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GT's best dishes of 2012: Max Veenhuyzen

1. King George whiting marinato, Lalla Rookh
The customer is always right. And if guests at this slick new inner-city tavern want a tasty, lunch-hour-friendly meal, Joel Valvasori-Pereza is going to give it to 'em. Consider the bar indelibly raised for chicken schnitzels and steak sangers in Perth. But Valvasori-Pereza's talents run deeper than ace counter meals, his knack for flavour matchmaking best admired in this winning dish of dazzlingly fresh King George whiting briefly bathed in lemon, fennel and olive oil. Served on a bed of sweet, thumbnail-sized broad beans and fennel trimmings - shaved bulb, pollen, fronds - it's a rousing endorsement for our man's "La Cucina Westraliana". Lalla Rookh, lower ground, 77 St Georges Tce, Perth, WA, (08) 9325 7077

2. Havervadgård lamb, shrimps and dill, Relæ
Down on Copenhagen's hip and happening Jægersborggade, Christian Puglisi plays a major role in maintaining Danish cuisine's forward momentum. Exhibit A: this winning riff on surf 'n' turf in which he drapes a thin veil of raw lamb (it gets briefly torched for service) over a typically Danish flavour mix of soft onion, powdered prawns and dill to thrilling effect. Relae, Jægersborggade 41, 2200 Copenhagen N, Denmark, +45 3696 6609

3. Silver ear mushroom, clementine, rum and vanilla, Le Chateaubriand
Slices of frilly fungus poached in rum till they take on the texture of tripe. Tufts of vanilla-flecked cream. Segments of clementines, skin and all. Unlikely bedfellows, true, but together these three amigos make for one of 2012's most remarkable desserts. Le Chateaubriand, 129 avenue Parmentier, Paris, France, +33 1 43 57 45 95

4. Italian coleslaw, The Trustee Bar & Bistro
A gusty, crisp-to-the-bite assemblage of cabbage, fennel, capers, onion and mint, this side salad par excellence has as much in common with soggy supermarket 'slaw as the Grana Padano shavings studded throughout have to powdered shaker "parmesan". A revelation. The Trustee Bar & Bistro, 133 St Georges Tce, Perth, WA, (08) 6323 3000

5. Street corn, El Público
A corny dish in the very best sense of the word. Young go-getter Sam Ward starts with ears of corn, grills 'em, takes the kernels off the cob and then braises them in lime and epazote. Accessorised with the usual south-of-the-border suspects of chilli, lime, house-made mayonnaise and queso fresco, it's a key figure in the Mexican food revolution out west. El Público, 511 Beaufort St, Highgate, WA, 0418 187 708

6. Four-year-old Comté and black truffle, Agapé Substance
Shards of raw milk rendered outrageously complex by time, crowned by slivers of equally earthy black truffle. What's not to like about this throwback to chef David Toutain's years at fabled Left Bank three-star Arpège? A cheese course for the ages. With the recent announcement that Toutain's final service will be 1 December, let's hope this dish follows him to his next digs.

7. Pastrami, rye cracker, fermented cabbage and mayonnaise, Garagistes
Otherwise known as everything that's great about the Reuben sandwich abridged to three mouthfuls of crunchy, meaty and zingy deliciousness. Garagistes, 103 Murray St, Hobart, Tas, (03) 6231 0558

8. Congee, ham and yolk, Momofuku Seiobo
How do you describe Momofuku Seiobo in a word? I vote "Australian". Sure, that freewheeling Momofuku attitude to food (and music) remains in full effect, but it's the way native ingredients are effortlessly, deliciously and respectfully incorporated into dinner that struck me most. Warrigal greens. Striped trumpeter. Bruny Island Cheese Co's ridiculously good C2 raw-milk cheese. Local heroes all of them. But don't think for a minute the kitchen has turned its back on its Asian roots. While this gruel-like mass of boiled rice rings true with conventional congee wisdom (pictured above), the similarities end there. Bolstered with scraps of jamón serrano, a film of preserved egg yolk and savoury kombu doughnuts in an Earl Grey broth, it's a comfort food makeover done very, very right. Momofuku Seiobo, The Star, 80 Pyrmont St, Pyrmont, NSW, (02) 9777 9000

9. Peas, cottage cheese and strawberry, Septime
Dazzlingly fresh cottage cheese. A blob of sharp, barely-there strawberry emulsion. Pea presented in purée, tendril and au natural form. Together, it's a compelling three-ingredient homage to summer, as told by Parisian it-chef Bertrand Grébaut (coming soon to a Melbourne Food & Wine Festival near you). Septime, 80 rue de Charonne, Paris, France +33 1 43 67 38 29

10. King George whiting wrapped in paperbark, Attica
Finfish is back at the pride of Ripponlea. And how? For his latest sustainable and culturally sensitive trick, GT Chef of the Year Ben Shewry wraps fillets of King George whiting in sheaths of paperbark, then grills the parcels over charcoal till the fish is meltingly just so. Attica, 74 Glen Eira Rd, Ripponlea, Vic, (03) 9530 0111 

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