#1 Bras, Laguiole, France
My visit to Michel Bras was one of the highlights of 2011. The planning of the trip and everything around it to make sure R & I made it there, the train and car ride, the first time we spotted Bras in the distance as we were driving in the country, the beautiful scenery, the food, the service, the refillable mini-bar, seeing Sebastian Bras in the kitchen. The list goes on really and I hope to put it all down in one entry. For now, I’m just terribly grateful that we made the trek down to the middle of France for this experience. Yes, it took terribly long – hours on the train and car. Plus, a left hand drive needed some getting used to (thank god we had an automatic car). But it was a trip well worth it and if I had to, I’d do it all over again. Or rather, I’d choose to do it all over again just for a bottle of their inhouse lemonade.
#2 Alain Ducasse at the Dorchester, London, UK
Everyone who I’ve spoken to about my trip to London has heard about my experience at Ducasse. My first full experience to a renowned 3 Michelin Star restaurant was full of little anecdotes. From the moment we walked through the doors of the Dorchester until we were seated at our table, we must have met at least 3 or 4 people who ushered us along. And then we had delicious French cuisine and in particular, the chicken and lobster dish and an awesome cheese platter which made me discover a new found love for blue cheese. To top it off, we were offered to doggy-bag our mignardises home because we were too full plus we were gifted with a little cake to have for breakfast the next morning! What I regret though was playing it safe with the tea I ordered. If I only knew before hand that someone was going to push a trolley of plants to my table and make me tea from there, I would have ordered that!
#3 Momofuku Seiobo, Sydney, Australia
Meeting David Chang in person at the opening service of Seiobo and having him bring food to our table was in itself a huge highlight. R had swooned relentlessly over those famous pork buns that Dave Chang had become so renowned for and it was that night that I finally understood the hype. Who doesn’t love a tasty piece of pork belly in a soft bun?! I know I did and I’m so glad that I can now have it anytime I feel like it. There were many other standout dishes that night – the crab and Yorkshire pudding, the pasta dish, marron with lemon, the miso ice cream and the oh-so-delicious bo-ssam at the end. A welcomed addition to the Sydney dining scene? Most definitely.
#4 Riz Au Lait at Chez l’ami Jean, Paris, France
Chez l’ami Jean was the only restaurant during my Europe tour which I dined at twice. We had different savoury items on both consecutive nights but on the second night, we knew what we wanted for dessert – the renowned Riz Au Lait. In fact, that was the reason for our return even if it meant that I was going to have my dinner at 10.30pm. This dessert goes down in history as one of the best I’ve ever eaten and possibly the best rice pudding that I’ll ever have. It was light yet creamy and all of the accompaniments like the roasted pralines and salted caramel butter made the dish. I’ve recommended this to all my friends who’ve visited Paris recently and one of them who did pay a visit has also been raving about it too. If I manage another visit to Paris, you’ll know where to find me!
#5 Magnus Nilsson at Marque, Sydney, Australia
I’m not sure if I’ll ever make it to Sweden. And even if I do, I’m not sure I can get a table at Magnus Nilsson's 12-seater restaurant. Especially now that there’s this enamour with the whole Nordic, Noma-esque type of cuisine, I figured that the Magnus dinner during the Crave Festival was one worth going to. There were many “firsts” at this dinner. It was the first time I had ever eaten (raw) ox heart, got served a huge raw leek which was dangling off a plate because it was too big to fit, saw a couple take off after they realised they were seated at a communal table and witnessed a whole table take photos with (note WITH not OF) their food then took off for a smoke break, leaving the food untouched. These were a couple of standout dishes. The uni served in a mini pig’s blood cup was delicious and so was the ox heart tartare which was served with bone marrow that was sawed off right next to our table. The raw leek? Not so much of a fan and I’m not sure I would want to have such a dish again despite the delicious mullet roe and beer cream accompaniments.
#6 Frenchie, Paris, France
If I had to name one meal where everything was spot on, this would be IT. It wasn’t a Michelin Star experience but the food at this little restaurant in a back alley of a neighbourhood far from the touristy spots of Paris was probably one of the best, if not the best meal we had all trip. Would I go back? In a heartbeat.
#7 Dinner at Heston Blumenthal, London, UK
Unkempt and dishevelled from an almost 24 hour transit and plane ride, we arrived in London and had our first proper meal at Dinner. The lengths we went through trying to shift the itinerary which we had already planned just to make way for this last minute reservation was crazy, but we did it. And the food was every bit worth it. I loved the ‘throwback to the old days’ concept and the execution of every dish. I also loved the service and the dining room with high ceilings and full length windows bringing beautiful light - perfect for picture taking. Granted it was a little pricey but it was a meal well worth the experience for me. Well, since my visit, it’s earned its first Michelin Star so it must be doing something right.
#8 Torisho Taka, Singapore
I’ve dined at Torisho Taka a couple of times before and I’ve enjoyed myself every single time. It is probably one of my favourite restaurants in Singapore. I hadn’t visited Torisho Taka in maybe slightly over a year prior to my visit in 2011 so I thought it was going to be a great experience for R’s visit to Singapore since we don’t have many great kushiyaki joints in Sydney. The food didn’t disappoint and R enjoyed the food tremendously even though he was forced into trying raw chicken which he now raves about. That’s the dish that I always order, along with the pork belly marinated with miso and a delicious bowl of oyako-don. Meat on skewers does it for me everytime.
#9 Salted Egg Yolk Crabs at Beverly Hills Chinese Restaurant, Sydney, Australia
delicious looking picture courtesy of CL
#10 Taramosalata - White Cod Roe Dip at Hellenic Republic, Melbourne, Australia
Like my dad, I’m a big fan of dips, pates and terrines. And I say that Hellenic Republic’s White Cod Roe Dip would have been right up my dad’s alley. R, my sis and I were extremely full from a wedding lunch but we powered through dinner here and as much as we knew that the flat bread was going to fill us up quickly and set us back for the rest of the meal, we couldn’t stop having it because of that delicious dip! The food was overall pretty enjoyable, save for the desserts which weren’t really the highlights of the evening. Prices are reasonable and I would eat there often if I lived in Melbourne. But since I don’t, I highly propose that George Colombaris packages this dip and sell them in delis or markets because I will be the first in line for them.
So that wraps up 2011 for me. We're almost at the end of the first quarter of 2012 and I've already had some wonderful things. It's time for me to play catch up (AGAIN!). Here's to more eating in what's left of 2012!