Monday, December 30, 2013

10 Best Dishes of 2013

2013 has been something of a strange year with six of my top ten courses revolving around some sort of grain or starch.

Barbershop Ristorante Italiano | Amatriciana senza pasta - Pork jowl, pecorino foam, tomatoes
Terre di Balbia Balbium Rosso Calabria IGT
Nagar's penchant for modernist techniques is clearly on display in this deconstructed Amatriciana but the ingredients adhere strictly to the classic recipe with little more than pork cheek, tomatoes, and pecorino. The sous vided cheek meat is utterly stunning, one of the tenderest pieces of pork that I've ever eaten with beautifully rendered fat evenly distributed throughout and a thin layer of crisp skin on top. The porcine sapor of the jowl is richly complimented by the foam which infused the dish with the cheese's salinity while the tomato adds a focused countervailing acidity.

Providence | there's one born every minute - cabacerra ham, octopus, manila clam
chardonnay, "golden slope" liquid farm 2011
Not so sure about the name but I absolutely loved everything else about this dish. The fatty savor of the Cabacerra ham is deftly balanced by a countervailing herbaceousness from the celery leaf. The octopus provides a nice snappy contrast to the al dente rice as well as a subtle oceany undertone.

Allumette | Bread 01 | Grilled Housemade Foccacia - Butterball Potato - Thyme - Salt
It's been a while since I've written about bread service but I thought Thompson's composed bread presentation deserved the recognition. The grilled foccacia is and potato are both delicious on their own but the combination has a starchy heft and fragrant herby smack that left me craving more.

n/naka | Shiizakana - Spaghettini with Shaved Black Abalone, Pickled Cod Roe, Italian Summer Truffles, Garlic, Ponzu, Daikon Radish Sprouts
Greco di Tufo, Villa Mathilde, Campania, Italy 2010
Where the last dish conveyed a sense of polish and grace, this course was all about bold lusty sensations. The pasta has a taut snappiness and comes smothered in a heady sauce of creamy pickled roe. The robust salinity of the abalone and roe are tempered nicely by the bitter sprouts while the truffle adds an overarching sense of indulgence to the dish.

LQ Foodings @ Vertical Wine Bistro | Rice Porridge - Veal Sweetbreads, Uni Bottarga, Uni, Wood Sorrel
2010 Monasterio De Corias, Maceration Carbonica
Easily the star of the night, this ambitious dish blended the salinity of uni and bottarga with the earthy gravitas of sweetbreads all on top of a lush creamy bed of rice. Though the uni and sweetbreads didn't compliment each other particularly well, I found myself wanting a huge bowl of the stuff or better yet two bowls of porridge one topped with sweetbreads and the other with uni. Surprisingly dry and refreshing for a red wine, the De Corias reminded me of a Beaujolais, an aptly subdued compliment to the multifaceted porridge
Yamakase | Steamed Awabi - Yuba, Truffle Butter
A special dish created just for us, this was my favorite course of the night. The abalone was slowly cooked for six days making it incomparably tender and had Yama-san simply served the awabi as nigiri it probably still would have been my favorite dish. The inclusion of rice and a heady truffle-laced seafood broth give the dish a luxurious gusto that perfectly ends the meal while the Japanese zha cai (pickled mustard) is the savory icing on this otherworldly dish.

Atelier Crenn | Nature rejoice, chasing childhood memories - Grains & Seeds, Sturgeon, Dashi
Bock-Style Ale 2012 Divine Brewing Co. 'Teufelweizen', Sonoma
I never would have expected that my favorite course of the meal would be one where the key ingredients were grains and seeds. Made from a mixture of flax, pumpkin, sunflower and quinoa, the grains have been smoked roasted and fried giving them a complex mix of malty aromatics and a deep woody heartiness. A broth of dashi highlights the savory notes while the sturgeon cream and salmon eggs add a contrasting chill to the grains. Occasional flashes of yuzu kocho add a fruity highlight to the dish that my friend jokingly referred to as savory Grape Nuts.

Rogue 24 | matsutake/caramelized b├ęchamel/wild rice
the bruery/mischief/placentia/ca
This was probably my favorite dish of the night. The mushroom has a resonant woody perfume compounded with an intense sense of umami. The b├ęchamel is mixed with caramelized Cippolinis, giving it an almost jammy sweetness akin to onion marmalade. The spinach leaves add a vital vegetal nuance while the rice adds a lovely textural structure to the dish. Up until recently this course was served with Wagyu beef but after seeing how well the mushroom works in this dish I don't think I miss the meat one bit.

minibar | Late-Night Chicken Shawarma
2010 Movia Sauvignon Blanc Primorje, Slovenia
Inspired by the staff's favorite after service meal, this course captures all the flavors of a classic chicken Shawarma wrapped up in an easy-to-eat spring roll. In a marked improvement since my last visit, the savor of the chicken skin is immediately apparent along with a heady blend of Mediterranean spices. The accompanying greens bring a succulent levity as well as an aromatic bouquet of herbs. A yogurt dipping sauce completes the dish with a potent lactic twang that counters the heft of the chicken. The accompanying Movia exuded tropical notes on the nose but had a bracing grassy dryness on the palate laced with a touch of pineapple and orange zest along with a slate-y minerality.

Sushi Taro | Cod Shirako - Uchiko, Yuzu
I know it sounds bad but Nobu has a way with sperm. I still think about the fugu shirako from my last visit and this was a more than worthy successor. A mixture of cod shirako and blue crab roe is stuffed into a hollowed out yuzu rind then briefly cooked over a tiny binchotan grill. The shirako exudes a creamy offaly richness akin to liver or sweetbread while the vivid orange crab roe is suffused with a sharp salinity. The warmed yuzu rind infuses an urgent citrus fragrance into the mix balanced with a trace of binchotan smoke.

1 comment:

Gastronomer said...

Alumette's bread made my list too! Happy new year!