The 2011 Sam Khok Awards

Fifteen countries. Approximately 1091 restaurant meals. The 2011 Sam Khok Awards have arrived. The criteria? I ate here in 2011 and the meal, dish, or drink was worthy of further mention. Without further ado, the awards:

Best pizza – 40’s Cafe, Angaston, South Australia. One would not want to take a tour of the Barossa Valley on an empty stomach.

Best restaurant name – Thai Me Up, Coogee Beach, Sydney. 

Best goat – Goat served seven different ways at Dalat. Despite a serious effort to try them all, we could only manage four. Well, perhaps not so serious.

Largest oyster – What a year it was for oysters! From Adelaide to Asahikawa and many places in between, I sampled the best oysters in Pranburi, Phuket, Halong Bay, etc. I can’t pick a favorite, but I can pick the largest. Chigasaki.

Best red wine – 1996 The Holy Trinity by Grant Burge. 

Best champagne – Bollinger. At The Open Championship. Please sir, may I have some more?

Best seafood, Indian – Trishna, Mumbai. First stop for popcorn at the Bombay Gymkhana Club, proceed to Trishna for dinner, then repair to a nearby paanwala for that “addictive and euphoria-inducing” digestif.

Best tandoori cuisine – Bukhara, New Delhi.  

Most exotic dish – This is a toss-up between kujira sashimi, kujira bacon, kujira katsu, or sautéed chó. I can’t choose just one. You might guess what kujira or chó are, but I’ll refrain from further details. 

Best smoked meat – Schwartz’s. Better than I expected, and I had high expectations. It has been described as a “maddening aphrodesiac.” You’ve probably read Barney’s Version. If you haven’t, it is a wonderful book.

Best fusion drink – The Jack Daniels ハイボール. The preferred shinkansen drink of 2011. I couldn’t decide if I liked this or not, and it came in such an attractive can, so I tasted it multiple times. The verdict: not the best drink, but certainly the best fusion drink.

Best soft cream – The wasabi at Shizuoka, sweet potato at Tochigi, salt at Okinawa, and melon at Hokkaido were all strong contenders in a year punctuated by roadside stops to sample every possible flavor of soft cream, but the winner is the elusive peanut soft cream from Chiba.

Innovation in fast food – McDonald’s Big Spicy Paneer Wrap. Just as advertised, big, spicy, wrapped paneer. 

The awards could go on, for best genghis khan, best som tam, best kra pao gai kai dao gai sap kai suk, best bibimbap, best Pimms, best tonic wine (Buckfast, obviously), best crab, best poutine, or innumerable other dishes. I’ll save those stories for another time, and close with a superb dish that is also contender for best golf course lunch.

Best ramen – The seafood ramen at Hokkaido Brooks Country Club. Absolutely superb. I don’t often take videos of my food, unless it is moving. But this ramen was worthy of a video.

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