I eat in -- obviously -- at least 52 restaurants every year. Actually it works out to many more than 52, and my "best of the year" column lists the most outstanding of those reviewed during the year. But there were so many more really good dishes that I would hate to see overlooked. Some I found in starred, relatively polished restaurants, some in bare-bones, mostly take-out holes-in-the-wall, too limited to be starred. The following is only a partial list of the dishes that still shine in my memory.
- Airport hotels are rarely known for their food, but BISTRO 1800 is an exception. The star here was an exceptional Coquilles St-Jacques of scallops and shrimp in a luscious riesling cream sauce. Meats were another strength -- a prime rib steak on the bone in port jus, a Dijon-crusted rack of lamb, a hefty pork chop in wild berry port jus. Hilton Suites Hotel, 1800 Wellington Ave., 783-1700.
- Although CHEZ SOPHIE'S owners are from Alsace, their pizzas are among the city's best, including one cream-sauced version that resembles Alsatian flammenkuchen. They also do such French classics as escalope of veal in a bacon-laced cream sauce, the killer tartiflette gratin of potatoes, bacon, ham, cream and Trappist cheese, and sometimes, if you're lucky, crepes suzettes. 248 avenue de la Cathédrale, 235-0353.
- CITY PIZZA's food is primarily for take-out, and the pizzas are just standard. What puts it on my map are the massive calzones, stuffed with either yogurt-marinated chicken tikka or little balls of ground beef, and a creamy cole slaw. Also good are the chicken or ground beef kebabs tucked into naan-like bread, as well as baba ganouj and hummus. 749 Ellice Ave., 779-3408.
- DESSERT SINSATIONS is better known for its pastries, but the breakfasts (Monday to Saturday) are also tops, especially the poutine with poached eggs, jack and cheddar cheeses and, instead of gravy, a light, lemony hollandaise. Slightly less decadent are eggs Benedict with choice of ham, smoked salmon or asparagus, and the huevos rancheros. 505 St. Mary Ave., 284-4661.
- L'EPI DE BLE is where recent emigres from Provence create such French glories as marzipan sponge cake with mocha buttercream and chocolate ganache; walnut sponge log with cinnamon Bavarian cream and calvados-spiked apple; lemon curd sandwiched between a crisp cookie and a soft meringue; and addictive wee aniseed-scented canestrelli cookies. 1757 Main Street, 334-2526.
- You'll find moo shus on many Chinese menus, but FOON HAI's filling of succulent roast duck with cabbage less often. Other highlights are marinated, fried crispy chicken; tiny, slightly spicy Five Spice Salt and Pepper pork chops; and steamed pork dumplings that are bigger, juicier and more flavourful than most I've had in dim sum houses. 329 William Ave., 943-5032.
- Most of GALO LOUCO's few specialties are based on flame-grilled chicken -- Portuguese style, sort of. Don't expect piri piri hot sauce, but the birds are flavourful and beautifully juicy. An alternative to chicken is the marinated pork bifana sandwich on terrific house-made water bread. Fries are good, the house-made, wafer-thin chips even better. 1075 Notre Dame Ave., 772-4256.
- You expect good fish and chips, cottage pie and Toad in the Hole from the team that once ran the Brit Cafe, and you get them these days at GIZZY'S. What you may not expect are the pork-filled dumplings -- plump and meaty, in a chili-spiked and slightly gingery cream sauce, elegant enough to hold their own on any of the town's top tables. 3025 Ness Ave., 896-9815.
- Some of the city's best Greek foods are for take-out only, from the GREEK MARKET. The superb mousska, for instance, under a luscious bechamel; lemony marinated calamari salad; housemade beef or lamb sausage; gigantic beans in light tomato sauce and such fabulous desserts as creamy rice pudding, kourabedes shortbreads and a syrup-drenched honey cake. 1440 Corydon Ave., 488-6161.
- ISLAND FLAVA has only 10 seats (obviously take-out is the focus), and its few Jamaican offerings vary from day to day. But among them are outstanding oxtails -- meaty chunks in a brown gravy that is gelatinous and rich with marrow from the bones, as well as non-spicy but good jerk chicken. 542 Dufferin Ave., 415-5206.
- JESSIE'S KITCHEN. For something completely different, have the great potato pancake pizza, topped by tomato sauce, bits of beef, mozzarella and green onions. For something more familiar, plump perogies with a variety of fillings, or homey meat balls in gravy. For dessert, nalysnyky dessert crepes in cream or the magnificent, chocolate-glazed honey cake. 60 Whellam's Lane, 661-3332 (phone for instructions for access).
- LAN MAY has a few Taiwanese specialties and, in truth, I'm not sure which are which. What I do know is that I loved the rice vermicelli with nippy sesame paste and bits of pork, the House Chicken braised in wine with plenty of garlic and ginger, and the fabulous fried Mandarin shrimp with a hot-tart finish of vinegar and bits of chili peppers. 1373 Portage Ave., 783-6772.
- NOU EUL TOR's Korean specialties include potent kimchi, juicy and very garlicky dumplings, and slippery chapchae noodles. I liked the grill-it-yourself pork belly strips, coated in fiery red chili paste and wrapped in romaine, but most of all I loved the plate-size pancakes -- a puffy one of potatoes, and a flat one with bits of octopus. 726 Sargent Ave., 779-1855.
- SANTA ANA's menu may be small, but the portions are big and moderately priced. Among them, Mediterranean sautéed shrimp; spicy Italian sausage with tomato sauce and asiago; and wood-fired salmon. I was also impressed by the remarkably modest markup on the well-chosen wines, and the fact that I could take my unfinished bottle home. 1631 St. Mary's Rd., 415-1440.
- VIENA DO CASTELO has a few tables for snacking, but mostly the food is for take-out, such wonderful egg-rich Portuguese pastries as custard, honey or coconut tarts, lemony sponge cake, wee madeleine-like cakes and rice pudding. Also, on Saturdays, a few varying cooked specials, among them terrific wine-marinated ribs. 819 Sargent Ave., 415-4615
To see Marion's picks for the best-of-the-rest of 2011, click on the links above.