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Around The World In 12 Dishes

These are the 12 dishes/meals to have, according to the food editors of Sydney Morning Herald, in a culinary gastronomic trip around the world. They have intentionally left out Australian restaurants as it was a SMH publication for Australian readers.

Noma, Copenhagen

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“Your first course is already here” announces the waiter, indicating the vase of bright nasturtiums and twigs on the table. Inside each flower is a plump snail and a touch of remoulade. So already you’re foraging, picking flowers and crunching through twigs. Then you’re nibbling dried-then-fried reindeer moss, and lichen it. Then you’re raiding a little nest of its pickled and smoked quail eggs. Then peeling shellfish from a hot rock, as if by the seaside. And crunching through blue mussels, their shells recreated in edible form. It’s an extraordinary sleight-of-hand, and it shows that Rene Redzepi wouldn’t know what the term ‘resting on your laurels’ was if it hit him in the face.
Okay, so the vase of flowers appetiser may be bordering on the kitsch - Redzepi doesn’t need to try that hard. But all else is elegance; like the perfect little aebleskiver, a traditional spherical Danish savoury pancake impaled with a smoked muikko (a tiny freshwater fish from Finland). Local, local, local food, reimagined by the best restaurant in the world. TD

Strandgade 93, Copenhagen Tel 45 3296 3297

Dinner by Heston Blumenthal, London

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 Didn’t know what to expect from Heston Blumenthal’s first London venture, ensconced in the very Swish Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park and yet a far cry from the speak-in-whispers and cross-yourself-as-you enter ambience of the Fat Duck. Didn’t know I’d love it so much, either. Somehow he has created a very flexible, upstairs/downstairs brasserie with a very English accent, so that at one table will be a couple in jeans eating steak and chips, and at the next, a group dressed up and having the dining experience of their lives.
Blumenthal and the on-the-job head chef Ashley Palmer Watts serve up historically inspired British food such as roast marrowbone or a broth of lamb with slow-cooked hen’s egg. There are two truly great dishes on the menu that should bookend your meal. The first is the Meat Fruit (circa 1500), a single mandarin complete with leaves that transforms into rich, light chicken liver parfait encased in tangy, fragrant mandarin gel, accompanied by toasted brioche. The last is the light-as-a-cloud-of-drunken-angels Tipsy Cake (circa 1810), served with spit-roast pineapple. So. Damn. Good. TD.

Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park, 66 Knightsbridge, London SW1X 7LA
Tel  44 20 7201 3833

Brawn at Brawn, London

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 My favourite London restaurant critic, Fay Maschler, gave Brawn a resounding and very rare five out of five stars. “If I could, I would eat there every day” she wrote in 2010, thereby getting this relly of the popular Terroirs wine bar in Charing Cross off to a very good start.
Set in Columbia Road, Bethnal Green, home to London’s famous flower market (and equally famous riots), it’s a simple, minimalist corner building with a white-walled, semi-industrial canteen feel. Like a pub, it’s a charming and welcoming place, with a great list of natural wines, and a menu divided into Pig, Hot, Cold, Pudding and Cheese. You could order solely from the pig section and grunt with pleasure all the way home. Naturally, it does a great brawn (jellied pig’s head terrine), or it would have to change its name. TD

49 Columbia Road, Bethnal Green E2  Tel 44 207729 5692

Osteria Mozza, Singapore

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 The Marina Bay Sands complex opened with a bang last year, so I was curious to see what all the hype was about. The huge Asian food court in the basement looks fun, but it's packed out, with people waiting behind your chair for your table. Upstairs in the ‘flying chefs’ restaurants (Restaurant Guy Savoy, David Boulud’s db Bistro Moderne, Wolfgang Puck’s Cut and Tetsuya Wakuda’s Waku Ghin), it’s a different story, with very few tables taken the nights I visited.
The best bet seems to be the middle-ground, and the best of the middle-ground is this branch of Nancy Silverton and Mario Batali’s LA-based Osteria Mozza. Sitting up at the cool marble bar exploring the list of dishes based on buffalo mozzarella, burrata and ricotta flown in from Italy is hugely enjoyable; as is this triple-comforting agnolotti with butter and sage, the tiny pasta parcels filled with chicken, veal and mortadella. TD.

Marina Bay Sands, 10 Bayfront Avenue, Singapore Tel +65 6688 8868

Spuntino, London

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 I’m nominating Russell Norman as The Man Who Saved London. After learning his trade managing Scott’s, J. Sheekey and Zuma, he decided London needed a few more fun places to eat that weren’t at the pointy end of dining, and took off on his ownsome. Well, hallelujah.
If you’re just wandering around Soho looking for something to take the pain off the jetlag, then head for either Polpo or Polpetto, his New York takes on Venetian stuzzichini (small plates). The latest from the Norman invasion is Mishkin’s, in homage to the Jewish delis of New York. Then there’s the sassy little Spuntino, with its New York take on trailer trash food, with things like mac & cheese, spicy sausage & cheddar grits, pulled pork sliders and chopped salad, along with Bloody Marys and Bourbons, and these super-thin twirly-wirly fries. TD

61 Rupert Street, Soho, London. No telephone.

Thip Samai Phad Thai, Bangkok

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Pad Thai noodles are such a staple these days, there doesn’t seem much point in going way out of your way to find a funny little place in Bangkok that is tied up with the dish’s (surprisingly recent) history. But it’s worth it, to see this seminal dish cooked on the street in a huge cast iron wok over hot coals, by a slim young girl in a red T-shirt who must surely be skipping school.
First she puts in three ladlefuls of oil and scoops in a pile of prawns from a plastic bucket. Toss, toss, fry, fry, three minutes. Then she scoops out most of the oil, and adds cubed tofu, green garlic chives, vegetables, stiff white beanthread noodles and a lot of red chilli sauce, sugar and salt from a line-up of buckets, which all comes to the boil super-fast. Then – new wok – she deftly makes an omelette that covers the interior of the pan like a second skin. In goes the contents of the other wok, and – the finished pad Thai is turned out, perfectly wrapped in omelette, onto a melamine plate. That will be 70 baht, thank you ($2). And that’s for the Super Special. JD.

313 Mahachai Road, Samranraj, Bangkok Tel 66 2 221 6280

Au Passage, Paris

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 Down a dodgy back alley off the Boulevard Beaumarchais is what looks like an old, untouched bar, complete with beer sign outside and old wooden bar and mis-matched tables and chairs inside. Welcome to a little piece of Australia in the middle of Paris, where Aussie-born chef James Henry is cooking in a kitchen only slightly larger than a box of veggies.
Lunch is three courses for 16.50 Euros ($20); dinner is a small blackboard of a la carte specials that costs little more; and it’s just plain lovely, light, fresh, minimalist cookery. My lunch started with bulots (whelks) and mussels in a light cream vinaigrette with warm samphire. Then choppy, chunky tartare de boeuf (au couteau/hand-cut) with finely minced cornichon and shaved baby radishes, and a fresh little cheese with figs and toasty hazelnuts to finish. Perfect. JD.
1 bis Passage de Saint Sebastien, Paris 75011. Tel 33143550752.

Le Dauphin, Paris

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How smart. The posse headed up by chef Inaki Aizpitarte, one of The Chosen (that means a fave of Rene Redzepi of NOMA) has solved the problem of being inundated at Le Chateaubriand by opening a smaller, more casual bistronome down the road. A cool, white marble cube designed by Rem Koolhaus, with detail picked out in mirrors and Danish stools, it’s a nice place to be.
Lunch is a reinvented ‘menu formule’. On this hot summer’s day, that means a cool melon gazpacho with fresh raw almonds, a choice of cod or braised lamb cleverly served with the same garniture of tomatoey chickpeas and amaranth, and as at Au Passage, a simple fresh white cheese and fruit for dessert. It’s great value and very satisfying; a clear signpost for the future of dining in Paris. Struggling with my notes, trying to find the right description for this independent gastronomic attitude (cuisine d’auteur?), I asked Aizpitarte ‘comment dites-vous l’expression ‘no bullshit’?’ He looked at me. ‘We say no bullshit’, he said. JD.
131 Avenue Parmentier 750111 Tel 33 1 55 28 78 88

Le Verre Volé, Paris

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 Another day, another wine bar, another platter of charcuterie, another chunk of sour Jean-Luc Poujouran’s pain levain. God I love Paris. And Le Verre Volé . The walls of this tiny place are lined with wine – it’s essentially a cave, a wine shop – and the worn wooden tables are lined with eccentric locals. It’s a good place to have andouillette, with its smell of the pissoir arriving from the tiny kitchen only moments before the plate; the fat, pale sausage spilling its guts – literally -  onto mashed potato and a few green leaves. I order a glass of Pouilly Fume. "It’s very fat, with great complexity," says the waiter. What a coincidence. That’s just how I feel, too.  TD.

67 Rue de Lancry, 75010 Paris. Tel 33 148031734

Soho Hotel, London

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Let loose from the tyranny of porridge or fruit and yoghurt, breakfast on holidays ends up being different every day – the cravings being very dependent on the local circumstances and what went on the night before. This morning, an egg and bacon roll was required. And the best egg and bacon roll is definitely at the deliciously located Soho Hotel in the heart of Soho, because the bread has just the right amount of give, the butter, eggs, and bacon are all real (and thery ask you exactly what you want and how you want it), and the whole thing comes together in the hand as one. JD.
Soho Hotel, 4 Richmond Mews, London W1 Tel 44 2 75593000

Relae, Copenhagen

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"That’s where the Redzepis always sit," says Kim Rossen of Relae. Well, if the Redzepis turn up, we’ll move. But until then, we’ll sit up at the bar watching Christian Puglisi and his team plate up some beautiful, simple, blindingly contemporary food in what is tantamount to a party atmosphere. Relae has two short menus of four dishes, mostly plants, with each ingredient at its height. Chicken hearts with babycorn. Leeks with mustard crumbs. Baby celeriac with seaweed veils. And this lovely dish of sheeps milk yoghurt, radishes and nasturtiums. Says Kim: "We cook what we like. We play the music we like. We serve the wine we like." At last! That’s what we want all restaurants to do! JD.

Jaegersborggade 41, Copenhagen Tel +45 3696 6609

Nahm, Bangkok

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 So much is smoked, cured, salted, and above all, fermented, in David Thompson’s flagship Thai restaurant in The Metropolitan Hotel in Bangkok; the leaves, the chillies, the prawns, the fish, the garlic. It gives a wild, almost carnal quality to the food here, like eating a rich, smelly blue cheese as opposed to sanitised cheese slices. "It’s definitely where we’re going with our food here," says Thompson. Serpenthead fish, for instance, is salted and sun-dried for two days, then deep-fried until it’s pull-apartable into crunchy splinters. Get some help to put together an order of hot, cold, wet and dry dishes but don’t miss the feral, dark cassia leaf curry if it’s on, or the white turmeric salad with prawns, pork and chicken. Dining is a leisurely affair in the dark, tropical space, and the cooking is uncompromising, sophisticated and bloody hot. JD.

The Metropolitan, 27 South Sathorn Road, Tungmahamek, Sathorn, Bangkok Tel 662 625 3333

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Sigh... many of us cannot afford to go to these expensive restaurants nor to London ...
Still it is nice to be able to see these dishes ...

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