10 best dishes of 2016
The perfect meeting of pig and ocean, the spicy soft Calabrian salami is added like a crumbly spice mix to the chilled shellfish and cucumber ribbons on a raft of toasted bread. Lucky it’s become a rusted-on menu fixture at Andrew McConnell’s pitch-perfect wine bar.
It’s probably not fair to highlight the roast chook amid Embla’s cacophony of excellence but this drills down into the essence of Sunday night dinner perfection: an organic free-range bird, perfect golden skin, a wicked amount of garlic and rosemary, gremolata and a plate-lickable chicken sauce. Wildly addictive.
Philippe Mouchel is on a mission to change the mind of anyone who thinks oysters are best eaten au naturel with his bivalve on the shell, encased under clear seawater jelly with a single perfect spinach leaf and watercress cream. Arrestingly beautiful, it’s also terribly delicious.
It’s been a long time since anyone considered soup top of the pops, but Philippa Sibley’s changing all that with her silken, sunshiny carrot and chervil number with roasted scallops and a sweet textural sprinkle of Amaretti crumbs. In a word: luscious.
Jake Kellie does good snackage – the wicked green lozenges of pickled juniper, topped with bronze fennel and lemon verbena powder spring to mind. But the chicken mousse lollipop, a deboned piece of golden-tanned skin-on chook wrapped around chicken mousse and sticky with jus gras, are our new favourite canapé.
It’s an ugly duckling of a dish, not least because it’s served in a clunky jam jar, but in the eating it’s all oh là là: a barely-set egg, chewy nubbles of chicken offal, a dash of dashi and an obscene wealth of black truffle shaved over the top.
It’s all about the fire at Igni, and for this one Aaron Turner waves a marron tail somewhere in the direction of the coals before plating with pil pil (a buttery, crustacean-infused sauce) with a couple of fermented baby cucumbers. Simply brilliant.
Hipper-than-hip Host pushes the carnivorous boat out with “blood butter”, best imagined as classic blood pudding that’s been whipped into a delicious, glossy sauce – dip in with the super-salty potato crisps sprinkled with minty bay leaf powder.
Step back, naysayers, bleating about how Melbourne’s Tim Ho Wan isn’t a patch on the Hong Kong original. The truth remains that THW does a mean pork bun, all sugar-dusted doughy sweetness giving way to jammy barbecue pork centre. More please.
It’s a real-deal Chinese cold starter: tight-fleshed Wagyu shin in a delicious slick of sesame oil, crunch arriving in the guise of diced radish and cloud ear fungus, and the addictive ice-and-fire flutter of Sichuan pepper.
Melbourne's best restaurants
Unless you have the metabolism of a nine-year-old, and the finances of a Kardashian, you never stand a chance against Melbourne's ferocious dining machine. The openings just don't stop and ain't nobody got time to keep on top of what's what. Except us, that is. So behold, our eat-and-destroy list – a guide to Melbourne's 50 best restaurants.