The Best Things Our Chefs Ate This Year

The end of 2017 is nigh (finally), and as an eventful year draws to a close, our chefs let us in on the standout, most memorable bites they tried.

Jowett Yu, Ho Lee Fook

While in Singapore for a pop-up early this year, I ate at chef Tetsuya Wakuda’s teppanyaki restaurant, Waku Ghin. The Alaskan king crab leg we had was steamed in sea salt and sake, and, like every dish, was cooked in front of us. The most theatrical of dishes, this was also the one to write home about, as the crabmeat was the most tender I’ve eaten.

Steve Nguyen, Chôm Chôm

Back in early September, I found myself in New York. I had to make a pilgrimage to John’s of Bleecker Street to check out one of the apparent granddaddies of New York pizza. These guys have been around for more than 80 years, so they must be doing something right. Crispy, thin crusts are cooked in a coal-fired oven to impart smoky flavour with just the right amount of char. We dressed ours with ricotta, roasted tomato and basil, for simplicity at its best.

Christopher Mark, Co-founder Black Sheep Restaurants

The best dish I tried this year was on holiday this summer in Portugal. At Cervejaria Ramiro, Lisbon, we ate clams simply cooked with garlic, parsley and olive oil.

Bao La, Le Garçon Saigon

While Jow and I were in Singapore, we went to Burnt Ends, which was where I found my dish of the year. Grilled whole turbot was crusted with black and white sesame and mixed herbs. Dressed with lemon juice and served in a fish fat emulsion, alongside a carrot and celery yoghurt salad, the dish defined balance.

Daniel Calvert, BELON

On a recent trip to Kyoto, one of the most beautiful places in a region where competition is already fierce, I stayed at Miyamasou ryokan. I was served bamboo shoots, fresh out of the ground (picked hours before) and the result was a true expression of just two main ingredients working in excellent harmony. It was just so quintessentially of that time and place. It spoke of a particular moment, both in the season and in the middle of nowhere that borders Kyoto.

I woke up to a bowl of tofu, made about half hour before I ate it. It tasted like a real soybean.

Palash Mitra, New Punjab Club

There are a couple memorable spots from back home in London. I visited Chef Calum at Holborn Dining Room and, aside from his fantastic, whimsical pies, the braised octopus tentacles were what stuck with me. Butter-soft, charred and spiked with chorizo, this was a really different way to experience octopus.

The Bone Marrow Varuval at Hoppers, where my friend and ex-colleague Surish runs the kitchen, is pretty special. This is a dish you’d expect somewhere like St. John, not at a Sri Lankan/Indian spot. The spicy accompanying sauce bursts with flavour, namely shallots and garlic, tempered by creamy coconut. The result is the definition of complex and simple at the same time.

Felipe Lopez, Buenos Aires Polo Club

While I was traveling in Vietnam recently, we were in Hoi An when we stumbled across a chicken and yellow rice dish that was pretty simple yet really delicious. The chicken, all breast meat, was hand-shredded, sautéed with marinated onions and finished with Vietnamese mint. The mint is different to regular mint, it’s almost an amalgamation of mint and coriander. The rice is cooked in the fat from the chicken, giving it its yellow colour and so much flavour.

Billy Otis, Carbone

Sushiso Masa in Tokyo was mind-blowing. An unassuming entrance in Roppongi takes you through to the intimate dining room, where we enjoyed a 37-course degustation. ‘Freshness’ is fast becoming a buzzword that is thrown around too easily, but this was the real deal. The excellent technique was visible in every detail and a brilliant sake pairing completed the experience.

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