Joe Schmelzer

Preeminent restaurant designer—and jet-setting foodie—Adam Tihany shares his favorite restaurants with T+L.

Heidi Mitchell
July 15, 2011

Adam Tihany knows the inside of his suitcase better than the inside of his Manhattan apartment. The hotel and restaurant designer travels constantly for work, for pleasure, and to discover new places to eat. Fortunately, some of his latest projects—Dinner by Heston Blumenthal at the Mandarin Oriental London; the One&Only Cape Town resort, in South Africa—happen to be in top dining destinations. “Because I’m so inundated with design, I’m drawn to restaurants where I don’t have to be critical of my surroundings and can just focus on the food,” he says. Here, Tihany shares his favorite finds.

Tel Aviv

When Tihany was growing up in Israel, he recalls, “there was barely anything to eat at all.” Now, thanks to a booming dot-com industry and a worldly attitude, Tel Aviv is “the sexiest, the most interesting, the most progressive place on the planet. If you think Copacabana is hot, you haven’t been to Tel Aviv.” A typical night out starts at Cantina (dinner for two $80), an Italian restaurant that’s “the best place for people-watching: actors, Russian oligarchs, models.” For drinks, Tihany heads to Radio E.P.G.B. (7 Shadal at Yehuda Halevi St.; 972-3/560-3636; drinks for two $20), an Israeli take on New York’s late, lamented rock club CBGB, or Taxidermy (33 HaHashmal; drinks for two $19), a dark boîte whose walls are mounted with stag heads and stuffed pheasants. Or he’ll begin atOttoBar (76 Ibn Gvirol; nophone; cocktails for two $18), directly across from Rabin Square. There’s no realdoor at the entrance, so just look for the crates of beer stacked in thecorridor. Once you’re inside, the attractive bartenders serve an impressivearray of beer, wine, and cocktails. He ends the night at Tel Aviv’s buzzing bistro Brasserie M&R (70 Ibn Gvirol St.; 972-3/696-7111; dinner for two $100) for “a steak at three a.m. and the latest gossip.”

Jerusalem

Jerusalem has a much more sedate aura than Tel Aviv.“They roll up the city at ten p.m.,” jokes the designer, who just finishedredoing the capital’s King David Hotel. However, he recommends Mahneyuda (10 Beit YaacovSt.; 972-2/533-3442; dinner for two $130), a little restaurant filled within-the-know locals, in the Mahane Yehuda market. “It’s an incredible wine barwith these three meshuggener chefs working in an open kitchen all atonce, creating spectacular contemporary Israeli dishes like shakshuka [eggs baked in tomato sauce] with foie gras,” Tihany says. “The chefs will pickup pretty girls and dance with them in the middle of dinner. It’s completelydifferent from the rest of Jerusalem.”

Istanbul

Tihany’s latest interior-design project is the public spaces of Foster & Partners’ massive Skymark Tower building, so he visits Istanbul often. “You can drink late at night, eat kebabs at any hour, and just get lost in this fantastic city,” he says. Tihany frequents upscale Köşebaşi Nişantaşi (Bronz Sk. 5, Maçka; 90-212/230-3868; dinner for two $80) for kebabs and authentic southern Anatolian cuisine. Classic European dishes (beef fillet with pepper sauce; schnitzel) draw the social set to Park Şamdan (Harbiye Mh., Mim Kemal Öke Cad. 18/1 ; 90-212/225-0710; dinner for two $130), in the Reina district. Poseidon (Cevdet Paşa Cad. 58, Kücük Bebek; 90-212/287-9531; dinner for two $100), a seafood restaurant in Bebek, has a lively scene in summer, but the best time to eat there is winter, when bluefish are biting in the Bosporus. After dark, you’ll find Tihany at Anjelique (cocktails for two $40), a glam bar right on the Bosporus in Ortaköy that “reminds me of a beach club in Ibiza,” he says.

Dubai

The world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa, tops out at just over 2,700 feet and houses the Armani Hotel Dubai, one of the highest observation decks on the planet, and the Tihany-designed steak house At.mosphere (1 Emaar Blvd.; 971-4/888-3804; dinner for two $250). “You take an elevator from the ground floor, and in forty-five seconds you’re on the hundred and twenty-third floor,” he says. To soothe those who are unsettled by heights, Tihany made the interiors “cocoon-like and beautiful, like a yacht.” The end result includes mahogany walls, purple velvet sofas, hand-tufted carpets, and coffee-colored limestone floors.

Rome

Everybody has a favorite restaurant in Rome. Tihany’s is Grano (53 Piazza Rondanini; 39-06/6819-2096; dinner for two $110), a trattoria on a piazza near the Pantheon specializing in trippa alla romana. “Tripe is an acquired taste, but when it’s good, it’s sublime. Here it’s served in a stew, and it’s delicious.” In nice weather, grab a table on the terrace, beneath the white umbrellas.

New York City

Mario Batali’s Italian food court/theme park in the Flatiron District, Eataly (breakfast for two $15), attracts a crowd, and it’s a daily ritual for Tihany, who uses the superstore as a coffee shop. “I walk to work every morning and stop in at Café Lavazza for the best skim cappuccino and apricot croissant ever. Better than Milan, better than Paris.”

Malibu, California

A friend recently urged Tihany to visit the wineries of Malibu. “I didn’t even know they existed!” the designer says. Indeed, the beachside enclave produces some impressive wines thanks to its Sonoma-like climate. These spots—suggested to the designer by Alex Weill, the sommelier at Bouchon in Beverly Hills—make a great day trip. Rosenthal-Malibu Estate (26023 Pacific Coast Hwy.; 310/456-1392), founded in 1987, is considered the area’s best winery. At Malibu Family Wines (31740 Mulholland Hwy.; 818/865-0605) you can sample Syrah and Pinot Noir from Semler Saddle Rock Estate Vineyards. Finally, the tasting room Sip (2598 Sierra Creek Rd., Agoura; 818/865-0440) sells its own Cielo Estate, a rich Cabernet Sauvignon grown just outside.

Cape Town

Fordowntime, Tihany prefers cities to quiet resorts—especially if the city happensto have great food. Cape Town, where Tihany designed the One&Only resort,is a current favorite, not least because of its many extraordinary restaurants.A few of his top spots:

RoundhouseRestaurant: The diningroom overlooks the water, the building is over 250 years old, and the seven-coursetasting menu ranges from eland carpaccio with pickled cranberry purée andbraised ox tongue to apricot soufflé with Amaretto ice cream. RoundhouseRd., The Glen, Camp’s Bay; 27-21/438-4347; dinner for two $144.

95Keerom: This Milaneserestaurant owned by Giorgio Nava is free of pretense. Bread is baked twicedaily, and only the freshest ingredients are used. Try the crayfish linguinewith cherry tomato sauce. Dinner for two $45.

IlLeone Mastrantonio: “An Israeli chef makes the most wonderful Italian food”—grilled calamari,extra-thin carpaccio—“and it has an enormous wine list.” 22 Cobern St.,Green Point; 27-21/421-0071; dinner for two $38.

Caveau: Set in the antique wine cellars ofthe landmarked Heritage Building, Caveau is “an excellent wine bar to finishoff a great night out,” says Tihany. Drinks for two $11.

Giovanni’sDeliworld: Tihanycalls Giovanni’s “the best place for espresso and people watching in theworld.” Across from the Cape Town Stadium, built in 2009 for the World Cup,it’s the city’s oldest deli, and is crammed with cheeses, sliced meats, wine,even newspapers. 103 Main Rd., Green Point; 27-21/434-6893; coffee for two$4.

Cantina, Tel Aviv

An Italian restaurant on vibrant Rothschild Boulevard.

95 Keerom

 

Charming chef/owner Giorgio Nava is everywhere at this svelte Italian restaurant set in a 17th-century former stable house. You’ll find him tableside, graciously switching between Italian and English to recite the day’s specials; bustling through the dining room to fulfill special requests; and—thankfully—in the kitchen, where he oversees the execution of hearty, deceptively simple Milanese dishes. Nava even has a hand in harvesting the ingredients: most fish on his menu is caught from his own boat, and the meat comes from his farm in the Karoo (the desert valley north of Cape Town). His frequently changing offerings include snappingly fresh salads, various game and seafood carpaccios, pastas (butternut squash ravioli with sage butter is a favorite), and classic mains, like osso bucco served with fluffy polenta.

Anjelique

A sultry waterside club set against the glowing Baroque Ortaköy Mosque.

Caveau Wine Bar & Deli

Caveau’s wine list is an enjoyable departure from the red, white, and sparkling norm; it’s divided into Easy Drinkers (try the superb Pierre Jourdan Brut), Discoveries, Food Friendlies, Vintage Reserves, Rarities (like small lots from inner city winery Signal Hill), and Giants. This friendly approach takes the snobbery out of wine tasting, and the bar’s welcoming, cozy atmosphere (set in the city’s only cobblestoned square, between ancient stone walls) makes it a prime place to plunge into South Africa’s bold wines. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that there are 90 wines available by the glass.

Eataly

Eataly—a vast emporium dedicated to all things Italian and delicious—gathers a transatlantic all-star team of pizzaioli, gelato-makers, brewers, bakers, wine experts, pasta artisans, and a certain red-ponytailed chef you may have heard of. With seven restaurants and a marketplace selling everything from salumi and Sicilian amaro to kitchen tools and cookbooks, the 42,500-square-foot Flatiron District complex makes downtown’s Little Italy look a whole lot littler. Plus: There’s way better food.

Radio E.P.G.B.

Taxidermy

Brasserie M&R

At.mosphere

Grano

Rosenthal-Malibu Estate

Malibu Family Wines

Sip

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