Food News

GT’s favourite dishes of 2014

Our team of restaurant reviewers serve up their 10 favourite dishes of the year.

Blue swimmer crab, chilli and salmorejo, Mister Jennings, Melbourne

Julian Kingma

We’ve eaten our way across the country so you can go straight to the source. Here, our team of restaurant reviewers serve up their 10 favourite dishes of 2014.

Barbecued lobster and seaweed butter, Restaurant Australia, Hobart

And the wallaby broth. And the grilled abalone. And the raw red kangaroo with bunya nuts. And the pork jowl with abalone and fancy sprinkles. And a festival of luxe Australian beef, complemented by a little package of oxtail and tea-smoked oyster red curry. Chef-ambassadors Neil Perry, Peter Gilmore and Ben Shewry did the nation proud at the Restaurant Australia gala dinner at MONA in Hobart in November, putting together a menu that was gutsy, original, polished and – above all – a pleasure to eat. Aussie, Aussie, (Kiwi), oi, oi, oi indeed. Restaurant Australia. PAT NOURSE, CHIEF RESTAURANT CRITIC

Blue swimmer crab, chilli and salmorejo, Mister Jennings, Melbourne

This is a plate-licker, this one, and a bit of a no-brainer when you think of the logical match of blue swimmer crab and salmorejo, the gazpacho-like purée from southern Spain that combines tomatoes, garlic, shallots, white wine and olive oil. But with chef Ryan Flaherty it’s all in the details. Like the heat from Tabasco in the salmorejo. And the mix of celery, mayo and black pepper that dresses the picked crab meat. And the slices of green chilli and mustard leaves that garnish the dish. There’s so much zing and crunch going on that you find yourself wishing for a bigger bowl – or wondering whether it would be greedy to order another one. Mister Jennings, Melbourne, 142 Bridge Rd, Richmond, Vic, (03) 9078 0113. MICHAEL HARDEN, VICTORIA EDITOR

Bo ssäm, Momofuku Seiobo, Sydney

Every visit to 10 William St bowled me over this year, Luke Powell’s smoked meat offerings at LP’s were a lot of fun and the chicken wings luxed-up with truffle and kombu butter on Rockpool‘s new bar menu were a revelation in the high-end snacking department. But the most exciting meal of 2014 in my books has to be Momofuku Seiobo’s brief but memorable bo ssäm offering. Taking shreds of cured and roasted pork shoulder, wrapping it in a leaf of bibb lettuce with oysters, kimchi, Korean barbecue sauce and a ginger and spring onion relish made for a bite of heaven. It was only offered as part of a pop-up of sorts when the restaurant ran the 2007 menu from Manhattan sister restaurant Momofuku Ssäm Bar, but we’re hoping that was by no means its last local appearance. Momofuku Seiobo, The Star, 80 Pyrmont St, Pyrmont, NSW. MAYA KERTHYASA, STAFF WRITER

Braised bone marrow, Lalla Rookh, Perth

As far as Perth eaters are concerned, any day that includes a meal at Lalla Rookh is a good one. While much of Joel Valvasori-Pereza’s brilliance stems from a focus on seasonality, his core dishes are just as compelling, not least this number. Starring thick sections of bone cooked slowly in soffritto and served with charry fingers of toasted focaccia, this inspired osso buco remake is but one reason Lalla Rookh remains Perth’s Italian restaurant to beat. Lalla Rookh, 77 St Georges Tce, Perth, (08) 9325 7077. MAX VEENHUYZEN, WESTERN AUSTRALIA EDITOR

Coconut snow egg, pandan sago, cassava cake, coconut sorbet and spiced pineapple soup, Nu Nu, Palm Cove

Nu Nu’s tropical riff on the breakfast classic of eggs and pork – a breakfast bowl of Sichuan-spiced mince with lightly pickled eggs, enoki mushrooms and radish – almost pipped Nick Holloway’s snow egg to garner line-honours. But in terms of evoking the essence of balmy Palm Cove, the snow egg is the winner. A coconut dotted marshmallow-meringue-style snow egg sits beside a ball of coconut sorbet, while beneath lies a tasty mess of nutty toasted coconut strips, green rubble of pandan sago and crunchy peanut praline. To keep sweetness in check, a coolly tart spiced pineapple soup is poured at table. Ahh, summer. Nu Nu, 1 Veivers Rd, Palm Cove, Qld, (07) 4059 1880. FIONA DONNELLY, QUEENSLAND EDITOR

Ham, Garagistes, Hobart

The charcuterie at Garagistes has always been good, but this year it stepped up to the next level. A dish 18 months in the making, the salt-cured ham leg ham is world class, rivalling the best prosciutto. With silky fat, a long-lasting nutty flavour and expertly cut, thinly and thickly, to fully showcase its texture, it needed no accompaniment. The secret ingredient, apparently, is well-fed two-year-old pigs from the Agrarian Kitchen’s Rodney Dunn. Garagistes, 103 Murray St, Hobart, Tas, (03) 6231 0558. SUE DYSON & ROGER McSHANE, TASMANIA EDITORS

Octopus, chorizo, smoked potato and nettle, Monster Kitchen and Bar, Canberra

Sean McConnell has turned out any number of head-turning creations in Monster’s impressive début year, but his take on surf and turf takes the prize for me. There’s not even a hint of rubberiness with this octopus. It’s at its most tender and sweet, finished in its own juices with the heat and spice of chorizo, and plated with smoked potato. Heavenly. Monster Bar and Kitchen, NewActon Nishi, 25 Edinburgh Ave, ACT, (02) 6287 6287. GARETH MEYER, AUSTRALIAN CAPITAL TERRITORY EDITOR

Seared wallaby and beetroots, Saffire Freycinet, Coles Bay

That sea urchin mapo tofu at Rockpool. Old Mitch Orr’s macaroni and pork at Acme. LuMi’s pasta. Sagra‘s pasta. Every single thing O Tama Carey cooked at Berta‘s sagra nights. Everything at Franklin. Café Paci‘s goat tartare. The eel ssäm at Moon Park. Seiobo‘s potato Tatin cheese course. The tiger prawns with kimchi crisp at Magill Estate. A great many lunches at 10 William. A great many dinners at Ester. So many brunches at Pinbone. The plums at Sixpenny. The plums at Brae. The whiting in paperbark at Attica. David Thompson taking over Attica to cook a red curry of mussels for his fellow WAW warriors. But because there’s as much “traveller” in my remit as “gourmet”, I’d like to single out the food Hugh Whitehouse and Simon Pockran do at Saffire Freycinet restaurant on the northeast coast of Tassie, partly because it’s open to guests only and I won’t be seeing it again very soon, but mostly because this sort of confidently unadorned cooking, putting great produce in the middle of the plate, is almost radical in its scarcity in fancy resorts worldwide. Pan-fried flounder with wasabi butter? Yes please. Seared wallaby and beetroots? Sign me up. Saffire, 2352 Coles Bay Rd, Coles Bay, Tas, (03) 6256 7888. PAT NOURSE, CHIEF RESTAURANT CRITIC

Short-fin eel, sea urchin and zucchini, Brae, Birregurra

There can never be too much sea urchin in life, a point emphatically proved by Dan Hunter at Brae. His combination of a brandade of short fin eel piped into a tube made from a rolled sliver of zucchini that sits in a small pool of macadamia milk is already good enough to set sail all on its own. But then Hunter returns from the charcoal grill outside with two pieces of just-seared urchin and places them on top of the zucchini. It’s a brilliant move. Vibrant, gorgeous and indulgent; it elevates an already excellent dish to one that approaches the sublime. Brae, 285 Cape Otway Rd, Birregurra, Vic, (03) 5236 2226. MICHAEL HARDEN, VICTORIA EDITOR

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