I enjoyed so many wonderful, creative dishes in 206. There were numerous examples of dishes that harnessed impressive creative drives, often in the same meal. The dishes here were not just imaginative. They were also beautifully presented and above all, deliciously unique, at least to my experience, even if they utilized specific cultural influences as their base. I limited my choices for this compilation to no more than one dish from any given meal. These dishes are representative of cooking as art, but without giving up anything in terms of ultimate deliciousness. That remains, for me, the ultimate barometer of a successful dish. The artistry is utilized for elevation.
08036, Carrer de Villarroel, 163, 08036 Barcelona, Spain
+34 933 48 68 96
Mexican flavors and cuisine have burst out of their home country and are being found around the world, more and more often of great quality. Spain has recently begun to embrace the traditional cooking of its former colony with top quality Mexican restaurants in cities like Barcelona and Madrid. An even larger sign of the rise of this fabulous cuisine is its presence on menus outside of the expected. This “Cochinita Pibil” at Disfrutar captured the wonderful, deep and intricate flavors of the traditional dish, but with a presentation that could only have come from some of the great Vanguardist minds born of elBulli.
Duck with Green Coconut and Tamarind
Inferno Pizzeria Napoletana
12207 Darnestown Rd, Darnestown, MD 20878
Chef Tony Conte is no stranger to my Top Dishes of the Year posts and he has scored another here with this exquisitely balanced and delicious dish, in which the already great ingredients work synergistically together to create one of the most delicious duck dishes that I’ve ever had.
Karawaki Soft Shell Crab
11 White’s Row, London E1 7NF, UK
+44 20 7426 0542
Another game changer – the soft-shell was fried perfectly and spiced exquisitely to enhance the underlying crab flavor without obliterating it. Their Maa’s Lamb Chops could have made this list as well.
Jimbocho Den/Contra Dinner at Contra
Other than the cutesie Pac-Man cut out root vegetables, this salad doesn’t really look like anything out of the ordinary, but extraordinary it was, as remarkable and delicious a leafy salad as perhaps I’ve ever had. The DFC fried chicken wing was a close contender, but the surprise factor of the salad pushed it over the top.
Ice Cream & Caviar
Pineapple and Pearls
715 8th St SE, Washington, DC 20003
How decadent can one get? Ice cream and caviar are two indulgent products and at Pineapple and Pearls they were combined to create one grand indulgence that could have easily failed. It didn’t. The combination was fresh, delicious and impeccably balanced. To top it off, the presentation was magnificent!
Raw Orkney Scallop, Hazelnut, Clementine and Manjimup Truffle
The Clove Club
Shoreditch Town Hall, 380 Old St, London EC1V 9LT, UK
+44 20 7729 6496
The menu at The Clove Club tends to change seasonally and even daily. One exception to that rule is their Scallop and Truffle dish, which has become that bane of a creative restaurant’s existence, the signature dish! Well, that really isn’t a bad thing to have, especially when it is purely delicious as this dish is. Personally, I like to have a signature dish or two that I can reliably return to amongst a cornucopia of new.
Eggs From Our Hens, cooked inside out and truffled
Legina Auzoa, s/n, 48195 Larrabetzu, Bizkaia, Spain
+34 944 55 88 66
I like truffles quite a bit when not overused. That sounds odd, but I do believe that there can be too much of a good thing. The flavor of the truffle can overpower many other ingredients and if every dish contains truffles, I find that, no matter how delicious the truffles may be, for me the overall impact of the meal is reduced. That said, a truffled dish or two within a meal can be magical. That was certainly the case at Azurmendi, where this truffled egg yolk has achieved near mythical status and for good reason. It represents Vanguardismo at its finest.
Beef Short Rib
Amazing flavors and stunning texture made this dish even more extraordinary than previous, fabulous iterations of beef short rib here. I didn’t think that was possible! Alas, there will be no future iterations, at least not at this restaurant, which served its last guests on December 31st, 2016.
Carob Beans Furniya and its Pods
Calle Pablo Ruiz Picasso, 8, 14014 Córdoba, Spain
+34 957 96 40 55
Back in the 1970’s and 1980’s it seemed poised to be the next big thing and even compete with King Chocolate. Then, perhaps because of its association with “health food”, it lost it’s luster, at least in the US. Carob is a great flavor that has become all but extinct within the fine dining world. This fabulous dessert shows why it needs to make a comeback.
sea scallop espuma, chive, truffle pearls, gruyere, oscetra caviar
223 NW 23rd Street, Miami, FL 33127
Sultry, sexy and totally satisfying! I needed a cigarette after this dish and I don’t smoke. This dish is all about combining flavor and texture in sense-tingling ways.
Lightly Grilled Cabbage, winter squash, caramelized saurkraut, toasted seeds and a broth of dried apples
200 Washington St, Providence, RI 02903
Creativity and deliciousness in every respect – this dish took relatively mundane ingredients and elevated them to celestial levels both in terms of gustatory pleasure and visual artistry.
Espai Kru by Rias de Galicia
Carrer de Lleida, 7, 08004 Barcelona, Spain
+34 934 23 45 70
Squid noodles with a spicy tomato sauce that did not miss the pasta. I did not miss the guilt either. This dish was brilliant, beautiful and delicious. I’ve had squid noodles before, but never quite as wonderful as these.
Pipián Papanteco with King Crab
Av. de Mistral, 54, 08015 Barcelona, Spain
+34 933 48 21 92
A dish as beautiful as it was delicious. For those who feel that Mexican cooking should be cheap and lacks luxury, I give you this remarkable dish featuring rich, cold water king crab paired with one of Mexico’s pre-eminent sauces, the pipián, with both coming off the better by the union. The rich, velvety sauce coats the proud shellfish flesh with the culinary equivalent of an ermine robe. Stupendous!
Egg Yolk Soaked in Salted Licorice with Yogurt Meringue
177 N Ada St #101, Chicago, IL 60607
There were quite a few dishes from this amazing meal that could have been on this list. I was torn between this dish and the squab, but chose Karen Urie’s amazing dessert, because it blew me away between its conceptual appeal, it’s balletic balance, its minimalist beauty and above all, it’s utter deliciousness. I have, for health reasons, limited my dessert interactions, but this one and all of Karen’s desserts, could not, nor should not be resisted! It was also my favorite dessert of the year!
Café de Paris Oyster
Aponiente Ángel León
C/ Francisco Cossi Ochoa, s/n, 11500 El Puerto de Sta María, Cádiz, Spain
+34 956 85 18 70
Featuring a local ostión from nearby Cadiz and a sprinkle of plankton, the dish is rich, artistic and totally delicious. The plating itself was gorgeous, but this would have made it here with even a more mundane setting. Chef Angel León’s use of things like plankton and oysters from less well known oyster regions is notable not just because he’s using them, but because he’s making such fantastically delicious dishes from them.
Pulpo a la Brasa con Patatas Canarias
Carrer de Tamarit, 91, 08015 Barcelona, Spain
+34 933 25 26 59
Ingeniously prepared and presented, this crisp exterior, tender interior cephalopod was quite possibly the most delicious octopus that I have ever eaten. The potatoes weren’t terrible either!
Gamba Marinada en Vinaigre de Arroz
El Celler de Can Roca
Calle Can Sunyer, 48, 17007 Girona, Spain
+34 972 22 21 57
Perfect ingredients prepared perfectly and creatively to a devastatingly delicious effect.
Asparagus en Vessie
Eleven Madison Park
Metropolitan Life North Building, 11 Madison Ave, New York, NY 10010
Chef Daniel Humm has talked about simplifying and minimizing the appearance of his plates without sacrificing the deliciousness of the dish. This deceptively complex dish centered around a serving of a single asparagus spear may be the epitome of that approach, utilizing a time honored, classic French technique for cooking poultry and translating it to vegetable cookery to make a very familiar ingredient into one that was simply astounding!
Pizza Crujiente con Stracciatella di Bufala and Gofre Aereo de Albahaca
Quite simply, the perfect pizza. This is the essence of Vanguardia at its very best – to take a well loved and well known dish, break it down to its essential components and make it better than it ever was. This dish involved three different components. The first, a basil and mozzarella di bufala loaded gofre or waffle was to be eaten first. This was followed by placing the mozzarella di bufala atop the crisp wafer that had been cooked with tomato, basil and other cheese. The result was startlingly delicious, doing for pizza, what the spherical olives did for olives. The fullness of the flavors and perfection of texture were extraordinary and left a long, lingering, luscious finish.
Urbanización El Poblet, Calle Rascassa, 1, 03700 Dénia, Alicante, Spain
+34 965 78 41 79
This dish, pure poetry, captured the essence of the marcona almond-rich region by paying homage to the brief micro-season when the almond flowers blossom and quickly fall away to the ground. The dish uses various aspects of the almond in a savory turrón combined with other local elements such as an underlying flavor bomb of local gambas patos and a local pumpkin sauce, like a soy sauce. The presentation was completed with a soft rain of almond blossom petals upon the turrón.