The Docsconz 15 Most Transcendent Restaurant Dishes of 2014

BU4A0071This is an extremely difficult list to put together. I’ve had so many wonderful dishes over the past year, I hate to exclude the many outstanding dishes that I enjoyed. Many a meal had more than one or even a few dishes worthy of consideration, but I limited the selection to no more than one dish from any given restaurant and in some cases a whole class of great food was epitomized within a particular example. Some of the dishes were straightforward expressions of outstanding product prepared with great skill, while others were more elaborate in their preparation. The basic commonality was absolute deliciousness. For me, these were the best of the best, the most thoroughly transcendent restaurant dishes I ate in 2014!

  1. Bodega 1900 – Grilled Pluma Ibérico – My trip to Spain last January proved to be a porcine paradise. The Spanish Cerdo Ibérico, is, as far as I’m concerned, the world’s greatest pig for eating, especially after it has feasted on an abundance of bellotas (acorns) while out on the dehesa.The meat is marvelous both cured and fresh and I reveled in my fill of both throughout the trip. The best of the best, though was the grilled Joselito Pluma Ibérico at Bodega 1900, Albert Adria’s spectacular Vermuteria in Barcelona. This was pure deliciousness and as close to actual perfection as a food can be. It represents the summation of all of the porcine product I devoured in Spain, which was just outstanding from top to bottom.

    La Pluma Iberico

    La Pluma Iberico

  2. Laurel BYOB – Squab “en Vessie” – Cooking fowl in a pig’s bladder is a classic technique, most commonly associated with the far from common Poulet Bresse of France. When done well, that is a truly delicious dish, in which the fully cooked chicken is moist and full of flavor. Chef Nicholas Elmi put a twist on that classic by substituting a whole squab in lieu of the chicken. That’s pretty cool in and of itself, but not what landed it here on this list. The squab was stunningly delicious, recalibrating my benchmark for the bird, which happens to be one of my favorites for eating.

    Squab "en vessie"

    Squab “en vessie”

  3. Atera – Rose Petals, Fluke and Artichoke – Chef Matt Lightner is a master of manipulating ingredients to look like one thing and taste like something else. He is also a master of creating beautiful and delicious food. This particular dish was a sublime marriage of flowers and fish, integrating their textures, colors and flavors in such a way that they were happily harmonious and soul-searchingly sensuous. This was the most stunning dish of a most stunning meal.

    Rose, Fluke, Artichoke

    Rose, Fluke, Artichoke

  4. Pujol – Madre Mole – The dish couldn’t look simpler, but simple it is not. It is a melodious mix of complex flavors that have melded, solera style for over a year and those that were fresher and more forward. Served in minimalist fashion only with the epitome of corn tortillas, the net result was a summation of magical Mexican culinary power and prowess.

    Madre Mole

    Madre Mole

  5. Bar Las Campuestas – Grilled fish is elemental, involving fire, flesh and a few flavor enhancers. In the middle of a marsh at a small restaurant devoted to a small Andalucian fishing fleet, the seafood is pristine. The “capitán, a whole fish of the region, came to our table whole for viewing then returned butterflied and gloriously grilled to utter greatness.

    Fresh fish

    Fresh fish

  6. Sylvain – Veal Sweetbreads – When I read the description of “buffalo style” sweetbreads, I almost didn’t order them. Instead, we ordered a dish to share amongst the table. These wondrous orbs of delight were sensational! The exteriors were nice and crisp, while the interiors were pillows of pleasure. The savory sauce served to balance and cut the richness while adding sufficient flavor to effect a swoon from each of the four of us who shared them. Chef Alex Harrell, reset the bar of another favorite food. Of course, we ordered more.

    The sensational Buffalo Style Sweetbreads at Sylvain.

    The sensational Buffalo Style Sweetbreads at Sylvain.

  7. Cosme – Husk Meringue and Corn Mousse – My favorite dessert of the year, this was a tour de force of flavor and balance with enough sweetness to qualify it as a dessert, but also spectacular depth of flavor not overshadowed by the sweetness. Brilliant!

    Husk Meringue and Corn Mousse at Cosme

    Husk Meringue and Corn Mousse at Cosme

  8. Birch – Rhode Island Fluke – As beautiful as it was delicious, it was a dish that depended upon a few excellent ingredients artfully put together. The effect was pure pleasure.

    Raw Rhode Island Fluke

    Raw Rhode Island Fluke

  9. Estela – Cherry Tomatoes – Served with dried shrimp and garlic, this was the very definition of late summer dining. Many tomatoes are are excellent in August and September, but Chef Ignacio Mattos’ treatment of them brought out all of their most positive characteristics, redefining the pleasures of the fruit.

    Cherry Tomatoes with dried shrimp and garlic at Estela

    Cherry Tomatoes with dried shrimp and garlic at Estela

  10. Semilla – I don’t eat a lot of bread anymore because, as a diabetic, the carbs just typically aren’t worth it. For Pamela Yung’s Einkorn bread served with butter and buttermilk, the carbs in an entire loaf would have been oh, so worth it!

    Pamela Yung's most delicious Einkorn bread

    Pamela Yung’s most delicious Einkorn bread

  11. Daikaya – Grilled Avocado – So deceptively simple, but another game changer! Gorgeous avocados are grilled and served with house made ponzu, fresh wasabi and nori salt.

    Grilled Avocado

    Grilled Avocado

  12. Betony – Fluke/Squid – This dish highlighted a wonderful play of flavors and textures of two immaculate seafood items abetted by a few additional luscious ingredients.

    Fluke/Squid at Betony

    Fluke/Squid at Betony

  13. Pakta – Fish Sanguchito/Fried Rockfish – these are two separate dishes, but they both highlight exquisitely fried fish. In the end, the sanguchito wins the spot as my favorite sandwich of the year.

    Fish “sanguchito” with nikkei “acevichada” mayonnaise

    Fish “sanguchito” with nikkei “acevichada” mayonnaise

  14. Rose’s Luxury – Rigatoni, parmiggiano cream and truffled bread crumbs – Sheer deliciousness and decadence, this was the most spectacular pasta dish of the year for me. It’s true, I don’t eat a lot of pasta anymore (see above), but when I do, I want it like this!

    Rigatoni, parmiggiano cream and truffled bread crumbs

    Rigatoni, parmiggiano cream and truffled bread crumbs

  15. Rosetta – Fried Fennel Fronds – served as an amuse, these stalks were ethereally light, airy and unlike anything I had ever been served before. The gently battered flowers were to be dipped in a light sauce then snipped from the main stem with scissors provided for that purpose and eaten. It was an extraordinary entry into a wonderful meal.

    Fried fennel fronds

    Fried fennel fronds


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6 Responses to The Docsconz 15 Most Transcendent Restaurant Dishes of 2014

  1. albanyjane says:

    Beautiful recap, Doc!

  2. jazzngas says:

    Laurel will be our most likely 2015 visit. That is
    unless Alex Harell has reopened Stella in New Orleans in time for jazz fest. Our Philly foodie niece Jess has my attention.

    • docsconz says:

      Both will be very worthy.

      Alas, the restaurant name, Stella! is no more. Chef Harrell’s new restaurant in the old Stella! space will be called Angeline and is slated for a March opening.

  3. Bob says:

    Great read, and great pic of the madre mole. I tried it in 2013 at 173 days and it was served on top of the tortilla and sprinkled with sesame seeds. I should probably go back and taste it again now. Fascinating dish. Bodega 1900 and Pakta are on my list for ASAP. Cheers!

    • docsconz says:

      Thanks! I have found that return trips to Pujol are always worthwhile. I’ll be trying Hoja Santa and Niño Viejo soon and expect no less from them than from the other A.Adriá restaurants. Cheers to you, Bob!

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