These are the dishes I wish I could eat again (and now!), the plates I yearn for long after the review has been published, the story posted. In the last few months, there have been quite a few. Are you ready? Here we go . . .
King's Special stir-fry at King Chinese BBQ
One of the dishes that bowled me over on a Chinese barbecue adventure to King Chinese BBQ in Arlington was this stir-fry of fish balls, lots of garlic chives, fried tofu, tiny dried shrimp and peanuts. So unusual, and really wonderful.
Strascinati with peas, spring onion and mint at Lucia
At Lucia, which I reviewed in May, I swooned over strascinati – hand-made pea-pod-shaped pasta – bathed in ramp butter and tossed with English peas, wisps of spring onion and torn mint leaves. Hyper-seasonal, to be sure, and really a knockout.
Spring vegetable toast at Lark on the Park
Later that month, lunch at Lark on the Park turned up a dish that sounded austere, but wound up blowing me away: a spring vegetable toast dolled up with English pea purée, shaved watermelon radish, fresh favas, English peas, watercress and goat cheese; generous dabs of mint pistou sent the thing over the top. It was wildly good. It has since been replaced with a summer vegetable toast.
Octopus salad at Sprezza
One evening, when I was reviewing Sprezza (Julian Barsotti's wonderful new Roman taverna), I sat at the chef's counter and watched the garde manger (cold appetizer) chef prepare this salad of octopus, potatoes, peppers and Castelvetrano olives. It looked so good (and she was clearly taking such care with it) that I had to have it. With its kiss of lemony sauce, it was splendid — one of the best dishes I had there.
Day-boat scallops with lardo ibérico at Uchi
Uchi has not yet been re-reviewed since chef de cuisine Jeramie Robison replaced Nilton "Junior" Borges, but in May, Robison's dayboat scallops with lardo ibérico, golden tomatoes and finely julienned shiso definitely delighted.
Jako daikon salad at Yama Izakaya and Sushi
I had no idea what jako was when I ordered this dish at Yama Izakaya and Sushi, and I'm sure it's not for everyone: It's dried baby sardines no bigger than tiny snips of yarn. To this salad of diced cucumber and julienned daikon (Japanese radish), the jako added amazing flavor and texture. The bonito flakes that waved around on top, so thin they catch currents of air, were icing on the proverbial cake.
Mantoo at Laili
One of my favorite places to eat in the Market food hall at the Dallas Farmers Market is Laili, a stall selling thoughtfully prepared Afghan food. Laili's mantoo — tender, floppy, beef-filled dumplings dressed in tomato sauce and minty yogurt — were marvelous. You can also find them at Laili's new cafe and bakery in Plano.
Shrimp 65 at India Haat
Considerable care is also taken with the cooking at India Haat, a quirky new place in Addison. This shrimp appetizer, the first dish I tasted there, made me sit up and take notice. The prawns, fried in a light batter and dredged in lovely spices, were set atop fried curry leaves, fenugreek and mustard seeds.
Lamb loin with polenta, charred eggplant and green-garlic harissa at Lucia
I really loved the green garlic harissa dabbed on the gorgeously cooked lamb loin medallions at Lucia. It was unusual, yet played pitch-perfectly into the Eastern Mediterranean vibe the dish had going, with its mint and eggplant. Just wonderful.
Fusilli at Sprezza
Of all the pasta dishes I tasted at Sprezza, this — house-made fusilli with sausage, ramps and escarole in a creamy sauce touched with brandy — is the one I keep dreaming about.
Oyakodon at Yama Izakaya and Sushi
Yama Izakaya and Sushi's oyakodon — a bowl of rice topped with saucy chicken cooked with egg and vegetables — deliciously pushes the umami envelope. It's Japanese comfort food at its best.
Pasticciotti at Palmieri Cafe
One of my other favorite places to stop at the Dallas Farmers Market's food hall is Palmieri Cafe, Corrado Palmieri's sweet little Italian coffee and pastry stall. Palmieri makes all the pastries on the premises, including the ones called pasticciotti. The perfect almondy pastry filled with vanilla cream is the signature treat from his hometown of Galatina, in southern Italy's Salento region. The little devils have serious finesse.
Marzipan gelato with shortbread and green almonds at Lucia
Another almondy treat, Lucia's marzipan gelato was much more dreamy than you'd expect with a dessert that seems so simple. The fresh grated green almonds, of course, were a brilliant touch, and the shortbread and gelato were perfect. It's gone now, replaced by other sweets. Its memory lingers in the deliciousness hall of fame.