Restaurant News

GT's top ten Australian dishes of 2013

We came, we saw, we ate, we ate some more. Our restaurant guide team reflects on a year of excellent Australian dining...

Cafe Paci's carrot, liquorice, yoghurt
We came, we saw, we ate, we ate some more. Our restaurant guide team reflects on a year of excellent Australian dining with our 10 favourite dishes of 2013.
Carrot, yoghurt, liquorice, Café Paci, Sydney, NSW
Pretty much everything I ate at Momofuku Seiobo this year wowed me, and Mark Best pulled out some blinders at Marque. Ester feels like it's already part of the landscape, a go-to for great eats, and while we're talking Chippendale, I really miss those sensational dinners at The Eat In pop-up. The Sixpenny guys have taken it to the next level, as has Karl Firla, the quiet achiever down at Oscillate Wildly. The stuff the Pinbone kids have thrown down at their events bodes really well for their work on the former Buzo site, too. But Café Paci remains the biggest news in Sydney eats in 2013, with former Marque chef Pasi Petänen dropping plate after plate of original, inspiring and (yes!) delicious food over the courses of his tasting menus like a boss. Is the winner the crazy cabbage-mussel-pomelo thing? The lamb tartare with shichimi togarashi? Or is it the kooky carrot dessert, enshrouded in yoghurt mousse and given a pervy twist with the inclusion of salted liquorice (pictured above)? Café Paci, 95 Riley St, Darlinghurst, NSW, (02) 9368 7000. PAT NOURSE, CHIEF RESTAURANT CRITIC
Lamb sweetbreads, steamed bun, pickles, miso, Vasse Felix, Margaret River, WA
An artful arrangement of smoky eel, scallops, Brussels sprouts leaves and jamón Ibérico; marron gussied up with wild-gathered local mushrooms; further riffs on the time-honoured chocolate tart - these are just some of the hits singled out by pals lucky enough to have dined at Vasse Felix in 2013. For me, Aaron Carr's brightest moment was this build-it-yourself entrée of fried lobes of creamy offal, a bill-fold of fluffy mantou dough and fittingly Asiatic condiments. Yes, it's a Momofuku cover, but what a cover. Vasse Felix, cnr Tom Cullity Dr & Caves Rd, Cowaramup, WA, (08) 9756 5050. MAX VEENHUYZEN, WESTERN AUSTRALIA EDITOR
The simple lemony fish soup, The Fish House, Burleigh Heads, Qld
In a big year of eating out, it's sometimes the more understated offerings that lodge longest in the memory. This is one of those soups you just can't stop spooning. It's hot and lemony, briny and beautifully aromatic with fennel and parsley. It's the sort of soup you'd imagine brightening a slow day on the Greek islands (but luckily it tastes just as fine at a linen-clothed table in Burleigh Heads, with a glass of chilled grüner). Complex yet unpretentious, it's pure restorative goodness. The Fish House, 50 Goodwin Tce, Burleigh Heads, Qld, (07) 5535 7725. FIONA DONNELLY, QUEENSLAND EDITOR
Pigeon and spiced cherry pie, Bar Di Stasio, Melbourne, Vic
It's like trying to choose between children, anointing one dish over another at Bar Di Stasio. It could easily have been the fritto misto or the spaghettone with guanciale or - you see. But the pie gets the gong. It's compact, so it doesn't overstay its welcome. It has perfect glossy pastry, short but not fragile, full of flavour but not overpowering. And its filling nails the balance of sweet fruit and earthy bird, and the spicing suggests rather than lectures. Yes, the pie, definitely. Bar Di Stasio, 31 Fitzroy St, St Kilda, (03) 9525 3999. MICHAEL HARDEN, VICTORIA EDITOR
Poached fish, The Stackings, Woodbridge, Tas
Every time we ate at The Stackings this year, David Moyle served a perfect piece of gently poached fish. It was never the same but there was continuity. Whether it was striped trumpeter, hapuku or blue-eye trevalla, it was always a brilliant piece of fish, cooked with enviable precision. Once it was lifted with fennel pollen and sea lettuce. Another time there was a kick from bottarga and a gentle nod to winter with celeriac. Yet another version saw the marine flavours of the fish amplified with a carrot and mussel sauce. But it was always beautiful, and always absolutely felt the right dish for the time and place. The Stackings at Woodbridge closed on 1 November, and we are very much looking forward to its new incarnation in Hobart in March. SUE DYSON & ROGER McSHANE, TASMANIA EDITORS
Squid in warm leek broth, Hentley Farm, Seppeltsfield, SA
Chef Lachlan Colwill has wowed customers with his inventiveness and adept touch across four- and eight-course dégustations since Hentley Farm winery restaurant opened in the Barossa 18 months ago. His technical skills are very much in evidence in a warm leek broth spiked with subtle accents of linseed, chive and wood sorrel. It contains delicate shavings of squid cut so fine that the strands resemble soba noodles, with the same silky, slippery texture. It's sublime, deeply fragrant and nourishing, just like the sort of comforting noodle broth that it so cannily mimics. Hentley Farm, cnr Gerald Roberts & Jenke rds, Seppeltsfield, SA, (08) 8562 8427. DAVID SLY, SOUTH AUSTRALIA EDITOR
Burnt orange crema Catalana, bay leaf, polvorón and crunchy fennel seeds, Bar Nacional, Melbourne, Vic
Dessert whiz Shaun Quade gets his Spanish on at the San Sebastianesque Bar Nacional and this blend of the traditional and edgy shows just how good he is at getting flavours to play nicely together. There's the crema, a rich thing flavoured with orange and given a savoury back beat with the inclusion of bay leaves. The brûlée top is scattered with toasted fennel seeds and crumbling pieces of the ultra-short, nutty polvorón shortbread. The whisper of anise is brilliant, the sugar restrained and the dial jammed midway between clever and sophisticated. Bar Nacional, 727 Collins St, Docklands, Vic, (03) 9252 7999. MICHAEL HARDEN, VICTORIA EDITOR
Pumpkin cheesecake ice-cream, The Boat House by the Lake, Canberra, ACT
A troop of siphon-wielding young chefs are given carte blanche to overhaul a tired kitchen. The result? Among other things, a dessert of pumpkin cheesecake ice-cream resting on black sesame custard, encircled by a winding thread of vanilla goat's cheese "panna cotta" and smithereens of salted honey popcorn. The Boat House by the Lake, Grevillea Park, Menindee Dr, Barton, ACT. (02) 6273 5500. GARETH MEYER, AUSTRALIAN CAPITAL TERRITORY EDITOR
Crisp pork belly and smoked tofu with spicy ginger and garlic dressing, Spice Temple, Sydney, NSW
Mining the Spice Temple menu for big flavour bombs is like shooting fish in a barrel. Hot and numbing wagyu, tingling prawns, and lettuce stir-fried with XO and bacon all deliver in spades, but this dish is a sort of umami manna. It might live in the salad section but it's more a bowl of tasty savoury goodness. Slices of crunchy roast pork belly, tea-smoked tofu and wood-ear mushrooms come in a "fish-fragrant" dressing of green chilli, black vinegar, ginger, garlic, chilli oil and light soy. Salty. Spicy. Smoky. We'll take it with the gamay, thanks. Spice Temple, 10 Bligh St, Sydney, NSW, (02) 8078 1888. ANTHEA LOUCAS, EDITOR
Borracho con cerezas, Ortiga, Brisbane, Qld
It could have been the luscious lamb belly with almond milk, vanilla and a spicy chickpea purée, or the drop-dead gorgeous crab with hazelnut and artichoke. Instead it was a summer dessert, borracho con cerezas, a celebratory cherry-filled twist on the Spanish classic bizcocho borracho that clinched Ortiga's place for me on the list for 2013, even as the restaurant announced its shock closure. Cherry and rosé granita and an intense cherry sorbet atop a booze-laden sponge, all slathered with cream and dotted with fresh cherries and chunks of honeycomb for texture - truly a dish deserving of the description "drunk with cherries". Ortiga, you'll be missed. FIONA DONNELLY, QUEENSLAND EDITOR