Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Top Restaurant Dishes of 2010

This past year, Mr Minx and I dined out quite a bit and tried out many new-to-us places. For the most part, our dining excursions were largely rewarding, but some meals were more successful than others. Here are some of the highlights, in order of consumption. :)

Back in March, we had a fantastic multi-course meal celebrating the Chinese New Year at Grace Garden with the Charm City Chowhounds. While most dishes were amazing, my very favorite was the lemongrass lamb chops, a dish I got them to recreate for me in September. (They'll do it for you, too, if you call and request it three or so days in advance. Be prepared for sticker shock when you get your bill.) They were big (the spoon is oversized) and meaty and redolent of lemongrass, with just enough fat to make them juicy. Heavenly.

Lemongrass Lamb Chops
On my one lonely trip to New York this April, I had the pleasure of dining at Momofuku Ssam Bar for the first time. The much-lauded pork belly buns definitely deserve a spot on this list.

June was a bumper month for dining out. First, we tried Talara, where everything was uniformly delicious. However, I would have to say that my favorite dishes were the "Fire & Ice" seviche with prickly pear granita, and the tres leches cake.

Also in June came the Chef for a Day dinner prepared by fellow blogger Liz Stambaugh at Sotto Sopra. Her foie gras gnocchi were both feather light and super rich at the same time - perfection!

Foie gras gnocchi
We went on another Charm City Chowhound excursion, this time to Columbia, where we were introduced to the authentic Thai menu at Bangkok Garden. The salad of smoky grilled eggplant and especially the sour red curry and acacia omelette hotpot were the standout dishes of the meal for me.

Acacia omelette hot pot
Finally, at the end of the month, a very generous friend treated me to a wine dinner at Top Cheftestant and All-Star Jennifer Carroll's restaurant, 10 Arts by Eric Ripert in Philly. I wasn't bowled over by the majority of the dishes, but the pork belly-stuffed ravioli with morels was quite delicious, making me want get back and try more of Chef Carroll's cuisine when she's not trying to feed 80 people the same thing simultaneously.

Our first trip to the B&O American Brasserie, in August, yielded another dish for this list - the pork belly with bananas and lentils. The pork belly had all of the right textures - toothsome meat, melting fat, and crisp skin - and the lentil/banana combo was shockingly tasty (considering how bizarre it sounded).

Pork belly with bananas and lentils
I can't mention the top dishes of 2010 without a comment or ten about the amazing dinner we had at Volt this past September. After nearly a year of waiting, we were finally able to experience Table 21 and I have to say it met all of my (very high) expectations. One of my favorite courses, one that I still fantasize about (yes, I fantasize about food - probably no big surprise there), was the sublime, meltingly-tender tuna tartare and its many accompaniments. Another was the goat cheese ravioli. And the scallop with pea purée, the chicken parmesan, the lobster.... Everything.

The charcuterie plate we enjoyed at Clementine in September sure doesn't look like much, but that chicken liver mousse with rye whiskey and honey was some of the best chicken guts I have ever ingested.

Clementine charcuterie
Finally, to round out the year of pretty terrific restaurant dining, I'm going to say that the Low Country Louie seafood cocktail that I had at Langermann's on my birthday in November was one of my favorite appetizers of the year: perfectly cooked seafood in an interesting mustard-and-cilantro mayonnaise that I would love to recreate at home sometime soon.

I'm thankful to have had the opportunity to dine in so many good restaurants in 2010 and hope to continue the streak in 2011.