The orange confit with chocolate caramel mousse at Bisato.

Photo courtesy Scott Eklund

What does it say about This Moment in Food that our dish of the year is a six-bite experience priced at $6.50, likely less than you paid to park?

Okay, it’s on the dessert menu. But still. I think it says that small plates, once blithely dismissed as “that tapas trend,” are pretty much here to stay. Small plates are the culinary equivalent of cargo pants—just when you think they’re about to go away forever, they come back in the biggest way. And at this point, we’re as comfortable with the noncommittal joys of a wee composed dish as we are with pockets billowing out from our thighs. Chefs, too, seem to have embraced the opportunity to send out their little works of much-worried-over art.

The orange confit with chocolate caramel mousse at Belltown’s Bisato is not, in fact, a new dish. Chef Scott Carsberg served it at Lampreia, the formal fine-dining restaurant he closed in early 2010, reopening in March with a new menu featuring “Venetian-style light fare.” Here’s what our own Kathryn Robinson had to say about his new place: “In spite of this restaurant’s more casual tone Carsberg still cooks in his arrogant classicist’s style—I say this with all admiration—even pulling the same arch tricks as at Lampreia, only now even trickier.”

The austere minimalism and pure flavors startle as they did at Lampreia, only all the more so since they’re experienced barside, whilst having cocktails with your pals and very likely wearing a pair of comfy cargo khakis.

But about that dish. It’s a two-part plate made up of A. a slice of orange cooked in sugar syrup, its form retained, and B. a quennelle of mousse made from sugar, butter, heavy cream, and chocolate. That’s six ingredients—for those of you counting—plus a whole lot of technique. The confit is sweet and a little sour (you eat the rind); the mousse is gooey goodness. They’re so simply glamorous together, it’s like Brad and Angelina on a dessert plate. And it kind of boggles the mind that you could have one, say, while meeting your girlfriend for a quick glass of wine after work. Or you might pop in hours after dinner, just because you happen to be in the neighborhood. That we get such food as this without committing to a white tablecloth and all the rest—it still makes me a little giddy to think about.

The dish may not be new, but the experience of eating it—an experience that speaks volumes about this particular epoch of the history of Seattle dining—most certainly is.

It’s the most memorable thing we ate in 2010.

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