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Top 10 dishes of 2010 

The best things I ate in Atlanta restaurants this year

10. Uova E Tartufi pizza at Caffe Fortunato

click to enlarge JAMES CAMP

OK, to be fair, this is a $25 pizza. That's a lot to spend on a nine-inch pizza. But how often does your pizza arrive with a flurry of freshly shaved black truffle on top? And a fresh farm egg, its bright orange yolk running to form a rich sauce? Add a wood-fired, crispy pizza crust, a tangy red sauce and the freshness of bright green basil, and you've got a pizza worth its $25 price tag.

255 Village Parkway, Marietta. 770-951-1394.

9. Egg custard at Le Vigne

click to enlarge JAMES CAMP

Desserts in this New Southern world in which we find ourselves have fallen into the too-plain, too-nostalgic trap, even more than savory dishes. But Steven Hartman at Le Vinge has managed to overcome that hurdle, most notably with his egg custard dessert. The dish has its origins in the flans, brulees and crème caramels of Europe, but the presentation (in a jar) and simple pleasure of a thick egg custard topped with pleasingly viscous caramel sauce seems comfortingly Southern. The most texturally pleasing, generous-of-spirit dessert I ate all year.

501 Hightower Church Road, Dahlonega. 706-867-4060. www.montaluce.com.

8. Sunchoke purée at the Sound Table

click to enlarge JAMES CAMP

The Sound Table has become my default for dining when what I really want is a good cocktail. I go early (by this I mean before 9 p.m. – after that hour, the place can become raucous, especially if you want to eat at the downstairs bar, my preferred setting), grab a drink (my favorite, the Prospect Park, is no longer on the cocktail menu, but they'll still make it when asked) and order something from the constantly changing list of international bites. Recently, I encountered an entrée that kind of defies categorization – a bowl of thick sunchoke purée, topped with sautéed mushrooms and a poached egg. The combination was at once silky, sweet and woodsy, the mushrooms lending just enough musk to bring balance to what was otherwise an exercise in richness. I wanted to tell all those hipsters to close their eyes so I could lick the bowl without fear of being shunned.

483 Edgewood Ave. 404-835-2534. www.thesoundtable.com.

7. Homemade tofu at Tofu Village.

There are tofu lovers and tofu haters. I am the former. I like tofu in most of its incarnations (other than that spongy one), but perhaps the purest I've found is the lightly seared, house-made tofu at Marietta's Tofu Village. It arrives on a sizzling platter, and Tofu Village's proud owner suggests that you try it first without the provided soy dipping sauce. The crispy, almost lacy edges give way to a creamy center. The flavor is more savory, more intense, more vegetal than what you're used to. It's enough to convert the haters.

700 Sandy Plains Road, Suite B-1, Marietta. 770-426-7757

6. Potatoes bravas at Holy Taco

Every time I eat at this EAV taco joint, I kind of want to shout from the hilltops. Robert Phalen consistently cooks more interesting dishes than half the chefs in town – favorites this year included creamed corn topped with naughty slivers of lardo and the ever-addictive pork belly torta. But the best thing I had from Phalen's kitchen this year was a delightfully weird side dish of new potatoes with slab bacon and smoked trout roe. Potatoes and bacon is a classic enough combination, but the addition of trout roe ramped up the dish to be more than just carbs and meat – it gave it a textural pop and a smoky, slightly saline underpinning. Yum.

1314 Glenwood Ave. 404-230-6177. www.holy-taco.com.

5. Chao Ga at Quan Ba 9

Very much like a congee, this chicken-y hot porridge is about the most comforting thing I've ever eaten. Intensely flavored and with flecks of mushroom, scallion and fried shallots throughout, the dish should serve as a cure for any cold, hangover or broken heart. The chicken used to make the broth for the porridge is also served as a herb-heavy salad alongside.

4285 Buford Highway, 404-636-2999.

4. The gigiotto calzone at Antico

click to enlarge JAMES CAMP

I didn't eat this dish first in 2010, but this is a list of the 10 best things I ate all year and damn it, this counts. I eat one every few weeks, and it never loses its shine – that bitter broccoli rabe, that gooey ricotta cheese, that crusty, bready crust, that herbaceous sausage, that bright, sweet tomato sauce ... one of the best dishes in town, period.

1093 Hemphill Ave. 404-724-2333. www.anticopizza.it.

3. The veal chop at Sotto Sotto

click to enlarge JAMES CAMP

An oldie but a goodie. In re-reviewing Sotto Sotto, I came across a number of dishes that could have made it onto this list. But the veal chop stands out. A huge hunk of oak-grilled meat accompanied by a flurry of wild mushrooms looked upon arrival as though it would fill me up in three bites or less. Miraculously, the juicy veal and mushroom sauce had no heaviness whatsoever, just classic savory meaty goodness.

313 N. Highland Ave. 404-523-6678. www.sottosottorestaurant.com.

2. Super food at Empire State South

click to enlarge JAMES CAMP

Much like any new Southern restaurant worth its grits, Empire State South has an (un)healthy dose of fat worship and gluttony showcased on its menu. At dinner, pimento cheese — already a big pile of cholesterol — comes with a side of bacon marmalade. What's that? Cheese and mayo aren't bad enough for ya? Here, have some pig fat cooked in sugar with it! But thankfully, the restaurant also has a way with foods of the less heart attack-inducing variety, in particular their super food plate. Served at lunch only, the plate is comprised of a collection of grains, veggies and garnishes, and lean sliced hanger steak. Farro is brightened with vinaigrette, beets cooled with yogurt sauce, turnips or asparagus (depending on the season) adding a crunch and intrigue. A meat-free version of the dish in salad form shows up on the brunch menu, and it too will leave you feeling full, healthy and ready for that third Bloody Mary.

999 Peachtree St. 404-541-1105. www.empirestatesouth.com.

1. Pink-eyed peas and quinoa at Dynamic Dish

click to enlarge JAMES CAMP

It's true – the best thing I had to eat this year is no longer available. Would this dish make my No. 1 pick if Dynamic Dish were still open? Does it even matter? Isn't the memory of a meal just as important as the pleasure in the act of eating? I remember this dish with the most affection because when I ate it, I knew it would be the last taste I had of David Sweeney's unadulterated cooking for a long time to come. The combination of slightly warm and almost velvety pink-eyed peas, nutty quinoa, creamy and assertive feta, and copious amounts of bright green parsley made for the most satisfying lunch imaginable, and a dish that will live in my memory for years to come.

besha.rodell@creativeloafing.com

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