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My Best Meals Of 2018

Some years ago I attended a talk by Ferran Adriá, the Spanish chef who was then at the height of his El Bulli fame.

He was suspicious, Adria said, of the so-called objective ranking of restaurants because few of us judged a meal on its pure quality. What we thought of a meal, he said, depended on so many other factors: the service, location, the mood we were in, who we were eating with, our level of expectations, etc.

 

He was right of course. So I am always hesitant to claim any degree of objectivity when I rate a restaurant. But here, for a variety of reasons, are the best meals I had in 2018.

 

The Regulars:

 

These are places I went to at least four times last year. That I went back as often must mean I like them. But I have written about them so often that I am probably not entirely objective about them.

 

Gaggan: The greatest Indian chef in the world. Asia’s best restaurant. In the top five restaurants in the world.With all these accolades, need any more be said?

 

Well, only this: I have been eating his food for eight years now (at least 30 meals, I reckon) and I don’t know a single chef who has evolved and matured as much as Gaggan Anand has. He gets better each year.

 

Sühring: Also old favourites, I first raved about the Sühring twins over a decade ago when they were the chefs at Mezza Luna. But since they opened their own Bangkok restaurant, they have done what few chefs manage: they have created their own style of cuisine – modern, sophisticated and not shy about its German roots.

 

Indian Accent: Manish Mehrotra is a genius. But I think he is working too hard. He needs to pause, to take a break and create even greater dishes. But he is easily the single best chef in India.

 

Wasabi by Morimoto, Delhi: I am not really a great fan of modern Japanese food these days, preferring the traditional stuff. But ever since Arun Sunderaj has become the chef, the food at Delhi’s Taj Mansingh has improved beyond recognition. Wasabi has been the principal beneficiary.

 

Orient Express: I cannot think of any other restaurant in Delhi where I would go for a celebration. And that’s been true for over two decades now. Enough said?

 

Bukhara: Do I really need to explain why?

 

Dum Pukht: This is fine Indian cuisine, cooked to a standard you will rarely see elsewhere. Every meal I have eaten there has been exceptional.

 

Town Hall: Everyone goes to this Khan Market restaurant for the sushi: I go for chef Augusto’s Filipino food. They will open in Mumbai in 2019.

 

The Qube: The best and loveliest coffee shop in India. Period.

 

The China Kitchen and Shang Palace: These Chinese restaurants at Delhi’s Hyatt Regency and Shangri-La are rivals. But I love both. They are my default option every time.

 

"100 Mahaseth: My favourite non-fancy Bangkok restaurant. I go for the Thai-style bone marrow but everything is uniformly excellent."

Edo: The ITC Gardenia is my favourite Bengaluru hotel. And though all of the food is good, most nights I prefer to sit alone at the counter at this Japanese restaurant and eat excellent sashimi with a glass of chilled white wine.

 

The Stars:

 

These are famous restaurants I visited this year and liked.

 

Osteria Francescana: At present, the world’s number one restaurant on many lists with a superstar chef in Massimo Bottura. I made a special trip to Italy to eat there and when you go with such high expectations, you are likely to be disappointed. But this lived up to its reputation and many of Bottura’s dishes (the crispy part of the lasagna, a tribute to Paul Bocuse’s Truffle Soup, etc.) actually exceeded expectations.

 

Mugaritz: Actually, I went in 2017. But Andoni Luis Aduriz, the brilliant chef behind this massively influential restaurant, cooked in Delhi this winter. What I admired about him was that he did not just reproduce his classics but that he cooked with Indian ingredients and created a whole menu around them. Brilliant.

 

Quadri: A grand old Venetian institution and coffee house in the middle of St. Mark’s Square, it now has a room upstairs that is run by the team behind the three Michelin star Le Calandre. With that location and that calibre of food, how could you possibly go wrong?

 

Harry’s Bar: The place where Carpaccio and the Bellini were both invented, there is a trick to eating there. During the day, the downstairs is a tourist trap and the regulars eat upstairs. At dinner, the upstairs is the tourist room and the downstairs is where you need to eat. Drink the Bellinis, eat the Carpaccio and play it safe with such dishes as the Veal Cutlet Milanese and you won’t go wrong.

 

The Memories:

 

These are places where I had memorable meals. Sometimes, it wasn’t the food as much as the atmosphere or the element of surprise.

 

Nusr-Et: Part of chain of globally famous tourist traps, Nusr-Et differs from most chains in that the food is the worst at the horrible Istanbul original and gets better the further away you go from Istanbul. Dubai has the most famous branch but I enjoyed the Abu Dhabi outlet the most. The steak was as good and as overpriced as everywhere else but the waiters had a cheerful knowing air as though they knew that the whole thing was faintly ridiculous.

 

Vistara: I try not to eat on planes but when it is a long flight, I take my own packed food. I flew from Bengaluru to Delhi on Vistara and got the Gardenia to pack me a biryani. When the hostess asked me what I wanted for dinner, I responded that I had my own food. “Let me at least heat it for you,” she said. She took the biryani away and returned with a beautiful plate of warm biryani served restaurant style with raita, pickles, papad etc. No inflight service has ever been this thoughtful.

 

Hoppers: The food at this Sri Lankan/Malayali restaurant is so good that it has become my first stop in London. Go for the devilled squid, the Lankan biryani, the eponymous hoppers and the bone marrow veruval.

 

100 Mahaseth: My favourite non-fancy Bangkok restaurant. I go for the Thai-style bone marrow but everything is uniformly excellent. I think it speaks very badly of Michelin that the restaurant did not get a star this year.

 

Mihara Tofuten: I admire Gaggan Anand but when he invited me to his tofu restaurant, I was gripped by a feeling of dread. Sixteen courses of tofu? Oh dear. Actually the food was brilliant. The tofu was not always the star of the show and the French-Japanese cuisine blend was fascinating.

 

Emirates Lounge, Dubai: I reckon I am the only person who travels Emirates First Class and still makes a profit. Emirates is known for its outstanding wine list but what people don’t always realise is that it runs a very good (entirely free!) restaurant in its lounge. I had the best steak I have had in Dubai there (cooked by an Indian chef) and when the waiter saw that I was trying the many excellent clarets available, he brought me a bottle of Mouton Rothschild. (Yes! Free!)

 

Brat: This is London’s hottest new restaurant (it just got a Michelin star) with outstanding European food. But, oddly enough, the dish that lingers in the memory is the best crème caramel I have ever eaten.

 

Quilon: This London Taj restaurant has a Michelin star but the meal I will remember is when the chef Sriram Aylur went off-menu and cooked us five different (and in some cases, newly invented) dosas – the best I have tasted.

 

 

CommentsComments

  • Amarjot Singh 06 Jan 2019

    As always, highly informative

  • Yuvi Garg 06 Jan 2019

    thanks for sharing your list
    we also have the same list only we call it "living it off vicariously of restaurants we can never eat ever in our lives"

Posted On: 05 Jan 2019 04:50 PM
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