My best meals of 2017
A list of the best restaurants I have eaten at this yearUpdated: Jan 06, 2018 23:10 IST
I last wrote about the best meals I had eaten in 2017 in a May issue of Brunch. Here’s a list that takes up from that date. Rather than list them chronologically however, I have tried to distinguish the chef-driven restaurants from the others.
Sergi Arola: Arola is one of Spain’s most famous chefs, with two Michelin stars at his flagship restaurant and branches all over the world – including (very briefly) a restaurant at the JW Marriott in Juhu, Mumbai. I ate at his restaurant at the stunning Penha Longa Ritz-Carlton resort in Portugal. Much to my surprise, Arola was not only present (celebrity chefs are usually only seen on TV) but was actually cooking.
I ordered the Menu Loco, which is tasting portions of every single dish on the menu and Arola (who I know slightly from his time in Mumbai) added a few off-menu choices. I was very full by the end of it but it was worth it. A standout was the seafood pot-au-feu, Arola’s homage to the great French chef Michel Guérard.
José Avillez: Belcanto in Lisbon has two Michelin stars but would – I dare say – have won three stars if it was in France. It is run by José Avillez, Portugal’s most famous chef and his tasting menu was exquisite. I loved his signature Golden Egg, slow cooked and served on a bed of mushroom, and his Roast Pork which was a tribute to Sunday lunch: a square of roast pork with crisp crackling, hand-cut chips and the heart of a lettuce.
Giorgio Locatelli: Locatelli has run a Michelin-starred Italian restaurant for over a decade in the heart of London without ever trying to push himself or infuse the food with gimmicks. This time, I ate a typical Locatelli meal: first rate ingredients (including a wonderful tartare of Italian beef) cooked perfectly in a simple and unshowy way.
Masaharu Morimoto: Most guests at Wasabi (in Delhi and Mumbai) think of Morimoto’s food in terms of Nobu where he was once executive chef (at the first Nobu in New York). But Morimoto has gone far beyond that phase and his food is now far more complex and varied.
I ate at Wasabi, Delhi, when he was visiting and he cooked himself (some of it at the counter in the restaurant) and while all of the food was good, I have memories of the sea-urchin dish, which will not fade easily.
Gaggan Anand: Every three months or so, Gaggan changes his menu. Over the last few years I have usually been able to go to Bangkok and keep up with the changes. This year too, I must have eaten his food at least four times. Each menu is different, each one is more of a dive into the deep end. Somehow, he manages to make it work, to reinvent his food and to keep me astonished!
Martin Berasategui: The least globally famous of Spain’s many three star chefs, Berasategui, is among the most consistent. I ate at his San Sebastián restaurant and was bowled over: parfait of foie gras and smoked eel, a tiny omelette filled with truffles, a foamy mushroom broth and more.
Andoni Luis Aduriz: Andoni is the chef’s chef. His restaurant, Mugaritz, is among the world’s most famous but what makes his food special is his creativity with techniques. I ate 27 courses and with each dish I was reminded of something some other chef had copied and done. Mugaritz is pretty much the global laboratory for modern cuisine techniques.
Manish Mehrotra: India’s greatest chef. I ate this year at both the old Indian Accent and the new one at The Lodhi hotel. The difference was that Manish’s food has got even better. He has just opened in London to great word-of-mouth and I only hope it does not mean that we see less of him in Delhi.
Sriram Aylur and Srijith Gopinath: The two stars of the Taj group: Sriram runs Quilon in London and Srijith is chef at San Francisco’s Campton Place. Both have Michelin stars but their food is very different. Sriram (who was chef at Bengaluru’s Karavali) is a master of South Indian flavours and seafood while Srijith is more California-influenced and ingredient-focused.
The Taj brought them both back to India in 2017. Srijith cooked at the stunning dining room at Hyderabad’s Falaknuma Palace and then both did a joint dinner at Varq at the Delhi Taj. Their food is always terrific. But both are at their best in their own restaurants.
Brett Graham: I have never worked out why Michelin does not regard Graham’s food at London’s The Ledbury as worthy of three stars – he is stuck at two. I had the single best meal of my trips to London there and the sophistication of the cooking was breathtaking.
Andrew Wong: A. Wong is probably the best Chinese restaurant in London. Run by Andrew Wong (who has just opened at the Delhi Oberoi) it serves a modern take on the food of China: a single scallop wrapped in slithery cheung fan skin, Wagyu fried rice, pork with frozen foie gras and more.
Thomas Zacharias: Thomas is probably the youngest chef on this list and he is slightly handicapped by working in the shadow of the great Floyd Cardoz, the influential New York chef behind both The Bombay Canteen, where Thomas is the executive chef, and O Pedro, its sister restaurant which does a fun version of Goan food.
But Thomas has found his own voice now, routinely creates great dishes and has a distinct philosophy which is reflected in his food. The Bombay Canteen continues to be terrific and I ate better Goan food at O Pedro (in Mumbai) than I did at any of Goa’s trendy restaurants.
There are too many to mention. But here are some that served me meals that I remember.
Rustom’s: This Delhi Parsi restaurant is a labour of love and the food is truly outstanding.
Nara: I go to a branch of Nara every time I am in Bangkok so I had two reasons to be delighted. One: they opened the wonderful spin-off Lady Nara at Bangkok’s Central Embassy Mall. And two: best of all, there is now a Nara in Mumbai that matches the high standards of the Bangkok branches.
Bukhara: One day someone will open a better kebab place than Bukhara. Till then, however, this is the gold standard. The cooking is excellent but the secret lies in the ingredients: the finest quality available. Given what Bukhara’s prices are, they can afford it.
Shang Palace: I had so many fabulous meals at the Delhi outlet and I still can’t wait to go back. The roast pork is a classic.
Wasabi: The Delhi Wasabi has never ever been better – even when Morimoto is not around. The best modern Japanese in India.
Avartana: The first truly great concept created by ITC Hotels in a decade, this modern South Indian place at Chennai’s Grand Chola is a real breakthrough. I wait for more Avartanas at other ITC hotels.
Masala Library: How Zorawar Kalra manages to keep opening so many new restaurants and still maintain such high standards at the Delhi Masala Library is a mystery. Obviously the food is good when the brilliant Saurabh Udinia is cooking; but the restaurant is so consistent that standards hold up in his absence.
POH: Vikramjeet Roy has made a success of this modern Asian in Mumbai’s Parel because of his dogged vision and commitment to quality.
Elkano: Just outside San Sebastián, this is one of the world’s greatest fish restaurants. Everything is local and simply cooked. And every mouthful is a delight.
China Kitchen: The pioneering restaurant at Delhi’s Hyatt Regency went through a bad patch but is now back on form. Leave the menu to chef Zhang.
There were other great meals too in the period from May to December 2017. Sadly, I’ve run out of space. Besides, this is quite a list...
From HT Brunch, January 7, 2018
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