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Best Restaurant Dishes of 2013

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The year's most extraordinary dishes reflect the biggest restaurant trends of the moment: nose-to-tail-fin eating, live-fire grilling and the quest for elemental flavors.--Kate Krader, Dana Cowin, Kate Heddings, Christine Quinlan, Tina Ujlaki

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  • 1
    Grilled Baby Corn with Black Garlic
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    Trois Mec, Los Angeles In most cities, the hot tickets are for concerts. In L.A., they're for seats at Trois Mec, Ludo Lefebvre's new avant-garde restaurant set inside an old-school pizza place. Once I snagged a ticket, I understood why his five-course menu got everyone so excited, especially the ingenious vegetarian take on ceviche: smoky grilled baby corn on honey custard in a broth of garlic, ginger, lime juice and chile-based ají amarilo paste. I'm not the only one who loves the dish: Anthony Bourdain, Lefebvre's co-judge on The Taste, told Ludo it was the best thing he'd ever eaten. troismec.com.—Kate Krader Photo © Rick Poon
  • 2
    Foie Gras with Avocado
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    The Elm, Brooklyn It takes a talented chef to pair foie gras with avocado. But I knew I could trust Paul Liebrandt to do it. At his new French-leaning spot, The Elm, the chef makes a perfectly smooth foie torchon. Then he serves it with avocado. Crazy, I thought, but together they're outrageously silky; plus the avocado's subtle flavor boosts the ultra-buttery foie gras. Liebrandt adds other glorious, unconventional touches: He coats the torchon in smoky kombu gelée, drizzles almond milk next to the avocado slices and spikes the accompanying brioche with Thai long peppers. Trust me: It's delicious. theelmnyc.com.—Kate Krader Photo © Marcus Nilsson
  • 3
    Coconut and Cuttlefish
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    Minibar; Washington, DC José Andrés's wit is on full display in this dish of coconut and cuttlefish. At first, I couldn't tell which ingredient was which, since both were translucent. Of course, they were the opposite of what I expected: José had seared the sweet coconut and turned the cuttlefish into a delicate tartare. And he'd transformed the cuttlefish and its ink into two scrumptious, distinct sauces—a creamy white one and a pitch-black one. minibarbyjoseandres.com.—Dana Cowin Photo © Greg Powers
  • 4
    Lamb with Eggplant and Olives
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    Fork, Philadelphia Since Eli Kulp arrived at Fork a little over a year ago from Torrisi Italian Specialties in Manhattan, he's become a huge Pennsylvania ingredient advocate. Take the components of his incredible roast lamb dish: charred eggplant laced with brown butter and honey; hibiscus-infused jus; olive crumble. Almost everything comes from the region. "My cooks are amateur foragers," he says. forkrestaurant.com.—Kate Krader Photo © Ball and Albanese
  • 5
    Pork Blood Stew
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    Qui, Austin When I went to Qui, I got to sit at the fabulous Beyoncé Booth. (Beyoncé hasn't eaten there yet, but her booth awaits.) Paul Qui's eclectic menu includes recipes that reflect his Filipino heritage, like dinuguan—a stew made with pork stock, pork blood and confited pork belly, breast and head. The Qui flourish: crisp gnocchi. Beyoncé, don't miss this dish. quiaustin.com.—Kate Heddings Photo © Aimee Wenske
  • 6
    Cabbage with Miso Crème Fraîche
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    Vintage Cave, Honolulu I never expected to find the best cabbage of my life in a Honolulu shopping mall basement. Part of a $295 tasting menu, this dish was sublime. Chris Kajioka chars sweet caraflex cabbage in olive oil so the outer layers get crispy and the inner leaves stay tender. He serves it with crème fraîche spiked with miso, lime and Japanese spices, in white dashi. The result: the most umami-saturated cabbage ever. vintagecave.com.—Christine Quinlan Photo © Dane Nakama