Neil Perry’s Top 10 Dishes to Try in 2016

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Qantas’s creative director of food, beverage and service Neil Perry nominates his top dishes of 2015... so you can eat them in 2016.

When I look back at 2015, I’m amazed by what a great year of travelling and eating it was. Here are my 10 favourite dishes, in no particular order. Some are from Michelin-starred restaurants and others from noodle joints, where a great meal can cost $10.

ShanDong MaMa Mini, Melbourne

This hole-in-the-wall is a great spot to drop in for a snack. The dish I dream of is the pan-fried mackerel dumplings. These rectangular pillows of delicious fresh-fish mousse are crisp on the fried side and tender on the steamed side.

Shop 5, Centre Place

Ester, Sydney

Mat Lindsay’s restaurant, which is centred around a fantastic wood-fired oven, makes some of the best bread in Sydney. And on a visit last year we tried a knockout dish of wood-fire-burnt leeks, sesame sauce and breadcrumbs – texturally superb and such a taste sensation. The simple things can be so rewarding.

46/52 Meagher Street, Chippendale

Hing Kee, Hong Kong

Don’t expect luxe here – it’s laminated tabletops – but the seafood is as fresh as it gets. The razor clams are steamed with garlic and set on a bed of vermicelli, which soaks up all the juices. The clams are so tender but, at the same time, have this resistant chew that makes them irresistible. I wish we had them in Australia.

Po Wah Commercial Building, 180 Nathan Road, Tsim Sha Tsui

Dinner by Heston, Melbourne

It’s hard to go past the “meat fruit” at Heston’s. I’ve had it before and marvelled at the taste, texture and, of course, the presentation of a beautiful pâté encased in mandarin jelly that looks like it has just been picked from the tree. But this one was special because I had it in Melbourne with Heston [Blumenthal]. I love it when consistency is so perfect. It moved me just as much here in Australia as it had once in London. It’s a bucket-list dish – try it!

Crown Towers, level 3, 8 Whiteman Street Southbank

Mott 32, Hong Kong

Moody and dark, this modern Chinese restaurant is famous for its roast duck but for me, it’s all about the Iberico pork char siu. It’s amazingly marbled and will be the most delicious barbecue pork you’re ever likely to taste. Order two plates to avoid fighting over the last piece.

Standard Chartered Bank Building, 4-4A Des Voeux Road

Sushi Saito, Tokyo

One of Tokyo’s best restaurants, Sushi Saito has three Michelin stars. You can have about 15 courses of sushi or take the chef’s omakase tasting menu before the nigiri sushi starts. I’ve had Cooked Prawn at so many places but here it’s next level. The prawn is peeled and de-veined while it’s still warm. It’s crunchy and sweet, with the juices of the head tasting sweetly of the sea.

1-4-5 Roppongi, Minato-ku

NaruOne, Sydney

This Korean barbecue place does a simple yet superb spicy stir-fried pork with rice. The pork strips are fried with carrot, cabbage and onion. Then they’re stir-fried with doenjang (soybean paste) and gochujang (chilli paste) and served with kimchi. I adore Korean cooking. Smash it with a beer for complete happiness.

373-375 Pitt Street

Tokara Restaurant, Stellenbosch

Not only is the Tokara vineyard pretty and the wine fantastic, its restaurant is also seriously good and well worth the hour drive out of Cape Town. One of the best dishes I ate last year was the “Franco-Japanese interpretation of crayfish, calamari, mussels and line fish”. This is a beautiful plate of six small preparations of seafood, from mussel with anchovy cream, apple, beet and mint to calamari with lemon cream, persillade and tomato.

Helshoogte Road, Stellenbosch

Spice Temple, Sydney

I love to sit at the bar here. The killer dish is a 1.5-kilogram mud crab, steamed with ginger and shallot. You know you’ve found the perfect crab when you fight ever so slightly to release its flesh from the shell and it’s the juiciest, most delicious meat ever. Bravo, chef Andy Evans!

10 Bligh Street, Sydney

The Ledbury, London

Brett Graham is a brilliant chef and restaurateur and his Michelin two-star is a must-visit. The place, food and service are all top class. Any of the 17 courses we had could easily be on this list. But hard choices must be made and I loved the flame-grilled mackerel with shiso, pickled cucumber and Celtic mustard. The oily, crisp skin Brett achieves is to die for.

127 Ledbury Road, London

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