From Brisbane to Noosa to a small seaside town in Spain, these are the dishes that linger in my mind long after the last mouthful.
Spanner crab risotto with lemon, sea urchin butter and bottarga at Locale
A trip to Noosa would not be the same without a visit to Locale for the risotto. I have had this dish five times and it never disappoints. The key to this dish is the risotto rice. The kitchen uses an organic Acquerello Carnaroli rice, which is a harder grain with a firmer texture. This enables the rice to retain texture while it is also able to pull in the flavours from the rich stock it is cooked in. The chunks of fresh crab meat coupled with the unami explosion from the sea urchin butter and finely grated bottarga (cured fish roe) deliver a knockout punch.
Yellow: king prawn, saffron, egg paste, Sansho pepper dish at Sant Pau
Another seafood dish that has a place in my heart. During my trip to Spain late last year, I titled this dish ‘the best dish of the trip’. Unfortunately, due to the ever-changing menu at three-michelin starred Sant Pau, this dish is no-longer, however, that won’t stop me from talking about it. This dish was all about the swoon-worthy prawn and saffron sauce. It was silky, smooth, glossy, warm, punchy yet superbly balanced. The thin pasta sheet on top hid delicately cooked prawns that were caught in the waters we overlooked while we dined. That’s a memory that will last a lifetime.
Tuscan kale, mozzarella, chared chilli, anchovy and chilli sauce and parmesan pizza at Sorellina (top left in photo)
I’m not into the superfoods movement, but I will make an exception for this dish. To be honest, my family make perfectly good pizzas at home and we wouldn’t really think about heading out to buy pizzas unless they are really, really, good. We visit Sorellina in the antique quarter of Woolloongabba practically once or twice a month and we always select this as one of our pizzas, it is that good. The pizza dough is risen for at least 36 hours and under the intense heat of the wood-fired oven gains this chewy, charred crust. The middle is a jungle of kale leaves that wilter and crisp, tangled with slices of charred chillis, a drizzle of spicy anchovy sauce and blobs of melted mozzarella cheese. Trust me, you’ll be coming back for more.
Whole Crispy fish with Tamarind Chilli Sauce at The Spirit House
“I’m sick of cooking this dish. We’ll try taking this dish off the menu,” they said. Then the upset regulars (including me) kicked up a stink and forced them to put it back on. “Never again” they said. This dish gives you a reason to head out to Yandina in the Sunshine Coast hinterland, unless of course you love ginger and want to visit the Ginger Factory. My favourite part of this dish are the fins and tail which are fried until crisp. The flesh flakes away from the bone and is mixed through with the tangy spicy sauce, providing a punchy blow. Prepare to fight for the fish skeleton and pick out every last bit of fish with your fingers. Good thing they provide you with a fingerbowl.
‘Fox in the Hen House’ at The Long Apron
There are numerous dishes I could put on this list from The Long Apron, but this dessert takes the cake. Cameron Matthews, the executive chef here, knows how to ‘wow’ you with thoughtful, playful and exciting dishes including his play on an egg. There are so many different elements in the dish, but the flavours of meringue, white chocolate and lemon are the most pronounced. Cameron rarely keeps the same dishes on his menus, as he likes to adapt and change them, but I’m begging him to keep this one on until my next visit.