The world's 50 Best restaurants
Dine at the best of the best
With the annual 'World's Best Restaurants' list announcement postponed until June 2021, the World's Best 2020 list is still in effect and accurate throughout the remainder of this year.
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What makes it special: Unrivalled views of the French Riviera, three levels of cascading vegetable gardens churning out the sweetest produce and a team of outrageously talented cooks and front-of-house staff combine to make Mirazur the ultimate restaurant experience. Mauro Colagreco’s unique cuisine is inspired by the sea, the mountains and the restaurant’s own gardens, including Menton’s emblematic citrus fruits.
On the menu: Highlights from Mirazur’s tasting menu include salt-crusted beetroot from the garden with caviar cream, eggs from the chicken coop (when touring the gardens, keep an eye out for prize hen, Tina Turner) with smoked eel and hazelnuts and a brioche of potatoes with melting egg and white truffle. The restaurant’s perfect-for-sharing bread is infused with ginger and served with a Pablo Neruda poem.
Other projects: Aside from his ever-popular Grand Coeur restaurant in Paris and branches of meat-focused Carne in Argentina, Colagreco has recently opened Grill 58 in Macao and Florie’s in Palm Beach, USA, with more restaurants set for Bangkok and Beijing.
Pro-tip: After dining, take a five-minute walk across the Italian border into Genoa for an espresso at totally unfancy Bar La Grotta.
What’s the story: The original Noma was, undoubtedly, one of the most important restaurants of its generation. With his food, René Redzepi developed a new genre of cuisine. New Nordic cookery looks back to look ahead; digging deeper than seasonality to explore unsung foraged products, while seamlessly weaving in a study of fermentation. Redzepi’s visionary approach to celebrating terroir via ingredient-focused, minimalist plates earned the first incarnation of Noma the title of The World’s Best Restaurant in four years: 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2014.
What to expect from the menu: When Noma relaunched, Redzepi introduced a new dining structure in which the restaurant offers three menus per year, each roughly 20-courses, based on the top ingredients available during a given season. The Seafood Season runs 9th January through 1st June; Vegetable Season runs 25th June through 21st September; and Game and Forest Season runs 15th October through 21st December. Guests are advised to make a booking in whichever period suits their palate. Throughout each menu, the ideology that made Noma’s name stays true: native ingredients explored through the lens of myriad cooking techniques that join to become far more than the sum of their constituent parts.
Why visit: Despite its world-renowned status, what separates Etxebarri from many other world-class restaurants is its simple – boarding on austere – second-floor, stone-adorned dining room that’s totally unpretentious. The effortless and relaxed, but flawlessly charming, style of service is a perfect fit for the setting. Etxebarri’s ground floor houses a basic bar that also doubles as the village pub.
What’s on the menu: The restaurant respects the intrinsic natural flavours of local produce and delicately urges each ingredient to show its potential: goat’s milk churned into ethereal butter, green peas amplified in their own juice, beef dry aged for so many days it bites with umami. Arguinzoniz cooks vegetables and proteins on a range of charcoals he makes from a variety of woods, kissing most plates with at least a suggestion of smoke.
The Chef: Chef Victor Arguinzoniz has a remarkable ability to coax out explosive flavour from seemingly simple ingredients, most of which are grilled over an open hearth. Arguinzoniz was born and raised in the farming community of Axpe, a tiny picturesque village nestled in the mountains an hour’s drive from Bilbao. He is self-taught and has only worked in one kitchen – his own – where he designed and built his famous adjustable-heat grills.
Best Restaurant in Asia: For the last four years in a row, Gaggan has been voted No.1 in Asia Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants, testament to the constant innovation and improvement at this ever-evolving hub of creativity. El Bulli-influenced chef Gaggan Anand serves up a menu of 25 or more courses of rapid-fire small bites, many of which are eaten with the hands.
Visit while you can: While Gaggan is currently the best that Asia has to offer, it won’t be for much longer, as Anand has pledged to close his flagship restaurant in 2020 after 10 years serving gastronomes from all over the globe. After the final service, he plans to open a small restaurant in Fukuoka, Japan, with fellow Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants chef Takeshi ‘Goh’ Fukuyama of La Maison de la Nature Goh.
Constant creativity: With the help of a test kitchen and some shiny new equipment, Anand’s menu has evolved from purely modern Indian to a much more global cuisine as the chef has travelled and taken influence from restaurants all over the world. The menu now includes Mexican-inspired taco bites, Japanese-Indian nigiri sushi and even aubergine Oreo biscuits. The classic Yoghurt Explosion remains on the menu alongside newer signatures such as Lick It Up, where diners are encouraged to lick a flavoursome curry straight from the plate
.Other ventures: Kolkata-born chef Anand has invested in multiple other restaurants in his adopted Bangkok over the last few years, including his casual beer and burger chain Meatlicious, the Sühring twins’ eponymous German restaurant, new tofu omakase restaurant Mihara Tofuten, and Gaa and Wet, both ventures from Gaggan alumni.
An exploration of Scandinavian terroir in an unlikely stadium location
Why visit? Noma may have hogged the headlines but Geranium has given René Redzepi's restaurant a run for its money as the hottest reservation in Copenhagen. Recently awarded three Michelin stars (before it closed in 2017, Noma had two), Rasmus Kofoed's terroir-driven cooking is taking Scandinavian cuisine in exciting new directions.
What's on the menu? The 20-plus course Universe menu changes with the seasons, but expect an exploration of Scandinavia's superb wild and organic produce in delicate and beautifully presented forms. What look like razor clam shells are actually made from dough and coloured with squid ink so they can be eaten whole, while a sliver of salted hake is doused in buttermilk speckled with parsley stems and Finnish 'kaviar'.
How do I get there? Take the lift to the eighth floor of Denmark’s national soccer stadium. The dining room has stunning views of the Fælledparken (Common Gardens) with glimpses of the city's copper roofs.
Who’s behind it: Chef Kofoed cut his teeth at Hotel D’Angleterre in Copenhagen and Scholteshof in Belgium before setting up Geranium with fellow chef turned sommelier Søren Ledet in 2007. Ledet now runs the dining room as well as collating a fascinating wine list.
What makes it special: Chefs Virgilio Martínez and Pía León’s flagship restaurant is a shrine to everything that is Peruvian, including many ingredients that are seldom served elsewhere. The husband-and-wife team have been travelling the length and breadth of the country for several years to source interesting and unique produce from land, sea and mountains.
On the menu: Martínez and León like to play with the many varieties of corn, potato and much more obscure products offered by Peru’s vastly biodiverse landscape. Classics include Land of Corn and Extreme Stems, with newer dishes such as Waters of Nanay featuring piranha fish served in an entire, sharp-tooth-filled piranha head. The menu explores every altitude, from 20 metres below sea level to 4,100 metres above it, in 17+ courses.
Central family: Martínez and León got married four days after the awards ceremony for The World’s 50 Best Restaurants in 2013, where they celebrated Central’s first appearance on the list. León runs the kitchen day-to-day while Martínez still oversees the menu. The couple run together, work together and travel together, often in search of new ingredients with Martínez’s sister, Malena.
Other ventures: Central has left its original location in Lima’s Miraflores district for a new home in the arty Barranco neighbourhood, where Malena Martínez will run their Mater Iniciativa research project from a larger base. León opens her first solo restaurant, named Kjolle, at the end of July 2018 in the same spot. Earlier in 2018, the team opened Mil restaurant in Cuzco and they now have their sights set on a project in the Amazon next year. Watch this space.
SAN SEBASTIAN, SPAIN
A powerhouse of creativity hidden in the green hinterlands of the Basque country
Who is behind Mugaritz’s magic? Andoni Luis Aduriz, simply known as Andoni, is considered by many observers to be the natural heir to the title of Spain’s most pioneering chef after Ferran Adrià.
How does it play out? A meal takes place over 20 courses – several of them, if the weather is clement, served in the gorgeously appointed gardens around the restaurant. Basque cuisine often combines elements of the mountains and the sea, and so it is at Mugaritz where the menu might roam from oyster and young garlic omelette and pig tails and squid, via a crunchy “sandwich” of local cheese presented in a book, to a loin of lamb smoked over eucalyptus and served with “its cultivated wool”.
What’s the vibe: One of the greatest things about Mugaritz is the sense of play, whether it’s the waiters throwing a curve-ball for the wine lovers at the table with a mystery bottle (a well-aged rosé from Lebanon’s Chateau Musar, perhaps), or the presentation of chocolate petit fours in stacked oak boxes designed to allude to the seven deadly sins.
A legendary chef: One of a handful of cooks who have remained at the top of global fine dining for decades, Alain Passard needs little introduction. He has retained his three Michelin stars at Arpège for more than two decades during times of great personal and culinary change, and in 2016 he was the recipient of The Diners Club Lifetime Achievement Award at The World’s 50 Best Restaurants.
What’s it all about? Vegetables, in short. Passard famously in 2001 announced that Arpège – until then a meat institution – was turning vegetarian, and although meat has since returned to the restaurant in smaller quantities, vegetables still take the main stage. They arrive daily from Passard’s own farms and appear on diners’ plates soon after.
Signature dishes: Despite his ever-changing menu, Passard has managed to amass a number of signature dishes over the years, some so famous that diners book months in advance for the first taste of white asparagus in spring or the arrival of black truffles in winter. Other signature dishes include the dumplings, stuffed with seasonal vegetables, and the langoustine carpaccio with caviar.
Expect the unexpected: Gazpacho in sandwich form? Crispy egg yolk? Liquid salad? Hare bonbon? If such seemingly paradoxical or counterintuitive dishes do not pique your interest, then Disfrutar is not the restaurant for you. But for most who attend this unique Barcelona restaurant, still less than three years old, such surprises form part of a thrilling rapid-fire, roller-coaster ride of a dining experience.
Who’s behind the magic: Three chefs – Oriol Castro, Mateu Casañas and Eduard Xatruch – all of whom held senior positions in the creative culinary team at the legendary El Bulli prior to the restaurant’s closure in 2011. The trio opened the more casual Compartir in Cadaqués on the Costa Brava in 2014, before adding Disfrutar in Barcelona to the mix in late 2014.
A word on the space: In contrast to the hyperactive and avant-garde menu, which can run to over 30 courses, the dining room appears relatively simple and serene: light-filled, white and opening onto an outdoor terrace. The overall design is no less creative, however, incorporating a ceramic-lined tunnel effect as guests travel from the narrow entrance area almost through the busy kitchen into the wider restaurant space.
Multiple trophy-winner: Disfrutar doesn’t disguise its obvious debt to El Bulli, but it has also succeeded in writing its own gastronomic story, delivering brave and playful dishes awash with both flavour and wit. Last year it picked up the Miele One To Watch Award from The World’s 50 Best Restaurants and in 2018 it follows up by making its debut on the list itself as the Highest New Entry, an award sponsored by Aspire Lifestyles.
Peru’s No.1 Nikkei destination in a stylish setting
What it’s all about: Maido, meaning ‘welcome’ in Japanese, is the flagship restaurant of chef Mitsuharu ‘Micha’ Tsumura, serving an inventive tasting menu of Peruvian-Japanese bites alongside à la carte options and a classic sushi counter. In a stylish room decorated with coloured ropes in the formation of the Japanese flag, it’s a popular setting for business dinners and special occasions, as well as for destination diners looking to sample Lima’s best offerings.
About the chef: A Lima-born Peruvian Nikkei, Tsumura was encouraged by his father to turn his passion for cooking into a profession and, after studying culinary arts in the US, he went to Japan to learn about his cultural and culinary heritage. Though he spent many months washing dishes, he learned vital knife skills and eventually how to cook rice and make sushi. He took a job at the Sheraton on returning to Lima and, some years later, opened Maido, which was rose to No.2 in Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants 2016.
On the menu: Maido’s tasting menus are a colourful journey through Nikkei cuisine, with highlights including a fish hotdog, nigari from the catch of the day, dim sum with squid and sea snail cau-cau, and sea urchin rice.
Who’s in the kitchen? Chef Zaiyu Hasegawa began his career at age 18 in the kitchen of a ryotei (exclusive traditional Japanese restaurant) in Tokyo’s Kagurazaka geisha area, where his mother worked. Eleven years later he opened Den, which moved to its current location in late 2016.
The philosophy: Rather than sticking to the elegant, refined but often impersonal traditions of high-end kaiseki cuisine, Hasegawa offers an elevated, deeply personal take on Japanese home cooking. He draws on diverse influences, both home-grown and gleaned on overseas trips, but always based around prime ingredients from ocean, pasture and forest.
Any house-specials? So many, and most of them changing with the seasons. But constant points of reference include the signature foie gras monaka (wafer sandwich) as an appetiser; the 20-plus-vegetable Den garden salad, invariably incorporating a few surprises; and the now-classic Dentucky Fried Chicken – probably the best chicken wings you will ever taste, complete with customised fast-food take-out carton. Underpinning everything, the culmination of every meal is the donabe-gohan, claypot-cooked rice with wagyu beef or seafood.
Read all about it: There’s now a cookbook, simply and appropriately titled “Den: The Evolving Tokyo Japanese Cuisine.” Although mostly in Japanese, it has some English text and enough sumptuous images to give a good taste of what makes Hasegawa’s cooking so special.
MEXICO CITY, MEXICO
What makes it special: Celebrity chef Enrique Olvera is credited with proving that rustic Mexican flavours deserve as much attention as any other haute cuisine in the world. And Pujol has been his pedestal to make that point via a tasting menu of refined and elegant plates built from indigenous ingredients that pay tribute to Mexico’s rich culinary history.
A new home: Last year, Olvera relocated his 17-year-old Polanco restaurant to a stunning, mid-century mod home within the same neighbourhood, building a comfortable space that’s aglow in natural light. Beyond expansive windows, the new Pujol involves a wood-burning oven, terrazzo floors and a long dining bar that offers a separate taco tasting menu.
Most famous dishes: While Pujol’s menu changes seasonally, the restaurant’s signature Mole Madre, Mole Nuevo will always grace the menu. Think, a perfect circle of fresh mole surrounded by a larger ring of mole that’s aged for more than 1,000 days, beside a basket of warm tortillas – a taste of Mexico’s past.
Other projects: Olvera commands not one but two dining engagements on The World’s 50 Best Restaurants list. Cosme, the modern Mexican restaurant in New York that he opened in 2014, made its debut onto the list last year and this year has risen to No.25.
A few words on the chef: Chef Vladimir Mukhin is in the vanguard of a new wave of young Russian culinary talents. Known as much for his use of local, seasonal ingredients as for his charisma, Mukhin is making international waves and appeared in the 2017 series of Netflix’s Chef’s Table.
Typical dishes: Traditional Russian produce like borodinsky black bread marries luxe ingredients like caviar to create innovative dishes. Standouts include rabbit and mini cabbage rolls in foie gras with potato crisps and truffle juice as well as roast suckling pig and Black Sea oysters.
Down the rabbit hole: As the name may suggest, the restaurant whimsically embraces an Alice In Wonderland theme – think lots of rabbits and rococo furniture… so be sure not to be late for your very important dinner date.
Served with a side of scenic: The restaurant’s glass dome provides diners with a spectacular 360-degree view of the beautiful city of Moscow.
Why go: Far from the straightforward sit-down restaurant experience, at Azurmendi the journey starts in the rooftop vegetable garden where guests inspect the home-grown produce before continuing via the kitchen to an indoor greenhouse for a selection of ‘snacks’. Diners are eventually seated in a section of the dining room, flanked by temporary fabric walls projecting different scenes for different courses.
The chef: Basque cook Eneko Atxa was brought up with the kitchen at the heart of his home and says he’s committed to giving guests the same homely experience. Azurmendi is a family business that also houses a winery run by his cousin, Bertol Izagirre, specialising in Basque txakoli wine.
Other ventures: The chef opened Eneko at One Aldwych, a more relaxed version of Azurmendi, in London in 2016.
On the menu: Highlights include Truffled egg, which is ‘cooked inside out’, with part of the yolk removed and replaced with truffle consommé, while Edible Cotton is a classic snack that guests eat in the greenhouse.
Bonus point: Azurmendi first won The Sustainable Restaurant Award in 2014, and this year it once again gained the highest sustainability rating, winning the award for a second time.
What’s the appeal? This is a cool space in a cool street run by cool people with lots of cool customers. It also just happens to be the winner of last year’s Sustainable Restaurant Award
But what of the food? Dip a fork into the menu on any given day and you’ll quickly discover that the food more than holds its own. Turbot is paired with Brussels sprouts, bacon and a sauce of mushrooms from Paris. The texture of new-season white asparagus is played off against oysters, hazelnuts and clotted cream. Oh, and there’s a sorbet of cheese flavoured with bay and teamed with an apple and pear purée.
What of the chef: Owner-chef Bertrand Grebaut is far from the only boldface-named Paris chef to graduate from the kitchens of Alain Passard’s landmark restaurant Arpège, but in a few short years he has quickly come to be recognised among such luminaries as L’Astrance’s Pascal Barbot as the future of French cooking.
What else: Grebaut and his team have colonised the neighbourhood with well-pitched brand extensions: the seafood-focused Clamato (possibly the best bet for the ever-tricky Saturday lunch slot in Paris) and the tiny, brilliant wine bar Septime La Cave.
ALaiN DUCASSE AU PLAZZA ATHENEE
Clean cuisine: As one of the most legendary leaders in classic French haute cuisine, in 2014 Alain Ducasse overhauled his landmark fine dining destination in the luxe Parisian hotel of the same name. His new approach – one that propelled the restaurant back onto The World’s 50 Best Restaurants list in 2017 after falling off the list in 2016 – prioritises sustainability, health and wellness-hinged plates focused on vegetables, fish and cereals.
The room: In one of the world’s most plush and luxurious dining rooms, guests enjoy elegant vegetable- and sea-focused tasting menus under a giant glittering chandelier cascading with Swarovski crystals. Pod-esque curved benches are sheathed in glossy steel, deriving their inspiration from domes used to cover plates. A tall oak alcove wraps around a single table, “Table Cabane,” providing extra privacy, bearing an interior relief design pattered to look like a mushroom.
Fun fact: Ducasse added the Shojin Menu specifically for vegetarians. It embraces a style of cookery called shojin – centuries-old vegetarian cuisine consumed by Zen Buddhist monks in Japan; also the predecessor to elegant Japanese kaiseki cuisine.
Where it’s located: Situated in Paris’s 8th arrondissement, the opulent palace of a property that is the Hotel Plaza Athénée is one of the city’s most glamourous lodging options. Ducasse oversees all five dining and drinking options, from his namesake to the more relaxed La Cour Jardin.
What’s it all about: It may, on paper, sound fairly traditional – family owned for generations, with a bias towards Austria’s rural Styrian region – but under the guidance of chef Heinz Reitbauer, Steirereck has become a byword for cutting-edge cooking rooted in the Austrian landscape.
What’s the vibe? Housed in a monolithic glass cube in Vienna’s Stadtpark, Steirereck’s design may be super-modern but the interior speaks a recognisable language of international fine dining. It’s a bright, tranquil vision of wood, concrete and starched white table linen.
Typical dishes: Reitbauer’s signature says everything you need to know about his outlook, being equal parts culinary theatre, precise technique and obvious reverence of local ingredients. The freshwater mountain fish, char, is cooked at the table in hot beeswax before being returned on a plate with yellow carrot, pollen and sour cream.
What else? While the tasting menu is, undoubtedly, the best way to engage with Reitbauer’s vision, the à la carte menu also includes plenty of gems – from a wild boar’s head with carrots, pineapple, radicchio and buckwheat to Forono beets with hempseed, new potatoes and woodruff.
New kid on the block: Chef and co-owner Julien Royer may look like he’s barely out of his teens, but he has serious pedigree. Having apprenticed under Michel Bras in his native France, Royer worked in the Caribbean and London before arriving in Singapore a decade ago. He established himself as the region’s rising star while at Jaan, before opening Odette in late 2015 at the grand National Gallery Singapore.
What to expect: This is unashamedly a fine-dining restaurant, complete with white tablecloths and luxurious velvet banquettes, but it’s also very much a contemporary version. The colour palette is light, the décor elegant – much like Royer’s ultra-refined take on modern French food using ingredients carefully sourced from a global list of artisanal producers.
Dishes to savour: Hokkaido Uni combines sea urchin, langoustine tartare, Granny Smith apple and caviar to stunning effect; Royer’s morels with veal sweetbreads and fresh asparagus has French terroir in spades; while rosemary-smoked organic egg is another signature.
What about the team: General Manager Steven Mason, formerly of The Ledbury in London, and star sommelier Vincent Tan join Royer to make a formidable force: relaxed and personable, but highly skilled and decidedly ambitious.
New era: Now that Restaurant André has shuttered, Odette has taken over as The Best Restaurant in Singapore in Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants, and flies the flag for the Lion City on The World’s 50 Best Restaurants list.
Superlative home-grown produce presented by Russia's most talented twins
Why visit? After the success of their original restaurant Twins, identical brothers Ivan and Sergey Berezutskiy had a bigger dream: to be able to supply their own produce. Their farm outside Moscow now turns out 70% of the ingredients used at Twins Garden, and leftovers are sent back to feed the animals, making this an almost zero-waste operation.
What's on the menu? Two different degustation options served at the chefs’ table include the vegetable-only Garden menu, and the more varied Twins tasting. Both rely heavily on produce from the farm, and include a journey through the restaurant’s extensive wine room, laboratory and kitchen for different courses. There is also an à la carte menu serving salads of vegetables delivered from the farm that morning, or pumpkin soup with sea urchin caviar and quail’s egg.ift to the eighth floor of Denmark’s national soccer stadium. The dining room has stunning views of the Fælledparken (Common Gardens) with glimpses of the city's copper roofs.
Who’s behind it: Chef Ivan started off studying to be an engineer, but he soon joined Sergey at culinary school and the pair set off on separate paths. Ivan went to Spain, where he worked at El Bulli and El Celler de Can Roca, and Sergey settled in St Petersburg. When Sergey entered the San Pellegrino Young Chef competition in 2013, Ivan told him that if he won, they should open a restaurant together. He did, so the original Twins was born in 2014, and Twins Garden opened in 2017.
The space: In a league of its own, Albert Adrià’s playhouse of culinary fun takes tapas to the cutting edge. Within a circus-themed space, five small plate bars and open kitchens surround the perimeter of the restaurant, each highlighting a different preparation method.
El Bulli connection: Until its closure in 2011, legendary Spanish brothers Ferran and Albert Adrià operated El Bulli, the groundbreaking high-concept Spanish restaurant in Catalonia which, arguably, is where the term “molecular gastronomy” was born. Tickets carries on El Bulli’s trailblazing, science-y cooking in a theatrical setting.
Typical dishes: Expect El Bulli classics like the restaurant’s infamous olives made from olive juice spherified through a process with calcium chloride, alginate and xanthan gum; in addition to the air baguette, a puffy hollow breadstick wrapped with umami-rich Ibérico ham.
Other projects: Under the umbrella of their El Barri group, Ferran and Albert Adrià command a total of six restaurants, all in Barcelona’s el Paralel neighborhood. The group offers everything from modern Mexican to Japanese-Peruvian to 40-plus course progressive Spanish.
Worth noting: In 2015, Albert Adrià was voted The World’s Best Pastry Chef.
Clean cuisine: Frantzén’s food is a unique hybrid of Nordic cuisine that marries classic and modern techniques inspired by local and international tradition with Asian notes. Dishes include the likes of langoustine tail fried with puffed rice and a clarified butter and ginger dip, Japanese egg custard with pork broth, chives and umami seaweed-dusted crisp skin and the iconic Fattiga riddare, a fried toast of sorts with truffle, onions, cheese and 100-year-old balsamic vinegar.
A great return: Frantzén is back with a bang. From humble origins as a bijou dining room in Stockholm’s old town, Frantzén shut up shop in 2016 to relocate to larger premises. Set across three storeys of a spruced-up 19th-century townhouse in the Norrmalm district, the restaurant re-opened a year later to justified rapture.
It’s a genuine journey.: Each sitting sees 23 guests traverse the rooms and floors of the building as they make their way through an experiential 10-course menu.Japanese kaiseki cuisine.
Chef’s story: Yoshihiro Narisawa left home at 19 and spent eight years cutting his teeth in some of Europe’s most venerated kitchens, including those of Paul Bocuse and Joël Robuchon. In 1996, he returned home to Japan and opened La Napoule in Kanagawa Prefecture. Seven years later, he moved to his current space in Tokyo’s non-touristy district of Minami Aoyama and formed Les Créations de Narisawa. After eight years of service, he renamed the restaurant simply Narisawa.
What’s on the plate: Narisawa defines his food as “innovative Satoyama,” the word “Satoyama” representing a border zone between mountain foothills and flat land where people live sustainably with nature. Narisawa expresses this culture of respecting the earth through an elaborate omakase. Diners fall under the spell of the season, and sample fleeting flavours from provinces around the country. Depending on the season, some might try a broth made from a poisonous snake that resides in the waters near Okinawa, or a warm sashimi course of langoustine from Suruga Bay.
To drink: Narisawa is one of the best places in the world to appreciate the finest of Japanese winemaking, with Pinot Noir from Nagano, Riesling from Iwate and aged Bordeaux-style blends from Yamagata. Of course there’s sake, too.
On the road: In 2017, Narisawa teamed up with celebrated Brazilian food photographer Sergio Coimbra on an exhibit titled Satoyama, which debuted in São Paulo, featuring photos of the chef’s nature-inspired plates. Most recently, the show jumped seas to Los Angeles, where Narisawa and Coimbra’s collective work was on display during the month of May.
NEW YORK, USA
Reasons to visit Cosme: Even before former US President Barack Obama had the good sense to add it to his dining list, Cosme was already one of the hippest places to eat in New York City. With buzzing but relaxed vibe and exquisite food and service, it is as much a special occasion restaurant as a place to visit time and time again.
Modern Mexican: Founded by Mexican chef Enrique Olvera and his business partners Santiago Perez and Santiago Gomez, Cosme has been run by young cook Daniela Soto-Innes since soon after it opened in 2014. While the menu takes some inspiration from Olvera’s flagship Pujol in Mexico City, many of the dishes were created by Soto-Innes, including her signature duck carnitas and must-try corn husk meringue dessert.
A mezcal for every occasion: It wouldn’t be a product of Olvera if it didn’t serve mezcal, so of course there’s a bar and bar area with an extensive mezcal menu and a fun vibe.
Girl power: Soto-Innes prides herself on having a kitchen staff that is 50% female, 50% male, with a mix of nationalities from all over the US, Latin America and beyond. She champions women, including her sous chef and pastry chef, and runs a relaxed kitchen, often with music, dancing and pre-service warm-up exercises. The chef won a James Beard Rising Star Award in 2016 at age 25.
Other ventures: Olvera and Soto-Innes opened more casual Mexican restaurant Atla in New York in 2017. They’re currently working on a restaurant based on Cosme and Pujol in Los Angeles.
MEXICO CITY, MEXICO
What’s in a name? Quintonil is the name of a green Mexican herb which features in some of the dishes and cocktails, and pretty much sums up this restaurant: fresh, authentic and brimming with flavour. Chef Jorge Vallejo’s menu is based on local produce and showcases the best of Mexico.
What to order: Although there’s an à la carte option, those with time should pick the tasting menu for the true Quintonil experience. From crab tostadas with fresh radish and habanero chilli mayonnaise to charred avocado tartare and escamoles (ant eggs), there’s a taste of many of the things that make Mexican cuisine so unique. Everything is perfectly balanced, with palate cleansers such as cactus sorbet, so that every diner leaves happily satiated rather than uncomfortably stuffed.
About the team: Vallejo worked on cruise ships before moving on to Enrique Olvera’s restaurant, Pujol, then a role as executive chef at Diana restaurant within Mexico City’s St. Regis Hotel. He left for a stint at René Redzepi’s Noma in Copenhagen before opening Quintonil with his wife Alejandra Flores in 2012. Flores and her charismatic team run the front-of-house at Quintonil.
Urban garden: Much of the produce at Quintonil comes from a nearby garden, where the cooks pick fresh veg and greens on a daily basis. Vallejo and his team keep their carbon footprint so low that many of their ingredients travel just 30 metres from origin to plate.
ALLéNO PARIS AU PAVILLON LEDOYEN
What makes it so special? One of Paris's oldest and most prestigious restaurants, Pavillon Ledoyen was given a new lease of life when Yannick Alléno took the helm in 2014 and introduced boundary-pushing modern French cuisine. The restaurant was last year’s Highest New Entry, sponsored by Aspire Lifestyles, debuting at No.31.
Typical dishes: Alléno's originality, technique and obsession with flavour are evident in hot sea urchin soup, served in a burned grapefruit shell and accompanied by crispy duck skin topped with foie gras, plus iodized granita. It's followed by a celebration of milk-fed lamb comprising leg tartare with quince and black truffle, saddle with pickles, and cutlet and collar with a sage fritter.
Some background: Legend has it that Napoleon met Josephine at the Ledoyen, which which first opened in 1791. Other regulars included Robespierre, Degas and Zola.
About the chef: Alléno learned his craft under some of France's greatest chefs, including Gabriel Biscay, Roland Durand and most notably Louis Grondard, before earning star status heading up the kitchens of Scribe and Le Meurice.
Other ventures: The chef runs a 16-strong restaurant empire under the Alléno, Stay and Terroir Parisien brands, which stretches from Morocco and Dubai to Taipei and Hong Kong. Both the Ledoyen restaurant and Alléno Courchevel at the Cheval Blanc hotel hold three Michelin stars.
What makes it special: A play on the word ‘borage’ in Spanish, Santiago de Chile-based Boragó deals in territory rather than technique, according to chef Rodolfo Guzmán. He and his energetic team source native Chilean products used by the Mapuche indigenous people, physically gathering them from the Andes, the Pacific coast and every hill and valley in between; they also work with tiny producers and foragers. The end result is Endémica, a menu starring diverse preparations that can change during the course of an evening according to produce supply, paired with natural and biodynamic wine or juices.
How many endemic Chilean species will I eat? Nine years into Boragó and Guzmán’s understanding and timing with respect to when products flourish in particular micro seasons – and how to use them – is greater than ever. Take uvas de montaña, wild grapes (not actually grapes) from the conifer family available for just five weeks a year; they form part of a wild leaf and lamb salad. Loyo, for example, is a giant mushroom with a tiny four-week harvesting window. Besides serving ingredients that many customers have never heard of, Guzmán has also expanded his repertoire. In his own words: “Seven years ago, one ingredient meant one possibility. Today it means 300.”
The space: Walk up to Boragó’s minimalist-style façade in the swanky Vitacura neighbourhood, and a whole lamb might well be slowly roasting on a cross-shaped spit on the terrace by the front door, a sign of flavours to come. Seated at tables made from Chiloé-sourced lumber, diners can witness some of the culinary action through the kitchen’s floor-to-ceiling windows; there’s also a small herb garden at the back. Ask to take a peek at the first-floor test kitchen, where Conectáz (see below) and other research magic takes place.
Other projects: In 2017, Guzmán published his first book, Boragó: Coming from the South, a 100-recipe tome. He is also working on Conectáz, Chile’s first encyclopedia categorising and cataloguing Chilean products, at Test Kitchen and Lab Kitchen at Santiago’s Catholic University, where one fascinating discovery is turning vegetables into protein. Guzmán also co-founded the Ngelemen symposium that discusses the world’s endemic pantry, and pops up around the world with the Gelinaz chefs collective.
THE CLOVE CLUB
Why visit: The Clove Club’s interpretation of ‘modern British’ is refreshing and full of surprises, with fresh produce from all over the island reinvented in creations that put forward natural flavours and playfully mingle with tradition.
Who’s in the kitchen: Scottish chef Isaac McHale is at the helm with Daniel Willis and Johnny Smith overseeing the dining room. The three friends used to run an experimental supper club in Shoreditch, East London, before opening The Clove Club in 2013. McHale trained at The Ledbury, Noma and Eleven Madison Park prior to embarking on his own venture.
On the menu: There is a full tasting menu and a shorter version with five courses (also available at lunchtime), as well as wine and ‘ambient tea’ pairings. The signature raw Orkney scallop (from the eponymous archipelago north of Scotland) with Périgord truffle, hazelnut and mandarin is among the most Instagrammed dishes, together with the ‘parten bree’ Scottish spider crab hot pot, inspired by a traditional Scottish soup. As dessert, you may taste burnt clementine granite and buttermilk mousse.
The space: Set within the historic Shoreditch Town Hall, the blue-tiled dining room has a relaxed East London vibe with an open kitchen and laid-back service. However, every guest is well looked after by the expert staff, who don’t miss an opportunity to heighten the dining experience.
If you’re still hungry: In late 2016, McHale and the team opened Luca restaurant in Clerkenwell, a more casual venue where he channels his inner Italian while still focusing on British seasonal ingredients.
BLUE HILL AT STONE BARNS
POCANTICO HILLS, USA
What makes it special: Approximately 30 miles north of Manhattan, chef Dan Barber’s ambitious farmstead restaurant Blue Hill at Stone Barns, set within an enchanting barn on an 80-acre estate shared with non-profit educational space Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture, builds a beautiful 30-course tasting menu centred on produce that is often pulled from the earth mere hours before hitting a plate. Barber is committed to deriving the greatest flavour potential from every animal and botanical on the land and devoted to producing food with a low environmental impact.
On the menu: Barber consistently seeks out eco-friendly and low-waste practices to enhances his menus. For example, he cooks vegetables in the heat created by vegetative compost. And just recently, his kitchen stripped and cut the brawny stems from overwintered fighter spinach into a cacio e pepe dish that looks just like green-hued penne pasta.
Redesigning food: For years Barber has worked with seed breeders at the genetic level to develop more nutritious fruit and vegetables with deeper flavour. In 2018, he and several long-time seed breeder associates launched Row 7, an operation that sells seeds for plants like Badger Flame Beets and Habanada Peppers designed to taste better, yield more, and resist disease.
Going casual: For those looking to sample Barber’s cuisine without signing up for a four-hour tasting menu, Stone Barns also houses a more casual café open Wednesday to Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Here, diners can find seasonal pastries and more substantial options like roasted chicken.
What to expect: A taste of Piemonte, one of the finest food and wine regions of the world, through the sharply focused culinary lens of Enrico Crippa, now firmly established as among Italy’s most creative chefs. Diners can select from the à la carte options, or choose from three tasting menus, one of which focuses specifically on the local Langhe region, while the others are more wide-ranging (while still distinctively Italian). During white truffle season, tables are at even more of a premium than usual.
More about the chef: Crippa opened Piazza Duomo in 2005 with the backing of the Ceretto family, themselves pioneers in the region’s winemaking resurgence of recent decades. A quiet and supremely dedicated professional, he trained and worked extensively in Europe and Japan and was mentored by the late great Italian chef Gaultiero Marchesi.
Highlights: The restaurant’s most famous dish is the Salad 21, 31, 41, 51, which incorporates a cornucopia of leaves, herbs and vegetables, the precise number and make-up of which changes according to the season. However, it is the array of one- or two-bite flavour-filled starters – also primarily sourced from Piazza Duomo’s own farm-meets-kitchen garden, and served simultaneously – that linger longest in diners’ memories.
And finally: Restaurant manager Vincenzo Donatello leads a highly personable young service team in the restaurant’s two dining rooms – one that is famously pink-hued. Donatello also happens to be one of the best sommeliers in Italy, if not the world, combining access to the Barolos and Barbarescos on his Langhe doorstep with a personal passion for Burgundy to curate a wonderful wine list full of surprises.
In a nutshell: Aitor Arregui’s father used to say that to buy the best fish, you have to look the animal in the eyes and see that it still retains the brightness that means it is fresh. Today, his son and family run the most prestigious grill in the Basque Country.
A bit of history: Pedro Arregui transformed his mother's grocery store into a bar. Next to it, he installed a small street-side grill. One day, a fisherman brought him a huge turbot, which he placed on two grills because it did not fit on one and roasted it whole, without removing the skin. That innovation, like roasting the whole head of the hake – previously used only to make soup – turned Elkano into an establishment that would set new standards of grilling.
The experience: Let Aitor Arregui take you to the top of the neighbouring mountain, from where you can see the entire landscape surrounding Getaria, to discover the secrets of the Cantabrian fishermen and the culture that give meaning to Elkano. Then, enter the house and enjoy the kokotxas (cod throats) in three textures, red mullet and the best turbot you will ever taste, served with a simple dressing at the table, while Arregui explains to you how to savour each part to obtain the best flavours.
Who’s behind it: Brothers Massimiliano and Raffaele Alajmo inherited the Paduan restaurant from their parents and have spent the last decade and a half perfecting it to create something very special. Massimiliano’s domain is the kitchen, with older brother Raffaele overseeing Le Calandre’s dining room and heavyweight wine list.
What’s the food like? Though modern in style, Max’s cooking is far from avant garde, so a meal at Le Calandre is refreshingly free of high-concept culinary posturing. Dishes are relatively simple and, above all else, delicious. There are three tasting menus available, one comprised of Le Calandre classics while the other two – ‘Max’ and ‘Raf’ – offer a window into the brothers’ own tastes.
Typical dishes: Must-try plates include the chef’s famed saffron, juniper and liquorice powder risotto as well as the crispy buffalo ricotta and mozzarella cannelloni with tomato sauce. Newer dishes include seared turbot with yellow potato purée, cardamom carrot juice and black olive powder.
Other ventures: The Alajmo brothers have amassed an impressive culinary empire that includes several restaurants in Padua, one in Paris and the reassuringly expensive Quadri in Venice, which offers stunning views over Piazza San Marco.
Worth noting: Max was the youngest chef in history to have been awarded three stars by the Michelin Guide.
nerua guggenheim bilbao
What’s the vibe? From its prime position overlooking the Nervión River, from which the restaurant takes its name, climb the steps to Nerua and glide immediately into the open-plan kitchen. A well-illuminated salon sporting clean and earthy Scandinavian tones ensures diners focus on Alija’s food, usually plated on pristine white crockery that changes over three seasons.
What's it all about? Housed within Bilbao’s Guggenheim Museum, Nerua’s chef Josean Alija draws from Basque ingredients to create culinary masterpieces worthy of the location. His professional path hasn’t been easy: after recovering from a motorcycle accident that left him in a coma for 21 days in the year 2000, Alija had to relearn how to recognise flavours.
Typical dishes: A vegetable- and seafood-dominant menu that allows just a couple of ingredients to shine per dish. Star turns include smoked-eel ravioli, beetroot and green apple; sole and clam cream; and borage with sea urchin and anchovy juice.
Worth noting: Upgrade to the Chef’s Menu for ‘18 Products’ as well as appetisers and sweet bites that cover all bases of Alija’s repertoire.
About the chef: After dining two consecutive nights at St. John Bread & Wine and The Fat Duck as a 20-something graduate, James Lowe was so blown away by the extremely different experiences that he became convinced that he too should run a restaurant. Jacking in his dream of becoming a pilot and notching up experience with Heston Blumenthal, St. John Bread & Wine and a longer stint at The River Café, Lowe then took the pop-up route with chef friends Ben Greeno and Isaac McHale (see The Clove Club) under the Young Turks moniker. Four years ago, he opened up a permanent space with John Ogier in London’s Shoreditch, aiming to identify British food in this day and age.
On the menu: The short and sweet daily menu is micro-seasonal, showcasing what’s best on any given day in London and the UK; the wine list follows suit. Lunch is à la carte while dinner is a set menu. Attention to detail starts at origin and working with producers is key: fish is couriered from Cornwall daily while every week in summer the Lyle’s team drives to the south coast to pick fruit. Lowe’s philosophy sports common sense, with dishes focusing on a particular moment in a particular season: during the shooting season, gamebird or venison is likely to be the main protein – think wild duck breast cooked at a low temperature in a wood oven, served with preserved wild mulberries and red cabbage. Lowe also enjoys challenging diners with oft-forgotten products such as mutton, cooked over the grill with beechwood charcoal.
The space: Originally built as a factory for Lipton, Lyle’s is housed in trendy Shoreditch’s Blitz-surviving Tea Building. Décor retains a mixture of utilitarianism – think ash and elm tables or reclaimed British oak and walnut given a new lease of life as wine shelves – and brutalist poured concrete floors. Lowe was adamant that bums should sit on the Windsor chair, a design classic; Lyle’s is also well equipped in the natural light department, with sunlight streaming in through enormous crystal windows.
Other projects: With little time on his hands to travel, James created The Guest Series, inviting nine or 10 chefs from all over the world – friends as well as colleagues who he wanted to know better – to explore the British countryside, then cook together. During hunting season, he might take Sean Gray from Momofuku Ko or Bertrand Grébaut from Septime deer stalking in Scotland, following that up with two nights of dinners, with the emphasis on introducing them – and their diners – to something unique about British food.
buenos aires, argentina
A traditional steakhouse showing diners what real Argentine asado is all about
What makes it special: All the beef at Don Julio is from grass-fed Aberdeen Angus and Hereford cattle, raised in the countryside outside Buenos Aires. It is stored in a climate-controlled refrigerator for at least 21 days to reach optimum maturity. Then grillmaster Bienvenido ‘Pepe’ Sotelo cooks all the beef on a traditional “V” iron grill. Match with beautiful Malbec for the full experience.
Typical dishes: While Don Julio serves pretty much every part of the cow, owner Pablo Rivero recommends ordering house cuts like bife de cuadril (rump steak) and entraña (skirt steak). For a starter, opt for the fried beef empanadas and the crispy mollejas (sweetbreads), which are lightly seasoned with just lemon juice and salt.
What’s the dining space like? The building dates to the 19th century, with the interior walls lined with empty wine bottles, converting the rustic space into a welcoming wine sanctuary. Diners from around the world leave their personal mark signing the labels of the great Argentine wines with handwritten messages.
Reliving the past: Rivero, the son and grandson of established livestock producers from Rosario, opened the restaurant in 1999 in his early 20s. Now a respected sommelier as well as one of the city’s highest-profile restaurateurs, he is also known for his exemplary approach to hospitality, which has won Don Julio an Art of Hospitality Award at Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants 2018
san francisco, usa
Who, where, what? Perched on a steep hillside in Cow Hollow, San Francisco, Atelier Crenn is a serene escape from the city. Complementing the calm interior and cosy dining room is Dominique Crenn’s elegant cuisine, inspired by her childhood and her artist father.
On the menu: Based on the concept of Poetic Culinaria, Crenn’s tasting menu takes diners through a poetic sequence of stunning dishes that may include spiny lobster and its essence, geoduck tart with oyster and rosé and brioche with house-cultured butter. Superb wine pairings and seamless service are led by charming general manager Maxime Larquier, while pastry chef Juan Contreras produces iconic desserts such as the much-photographed Coconut and Pineapple. Everything is balanced so that guests leave satisfied but never uncomfortably full.
Pro-tip: Just next-door is Bar Crenn, a cosy wine bar inspired by the lounges of 1930s Paris with a menu of French masterpieces including bone marrow custard with smoked crème fraiche, or local halibut with English pea and fava bean fricassée. Crenn also owns Petit Crenn, a seafood-focused tasting menu restaurant in nearby Hayes Valley.
NEW YORK, USA
What to order: Le Bernardin offers several tasting menu options. The classic four-course menu is split into three sections – Almost Raw, Barely Touched and Lightly Cooked – with dishes marrying French and global influences, especially those from Asia. Think kampachi sashimi with Niçoise olives and a Greek-inspired salad; and seared octopus with tomatillo salsa and red wine-mole sauce
.What’s the vibe: Completely refurbished in 2011, the dining room is a comfortable, modern space with waiters in Nehru-style jackets carefully presiding over the white tablecloth dining room’s well-heeled clientele.
A brief history: Established in Paris nearly 50 years ago by brother and sister Gilbert and Maguy Le Coze, Le Bernardin expanded to New York in 1986. Decorated New York chef Eric Ripert has run the kitchen for more than 20 years, following the untimely passing of Gilbert
.A word on wine: Le Bernardin’s long-time wine director Aldo Sohm has earned a reputation as one of Manhattan’s top sommeliers, having received the James Beard Award for Outstanding Wine Service in 2009. Expanding upon Le Bernardin’s French-focused list of wines that complement fish, in 2014 he and Ripert opened upscale Aldo Sohm Wine Bar, just steps away.
What makes it special: The key ingredient infused into every Alinea meal isn’t a mountain of caviar, or a fat puck of foie gras. Since Alinea’s debut in 2005, chef and owner Grant Achatz has built a reputation for designing dishes spiked with emotion; eliciting playful nostalgia from his diners via sophisticated riffs off a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, or pheasant served with smouldering oak leaves – aromas of fall.
What’s on the menu: Alinea has kept itself at the forefront of modern creativity via edible vanilla beans, langoustine yuba, crystal clear pumpkin pie and what has become Alinea’s most famous dish: an edible, helium-filled, floating balloon designed by former executive chef Mike Bagale.
Best seat in the house: To commemorate Alinea’s 10th birthday, Achatz shuttered his wildly successful restaurant for four months, giving the place a total overhaul. When Alinea reopened in June 2017, the temple of haute cuisine emerged with a clean and bright look, in addition to a new dining experience: a glassed-in kitchen table. With room for four to six diners, “The KT” is where guests embark on a lengthy bespoke menu, often with more than 22 courses.
Reliving the past: For those who missed out on some of Alinea’s most iconic dishes from the past, fear not. Next – Achatz’s nearby fine dining haunt that conceptually reinvents itself every four months – will offer two dining instalments dedicated to vintage Alinea menus. Alinea 2005-2015 runs June 30 to September 30, followed by Alinea 2011-2015 from October 6 to January 13, 2019.
Where have you heard that name before? Chef Ana Ros put Slovenia on the gastronomic map after being voted The World’s Best Female Chef in 2017 and starring in her own episode of Netflix’s cult series, Chef’s Table. Pronounced Hi-sha Franko, the restaurant is located in the stunning surrounds of the Soça Valley and has drawn visitors to Slovenia from all over the world.
About the chef: Ros was destined to be a diplomat, having completed a degree in international diplomatic studies, before she met her husband Valter Kramar and agreed to take over his family’s restaurant with him. She taught herself to cook and now specialises in intricately made ravioli and dishes that focus on produce from within a few kilometres of Hisa Franko.
On the menu: Ros and her team offer a six-course and an eight-course tasting menu, each starting with the restaurant’s homemade bread, local butter and Kramar’s own cheese lollipops. The rest of the menu might include anything from the chef’s signature cauliflower ravioli and kid goat liver to tripe cooked in wild duck jus or ‘dirty’ cuttlefish with sea salad.
A family affair: Hisa Franko is actually a big house in the countryside where Ros and Kramar live with their two children, Svit and Eva Klara. In addition to making the Tolmin cheese on the premises, sommelier Kramar also serves the wine from his extensive collection.
a casa do porco
são paulo, brazil
What’s it all about: A Casa do Porco (House of the Pig in Portuguese) is a celebration of pork in myriad forms. At a farm in his hometown of São José do Rio Pardo in São Paulo state, Jefferson Rueda rears local pigs on a natural diet of whey and vegetables. After slaughter in his own slaughterhouse, the chef then makes use of every part of the animal in inventive dishes such as pork jowl sushi and homemade blood sausage. The atmosphere is more fun than fine dining, with a main room adorned with miniature pigs, colourful décor and interesting artefacts from the chef’s travels.
The tasting menu: Guests can go for pork-based à la carte or even takeaway sandwiches from the fast-food window, but those who wait in line for this no-reservations restaurant should order the O Porco É (Pork is…) degustation. It includes Rueda’s signature pork tartare and crispy pancetta crackling with guava jam as well as the Porco San Zé main course and a version of his wife Janaina’s signature feijoada stew.
Pro-tip: The Ruedas have concentrated their family of restaurants in a small corner of downtown São Paulo, so diners can hop across the road for a casual hotdog at the Hot Pork kiosk or an ice cream at Sorveteria do Centro. For a more laidback dinner with superlative cocktails, there’s also Janaina’s Bar da Dona Onça.
RESTAURANT TIM RAUE
What makes it special: Tim Raue fell in love with Asian cuisine and brought it back to Berlin, where his eponymous restaurant opened in 2010. In a two-story building adorned with artefacts from his travels around Asia, Raue serves up a fusion of flavours inspired by Japan, Thailand and China, while a charming front-of-house team led by his business partner Anne-Marie Raue completes the experience.
On the menu: Raue’s classics include langoustine with wasabi, Cantonese-style, pikeperch with kamebishi soy and leek, the elaborate Peking Duck Interpretation and an unmissable suckling pig course. À la carte options include everything from black truffle dim sum to mango chicken satay and pomelo with coconut and butterhead lettuce.
Healthy outlook: Chef Raue believes in serving dishes that release energy to the body instead of stressing it, so there are no supplements such as bread, pasta or rice. Refined sugar, dairy products and gluten are also absent.
A place in history: Restaurant Tim Raue is located near Checkpoint Charlie, Berlin’s most famous crossing point between the former East and West Berlin and now a popular tourist stop.
hong kong, china
What’s the deal: Despite Hong Kong’s concentration of star-spangled Chinese kitchens, for the last decade some of the city’s best cooking has been coming out of a non-descript two-floor townhouse in Central. Here, patrons bring their best bottles to sip alongside Chef Kwok Keung Tung’s excellent, produce-driven, seasonal Cantonese cookery.
That flower crab: Scroll through The Chairman’s Instagram tags and the dish that proliferates (pictured in every angle imaginable) is Chef Tung’s steamed flowery crab, served in a shallow broth of nutty, aged Shaoxing wine, with chicken oil and slippery flat rice noodles. While other chefs in Hong Kong have tried to replicate this signature dish, the umami-rich version here remains unbeatable.
Keeping it contemporary: Danny Yip is a low-profile food cognoscenti who favours quality, local and seasonal produce over fancy ingredients, as evidenced by The Chairman’s culinary philosophy. Prior to launching The Chairman in 2009, Yip owned restaurants in the Australian capital, Canberra.
In a nutshell: A legendary Lisbon establishment that opened its doors as a men’s club in 1958, chef José Avillez took Belcanto’s helm in 2012. Under his culinary navigation, the restaurant earned its first Michelin star that year; a second followed suit just two years later.
The vibe? An intimate and elegant salon for just 28 diners, slide into a brown leather banquette before choosing to dine à la carte or from the two tasting menus; the Classics showcases Avillez’s greatest hits.
Other ventures: A well-known face on Portuguese TV for his cooking show Improbabilicious, Avillez has also published four cookbooks. His food empire harbours a cluster of restaurants in Lisbon and Porto, including Bairro do Avillez, a food hall housing four distinctive eateries under one roof, and Lebanese-Portuguese Za’atar. A wine aficionado, Avillez has developed three vintages under the JA line with Quinta do Monte D’Oiro winery.
Pro-tip: Avillez fans should book seats at Belcanto’s Chef’s Table for ringside culinary action in the kitchen.
hof van cleve
A potted history: A regular presence on the 50 Best list, Hof van Cleve started life as a working farm before Peter Goossens elevated its status to a worldwide gastronomic great. Set in bucolic East Flanders, he has been delighting guests with his refined Belgian cuisine for over 30 years.
Following the seasons: Local produce is the backbone of the restaurant, which offers five- and seven-course tasting menus (plus à la carte) driven by the seasons. Craftsmanship, creativity and uncompromising attention to detail results in classic, yet interesting flavour combinations balanced out by myriad textures and colours on the plate. Frog’s legs with bellota, parsley and cous cous is case in point. Fish and shellfish feature heavily, too: think sea bass with ponzu and black rice, turbot with romanesco and pollack with white asparagus.
The space: Don't be fooled by the rustic farmhouse exterior; inside is a sleek, elegant space decorated with works of art, furniture and crockery from Belgium’s leading artists and craftsmen. Beautifully tailored waiters provide smooth, personable service, and there’s the added bonus of an outdoor terrace boasting knock-out views for spring and summertime eating.
Don't miss: The epic cheese and dessert trolleys that glide and clink their way between the tables.
THE TEST KITCHEN
CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA
What makes it unique: The first fine dining restaurant to open in Cape Town’s gentrifying Woodstock, The Test Kitchen kicked off an artistic boom. With food based on popular global dishes with South African ingredients and twists, chef Luke Dale-Roberts’s restaurant has two intimate dining areas – one “dark”, one “light”.
About the chef: Luke Dale-Roberts was born in rural England and had an active youth, fishing and spending hours in nature. Too fidgety to enjoy a regimented school day, he excelled at cooking school as a teen. Work in the UK, Bali, South Korea and Japan opened his eyes to a world of technique and ingredients, which Dale-Roberts adopts at the restaurant – it encapsulates his discipline in delivering exquisite sauces and bold flavours.
What’s the vibe? The cosy dark room is a cluster of comfy chairs around low tables – think luxe ski cabin. The main dining area is a semi-industrial setting – think screed floors, exposed brick and metal, laid-back, friendly staff. The energy from the open-plan kitchen fizzes into the room.
Typical dishes: The experience starts with distinctive small bites from around the world like ceviche and roti paired with cocktails in the quiet dark room. More classic-mod fare is served in the buzzy light room – like eiland (local oryx) carpaccio, local kingklip smoked with curry leaves and scallops with a Cape Malay sabayon.
Other ventures: Dale-Roberts has The Pot Luck Club on the same premises – a sharing plate concept with dizzying, panoramic views of Cape Town (go there for Sunday brunch), the more classic Short Market Club in town and avant-garde pop-ups in Johannesburg, Mauritius and elsewhere.
What's it all about? Twin brothers Mathias and Thomas Sühring meld flavours, techniques and experiences accumulated in their native Germany as well as the Netherlands, Italy and Thailand, under one modish roof. The result is a sophisticated – and at times playful – seasonal haute cuisine menu with strong German identity.
The vibe? Step through the luscious front garden to a 1970s villa renovated by the twins in 2016, a blissful and calming breath of fresh air in Thailand’s energetic capital. Some tables overlook the open kitchen; others enjoy the tropical landscape courtesy of the glass-ceilinged atrium.
Pro-tip: Sühring now forms part of the Relais & Châteaux league of top establishments, and notched up its second Michelin star in 2018. Riesling fans will relish the Mosel and Alsatian wine pairings.
zwolle, the netherlands
Why is it special? The exciting menu at this influential Dutch restaurant is tailored to suit individual diners' specific tastes. Guests select four dishes from four sections comprising three seasonal ingredient combinations, before further plates are added to create a bespoke five-, six- or seven-course menu for each diner.
Who’s behind it: Locals Jonnie and Thérèse Boer have helped shape modern Dutch cuisine over a 20-plus-year career, combining fabulous produce plucked and plundered from the surrounding region with cutting-edge techniques and idiosyncratic ideas. They are also ardent campaigners for zero food waste.
On the menu: Gusty yet delicate flavour reigns supreme. Ceviche-like langoustine is marinated in kombucha before being flamed à table, oysters play bedfellow to goat’s cheese and seaweed while brown crab is paired with chicken liver and veal heart. For a fish course, red mullet is perfectly complemented by brown shrimps and woodruff.
The space: Located in an 18th-century former prison, the main dining area is in the courtyard, covered by an impressive glass and steel roof. Elsewhere, expect plenty of modern art, and a number of bedrooms to ensconce yourself in, too.
san franciso, usa
Worth the trip? Opened in 2010, Benu is the definition of friendly fine dining. A nuanced menu riffs on transnational culinary traditions including Korean and Cantonese, using local produce and western technique. The result epitomises the melting pot of influence intrinsic to modern American cuisine, while the service – convivial and relaxed – is all-out Californian.
The team: Korean-born globetrotter, Corey Lee, cut his teeth in the kitchens of Lespinasse, Pied à Terre and Daniel, and completed stages with Marco Pierre White, Guy Savoy and Alain Senderens, before going on to be head chef at Thomas Keller’s The French Laundry.
On the table: Home ferments, big flavours and pretty presentation lead the charge on Lee’s sensory tasting menu. Stalwart dishes include thousand-year-old quail’s egg and faux shark’s fin soup with Shaoxing wine and Chinese ham. Elsewhere, expect dainty stuffed mussels and a glossy barbecued quail, plus a noteworthy saké list.
The experience: Pared-back and poised. A serene courtyard gives way to a jasmine-clad, ryokan-like façade. Inside is a modern marriage of minimalist Asian and maximalist American aesthetics, featuring an earthy colour palette and gilded accents..
ULTrAVIOLET BY PAUL PAIRET
What's the story: Founded in 2012, Ultraviolet by Paul Paired is considered by many to be the most avant-garde restaurant experience in the world. Just 10 guests per night experience the ultimate in immersive dining in a secret city location, courtesy of the inimitable French chef-provocateur.
How it works: The high-tech gastronomic production utilises video, audio, bespoke lighting and scents - as well as the dishes and drinks themselves, of course - to stimulate the senses. Service is theatrical, but still light and personable.
On the menu: The Original 'UVA' and subsequent 'UVB' and 'UVC' menus now rotate. All are original and witty, with dishes that crack jokes, challenge expectations and trick the eye: Tomato Monza and Again, for example, is a clever duo of dishes - one savoury, one sweet - which appear to be identical but taste strikingly different, thereby playing with misperceptions of taste. On top of that they also taste extremely good.
What's the room like? Having been transported to the unmarked entrance, guests enter a cocoon-like dining space with a single spot-lit table, at which everyone eats together. The room then transforms itself throughout the evening; at one point the walls even slide back to reveal the kitchen at one end, along with the recapped Chef Pairet himself.
What’s the concept? Local celebrity chef Leonor Espinosa’s flagship restaurant showcases little-known Colombian ingredients such as corozo fruit (a tangy red berry), arrechón (an aphrodisiac drink) and bijao (a banana-like plant), while championing local communities and gastronomic traditions. Since opening Leo she has had a great influence on Colombian cuisine and in 2017 Espinosa won the title of Latin America's Best Female Chef
A few words on the chef: An economist and artist by training, Leo’s love of anthropology, contemporary art and culture is evident in both her cooking and the restaurant itself: a bright, cosy room adorned with bold paintings. Espinosa also runs nearby Misia, a more casual venture inspired by popular Colombian cuisine.
How the menus work: Leo’s current menu, called Ciclo-Bioma, focuses on Colombian ecosystems, exploring the ways new species can be used in the kitchen. The origin of each ingredient is represented on a map of Colombia that shows how far the chef has travelled to source the unique products used at Leo. Those not wanting to sample the extensive wine menu can go for the non-alcoholic drinks pairing, which includes refreshing options like corozo berry juice or a corn drink.
Destination restaurant? Yes, in the truest sense – Schloss Schauenstein is housed in a fairy tale castle in the Swiss Alps. The restaurant and six-room boutique hotel sits in the historic village of Fürstenau, which, with only eight full-time residents, claims the title of the smallest town in the world.
Worth the trip? The remote location means that Schloss Schauenstein is enveloped in a beautiful and romantic atmosphere. The food – from characteristic preparations with a single ingredient to balanced flavours and precise presentation – has been fine-tuned over the years, resulting in surprising flavours even from the simplest ingredients.
Who’s at the stove: Swiss chef Andreas Caminada, who fell in love with fine dining after visiting Jardin des Sens at the age of 20. He took over the then-empty castle in Fürstenau in 2003, when he was only 26 years old, to realise his vision of an all-around hospitality experience for his guests. Starting with a team of only four employees, Caminada has grown and developed the restaurant with relentless passion, now running a team of 40 and with three Michelin stars to his name.
The experience: With equal importance given to food and hospitality, a dinner at Schloss Schauenstein is a warm and immersive experience from the moment you are greeted by the attentive staff at the door. The menu is designed to enrich the senses, with dishes such as beef, apple and mustard, or Swiss pikeperch fish, artichoke and mushrooms.
Bonus point: Caminada oversees a biannual bookazine called Caminada Documenta, where he discusses and reveals the sources of his culinary inspiration and shares the stories behind the dishes, often involving other art forms or exotic travels.