December 31, 2021

The best dishes I had in 2021

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Five years ago I decided to browse through my posts for that year and recount the "best" dishes I had eaten during the previous 12 months. I have kept it up each year since, and this year things would be no different. I've certainly dined out more this year compared to last year, as social distancing was no longer as strict thanks to vaccination.

The "best" dishes are the ones which elicited the most excitement, the largest outpour of emotion (usually accompanied by something along the lines of "FUCKING GOOD!!!" in my notes), and the ones which I wish I had endless stomach space for ("I'll have 3 of these"). So here they are in chronological order:

Tuscany veal rack, from MONO - a beautiful bone-in piece which was grilled with glaze from tendons, which made it crispy on the outside along with flavors from herbs. And that was before lathering it up with mole. Chomping down on it on the second day of the year, during my first fine dining meal of the year, made me so, so happy.

Japanese green sea urchin (馬糞雲丹), from Sushi Saito (鮨 さいとう) Hong Kong - this was just like getting 3 scoops of ice cream on a cone. That's how much happiness it brought the little kid in me.

Cassoulet "à la maison": duck confit and Aveyron baby lamb spare ribs, from Ta Vie 旅 - cassoulet is a dish I love but don't get to eat often, simply because it's never on the menu at any fine dining establishments. And it's not a dish that most people looking for French food would demand, anyway. This was so, soooo satisfying with duck confit and beautiful spare ribs from baby lamb. I'd love to have this, like, once a month or something.

Sakura-ebi, udon (桜海老 うどん), from Godenya (ごでんや) - this was just... soooo fragrant and tasty. And so simple but so comforting. I think I could just have 3 or 4 bowls of this and nothing else, and you'd see a big smile on my face.

Roasted chicken wing stuffed with minced shrimp and foie gras (百花鵝肝燒釀雞翼), from Forum Restaurant (富臨飯店) - chicken wing with beautiful crunchy skin is a no-brainer, but having one stuffed with not just minced shrimp paste but also foie gras, with oil dripping down as you chomp down? Lemme have a few of these!

Deep-fried sesame glutinous ball (黃金煎堆仔), from Forum Restaurant (富臨飯店) - this may be just a pile of deep-fried dough, but DAYAM! What fragrance from them sesame seeds! Just done so perfectly. Absolutely glorious!

Roast beef marrow / veal tail / "N25 schrencki sturgeon caviar, from Neighborhood - there's a certain amount of genius coming from my friend The Man in White T-shirt, and while we all got used to having caviar on bone marrow, adding some veal tail into the mix just knocked it out of the park - especially when you put it all on some sourdough.

Spring lamb / asparagus / ramps / garlic, from Neighborhood - just amazingly good product, this baby lamb from Pays Basque. Tons of lamby flavors in the ribs and shoulder. This is why I love lamb.

Nodokuro, rice, beans, aralia sprout (喉黒 米 うすい豆 タラの芽), from Godenya (ごでんや) - when you take one of the best-tasting fish from Japanese waters, torch it so that fat is liquefied, and have that fat drip onto a ball of rice... you won't believe how much satisfaction that delivers.

Baked French lamb belly with black sesame (黑芝麻焗法國乳羊腩), from Man Ho Chinese Restaurant (萬豪金殿) - this milk-fed lamb, with a crust of fragrant black sesame seeds and cumin, was so irresistible that I had to strip the bone clean even though I was completely stuffed already.

Ox tongue and tendon ∙ chili pepper broth (椒香清湯牛筋厚切牛脷), from Mián (紅棉) - while the beef brisket, ox tongue, tendon, and skirt steak were all great, the magic came in the form of erjintiao (二荊條) chili which delivered an amazing fragrance. So alluring that I would want thirds and fourths.

Horse mackerel (鯵), from Shikon by Yoshitake (すし 志魂) - this is now my favorite horse mackerel sushi in town. The texture of this neta was like Japanese custard pudding instead of a piece of fish, and left me completely floored. Worthy to visit Shikon just to eat this one piece.

Kabu ˚ watercress ˚ Savora mustard ˚ mustard Leaf ˚, from Amber - the clean and purity of the flavors from the turnips, accompanied by watercress and mustard, really showed how amazing vegetables can taste when they're properly treated.

Tomato from Chez Galliot, tomato water gelée, shrimp tartare, shrimp head cream, from Caprice - while the refreshing flavors of chilled tomatoes always makes me happy in the summer, it was the cream made of shrimp heads that really, really delivered the "wow" factor here.

"Pate en seiche": wild duck, foie gras, chili pepper confiture, from Écriture - wild duck and foie gras stuffed inside a big cuttlefish, with a little kick from chili pepper. An experimental dish that really opened our eyes.

Ratatouille: whole indigo tomato "entratatouillé", wrapped in kombu, oven roasted, from Écriture - probably the most perfect dish of vegetables I had during the year. The fragrant mix of sauce made of different vegetable jus and oil was simply stunning.

Sakura shrimp (桜海老), from Hidden (秀殿) - this may be just a pile of fried shrimp, but the fragrance and intense flavors were just unbelievable. Of course, part of the emotional response I had to this dish came when I realized that Sankala finished off the plate without leaving much for me...

Kam's fatty and burnt barbecued pork (甘一刀肥燶叉燒), from Kamcentre Roast Goose (甘棠燒鵝) - just take a look at that beautiful layer of fat and the crispy, outer layer. 'Nuff said.

Golden wing falling bird (金翅仆街鳥), from Wing (永) - OK, so this isn't really the name of the dish... which was pigeon smoked with sugar cane. But you can imagine the emotions going through my head when I received this very special half of a pigeon all wrapped in gold foil.

"Mayura Station" wagyu shortrib roast beef / potato / lettuce / garlic confit, from Neighborhood - that smooth, fatty wagyu which tasted like butter... the lightly charred taters, and the amazing sauce that gets drizzled over lettuce which takes your breath away...

Winter melon concerto (蟹肉燕窩冬蓉羹), from Dashijie (大師姐)'s home - an amazing effort in weaving together different ingredients and creating a seamless mix of flavors that left me absolutely stunned. How beautiful!

Golden medallions (燒金錢雞), from Dashijie (大師姐)'s home - undoubtedly one of the best versions of this classic dish I have ever had. This was just so, so satisfying.

Signature roasted pigeons (紅燒脆皮妙齡鴿), from Stellar House (星月居) - this has been my favorite roast pigeon for the last few years, and the flavors remained the same... with that beautiful, milky taste and oil dripping down as one rips the bird apart. One is never enough, but three is too many.

Duck and game tarte belle Hèléne, from Caprice - this has gone beyond merely being a dish served for a meal. It was a work of art, with heart and passion clearly evident. An upgraded version of the duck tarte, this one also had wild hare and some venison in addition to the wild duck and foie gras. The poire belle Hèléne added some sweetness and crunch, and of course the Périgord truffle was the perfect way to highlight the flavors. So good that I ordered another one to take home on Christmas Eve.

A total of 24 dishes, which was the same as last year. There were, of course, many, many more dishes which made me very happy, and I am grateful for all the chefs who fed me and try to bring happiness into our lives. I love you all, and see you again in 2022!


Markus Schmidt said...

True, a good cassoulet is always (well, once a month) a treat. When next in Paris, once the (expletive deleted) govt. readmits flights from and to that place, try "L'Assiette" by David Rathgeber..... cassoulet there is rich, filling and satisfying. Happy New Year.

Westy said...

Agree a well prepared cassoulet is so satisfying. That duck and game tarte sounds brilliant


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