Each year CTbites posts its favorites from the previous year. For 2016 I decided on drafting the list of new dishes that I was lucky enough to have placed in front of me by some pretty talented chefs. For the entire staff’s picks look here
My favorite dishes in 2016 ranged from a chicken sandwich to pasta with crab and sea urchin butter. The food was smoked, braised, quickly seared, fried, raw, served between two slices of bread, on a porcelain plate, in a bowl, on an aluminum tray and a paper plate; all were bold and balanced. It was quite a diverse year for me. My Top-10 alphabetically.
Ch’i Public – Tuna Tartare - The diced tuna was encased in a ring of thinly sliced cucumbers, topped with thin wedges of avocado, small mounds of red and black fish roe, micro greens and plated with dollops of wasabi cream, yuzu and cucumber-lime sauce. The array of differing and complementing flavors was flawless.
The Cottage – Wagyu Steamed Buns – Take a couple of sweet and delicious steamed buns, add slices of outrageous fall-apart tender brisket and top with a little spicy Napa cabbage kimchee, a delightful aioli and you have the perfect start to the meal, plus a side of duck fat potato tempura.
elm – Gnocchetti Sardi - This over-the-top pasta just exploded with flavors from the tomatoes and sweet chunks of crab, but the addition of the sea urchin butter elevated this rendition to an incredibly outstanding level. It was one of the best pastas I have ever eaten.
Hapa Food Truck – Ahi Burger - The tuna was unbelievable with deep flavors from the caramelized onions and the blue ube bun. Plus, the aioli, edamame puree, lettuce and tomato rounded out this great sandwich.
Harlan Publick - Foie Gras Stuffed Duck Meatballs - Start with a super-rich duck meatball and then increase the decadence with the inclusion of foie gras. And if that wasn’t enough serve this combination with balsamic sauced Cipollini onions and finish with a cherry jus.
Liberty Rock – Chicken Sandwich - It does not get better than this sandwich. The thin cutlet was covered in a scant breading, served on white toast with a slice of melted American cheese, B&B pickles, pickled Jalapeno pepper, thick bacon slices, Ranch dressing and cottage crinkled cottage fries. The flavors and balance were seamless.
Locali – Umami Meatballs – These were my favorite new meatballs of 2016. They were soft, barely holding together, and fell apart under the slightest fork pressure. They were paired with stracciatella, creamy polenta and pancetta for increased richness and creaminess and delivered great flavor.
Mason Dixon – Pork Belly – These large pork cubes set a new standard. They almost completely meat with nearly all of the fat slowly rendered out. There was a thin layer of skin that was lightly crisped, just giving that little cracklin’ crunch when bit into.
Soul Tasty – Shrimp & Grits - A bowl of delicious grits was topped with well-seasoned shrimp, with a little sauce drizzled on top. The shrimp were firm, with a little spice and the grits were perfectly cooked, balanced between creamy and a little crunch.
South End - Corn Chowder with Rock Shrimp Soup – This fantastic creamy cream-less rendition achieved its lusciousness from the “milk” from the corn rinds and then the flavors were elevated with rock shrimp, Benton bacon, shitake mushrooms and leeks.