Even though dining at nice restaurants is a part of our job description, there are a number of places around the globe we’re dying to try individually. Some of the spots have just opened. Some have simply eluded us for years. A few are just so far away that we’re not sure when we’ll ever be able to make a reservation. All of them are appetizing addresses editors around the office find amazing, and we’re pretty sure you will, too.
1. The French Laundry, Yountville, Calif. Since opening this Napa Valley masterpiece in 1994, Thomas Keller has remained one of the most influential chefs in the world. It’s because you don’t get just a meal at his Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star restaurant; you get a full epicurean experience. Keller creates two nine-course tasting menus daily spotlighting seasonal produce and organic meat — and no ingredient is repeated in any dish. While the menus change day-to-day, a mainstay is Keller’s playful “Oysters and Pearls,” a dish that features Island Creek oysters and white sturgeon caviar atop a pearl tapioca sabayon. With an impeccable starter like this introducing dinner, you know you’re in for a once-in-a-lifetime event.
2. Noma, Copenhagen. The French Laundry alum René Redzepi has adopted Thomas Keller’s seasonal philosophy to spearhead a new Nordic culinary movement at Noma in Copenhagen. Redzepi shuns imported ingredients and rediscovers his region through local food such as seaweed and beach grass. And he manages to make vegetables in vogue. For one of his signature dishes, he ties white asparagus to pine branches from spruce trees that sit about 16 feet from where the vegetables grow. He grills the asparagus and gives them additional flavor with spruce shoots, spruce vinegar, spinach puree, pine oil and pine salt.
3. Restaurant Guy Savoy, Las Vegas. Chef Guy Savoy has long established himself in the French culinary world, especially with his eponymous Paris restaurant. But the Las Vegas outpost’s new Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star rating is giving the chef a renewed buzz in the States. Of course, it’s hard not to talk about a chef who crafts dishes like the “Colors of Caviar,” a brightly hued parfait with layers of caviar vinaigrette, green bean puree, caviar, caviar crème fraîche and sabayon. For my ultimate meal here, I’d start by reserving the chef’s table and finish at the restaurant’s chic new Cognac Lounge with a snifter of Perfection by Hardy, the world’s oldest unblended cognac.
4. Osteria Francescana, Modena, Italy. You have to love a down-to-earth chef whose favorite ingredient is Parmigiano-Reggiano. And chef Massimo Bottura wears his heart on a dish at his Emilia-Romagna restaurant with “Five Ages of Parmigiano-Reggiano,” an artful plate that features the hard cheese in varying textures and temperatures. Bottura, who worked under Ferran Adrià at el Bulli, takes a similarly creative approach elsewhere on the menu, like the foie gras crunch. The gourmet goody-on-a-stick is rolled in chopped Piedmont hazelnuts and Noto almonds and has a surprise center of balsamic vinegar. He reimagines Italian cuisine in a way that’s fun and enticing.
5. Momofuku Noodle Bar, New York. Momofuku is always on my to-do list when I visit New York, but I still haven’t dined there. David Chang is one of those rare chefs who can prepare pork belly buns just as deftly as fried chicken. But therein lies the problem — do you order the chicken dinner, a Southern-style bird dipped in a buttermilk and Old Bay seasoning batter along with a triple-fried Korean-style option doused in a spicy glaze, or those steamed buns that hold everything from shrimp and pickled shallot to brisket with horseradish? I say order a fried chicken dinner meal in advance with a group of friends — it gets you a coveted reservation at the typically walk-in-only spot.
Photos Courtesy of Deborah Jones and Ditte-Isager