With the brisbanetimes.com.au Queensland Good Food Guide reviewers taste-testing their way from north Queensland to the border, through more than 1300 dishes, it's inevitable that the taste of some would linger longer than others. We ask five to tell us about their favourites.
''A standout for me, with the winter chills coming on in the next few weeks, was the soubise fish pie at Malt. It arrives steaming and bubbling and if you're hungry enough the rich smells wafting out from under jaunty golden crust can make you a little bit dizzy.
''For a while there I found myself ricocheting back and forth across the city as I tried to decide whether the best pork belly I'd ever tasted was at the bar in the front of Aria, where it makes a delicious snack with a quick glass of vino, or over at the much more modest Simpatico in Paddington, where the pork belly is famed enough that you need to get in early to be sure of scoring your serve. At one point I drove up to Spirit House to try their darker, saltier/sweeter Asian twist on my favourite obssession, but I still haven't decided. I might have to do some more research.
''Finally, my favourite dessert. Simple, but rare: the chocolate cheesecake brownie at Pearl. They only make these things a couple of times a year and God help you if you get in my way when they they do. A thick slab of fudgy, gooey, creamy goodness. It can't be beaten.''
''The whole slow-cooked lamb shoulder for two (or more) at Ortiga was absolutely sublime - the meat so tender I needed only a fork to pull it apart - served with divine patatas a lo pobre and lemon puree. I adore this style of eating, with a group of friends all sitting around a magnificent cut of meat to share.
''Ravioli isn't usually the first thing on a menu I want to order but the organic ricotta and truffle version with spanner crab on a pea veloute at The Euro was just beautiful. Everything - the flavours, the textures - in harmony.
''Finally, I could name several dishes from Esquire's degustations but I love that their dessert courses are just as considered and inventive as the savoury dishes that proceed them. A standout for me is their Campari curds with orange and whey curd ice-cream: tart, sweet, utterly delightful.''
''The tartare of Hiramasa Kingfish at Reserve in Milton; vibrant yet delicate. The best dessert for 2012 for me was the orange gugelfhof with quince jam, ice-cream, citrus caramel and quince jam at Seasalt in Spring Hill. A great balance and complexity, contrasts of texture and flavour.
''The mushroom and manchego taco at Villa Maria in Coorparoo, has hand-pressed tortillas and oozing rustic smells and flavours of corn masa – streets ahead of any other tortillas I’ve had in Brisbane. The filling is simple, unexpected and really quite punchy.''
''An entree of seared scallops, pork belly, celeriac puree, lemon snow, and coriander at Cha Cha Char was an unexpected, mouth-tingling surprise.
''At Embassy XO (Sunshine Beach) their steamed chocolate buns with chilli raspberry dipping sauce was outstanding and I loved the breakfast at Indulge in Bundaberg - duck ham and free range eggs. The duck ham is so unusual. It's local and expertly smoked.''
''There’s nothing delicate about fried duck pieces known as KFD served in a brown-paper bag at Public, but biting into the spicy, crunchy outer to reveal the moist, pink duck meat within is something of a religious experience. I love the playfulness of the dish, in both name and presentation and the big, bold flavours of the spice mix.
''At the new The Survey Co, I loved the hearty pairing of the rich flavour of venison with lilly pilly and beetroot. What really appeals to me about this dish is the marriage of a classical European-style dish with native Australian flavours.
''Another favourite is a south-Pacific-inspired dish of raw white fish pieces in coconut cream, lime juice, and finely shredded chilli and ginger, garnished with edible flowers, at Jellyfish. Not only is it one of the prettiest dishes in town, but the balance between the light, freshness of raw fish and lime, and the velvety richness of coconut cream, makes your taste buds want to dance.''
The brisbanetimes.com.au Queensland Good Food Guide 2012 is now on sale at bookstores, newsagents and online. Recommended retail price is $24.95. The guide is also available as an app through the iTunes store for $8.99. An online version is available for $8.99.