It’s that time of the year again. The moment to look back at the year that has passed, but also to scout ahead towards new adventures. In the tradition of this blog, I shall list the 25 best dishes I ate in 2017. This year, I have made a few unofficial rules in order for any dish to be able to appear on this list. I may or may not keep the first and second rule, depending on what you think, so please let me know in a comment below.
1) The dishes have to be from a restaurant that is currently still open. A place that is moving in order to re-open is ok, but not if it’s scheduled to close in 2018. Sadly, that means Pjoltergeist is out of the game, as well as Rudo and Babylon Surøl & Sushi.
2) The dishes have to be from the regular menu, and not from a special event. I want you to be able to experience them! That means Noma Mexico and Maaemo’s 7th Anniversary meal were both left out of the competition, although they would definitely have had some strong contenders.
3) The best dishes have to be extraordinarily memorable. This one is easy. I never forget the most exceptional food. That means, if you’ve made it onto the list below, you are forever in my memory.
Here they are – the 25 best dishes I was served in 2017! Please do not think too much about the rating – they were all spectacular!
No. 25 – Manteigaria Fábrica de Pastéis de Nata in Lisboa, Portugal
The Portuguese national dish, or at least dessert, Pastel de Nata, is so good that I found myself lining up for a treat every morning when we visited Lisbon. My personal favorites were the ones from the less famous shop Manteigaria, although, the classics at Pastéis de Belém are not bad at all. Check these and other recommendations in my foodie map of Lisbon.
No. 24 – Din Tai Fung in Taipei, Taiwan
Around New Year in 2016/2017, we visited Taipei in Taiwan where my brother was studying Chinese at the time. That resulted in a guide to the street food and restaurants of the capital, which included the famous Din Tai Fung. Among many great dumplings, the crab-filled ones were my favorites, right above the truffle xiaolongbaos.
No. 23 – Vinoteca Centro Storico in Serralunga d’Alba, Italy
Italian food is at its very best when the chefs don’t try to complicate things, but just let the wonderful produce speak for itself. This magnificent piece of buffalo mozzarella is the best I have ever been served, and all the help it got was from salt, olive oil, basil, and sweet tomatoes. We were recommended a visit to Vinoteca Centro Storico in Serralunga d’Alba from Jan Restorff at Søllerød Kro – thanks!
No. 22 – Brutus in Oslo, Norway
I love beets. When they are done right that is. At restaurant Brutus in Oslo, they served us oblong red beets from Alm Østre Gård that had been dehydrated – giving it a muscle fiber-like texture. Chef Arnar Jakob Gudmundsson served them in Flatkökur (Icelandic flatbread) with seaweed & Nýr. Delicious.
No. 21 – NOA Chef’s Hall in Tallinn, Estonia
Orm Oja is the future of Estonian cooking, and his restaurant, NOA Chef’s Hall, is considered the very best in Tallinn and Estonia altogether. Among the many highlights we tasted, one dish stood out in particular. BBQ pork ribs glazed with elderflower syrup and served with pickled rose petals, pickled ramson capers, fermented spruce & elderflower blossoms took me straight back to the wonderful flavors of restaurant Kadeau in Copenhagen. Umami and acidic tastes in a wonderful harmony.
No. 20 – Re-Naa in Stavanger, Norway
I enjoyed one of the best meals of 2017 at the one-Michelin-starred restaurant Re-naa in Stavanger. Choosing a favorite from all the magnificent creations of chef Sven Erik Renaa is no easy task, but, when I close my eyes, the first that comes to mind is the dehydrated red beet dish with smoked bone marrow and caviar. An explosion in taste!
No. 19 – Mume in Taipei, Taiwan
Mume is perhaps the best restaurant in Taipei, and from an evening of many hits, my favorite was something as simple as a salad. While it may look straightforward, the 20+ ingredients have such a complexity in both flavors and textures, that we almost started fighting about the two bowls that were meant for sharing.
No. 18 – Fyr Bistronomi in Oslo, Norway
My favorite dish from a dinner with many highlights at one of Oslo’s best new restaurants in 2017, Fyr Bistronomi, was the bowl with green & white asparagus. Such an intensely sweet and salty vegetable flavor from the asparagus milk broth, with a poached egg and bonito flakes adding fattiness and umami.
No. 17 – Taubenkobel in Burgenland, Austria
Duck roasted to perfection and served with crunchy duck fat, bitter red chicory & lemon jam. Savoriness, saltiness, bitterness, sweetness, and sourness. All tastes play together in this exquisite dish by chef Alain Weissgerber at restaurant Taubenkobel in Burgenland.
No. 16 – Hantverket in Stockholm, Sweden
One of my favorite Swedish chefs, Stefan Ekegren, has left the outskirts of Stockholm, where he worked at Görvälns Slott, and instead returned to the big city. There, he joined restaurant Hantverket as their new head chef, and that makes his brilliant cooking all the more available. I could as easily have chosen his Hasselback potato for this list, which I have loved since the first time I tried it, but I selected the new dish of Struva (rosette) with whipped duck liver, parmesan, and port wine. Rosettes are traditionally made as Christmas cookies, by dipping a hot iron into a batter and immersing it in hot frying oil.
No. 15 – Tickets in Barcelona, Spain
A good sign of a dish ending up on this list is when I ask for second servings. That’s exactly what we did with these crunchy suckling pig tacos with Hoisin mayonnaise and pickled cucumber at restaurant Tickets in Barcelona.
No. 14 – Quique da Costa in Dénia, Spain
It was late in the evening, we had just finished dinner, and I was back in the kitchen to watch the busy chefs hard at work in the three-Michelin-starred restaurant Quique Dacosta in Dénia. That’s when the restaurant manager Didier Fertilati was considerate enough to bring me a final snack, a signature dish of the restaurant, which would end up being my favorite of the entire meal. One of many dishes on this list with foie gras it shall turn out …
No. 13 – Asador Etxebarri in Axpe, Spain
The restaurant is located roughly an hour’s drive from San Sebastián, but the giant red prawns are delivered from Palamós – more than 700 kilometers away and almost 7 hours with a car. However, they are always freshly caught when they are handed over to the grill master Victor Arguinzoniz at Asador Etxebarri in the tiny village of Axpe. This is an ingredient that speaks for itself. Arguinzoniz just adds heat and some smokiness, but the juice in those large shrimp heads is like a seafood cocktail – readymade by mother earth.
No. 12 – AOC in Copenhagen, Denmark
The least hyped restaurant in Copenhagen, AOC, doesn’t seek the same attention as other multi-Michelin-starred restaurants do. Instead, they just serve dishes that make their guests return again and again and again … The baked onion with caviar & a sauce of elderflower was enough to leave me craving for more.
No. 11 – Saison in San Francisco, USA
While I felt robbed when I walked out of restaurant Saison in San Francisco, it wasn’t because the food was bad, but rather because I didn’t think they gave their guests enough value for the money. However, one dish was almost worth the night just to have tasted once. Sea urchin on liquid toast where the latter is, in fact, a bread pudding of sorts – made from toasted Tartine Bakery sourdough bread that was basted with a juice made of the leftover bread, browned butter, and egg yolks. Salty, umami-rich and with a heavenly caramelized sweetness.
No. 10 – À L’aise in Oslo, Norway
Oslo’s hottest candidate for a Michelin-star in 2018 is the new haute-cuisine restaurant À L’aise, headed by the Danish chef Ulrik Jepsen. Classical French cooking can be so delicious when it’s done right, and the pigeon en crépinette, with foie gras (here we go again), potato purée and black Périgord truffle was one of those Now, I can die happy-moments of 2017.
No. 9 – Gula Hönan on Gotland, Sweden
Some flavors can linger in the mouth for what feels like an eternity. If I think hard enough, I can still taste this ice cream of woodruff with caramelized white chocolate, toasted hazelnuts, and shavings of dried strawberries at Gula Hönan on Gotland in Sweden. The cold, mildly sweet cream had a hint of marzipan flavor, and the topping was crispy, nutty, and endlessly satisfying.
No. 8 – Disfrutar in Barcelona, Spain
The signature dish of restaurant Disfrutar in Barcelona is a foie gras (yo!) cookie topped with a multi-spherification of corn. For each bite, a few of the corn spheres pop in your mouth and release their delicate sweet flavors that perfectly match the fatty goose liver. A brilliant dish in both flavors and textures!
No. 7 – Søllerød Kro in Copenhagen, Denmark
On the topic of foie gras … it seems 2017 was the year of the forbidden dish on my part. Apologies to anyone who takes offense, but head on over to my latest article on Søllerød Kro to get a bit more balanced view on this delicacy. Chef Brian Mark-Hansen does a brilliant version of foie gras au torchon, with kumquat purée, and crisps of brioche infused with cocoa.
No. 6 – Sabi Enzo in Sandnes, Norway
Moving on from foie gras … to foie gras. This time, in the city where I was born – Sandnes in Norway. A relatively new and exciting restaurant has popped up, called Sabi Enzo, but I’m not sure the majority of the city’s inhabitants know about it quite yet. I’ll give you the full story next year, but I guess it’s a bit of a spoiler that this nigiri with foie gras, pickled kumquat, and teriyaki sauce made it to the 6th place of my top list!
No. 5 – Frantzén in Stockholm, Sweden
The highly-anticipated re-opening of restaurant Frantzén in Stockholm was a highlight of 2017. Selecting one dish from this marvelous meal was difficult, but even the butter-fried brioche with aged cheese & 100 years old balsamic vinegar topped with a mountain of black truffle had to step aside. The winner was an ice cream of raw Swedish buffalo cream, with dried yogurt meringue, birch oil, vanilla and Sichuan pepper-glazed wild strawberries on the side. Damn!
No. 4 – La Cuchara de San Telmo in San Sebastián, Spain
Everyone keeps saying that San Sebastián is the food capital of the world. I’m not sure I would have agreed, though, if I hadn’t discovered the tiny pintxos bar La Cuchara de San Telmo. Literally, every dish we ate could have ended up on this list … blood sausages, creamy Stracciatella di bufala, duck ravioli, or crispy suckling pig. But it had to be the dish-that-must-not-be-named. I can’t lie. I think I said to Hedda at the time, that this was the single best thing I had ever eaten in my life (and yet it only placed 4th on this list!). Let’s be more modest, and say it was the best foie gras dish I had tried up until that point (that didn’t last long, however, as you shall soon see).
No. 3 – Vollmers in Malmö, Sweden
Restaurant Vollmers in Malmö served one of the most amazing ice creams I’ve ever tasted. It was made with 40% low-pasteurized heavy cream from a farmer who only makes 26 liters per week. I can’t believe we got second servings of this dish. Not only did we get more, we got like half a can of ice cream! I slept well that night, on a pillow of soft dreams. This one is way up there with the browned-butter ice cream of restaurant Maaemo (speaking of which, check below …).
No. 2 – El Celler de Can Roca in Girona, Spain
The day after I ate the best dish I had ever eaten – that’s the fried foie gras from La Cuchara de San Telmo in San Sebastián – I had another dish with foie gras (last one, I promise!) that somehow managed to surpass it. I’m not sure how, but then again, I guess the Can Roca brothers have three stars for a reason. Foie gras timbale with caramelized apples was worth the journey alone.
No. 1 – Maaemo in Oslo, Norway
Maaemo in my hometown of Oslo is the pride of Norway. We couldn’t have gotten a bigger culinary blessing than the three-Michelin-starred food fortress that Esben Holmboe Bang has constructed. I paid my ninth visit this year, of which five have been in 2017! So many dishes stay with me, but the one that struck me as the most delicious was the aged pigeon with autumn leaves. I also tasted it as a more limited version with wild duck, and I hear they just changed it to reindeer. The autumn leaves are delicate constructions, thin as crisps, made of Jerusalem artichoke (and possibly other root vegetables) that are dusted with different flavors. Underneath, is a lick-every-drop kind of sauce made with miso, salted plums, and thyme. The best dish of 2017!
What were your favorite dishes in 2017? Please share in a comment below.