December 31, 2022

The best dishes I had in 2022

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Another year of eating pretty well, in spite of Hong Kong government banning dinner service for the first 3½ months of the year. As pandemic travel restrictions eased gradually both in Hong Kong and Taiwan, I made 2 trips back to Taiwan to spend time with the Parental Units. Now that Hong Kong has dropped travel restrictions completely, I look forward to visiting other destinations for more food adventures.

Once again I have compiled a list of dishes I've enjoyed during the year which drew the most emotional reactions from me. I've had many, many delicious dishes over hundreds of meals, and this year I found it particularly difficult to pare the list down to a "reasonable" number. These were all from meals in Hong Kong unless otherwise indicated.

Grilled squid with artichoke and black truffle, chardonnay sauce, from Caprice - the "king of sauce" Hairy Legs shows his mettle with this beautiful combination of chardonnay vinegar and black truffle. So many of his dishes temps diners to wipe the plates clean with delicious bread that they have no stomach space for.

Sautéed prawn (富貴牡丹花), from Woo Cheong Tea House (和昌飯店) - the beautifully-scored giant king prawn can be found elsewhere, but the texture of this one was nearly perfect. The winning element, though, was the elegant prawn sauce that is unique here.

Woo Cheong premium barbecued pork (和昌炭燒叉燒), from Woo Cheong Tea House (和昌飯店) - this is the kind of char siu where all I need would be a bowl of steamed rice to go with a plate of the pork. A happy meal could be had with just these two things.

Baby sea eel with bonito broth (ノレソレ), from Sushi Shikon (すし 志魂) - these "udon" were actually the small fry of conger eels (穴子), which didn't seem to have any bones in them. An amazing delicacy and I felt privileged to be able to enjoy them while stuck in Hong Kong.

Monkfish liver (鮟肝), from Sushi Shikon (すし 志魂) - a thick chunk of creamy and smooth liver that might as well have been a slab of butter melting in my mouth. So good I almost wanted to tell Kaki-san how "FUCKING BEAUTIFUL" it was.

Aka uni ˚ cauliflower ˚ lobster ˚ Daurenki Schrenki caviar ˚, from Amber - well... this has always been one of my favorite dishes. Why else would I have jokingly threatened to "Occupy Amber"? Since Richard chose to cover the whole fucking thing in gold foil just for me, how could this not be on the list?!

Skate wing / teppan / brown butter / spices, from Clarence - the fish itself was beautifully done... loved how succulent this was... and that beurre noisette!

Black pork Bigorre rack, charcoal / devil sauce, from Clarence - this was just incredibly sinful... especially parts where it was almost pure fat. Best pork rack of 2022.

Scallop, sakura-shrimp, white asparagus, snap pea, asperge sauvage (帆立  桜海老  ホワイトアスパラ  スナップ豆  アスパラソバージュ), from Godenya (ごでんや) - the sauce made of sakura shrimp (桜海老) purée delivered so much umami and smoky flavors, it could have been drizzled onto anything and made it amazing.

Hotaru-squid, bamboo shoot, morel, rice (蛍烏賊 筍 モレルマッシュルーム 米), from Godenya (ごでんや) - the "risotto" here regularly makes the year end "best dishes" list, and this one with firefly squids was probably the best version ever. I would have happily swapped half the menu for this dish.

Deep-fried Hokkaido wild spring garlic / escargot / caviar, from Neighborhood - escargot has traditionally been served with a garlic-based sauce, so I guess it made sense that wild garlic would also work. But how did The Kitchen Nazi know to batter and deep-fry the combination? And adding caviar and sour cream to the mix was pure genius. Then again, we already know that about The Man in White T-shirt...

Scrambled eggs with shrimp (滑蛋炒蝦仁), from Hoi Wan Restaurant (海灣餐廳) - probably the silkiest, fluffiest scrambled eggs I remember. This from a nondescript seafood restaurant!

Fidueà with firefly squid, from Andō - a very special version of fidueà from Goldfinger, featuring the firefly squids I love so much. So, sooo tasty! I was giddy with happiness when I saw this come to our table.

Firefly squid kakiage (蛍烏賊かき揚げ), from Nikushou - battered and deep-fried shredded veggies? With TWO firefly squids on top?! YEAH, BABY, YEAH!

House-made pasta with deep-fried "桜-sakura" shrimp and spring cabbage, from Ta Vie 旅 - yes, I would love any dish with a pile of deep-fried sakura shrimp (桜海老), but the combination with the vegetables in the pasta propelled this into a homerun.

Bloody-Berry: strawberry / blood orange / whey sorbet, from Ta Vie 旅 - the combination of berries, blood orange, and bergamot... all those fruity flavors and citrus fragrance. So refreshing. Oh, the presence of gold flakes had nothing to do with this being on the list. Absolutely nothing.

Imperial langoustine / fresh Ecuadorian cacao, from MONO - I expected the langoustine to be perfect, but that sauce of langoustine head enriched with cacao was just wonderful and eye-popping. Fruity acidity blended in with umami.

Braised pork rice (滷肉飯), from My Stove (My灶), Taipei - this was an emotional moment for me, because I have been thinking about this bowl of 滷肉飯 during the better part of the pandemic. I told myself what once back in Taipei, I would make a dash for this place. I was so, soooo happy to devour the chunks of pork skin glistening with fat.

Roasted duck nigiri (櫻桃鴨握壽司), from Red Lantern (紅樓), Yilan - it's been 8 years since I first tasted this amazing "sushi" with a piece of crispy Peking duck skin, and the second time around it was just as delicious as I remembered. The liquefied fat squeezed out of the skin gets soaked up by the vinegar-seasoned rice, and the combination was just magical.

Vegan brown butter, from Amber - yes, I'm raving about some "butter" I had. And it was VEGAN. And it was FUCKING FANTASTIC!

Roasted boneless suckling pig with glutinous rice (糯米釀脆皮乳豬), from Imperial Treasure Fine Chinese Cuisine (御寶軒) - it has also been a few years since I last had this beautiful stuffed suckling pig, and I honestly don't know why I don't have this more often - especially since we haven't been able to get to Macau for the other version that I love so much.

Long scialatielli | king crab, Amalfi lemon, from Estro - I know this just looks like a twirl of pasta with some green sauce but... ya just gotta taste it to believe how good it was. The fragrance from Amalfi lemons in the sauce... just WOW!

Spaghetti | tomato, from Estro - yes, I've used the phrase "simplicity is not simple" many times over the years, and this "simple" tomato pasta could not have been more perfect.

Venison and foie gras dartois, figs, from Caprice - this was, at the time I tasted it, a dish still under testing. I knew immediately that this would be THE dish for the winter game season, and I would want to get one to share with friends over the holiday season. Unfortunately my plans changed and I never got to taste it again, but it doesn't mean I don't salivate at the thought of it.

Sauteed shrimps with lily bulb and lotus seeds (九年百合鮮蓮炒蝦仁), from Yong Fu (甬府) - besides the deliciously crunchy 9-year-old lily bulb from Lanzhou (蘭州), the real surprise here were the fresh lotus seeds - the likes of which I've never tasted before.

Chef's signature handmade pork dumplings (主廚手工水餃), from Yong Fu (甬府) - I shan't stop waxing lyrical about these dumplings, whose thin and delicate wrappers have amazed many friends, and whose filling with shepherd's purse (薺菜) just pack in lots of flavor.

Roasted chicken wing stuffed with birds nest (官燕燒釀雞翼), from Forum Restaurant (富臨飯店) - I expected the skin to be perfectly crispy, but what I didn't expect was the flavorless birds' nest to deliver a mouthful of deliciousness from the strands of crab meat distributed throughout the mix. Now I can understand why this is such a famous dish.

Barbecued suckling pig (皇牌大紅乳豬全體), from Moon Bay Chinese Cuisine (灣悅 賞 • 中菜) - this one from Fook Lam Moon (福臨門) / Seventh Son (家全七福) has always been in the top two roast suckling pigs in town for me, and after the roast meats chef moved from Seventh Son to this place, friends reported that the pig is better than ever. And it was! The crackling got a little thicker and crunchier, resulting in a more satisfying experience.

"Kyoho" grape and red shiso mousse with jelly, Calpis and grape soda, from Ta Vie 旅 - a dessert made with Kyoho (巨峰) grapes and Calpis Soda was always gonna be totally up my alley, and I really, really loved how intense the grape flavors were.

Nodoguro, fennel, Kristal caviar, Champagne sauce, from Caprice - this piece of rosy seabass (喉黒) was the second-best piece I've ever had, and the texture was pretty amazing. Of course, the Champagne sauce from the king of sauce was a big part of making this a beautiful dish.

Japanese horsehair crab paella, from Neighborhood - a candidate for the best paella from The Man in White T-shirt, this one not only had tons of Japanese horsehair crab (毛蟹) meat, but the sauce made with crab tomalley was just killer.

Kinki fish, red pepper, fish jus, from Estro - the texture on the broadbanded thornyhead (喜知次) was a little out of this world... almost similar to a jiggly sea cucumber! Not an experience I am likely to forget.

Trimming the list down to 32 took some effort, but that's a good thing, right? That means there was a lot of good food that made me very happy. Looking forward to including dishes from Japan and other countries on next year's list!


Liya said...


Markus Schmidt said...

thank you et bonne année 2023! now I am even more looking forward to our forthcoming Easter trip and meals at, among others, Shikon, Neighborhood and The Chairman.....


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