Another year is about to come to a conclusion, and it’s time for the annual roundup of my top 25 best dishes of 2018. If you follow me on Instagram, you may have seen me travel to a total of eighteen countries in the last 52 weeks, seven of which are places I had not previously visited. It’s been a record year for me in terms of travels in the Nordics – Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, and Iceland – having been to all the countries and their capital cities. Plus four trips to Norway’s second largest city – Bergen. A city I hadn’t returned to since my student days ten years ago. The city I visited the most, however, apart from Oslo where I live, was Copenhagen. A total of nine visits to the Danish capital and I squeezed in a meal at Noma almost every time. Eight meals make it the most visited restaurant of the year, three times during the seafood season, three times during the vegetable season, and twice during the game- and forest season. I’ve gathered my videos from all three meals here. My YouTube channel hit the 10.000 subscribers milestone recently, so make sure to hit that subscribe button if you haven’t already.
This is one of the very few lists I choose to publish in ranked order, but please don’t put too much into it. No. 25 and no. 11 is not too far apart, really. Apart from that, I will follow the same rules as I laid out last year. The dishes have to be 1) from a restaurant that is currently still open, 2) from the regular menu, and not from a special event, and 3) extraordinarily memorable.
No. 25 – Dong Men Ding Food Street in Shenzhen, China
On my first ever visit to China, we met up with my good friends Markus and Elisabeth who produces Rescue Juice from their base in Shenzhen. They took us to one of their favorite hawker centers, Dong Men Ding Food Street, where we had one of the tastiest little snacks of the year. A Shanghai style pan-fried soup bao – Sheng Jian Bao. Hot pork meat and broth inside a steamed and fried bao – the breadier cousin of the soup dumpling – Xiao Long Bao.
No. 24 – Katla in Oslo, Norway
My favorite casual restaurant in Oslo, Pjoltergeist, closed its doors for good in June 2018. Only a few months later, in late August, chef Atli Már Yngvason opened up his new project Katla. There are so many delicious dishes on his current menu that it’s hard to choose, but one dish I loved from the first bite due to its apparent simplicity (which is actually quite complex) is the blue corn tostadas with fresh guacamole. The avocado mixture is made to order and tastes like straight out of Mexico. I’ve never tasted more crispy tostadas anywhere.
No. 23 – Gorynych in Moscow, Russia
Chef Vladimir Mukhin’s (White Rabbit) casual place Gorynich in Moscow, surprised with me one of the most delightful breakfast dishes I have ever tasted – buttery brioche toast with fluffy scrambled eggs topped with juicy and sweet king crab. Chopped chives and a squeeze of lime to finish. I could have eaten five of these.
No. 22 – Pedro’s in Oslo, Norway
In a tiny wine bar in little Oslo, a young Portuguese chef with big dreams is cooking up some really delicious food. His latest menu at Pedro’s blew me away. My favorite dish was the skate wing with savoy cabbage, lemon zest, brown butter and soy sauce with capers.
No. 21 – Selfie in Moscow, Russia
In March, I tasted the Russian chef Anatoly Kazakov’s food for the first time on a yacht in Croatia. A delicious dish of crab, apple purée, and shellfish sauce. He made that for me when I visited him at his restaurant Selfie in Moscow too, but my favorite on the menu this day was a creamy sheep cheese with raw cauliflower and black truffle.
No. 20 – 108 in Copenhagen, Denmark
108 is one of my favorite restaurants in Copenhagen and a natural place for me to swing by on my food walk of the city during the Copenhagen Cooking & Food Festival. That’s when we had one of the best dishes of the year – roasted kelp ice cream with hazelnut oil and caviar.
No. 19 – Gaggan in Bangkok, Thailand
Gaggan is mad! His creativity has no borders. Who thinks of making a carrot waffle and fill it with foie gras? Eaten with a spray of yuzu in your hand for a marvelous aroma.
No. 18 – Imperial Treasure (Paragon Mall) in Singapore
They may be best known for their Peking duck at Imperial Treasure in Singapore, but the crispy suckling pig skin with hoisin sauce served on a fluffy bao was the highlight for me.
No. 17 – Studio in Copenhagen, Denmark
Torsten Vildgaard left his baby, the one-Michelin-starred restaurant Studio, to return as executive chef of his friend René Redzepi’s restaurant Noma. The young sous chef Damian Quintana had to step up and take over, and he mastered that task remarkably. I haven’t yet written my review, but do check out what Rasmus Palsgård had to say (article in Danish). One of the highlights of the meal was the Danish squid with beach plants, brown butter, and white miso served with a sauce of kaffir lime oil and gooseberry juice. Wow!
No. 16 – Mott 32 in Hong Kong
I’m not gonna claim to be an expert on Asian cuisine in general or Hong Kong restaurants specifically, I can only say that the char siu at Mott 32 is the best I have ever tasted. So juicy, sweet, and caramelized that you’re left craving more with every bite.
No. 15 – Maaemo in Oslo, Norway
Maaemo in Oslo served me the best dish in 2017, but that was a record year for me with five visits. I’ve only been twice in 2018, and I know their dishes so well now that it’s probably harder to impress me. However, among many new highlights, I’ve selected the king crab from Finnmark, fried in butter, with nasturtium and honey.
No. 14 – Tango in Stavanger, Norway
Tango re-located in 2018 from their four-story building on the waterfront and moved in with their casual sister restaurant Fish & Cow. This also meant a change to the concept, since they allocated fewer seats for their fine dining restaurant, and could up their gastronomical level. That was evident in the menu on a recent visit. Among many great dishes, my favorite was the perfectly cooked reindeer sirloin with ceps mushrooms, lingonberries, smoked reindeer heart, and a sauce mounted with brown butter.
No. 13 – Haku in Hong Kong
Haku in Hong Kong is a Japanese-inspired restaurant by Argentinian-born chef Augustin Balbi. One of his signature dishes is a combination of cauliflower, lobster, and caviar. So much deliciousness!
No. 12 – Nolla in Helsinki, Finland
I was gently mind blown by the dishes I got served at the little neighborhood restaurant Nolla in Helsinki. Despite a strict zero waste ideology (hence the name Nolla, which means Zero in Finnish), they make no compromises on flavors and a balance in taste and textures. One example is the basil cake with sugar ice cream. Sounds too green and too sweet? It’s not. In fact, it balances precisely on that knife’s edge between salty and sweet. Just amazing. The restaurant is currently re-locating and expected opening is February 2019.
No. 11 – Skál in Reykjavik, Iceland
I still remember taking the first bite into the carrot toast at Skál in Reykjavik and looking my friend André Brandt in the eyes, the both of us thinking: “What the f*%k did we just eat?” Smoked carrots cooked in soy and seaweed salt from Saltverk, on grilled toast with lemon and lovage vegenaise, and dill tasted like a good Spanish sandwich with Pata Negra ham. I kid you not.
No. 10 – Grøn in Helsinki, Finland
Another favorite restaurant on my recent Helsinki visit was restaurant Grön by chef Toni Kostian. I loved his tasting menu and one of the truly standout dishes was his tomato tart. Concentrated umami, sweetness, and saltiness.
No. 9 – Kadeau in Copenhagen, Denmark
Kadeau just got their second star in Copenhagen, which is well-deserved and something I predicted would happen already back in 2016. One of the dishes they have perfected for almost three years, and which I’ve witness become just better and better, is their cold- and hot smoked salmon with apples and a juice of plums, carrots, and raspberries.
No. 8 – Zén in Singapore
By chance, I was in Singapore two days after the grand opening of Zén – Björn Frantzén’s latest project in Asia. I’m happy to say that the experience is very close to the three-Michelin-starred big brother in Stockholm, and I would expect, at least, two stars to be handed out here in 2019. Among many highlights was the red deer tartar with argan oil, finger lime, and Zén prestige caviar.
No. 7 – Noma in Copenhagen, Denmark
Redzepi’s three seasons – one more breathtaking than the other. Noma progressed from seafood to vegetables and ended with the game- and forest season. The latter was my favorite menu all-in-all, but the top dish came from the plant kingdom. Caramelized milk skin, cheese, and summer truffles.
No. 6 – Londrino in London, UK
One of my top discoveries in London this year, thanks to the recommendation of my friend LondonEater (seriously, check out his site!), was Londrino. Portuguese chef Leandro Carreira has a background from, amongst other, Mugaritz in San Sebastian. The creativity and playfulness is evident in his dishes. One bite into the cinnamon brioche with crab tempura and I knew it was going on this list.
No. 5 – Sanchez in Copenhagen, Denmark
I love Rosio Sanchez’ new restaurant at Vesterbro in Copenhagen. Her cinnamon-sugar churros, with vanilla- and mezcal parfait, bitter cream and orange zest brings me to my knees. One of my all-time favorite desserts! When are you going back to rock the pastry section at Noma again, Rosio?
No. 4 – Ernst in Berlin, Germany
Not all 38 courses at Ernst in Berlin are outstanding, but those who really shine will stick to your memory for a long time. Rarely, have I tasted a more perfect salted milk ice cream topped with two single, preserved raspberries. The young chef Dylan Watson-Brawn has a clever way of using salt in his dishes. I love it.
No. 3 – Kadeau on Bornholm, Denmark
Kadeau on Bornholm may only have one star, compared to its two-starred younger brother in Copenhagen, but on my particular visit this year, the menu was stronger on the little Danish island. Amongst a series of outstanding dishes, I wanna highlight the Bornholmian pancake made from leftover porridge, topped with local cheese and seasonal, edible flowers. My goodness!
No. 2 – Marchal in Copenhagen, Denmark
I’ve said it countless times – chef Andreas Bagh at Marchal in Hotel d’Angleterre is one of the most underrated chefs in the Nordic dining scene. Few chefs have such an impeccable sense of flavor balance. His luxurious and modern take on French fine dining is one of my absolute favorite experiences in Copenhagen at the moment. One particular dish left me speechless. The best turbot dish I have had the pleasure of eating, with zucchini, baby cucumbers, lemon zest, and an entire box of Rossini caviar.
No. 1 – Frantzén in Stockholm, Sweden
The current menu and experience at Frantzén in Stockholm is the closest I’ve come to a flawless meal in my eating career thus far. I literally cannot put my finger on any dishes I would change or take out, and I would even struggle to criticize most other elements of the dining experience. It’s extremely difficult to pick one dish among so many marvelous ones, but the dessert by pastry chef Cecilia Tolone, of tea, milk, and honey was one of the most memorable oh-my-goodness-moments.
What were your favorite dishes in 2018? Please share in a comment below.