Top 10 Dishes of 2022

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2022 - The year in which the food industry was supposed to limp back to normalcy, but kinda roared back! Lots of new restaurants, lots of new menus, revenge travel and what not!


For me, it was the year that got me back on the road. In a way, while I was limping back to normalcy, I was exposed to some brilliant food that kind of made up for 2 lost years of travel. Also I’m not a fan of fish. Any fish. So when I’m craving for it long after the dish is over and I order it on my next visit, it has to be special. Like really special. And this year has MANY fish dishes on my top 10. While some of you might feel that similar restaurants are making the cut every year, for me, it is a testimony that these players are upping the game constantly and not resting on past laurels, so I love that too. 

 

I was (and still) struggling to narrow down my 10 top dishes. I contemplated having a top 15, but decided against it. Interestingly, I’ve dined at Hyderabad and Delhi (including in one of India’s top restaurants), but didn’t have any dishes from there on my list. Two dishes from two of top restaurants from Dubai  and one from Singapore made it to the 15, but didn’t make the final cut either.  So I’m mighty proud of the Chennai restaurants that made it to my list. 


Without further ado, here goes. 


Gooseberry Fish at Kappa Chakka Kandhari, Chennai, India





In this case, it is bordering on audacious. Gooseberry masala? On fish? I don’t know if it is some common recipe in Kerala or if Chef Reji Mathew tweaked it, but if you’re in Chennai, this is a must try. I’ve taken at least 3-4 guests and so far not one of them haven’t gone wow.


Butter Beer, Cafe Allohomora, Chennai, India



I’d have to admit that this is a fan boy thing, so may not be for everyone. I’m a huge Harry Potter fan and all through the seven books, I’ve dreamed of tasting Butter beer - never did I ever think that it may be a reality. When I saw it on the menu, I was getting ready to break my bubble and be disappointed. After all, it is not very often that something you dream of can be the same in reality. Well, this Butter Beer was. It was everything I had imagined - non alcoholic, smooth, buttery and yep tasty! This one is for the fans.


Lemon Fish, Thai Kitchen, Bangkok, Thailand



I’ve had my share of lemon butter fish and never gone wow, until now. This is not the classic Lemon Butter fish (typically French), but the Thai version. Lemon, butter, garlic, lemongrass and what not. Steamed right in front of you and all you need is some rice and friends to share it with. One of recent finds in Bangkok. 


Beriyan Soup, Istanbul, Turkey



This was a pure revelation. The advantage of studying in MIT is that there are alumni all over the world. Someone knows someone in about 60 countries and you are no longer a stranger. And one of those recommendations was Ali, who took us to this tiny place just outside the Spice Bazaar for what was one of the best breakfast dishes of my life. Warm lamb soup with Turkish bread that was soul touching to say the least. 



Salmon and Caviar Salad, Singapore Airlines First Class Suite



This year also exposed me to super luxury travel. I wasn’t going to miss a chance to write about the first class suite on Singapore airlines, but while that kind of service was expected, I wasn’t prepared for the kind of food being served at 35000 feet in the air. The lobster Thermidor, the main course, was fantastic, but the salmon and caviar was out of this world. 



Pallipalayam Chicken Katti Roll, Chef Shri Bala



This was a stunner. Now, I’ve never associated kati rolls with South Indian flavours. While we have great and fabulous gravies that we soak up on fantastic parottas, filling them up and rolling them wasn’t in our history. Shri Bala corrects that. If there was a perfect Tamilian Katti roll, this must be it. The double filled chicken was tangy and true to its flavours while complementing the essence of katti rolls quite well. For me this is something that should go down as a truly Tamilian dish that history somehow missed. 



Tiramisu Pizza, Hyatt Regency, Chennai



This was during a pizza festival and I’m not sure why Chef Deva decided to make dessert pizza and still wondering how he managed to pull it off. I’ve had dessert pizzas. Usually they are smeared with chocolates and/or hazelnut and are a poor excuse for both dessert and pizza, being neither this nor that. More often than not, they look better than they taste. Not this time. This was both a pizza and a tiramisu flavour wise and because the base was customized for this, turned out to be brilliant. They also had an apple pie pizza that was just as good, but the tiramisu took this cake!


Biriyani Quartet, ITC Grand Chola, Chennai



What is better than one biriyani? Four! One of reasons why this is special is it might never be made again. At one of ITC’s special music event with Sonam Kalra, I guess the brief to the chef was ‘Expense? What expense?’ That event was a foodie’s dream, and for me, each dish was competing with the other. But imagine four biriyanis, each one tasting extremely unique, extremely delicious and you had 8 types of raita to choose and pair. I’ve had my fair share of excellent (and terrible) biriyanis, but these four on a plate was dream that may never come true again. 


Gongura Chicken Taco, Gossip Bistro, Chennai



This is one restaurant that keeps upping the game and packs way beyond its weight. Every. Single. Time. Fusion is one of the most difficult genres to pull of well and while most places do fusion by doing both cuisines badly or lamely pairing dishes, Gossip does it with lot of research. One such dish is the Gongura Chicken Taco. First, the taco is not a renamed chapati, but made with actual masa flour. And somehow they decided to top with an Andhra based chicken and it simply works. Like magic. I’ve had it around 3 times this year and I’ll gladly have it for dinner every single day. 


Baklava, Karaköy Güllüoğlu, Istanbul, Turkey




Doesn’t matter if you can’t pronounce the restaurant's name. I’ve not been a fan of Baklava. I’ve had folks go gaga over it and I was always like, blah and wondered why people liked it as much as they do. When I asked my friend in Istanbul where to get the baklava to pack for folks back home, she said, ‘Do them a favour and don’t take it. It has to be eaten here.’ And guided me to Karaköy Güllüoğlu and I was sold for life. Also spoilt for life, because I can’t eat it anywhere else. I ate the baklava at-least in 5 different places in Istanbul, but this is the best by a margin even in Istanbul, but nothing I’ve had around the world - Turkish restaurants in India,Egypt, Germany, Dubai, Qatar and America even come close to this. And you don’t have to keep pouring the syrup on top!!!!!


I have to mention two restaurants that barely didn’t make it because of the fierce competition this year.


Best New Restaurant in Chennai for me is KAI




A tiny restaurant on ECR, right next to PVR at Uthandi. A predominantly sea food restaurant, this place ages fish. And the flavour of aged fish is so good, but the non sea-food is just as good. With only 12-15 seats, getting a spot is difficult, but worth the hassle. Given the number of new restaurant launches in Chennai with pomp and show where food is more for Instagram than for the palate, KAI does things quietly. 


Best New Menu in Chennai - Flying Elephant



Another restaurant that I love is back in an audacious new avatar after what seems like ages - Flying Elephant at Park Hyatt, Chennai. The chefs have gone crazy and have some whacky new stuff on the menu- think mozzerella dal makhni, burrata butter chicken and the likes.  Launching two new menus in one year is no easy feat (Mr. Ong, another excellent restaurant was launched earlier this year). I want to go back and try a bunch of these dishes and maybe next year there will be one from here too.


So what did you think of this year’s list? 


See you on the other side of the new year. 





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Grub Waz: Top 10 Dishes of 2022
Top 10 Dishes of 2022
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Grub Waz
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