chargrilled masala halibut from turmeric photo by izaiah johnson

Sauce critic Michael Renner’s top 4 dishes of 2020

This year’s Top Dishes column is like no other. It is “unprecedented,” as we say about everything now. I’ve chosen my favorite pre-pandemic dishes from the restaurants I reviewed between December 2019 and March 2020. All of them make me long for the full reopening and survival of St. Louis’ dining scene.

Turmeric’s Chargrilled Masala Halibut
Roasted in a banana leaf, the firm fish was finished on the grill and served on a bed of spinach poriyal with a creamy yogurt-fenugreek sauce so delicious I’d pour it on toast.

green leaf wraps, whole pompano fish and gaeng som fiery fish soup at chao baan // photo by izaiah johnson

Chao Baan’s Whole Pompano Fish
The deep-fried whole pompano served in a pungent chile-garlic-tamarind sauce and garnished with a colorful array of cilantro, lime and bird’s-eye chiles is the restaurant’s showpiece. Further excavation revealed the best part: sweet and tender cheek meat.

Il Palato’s Capesante
This dish captured the fading winter season by intermingling meaty diver scallops and seared parsnips on a pillow of creamy parsnip puree, while a gentle douse of bright and tart salsa verde signaled a glimpse into the impending spring.

The Bellwether’s Chicken Paprikash
Braised with sweet vermillion-hued paprika and served on a bed of aromatic, nutmeg-infused spaetzel dappled with dollops of lemon crema, executive chef Thomas Furtell’s transformative interpretation of the humble Hungarian dish proved lighter but no less comforting.