Once upon a time, the fine-dining experience was all about pomp and circumstance; the culinary techniques used by the kitchen staff were kept exclusively behind the scenes. But these days, guests prefer to get as up close and personal with the chef as possible, so private dining, chef’s counters and hot-ticket pop-up dinners have become all the rage. Here are five international dining experiences that stir a world of excitement by steering just clear of the norm.
The Krug Room at Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong
Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star The Krug Room at Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong provides an extraordinary experience for you to sample 10 to 14 courses created by executive chef Uwe Opocensky. The 12-seat tasting room, designed to mimic a train car, offers views of the action-packed kitchen, where the chef and his team create each course according to inspirations and ingredient availability, and without the constrictions of a menu. Besides crafting an unforgettable sensory experience for every guest, The Krug Room also boasts the largest collection of Krug champagne outside of France, a perfect accompaniment to the chef’s progressive, modern bites.
COUNTER 3.FIVE.VII, Austin
Eric Earthman introduced a new concept to Austin’s dining scene when he opened COUNTER 3.FIVE.VII in the spring. Located in the heart of downtown, the 24-seat, kitchen-facing counter provides you a trio of inspired tasting menus (three, five or seven courses) featuring thoughtful, artfully plated creations. Because there is no waitstaff, dishes are presented by executive chef Damien Brockway and the rest of the execution team. All the while, you’re watching closely as the kitchen prepares and plates each course. Sommelier Jason Huerta provides intuitive wine pairings, sourcing a variety of choice bottles from Oregon, Lebanon and many other corners of the globe.
Jiro at Saison, San Francisco
This past spring, lauded San Francisco chef Joshua Skenes hosted a two-month pop-up with sushi chef Jiro Lin (formerly of Hamano Sushi) at his chef’s counter at Saison. The experiment went so well that Skenes is seeking a space around the city to open a restaurant with the sushi chef, whom he considers to be the Bay Area’s best. Until they do that, the delectable dream team is serving a special tasting menu at an eight-seat chef’s counter tucked away inside Saison. The menu recently featured an inspired soup course, a caviar creation, a Japanese pickle, a rotating selection of 17 different nigiri, fruit-forward desserts and a next-level tea service.
Country Kitchen at Rosewood Beijing
Country Kitchen, located inside Rosewood Beijing, pays modern tribute to traditional Northern Chinese cuisine in an elegant, rustic setting. An open kitchen allows you to watch as chef Chai Xin and his team pull noodles by hand, carefully fold dumplings and utilize the wood-fired oven to roast their signature whole organic Mongolian lamb leg and other meats. True to its name, Country Kitchen’s earthenware, copper mugs and exposed stonewall provide a warm and welcoming atmosphere, while modern lines and light fixtures add to the dining room’s primarily contemporary design.
Marcus’ at the Hamilton Princess & Beach Club, Bermuda
After opening successful restaurants in New York and Sweden, celebrity chef Marcus Samuelsson expanded his culinary empire with the debut of Marcus’ earlier this summer. The restaurant, filled with original modern art from the owner’s collection, offers views of Hamilton Harbour while the open kitchen’s wood-burning grill gives more than a glimpse of the culinary action. Samuelsson pays tribute to Caribbean cuisine with dishes like grilled Bermuda onion, jerk pork belly and fish chowder croquettes. Fans of his New York City establishment Streetbird will relish in the whole fried chicken for two offering.