(in order of consumption)
1. Uni bone marrow mazemen @ Sakamai, NYC
Sakamai made it to my top eats of 2019 with their wagyu sando, so it is no surprise that I must visit the restaurant again when I went to NYC. This time, I tried the uni mazemen and again...went to heaven. The ramen-like noodles had the perfect chewy texture and perfectly soaked up the rich flavors of the bone marrow and uni. Despite these heavy ingredients, the dish was not too overwhelming either and served as a great complement to the wagyu sando.
2. Buldak chicken feet carbonara hotpot @ Daejeon, Korea
I love buldak noodles. I love chicken feet. I love carbonara. But I never tried any combinations of these foods together. This pot was full of richness, spice, and everything I loved, with a milky carbonara broth infused with buldak sauce mixed with chewy noodles and tender chicken feet. It was like the carbonara flavored bulkdak noodles on steroids, without being too intolerably spicy. I almost cried eating this on a cold rainy day lol.
3. Streetside tteobokki + soondae + fishcakes @ Some street stall in Busan
I see these tteobokki stands everywhere in Korea but always thought they would be too "basic" and "average" tasting. However, on a windy night in busan, I was hangry af when I noticed a stand beside me and had to give them a try. I got soondae and fishcakes, two of my fav tteobokki mix ins, and a free cup of fishcake broth from the ahjumma. With sauce that had a perfect balance of sweet to spicy to savory ratio, and rice cakes that had the perfect balance of chewiness to stickiness, this proved all my previous assumptions wrong. Now I completely understand why everyone goes to these stands after school or after a night of drinking or just at anytime.
4. Spam avocado egg rice bowl @ My kitchen
Quarantine probably made everyone a Michelin 3 star chef. For me, I not only experimented with more complex cooking but also tried to improve upon easy basic dishes that I can make anytime. As a huge fan of spam, eggs ,and avocado, I found this combo the perfect complement to rice. Drizzled with sesame oil, soy sauce, and Trader Joe's EBTB seasoning, it is the perfect easy & quick & fail-proof dish for any meal.
5. Roasted duck & kimchi pancake @ Fable Diner, Vancouver
I didn't have high expectations for this as fusion dishes can be hits or misses. However, the combination of juicy tender duck meat, fluffy pancakes, and fresh kimchi blew my mind and reminded me of an elevated pulled pork pancake at Jam Cafe. Each component of this dish was so well-executed, and the fatty, savory, and sweet flavors & variety of textures somehow meshed so well together. The combination of sweet teriyaki sauce, creamy mayo, and spicy siracha gave it an extra kick as well.
6. Foie gras wagyu nigiri @ Octopus Garden, Vancouver
Octopus Garden is my favorite Japanese Restaurant for anything wagyu/toro/uni-related, offering fresh pieces (although not very wallet-friendly lol) in an intimate, refined environment. This nigiri especially stood out to me for its incredibly rich and fatty flavor combined with a hint of charcoal from the Aburi. I've had many many wagyu and foie gras nigiri, but this one had the freshest and best quality ingredients! I almost went to heaven when foie gras and wagyu melted in my mouth within 2s of eating, and if it weren't for my wallet I would order 1000 more pieces.
7. Foie gras rice bowl @ Pidgin, Vancouver
Haha of course foie gras had to appear more than once in this list ;)
Pidgin is an intimate, stylish fusion restaurant in the heart of Gastown, and this rice bowl is the main reason I go back every time. From the perfectly seared foie gras, fresh daikon, chewy chestnuts, savory & sweet unagi glaze, to freshly steamed rice, every component of this dish is so meticulously crafted and combined. The foie gras was cooked to perfection, crispy on the outside and soft & fatty on the inside. There's also something special about the sauces and mix-ins that make each bite an umami bomb.
8. French Toast @ Palate Kitchen, Vancouver
Definitely the best (and unhealthiest) French Toast I've ever had, consisting of deep-fried cinnamon toast topped with mascarpone praline, caramel sauce, ginger crumbs, meringue, and fresh berries. There are so many dessert flavors in this dish that I don't know how to accurately describe it, but I'll have to say that this is a mix of cinnamon toast crunch, caramel cheesecake, and gingerbread, but all on steroids. The inside of each toast is so fluffy while the outside was crispy to perfection. (Even better with a glass (or two) of mimosa to "balance" out the sugar haha)
9. Uni Tofu @ 桂语山房, Hangzhou, China
This was an elevated version of mapo tofu and salted egg tofu, with silky tofu bits in a rich broth of peas, shrimp, taro and uni. I've never had a dish like this before - each bite was bursting with umami. The variety of ingredients worked so well together and all complemented the savory broth. Moreover, I was skeptical of cooked uni being rather tasteless, but it was reminiscent of salted eggyolk which I loved. I can have 1000 bowls of rice with this dish!
Cheers to a more delicious 2021 :)