The Good Food Guide 2020 is released on October 1 with reviews of more than 500 restaurants across the country and, after 12 months of fancy fork-work, Guide reviewers have reported back on the key food trends spotted in the field. Straight-shooting, deeply flavoured dishes are the biggest trend in lieu of anything too fussy (macarons have had their day) with a few 1980s throwbacks rounding things out – even arancini has made a comeback.
Balls of all sorts
“I’ve never seen so much round food in my life,” said Good Food Guide senior reviewer Terry Durack. “Everywhere I go, there are balls on the menu – meatballs, but also balls made of black pudding, blue sago, labne and salt cod.”
Arancini rice balls are also making a return and breaking free of their Italian heritage, said Durack. “The last arancini I had were in a Vietnamese restaurant and stuffed with spanner crab.”
“The bombe Alaska is an edible work of art with spiky peaks of blow-torched meringue, tangy sorbet and rich ice-cream in a glorious juxtaposition of hot, cold, smooth and squishy,” said Durack. The next-generation “Bombette Alaska” is a great fit for millennial times, he adds, being “technically precise, visually appealing and single-serve”.
Cacio e pepe
The simple Roman dish of pecorino cheese, black pepper and spaghetti has been popping up at wine bars everywhere, somewhat due to the low cost of ingredients but mainly because it’s creamy and highly delicious. Cacio e pepe has now transcended spaghetti to grace other pastas (maccheroni and mafaldine, say) and become so popular that cacio e pepe-enhanced eggs, butter and chickpeas have made it onto menus.
“Following 2018’s decriminalisation of bread eating, 2019 was the year outrageous sandwiches took the place of burgers as the ultimate handheld meal,” said senior reviewer Gemima Cody. “They’re expensive, but these new wave sandwiches treat every element with the same care you would expect of anything served on a plate. Pair one with a martini for the business lunch of your dreams.”
“If 2019 is any indication, kangaroo tartare is set to be our new national dish,” said senior reviewer Jill Dupleix. “If I see it on a menu, I order it, which means I’m currently eating it at least once a week.” Roo tartare is an intuitive use of sustainable, wild-caught, native meat that brings out its fresh, slightly gamey sweetness, said Dupleix, and best served with crisps (perhaps made from potato, buckwheat, beetroot or saltbush) for a crunch in the mouth.
Big steaks are big news, with designed-to-share cuts such as rib-eye, T-bone and tomahawk replacing the 200 gram fillet at hatted restaurants everywhere. “Chefs have embraced that eating steak isn’t about individual serves, because that means compromising on quality,” said Anthony Puharich, chief executive of Vic’s Meat which supplies beef to many of Australia’s best restaurants. “28 to 30 months of age is the right amount of time to let cattle mature [and develop flavour] and butchers can’t cut an animal that size into small serves.”
The new surf ‘n’ turf
If there was a Most Valuable Sausage of the Decade trophy, it would be awarded to nduja, the spicy spreadable pork salumi originating from Calabria. It has made special guest appearances on pizza over the last few years, but in 2019 chefs really took to serving it with anything from the sea, but particularly prawns, pipis and octopus which are robust enough to stand up to nduja’s chilli kick.
Traditionally made from fermented soybeans, variations of Japan’s umami-rich miso paste have been flavour-enhancing everything from eggplant to fried chicken to caramel (especially caramel). In the interests of all things local and never-before-tasted, chefs are making their versions own, too, and top restaurants are experimenting with miso made from macadamia, bunya nut and banana.
The Good Food Guide’s third annual national edition will be on sale from October 1 in newsagencies and bookstores, and is also available to pre-order at thestore.com.au/gfg20, $29.99 with free shipping.