For the first time this year, Eater has asked several globetrotting restaurant bloggers to share their 15 favorite dishes of 2013. First up: John Sconzo, known for his blog Docsconz, who shares his picks from New York to Chile to Paris below.
[All photos: John Sconzo]
2013 was another incredible year of dining for me with a multitude of great meals, each of which contained a plethora of superb dishes. Choosing no more than one dish from any meal, chef or restaurant, I present the best of the best, the ones that left me with the greatest and most lasting impressions.
Boragó, Santiago, Chile
In Spanish, the word "huevos" may have multiple meanings, some obvious and some less so. This dish fell in with the latter, as it actually focused on ostrich testicles! While certainly scoring with some shock value, the dish was much more than that. Served as a tartare along with oxalis and native Chilean fruits, the dish was interesting, surprising and delicious.
14: El Secreto
El Colmado, New York City
Iberico skirt steaks are know as "el secreto" because the butchers generally just kept them to themselves. There probably isn't a more flavor packed piece of meat anywhere, and the version at El Colmedo, the new tapas bar in Gotham Market, does it justice served with potatoes, pickled red onions and a marvelous sauce.
El Pescado Original, Mercado San Miguel, Madrid, Spain
These massive, red behemoth shrimp are the kings of the prawn world. These, direct from the plancha, were juicy, succulent, mess-worthy and spectacularly delicious. There is a method to eating them - twist off the head, tilt one's own head back, insert the shrimp head and suck. Follow with the wonderful tail and it is a bit of heaven.
12: Roasted Lamb's Head
Contra, New York City
This was an extra course that was gifted to us from off the menu. It was half of a lamb's head split down the middle and roasted with the brain intact. Served with toast, the brains were perfectly seasoned and magnificently delicious spread out on the toast and even better spooned directly into my mouth.
Casa Botîn, Madrid, Spain
There really aren't too many things in this world more delicious than a perfectly roasted suckling pig like this one here at Casa Botín in Madrid. Recognized by Guinness as the oldest restaurant in the world (it opened in 1725), this is a real, working restaurant that isn't relying on its age alone to attract diners. The food, led by this juicy suckling pig with perfectly crisped skin, happens to be very, very good.
Aubergine, Carmel, California
A sixty five year-old abalone had been gifted to the chef, who in turn gifted it to my table as well as a few others in the restaurant that evening. It had been roasted whole and sliced to be served with sea vegetables and a chicken broth. Guilt never tasted so good.
9: Sweet and Sour Salad
Diverxo, Madrid, Spain
Suckling pig's ear was crafted into a sweet and sour salad along with Mangosteen and dried baby Spanish shrimp. The shrimp had great concentrated flavor. The overall effect was pure deliciousness. The combination of the two elements of this course made it our favorite savory course of the evening. It was both Spanish and Asian at the same time — bringing some of the best elements of the various culinary cultures together in one super-dish.
8: Costillar a la Brasa
Rancho Doña Maria, Santiago, Chile
Somehow my appetite became stimulated enough to not just try this amazing oven roasted pork rib, but to devour it completely. The outer part may have been a touch dry, but that was compensated for by the deliciously spiced and crisped outer crust. The inner meat, however, was totally succulent, juicy and one of the most delicious pieces of pork in my experience. Regardless of how full my body may have felt, I couldn't help but be a total glutton. It was simply too good not to finish.
7: Beet Root
L'Arpege, Paris, France
Choosing one dish fro L'Arpege was difficult, but this preparation of beet was one of the most extraordinary — if not the most extraordinary — that I have ever had. This deceptively simple beet had been cooked in a salt crust and paired with a red wine sauce deftly flavored "with spices." Passard's team (he was away in Hong Kong at the time) did a wonderful job capturing all that is wonderful about beets and letting the main ingredient shine. But the true magic of the dish was in the sauce that added terrific flavors of its own to the beet. Somewhat more bitter than I might have expected for a wine sauce, it carried spice notes that reminded me of northern Africa and brought the entire dish together in harmony.
6: Shaved Scallops
Birch, Providence, Rhode Island
Restrained and devoid of excess, shaved scallops were served raw and cold with avocado, radish and bronze fennel with a light layering of toasted sesame. This dish is a masterpiece that should become a fixture on the menu as a signature dish. It was delicious with both its upfront flavors and textures, as well as providing undercurrents of complexity. The play of textures between the silky scallop, creamy avocado and crisp radishes was deft and utterly delightful.
5: Nitro Coconut
J&G Grill, Miami, Florida
Chef Antonio Bachour used textures, temperatures and flavors to seduce the mouth: He dipped an airy coconut foam into liquid nitrogen and perched it atop a spectacularly sweet-tart cremeaux of passionfruit and augmented it all with key lime gelee, caramelized banana, edible flowers and basil syrup. Like anyplace, South Florida has its issues, but if its best elements could be combined and distilled into a representative dish, it would be this beautifully balanced, light, pastel-colored dessert tour de force. It had the balance of a high wire artist and the depth of a deep sea diver.
4: Beef Short Ribs
Betony, New York City
Short ribs are fine, but despite the skill that goes into making them, I rarely get too excited about eating them. I have never enjoyed them more than when I had them at Betony. These were absolutely swoon worthy served with a crisp sweetbread and grilled romaine lettuce. Chef Bryce Shuman may never be able to get these off the menu and that would be perfectly justified.
La Grenouillére, La Madelaine-sous-Montreuil, France
This was a two-part dish in which practically the whole lobster was served. The first part featured the claws served with pillowy potato gnocchi, "seawater" and herbs from the sea. The idea was to recreate a childhood sense of being splashed by the sea. The other part of the lobster service featured the succulent tail delivered amongst smoldering juniper boughs with the tail to be eaten by hand. The lobster was as delicious as lobster gets with absolutely perfect texture. The delivery could not have been more magical, especially with the smoldering juniper marching through the darkly lit dining room towards our table.
2: Grapes and Olives
Atera - Matthew Lightner
This spectacularly delicious dish was surprising, creative and a masterpiece of visual deception. As I wrote, "While it turned out that all of the orbs were Jupiter grapes, it was not readily apparent before eating them that at least some of them might not have been olives too as visually the grapes looked quite similar to olives. Instead the olives were present as a tapenade under the grapes as well as with olive oil. An unintuitive combination to me, the dish was sublime with a perfect sweet/savory balance."
1: Scallop and Avocado
Saison, San Francisco
This dish clearly blew my mind. The flavors were familiar, but pristine and perfect. It started with the wonderful briny sweetness of a perfect, fresh scallop that morphed seamlessly into a finish of the very best avocado flavor that one could hope for. All the while, the mouthfeel of the dish was soft and lush with one element totally indistinguishable from another. The effect was totally brilliant and delicious in every respect.