles, Scallion
Kerner Valle Isarco, Abbazia di Novacella, Alto Adige, Italy
There was a time when poached foie gras was my favorite preparation and this course reminded me why.  The semi-liquid fatty liver is saturated with a root vegetable dashi that simultaneously moderated the offal's richness and infused the liver with a deep umami essence.  The poached black abalone had a dense yet yielding consistency and subdued toothsome brine.  Savings of black truffle perfume the broth with an earthy fragrance and the entire mix is finished with a zesty élan from a few judicious sprigs of fresh scallion.

The Royce | FOIE GRAS | PEPPERCORN - peppercorn crusted torchon of foie gras, iceberg lettuce, yogurt, truffle honey
2011 Domaine Zind-Humbrecht, Riesling, Alsace, France
Feau's ingenuity was on display here. The foie gras was crusted with peppercorn for three days giving it a flavor similar to country sausage. The iceberg lettuce provided the perfect moderating effect on the spicy "cured" foie. The two went especially well with the combination of Meyer lemon dressing and truffle honey which provided a flavor that was both cerebral and enchanting.

The Playground | Halibut Collar - Chimichurri
Another one-off course, the Halibut cheeks turned out to be one of the night's best courses. The meat is rich and immensely tender, charring in a 1200 degree broiler give the fish a smoky vitality that was a natural pairing for the zesty spice of the chimichurri.

Manresa | Bonito, lightly smoked with wild fennel, black tea
2010 Botani Moscatel Seco Malaga Spain
2008 Lackner-Tinnacher Gelber Grauburgunder Steinbach Austria
Unlike its more well known cousins, Bluefin and Yellowfin Tunas, Bonito has an abundance of flavor lingering under the surface just waiting to be awakened with a quick sear. The fish's smokey magnificence is further heightened by the tender eggplant and toasty sesame while the fragrance of fennel and tea color the fish with a gossamer elegance.

Patina | Heirloom Tomato Salad - Santa Barbara Sea Urchin, Soy Caramel
Pazo Barrantes, Albarino, 2010, Rias Baixas, Spain
This next course puts your run of the mill tomato salad to shame. The tomatoes themselves are a delightfully sweet and complimented by a smoky relish from the bell pepper. Despite that the vegetables are more of an adjunct to the caramel. The mixture of tomato water and bonito, think thickened dashi, was a natural companion for the sea urchin roe. The Albarino was well suited to this course with a crisp acidity, notes of lemongrass and citrus, that complimented the salad and a saline minerality for the shellfish.

Benu | monkfish liver - persimmon, turnip, mustard, brioche
teutonic, pinot gris, maresh vienyard, dundee hills, oregon 2011
Sometimes referred to as the "foie gras of the sea" Lee uses the ankimo as a surrogate for the now forbidden fatty duck liver. During my previous visit I thought the ankimo's texture and flavor were a bit off but wasn't the case this time. This version had a creamy texture and richness on par with the finest torchon from The French Laundry but with an abundant Mackerel-like fishiness that remains true to the dish's origins. The persimmon and turnip give restrained notes of both sweetness and bitterness to compliment the liver. This ended up being my favorite course of the night, perhaps I missed foie gras more than I realized.

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