It's always going to be a contentious task trying to pare down a list of Brisbane's favourite restaurant dishes to a mere 10. Just as hard to pin down is what actually makes a dish "iconic". It's certainly not price, with those on our list coming in at under $40, and most well under that mark. Longevity isn't necessarily a criterion either; while the likes of Il Centro's sand crab lasagne has been around for decades, others became classics the moment they were put on the menu.
What does make a dish "iconic" is a collective awareness of it – a shared knowledge that if you go to a certain restaurant you must have a certain dish. Many seem to be modern interpretations of comfort food, often with a retro bent, such as Stokehouse's reworking of the classic Bombe Alaska or Bistro One Eleven's scotch egg. Here, in no particular order, are our picks of Brisbane's most iconic restaurant dishes.
Kentucky fried duck, $15
Straight onto the menu hit parade from opening day, Public's owners recently thought the KFD had done its time and took it off the menu, but the public rebelled. The deep-fried duck nuggets served in a paper bag are now back and all is well with the world.
Public, Upper Level 1, 400 George St, Brisbane, 07 3210 2288.
Campari sherbet, orange sorbet, curds and whey ice-cream, $12
Who hasn't wondered what the curds and whey little Miss Muffet was eating actually were? Ironically, this sweet-bitter flavour bomb that's a joyful celebration of childhood nostalgia made us all grow up and realise that dessert didn't have to be childishly sweet.
Esquire and Esq, 145 Eagle St, Brisbane, 07 3220 2123.
Potato gnocchi, pork and fennel sausage, black truffle tapenade, $24/36
It certainly won't win any accolades from dietitians, but diners are deeply fond of this hearty combination of gnocchi, chunks of pork and fennel sausage and black truffle. So much so that it has become Enoteca's signature dish.
1889 Enoteca, 10-12 Logan Road, Woolloongabba, 07 3392 4315.
Sand crab lasagne, $27/$39.50
Invented by then chef Gillian Hirst in 1989, the sand crab lasagne has never been off the Il Centro menu and still its popularity shows no sign of waning. Definitely a retro indulgence, it's as excessive as our shoulder pads were back then.
Il Centro, Eagle Street Pier, 1 Eagle Street, Brisbane, 07 3221 6090.
The bombe, $20
A modern classic, the bombe takes its cue from the days of Avon ladies and cheese cubes on toothpicks but has been reworked into a modern version; a pretty sweet treat of white parfait, strawberry sorbet and toasted meringue that is still a conversation starter.
Stokehouse, Sidon Street, South Bank, 07 3020 0600.
Lamb shoulder, ($70 for two)
Pablo Tordesillas' menu is one of the most inventive in Brisbane, yet Ortiga patrons can't get enough of this simple slow-cooked, falling-off-the-bone lamb dish with "poor man's potatoes" and lemon puree. It's like a Spanish mum's Sunday roast.
Ortiga, 446 Brunswick Street, Fortitude Valley, 07 3852 1155.
Souffle aux crabe et gruyere, $24
Regulars would vote almost every dish on this much-loved restaurant's menu iconic, but the pillowy twice-cooked crab souffle with a light cream sauce has pretty much become synonymous with the name Montrachet.
Montrachet, 224 Given Terrace, Paddington, 07 3367 0030.
Papardelle with goat ragu, $20/$27
A dish that follows the "simplicity and quality ingredients" mantra espoused by most Italian cooks, the light house-made pappardelle is sauced with a slow-cooked baby goat shoulder ragu. Packed with flavour, it's just as good in summer as winter.
Bar Alto, The Powerhouse 119 Lamington Street, New Farm, 07 3358 1063.
Sashimi tacos, $15
The fusion of central American and Japanese works surprisingly well and these dinky little taco shells encasing delicate cubes of tuna and salmon sashimi and tomato salsa served with a Kozaemon Junmai sake shot became an instant classic.
Sake, 45 Eagle Street, Brisbane, 07 3015 0557.
Scotch egg, $9
British food has been given the cold shoulder for a long time, but it's back with Bistro Eleven's nod to nostalgia – the scotch egg. Simple and lovely, it's served with a curry mayo referencing colonial Britain's Indian influence.
Bistro One Eleven, 111 Eagle St, Brisbane, 07 3220 2557.
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