The best of meals, you remember for a long, long time.
The very thought arouses the memory’s tastebuds, accompanied by a sweet sigh of taste recollections.
The longer the memory lasts, the better the original must have been. Here are my Weekly Dish highlights from 2019.
From Cyrille Koppert’s new Partake, for example, way back last January, I have total recall of the ever-changing complimentary snack given to all guests before dinners are ordered. Not silly old popcorn or peanuts, but, that night, mushroom and melted brie combo on toast. How to start right!
At the Gui Lin Noodle House on 97 Street was the lightest, most fragrant beef noodle soup I can remember, thanks to orange zest and the addition of an exceptional fruit never before tasted, especially in a soup.
More recent was the black cod dish at Braven Steakhouse in the JW Marriott Hotel, just a few weeks ago. The rich, earthy sauce flavoured with Newfoundland screech, maple syrup and sumac spice was a sublime match with the black cod flavour and texture, making this the TOP TASTE of the year.
The Butternut Tree earned the only five out of five Sun rating for food of the 60 or so restaurants reviewed in this column this past year. The roasted Sunchoke root vegetable with smoked asparagus was the most perfect of the perfects.
Revel chef Kunal Sawhney’s pureed dahl soup, poured table-side as to submerge a pakora within the soup bowl then topped with shredded cucumber and mint raita, is a candidate for smoothest dish ever.
That a burger should make this best-of-taste list is surprising, especially given the current glut of burger bars and pizzerias. But the Woodshed Burger’s signature burger, The Woodshed, was as all-around best a burger as you will ever find. And this has nothing to do with the fact Woodshed Burger owner Paul Shufelt also writes about food for this newspaper. Honest.
Moving down just a smidgen of a notch …
The only wagyu meat in Dorinku Osaka’s wagyu curry rice was wagyu beef fat and pureed trimmings, but it was enough to transform the curry liquid into smoky magic.
From the same evening as the black cod, the 12-ounce roast beef at Braven: How can one roast beef be head and shoulders above any other? A great gravy helped.
From unexpected places: The Polar Park brew pub’s steak tartar, with its mustard seed pops; Uncle Sam’s sticky fried chicken at Louisiana Purchase North, oh so sweet and knobbly; the unabashed gooeyness and crunch of Amore Pasta Downtown’s aranchini-coated mac & cheese balls.
Tzin’s been making its crostini toast topped with bacon, maple, balsamic, apple mayo and apple brandy for years. But familiarity does not distract from all-star flavour.
Formosa Taiwanese Bistro has much going for it, but my food memory zeros in on its qua bao – a generous slice of tender pork belly garnished with cilantro, peanut sauce and an egg on top, stuffed into the freshest and lightest of bao buns.
Most unexpected: The food quality at the year-round, open-to-the-public Highlands Golf Club restaurant, especially when chef Vikram Redgaonkar slipped four hot, breaded fried oysters into his otherwise cool but delicious seafood torpedo roll.
Best food fair taste: Pampa’s chimichurri-sauced, slow-cooked brisket slices at the Taste of Edmonton, with super-smooth coconut-infused mashed potatoes underneath. Wow!
Truly different: A veggie dish at the new and terrific Brasserie Bardot, where hot but still-crisp chopped veggies were layered into an open puff pastry, topped with a savoury (not sweet) whipped crème fraiche, in turn topped by Dijon mustard. An Edmonton original!
The list goes on. End each conjures up a lasting food memory: The Scotch egg at London Local; Sofra’s pastirmi sarma, being goat cheese and figs rolled inside Turkish pastrami; The Korean fried chicken sandwich at Campio brew pub; Famoso’s surprisingly tasty oven-roasted chicken wings, not-deep-fried-but-tasting-like-deep-fried; Lyon’s (Packrat Louie – re-named and re-invented) shoulder rack of lamb; the beef kofta, chicken and lamb combo at Turquaz Kebab House.
Restaurateurs of Edmonton, thank you for the memories. They live on and on and on.