THEY are charged with dishing up our favourite plates at our favourite restaurants, but what tickled the tastebuds of Melbourne’s favourite chefs this year?
From smoked parfait at Embla to lamb at Brae (and a sea corn taco or two along the way), here are the best things they ate around town — and the world — in 2016
Gary Mehigan, MasterChef judge/The Boathouse
The cilbir at Tulum restaurant in Balaclava is, for me, the ultimate comfort food.
It’s gooey and crispy and ticks those boxes. It’s a very clever take on a Turkish classic dish of eggs and yoghurt.
The flavour combination of lemon beurre noisette (brown butter), soft egg, crispy chicken skin, milk solids, soft creamy yoghurt — it’s bowl-lockable. You want to scrape as much as you can out of it with the Turkish bread. I’m terrible, but when I have a delicious dish, they’re like shooters (shots). Give me another one!
Frank Camorra, MoVida
The confit carrot at Provenance, Beechworth. Served with golden raisins, almond milk and beef crumble, it’s such a humble ingredient transformed into something incredible.
Also Capretto at Sosta Cucina, North Melbourne. Milk-fed goat on the bone, wild fennel, wine and pecorino, this is the perfect comfort dish for me. Succulent, rich and tasty.
Clinton McIver, Amaru
The Flinders Island lamb with onion, acidic herbs and eggplant cooked in chocolate at Brae.
Nicky Riemer, Union Dining
The best thing I ate was freshly made ricotta at Giorgio Linguanti’s That’s Amore mozzarella factory, because it reminded me why I love cooking so much. That moment when you eat something that is so fresh and delicious and made by someone who truly loves what they do.
As to where I ate that was amazing, I still remember my trip to New York in January earlier this year. I had dinner at Balthazar. The food was ‘classic’ and full of flavour; the service was perfect and engaging. One of those dining experiences when it just all came together perfectly and I didn’t want it to end.
Chris Wade, Steak Ministry
My most memorable dish was burnt crumpets, smoked eel butter and honey at Lume in South Melbourne. It was the most modern, classy cooking l have seen in Melbourne for a while. It was our first course, kind of like a bread course, and l just thought wow, what a cool, modern interpretation.
Ashley Davis, Copper Pot
One of the best things I ate this year was the rabbit pappardelle with hazelnuts at Tipo 00 in the city. Just so simple and done so well, which I believe is the essence of good European cuisine. With a nice glass of pinot it was a quick solo lunch that stuck in my mind.
My most memorable meal experience was however at Brae which was as much about the food as it was the produce and sense of place. If you go there do lunch and stay the night — it turns it into a weekend away.
Ian Curley, French Saloon/Kirk’s/The European
I was lucky enough to eat at The Clove Club and also St. John in London. Obviously having bone marrow with Fergus Henderson was a highlight but at Clove Club we had a duck dish that was fantastic as it came in three parts. We have sort of copied it in our own way for a dish at The European and our version sells really well also. On the subject of duck, I had two great dishes in Melbourne: one at The Pantry in Brighton and also Cafe Di Stasio in St Kilda.
Matt McConnell, Bar Lourinha
Babajan in North Carlton is a perfect local eatery serving truly honest food with upfront Turkish flavours that take me back to Istanbul. The ali nazik, or grilled skirt steak with eggplant, burnt butter and yoghurt, has amazing layers of flavours.
Paul Wilson, Wilson + Market
I was not a fan of crayfish — until Dainty Sichuan in South Yarra prepared an incredible dish from their new menu for my birthday. Stir-fried partially shelled chunks of live crayfish Kong Pau style with young ginger, fermented chilli, wild garlic and fresh Sichuan peppercorns. Perfectly cooked sweet unctuous lobster coated in savoury, spicy a romantic mind-blowing sauce that silenced the room. I am salivating thinking about it!
Shane Delia, Maha/Biggie Smalls
The smoked parfait at Embla. Light and fluffy with just enough sweetness to make it sexy. I love the light smoked flavour, and it puts a nice spin on a classic dish that I always have and will always love. Also, the little wafer thin croutons were also perfect. Simple classic flavours done perfectly. It’s the food I love to eat.
Lindsay Jones-Evans, Meatworks Co
The fish dumplings at ShanDong MaMa mini in the city are plump, thin skinned dumplings — the way they should be! They exploded with delicious juice at the slightest bite, all in the mouth at once, no nibbling! Average well-worn Chinese canteen decor, modest price, no frills but great food. Perfect!
Martin Zozaya, El Atino & Co.
The morcilla at Chulo Bar De Tapas, St Kilda, sums up what is true “soul and passion” food. Chef Pablo Diaz has amazing cooking experience, and you can really taste it in his dishes.
Adam D’Sylva, Tonka/Coda
A dish that has rocked my boat all year, which I pretty much have eaten every week without fail, is the sopressa pizza at Il Pizzaiolo in Thornbury. One of the best pizza bases topped with San Marzano tomatoes, black olives, roasted red peppers and mozzarella.
Casey McDonald, McConnell Group
The whipped tofu at Anchovy in Richmond is so savoury and more-ish and had perfect balance. Nice heat from Sichuan pepper, simple fresh leaves and broccoli cooked perfectly. I could have eaten it four times.
Matthew Butcher, Morris Jones & Co
My favourite dish this year was at Lume. The sea corn taco with grilled camel hump — amazing.
Not only does it look like look like baby corn (that’s actually crab), it’s most flavoursome dish I have had this year in Melbourne.
I also got to eat at Alinea in Chicago this year and it was best dinner of my life, especially first dessert course called “nostalgia”. Based on a childhood memory, this dish was bubblegum, strawberry and vanilla cake, cherry banana sorbet and a banana balloon! Absolutely mind blowing.
Glenn Laurie, Little Black Pig & Sons
I head to Lee Lee Hot Bread on Victoria St, Richmond, whenever I get the chance and grab probably the best banh mi around.
** Matt McConnell, Frank Camorra and Ian Curley are just some of the many local, Australian and international chefs taking part in the 2017 Melbourne Food and Wine Festival that runs March 31-April 9. For full program of events, visit mfwf.com.au