From Tokyo to Las Vegas, T+L picks the brightest stars in eight global food capitals.
As more and more of you dream and scheme your vacations around unforgettable meals, T+L has searched far and wide—through eight cities across four continents, to be precise—to unearth the world’s greatest new dining experiences. What have we gleaned? Well, with celebrity chefs roaming and foaming up a storm, design trends traveling at light speed, and Wagyu beef more ubiquitous than KFC, the planet does indeed seem to be getting smaller. But it’s getting tastier, too. The upside of globalization? We can indulge in a Vegas replica of a grand Parisian restaurant that seems more convincing than the original, taste an exotic Amazonian berry in Paris’s 11th Arrondissement, or navigate a Los Angeles freeway to a spot straight out of Hong Kong. And no, we haven’t forgotten those singular neighborhood kitchens powered by homegrown ingredients. From Barcelona to Hong Kong, from Tokyo to Montreal, from Paris to Vegas and beyond, here’s the skinny on where to eat well in the world. Your table is waiting.
These days the entire planet seems to be abuzz over molecular gastronomy. Spain, meanwhile, having pioneered the trend, is moving on—to ingredient-inspired simplicity. This paradigm shift is most evident in the city’s new crop of dining bars and chef-driven bistros, among them the irresistible Tapaç 24 (269 Carr. Diputació; 34/93-488-0977; dinner for two $85), created by El Bulli alum Carles Abellan. Unlike his conceptual tidbits at Comerç 24, the cooking at Tapaç is all about transforming a few choice ingredients—purple-tinged artichokes, cured-tuna shavings—into swoon-inducing treats. Fight your way to a stool at the counter, a playful evocation of a produce-laden stall at the Boquería market, and don’t stop ordering. After the truffled bikini (grilled cheese sandwich) of mozzarella and ibérico ham, try a fragrant sauté of wild mushrooms, then silken anchovies laid on a slab of requeson cheese. Stop back in for a breakfast of a plush salt-cod tortilla, then return at midday for gently cooked duck eggs broken up over french fries. Foam? What foam?
For a city that commands such a choice stretch of Mediterranean coastline, Barcelona has a curious shortage of waterfront restaurants with panoramic views. Enter Mondo (Imax Bldg., Moll d’Espanya, Maremàgnum; 34/93-221-3911; dinner for two $150), worshipped by cognoscenti as the source for the best seafood in town. Here, you get the complete package: a terrace overlooking the old harbor, a chic white-and-red interior, and plenty of leather sofas on which to chill out with a copa. Cut straight to the menu section labeled PRODUCTOS to order delicate raw Carril clams, outrageously perfect cigalas (langoustines), and espardenyes (sea cucumbers) seared, not a second too long, a la plancha. None of it comes cheap, but this is an indulgence worth every euro.
We like grilled seafood as much as the next Spaniard, but when nothing but Spain’s wildly creative alta cocina will do, we book at Lasarte (Hotel Condes de Barcelona, 259 Carr. Mallorca; 34/93-445-3242; dinner for two $200), the Barcelonan outpost of Basque virtuoso Martín Berasategui. For those who never made it to Berasategui’s namesake three-star flagship outside San Sebastián, Lasarte’s menu reprises some of the chef’s greatest hits. Here’s that legendary—and much copied—napoleon of smoked eel, foie gras, and caramelized apples. Here’s the diaphanous mosaic of vegetable hearts and raw mackerel touched with seafood essence and dotted with lettuce cream—a dish so stunning it deserves to be framed. But Berasategui’s young Catalonian chef de cuisine, Alex Garés, is putting his own earthy stamp on things: sizzled prawns with an egg yolk-and-truffle emulsion share a plate with papada (pork jowl) ravioli with an explosion of liquid-onion confit inside. Clearly he, too, is a fan of life’s simpler pleasures.
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Even in Tokyo, where jaw-dropping dining palaces outnumber ramen dives, Tofuya Ukai (4-4-13 Shiba-Koen, Minato-ku; 81-3/3436-1028; lunch for two $110) has a serious wow factor, ensuring that its 550 seats are booked weeks in advance. Announced by a lavish Japanese garden and built to resemble a vast Edo-period mansion, Tofuya Ukai sprawls at the foot of the Tokyo Tower, a replica of the Eiffel. How much expense and political muscle were required to construct this extravaganza, smack in the middle of Tokyo’s latest prime real estate—until last year, the site was occupied by a bowling alley—is anybody’s guess. A kimonoed hostess will usher you past the antique sake-brewing equipment to a light-filled tatami room with views of pebbled pathways, waterfalls, and 100-year-old fruit trees. Sit back, sip your sake, and dutifully contemplate the kaiseki-style meal. A fanciful appetizer set—jellied duck slices, a salmon-sushi bonbon—precedes a pillowy crab dumpling afloat in a yuzu broth. Twice-cooked tofu is followed by an earthy, rice-studded matsutake mushroom, all of which comes artfully arranged on handmade ceramics and lacquerware. After lunch, take a look at the kaleidoscopic carp in the ponds outside. In Tokyo, even the fish make a design statement.
Shunju Tsugihagi (Nihon Seimei Bldg. B1, 1-1-1 Yurakucho, Chiyoda-ku; 81-3/3595-0511; dinner for two $100) is another visual tour de force by the hip Super Potato design firm (known for, among other things, the swaggering interior of Tokyo’s Grand Hyatt Hotel). The mysterious labyrinth of partitioned nooks plays like a conceptual art installation. It’s a mind-bogglingly eclectic mishmash of allusions and styles—Eastern and Western, Zen and zany—that puts carved Balinese screens against blond Scandinavian furniture, backlit glass bottles against Japanese fabrics. Such a setting makes it perfectly natural to order foie gras or grilled ibérico pork (Tokyo’s current "it" swine) alongside a tofu cloud. Among the other standouts are chewy grilled jidori chicken, the sparkling offerings from the sushi bar, and a baked parchment package of delicate fish, sweet potato, and hon-shimeji mushrooms.
Craving primal warmth and sake-fueled bonhomie? Head to Hinokiya (6-19-45 Akasaka, Minato-ku; 81-3/6808-6815; dinner for two $120), a faux-rustic grill house, or robatayaki, patronized by diplomats in the Akasaka neighborhood. Here, fish, meat, and vegetables are slow-grilled over aromatic bincho charcoal. After you take off your shoes and settle around the kotatsu table, a waiter appears with a still life of produce and seafood. Choose some leeks and sweet little tomatoes to start, follow with a giant clam or Hokkaido sea urchin, and proceed to the lavishly marbled slices of Wagyu beef from Kagoshima Prefecture. If Mr. Shigehara, the manager, takes a shine to you, he might even treat you to a tasting from his formidable sake collection—which is how you’ll end up sleeping through your business meeting the next day.
Does the world need another celebrity chef-powered steak house? Should you shell out $160 for eight ounces of meat? If we’re talking about Cut (9500 Wilshire Blvd.; 310/276-8500; dinner for two $200), in the Four Seasons Beverly Wilshire hotel, the answer is a resounding yes. True, Wolfgang Puck may be a ubiquitous brand these days, but Cut is his masterpiece, marking a return to sophisticated pleasures. The open kitchen wows with the likes of goose-liver mousse between gossamer Tunisian spiced wafers; perfect asparagus crowned with a fried egg; and adorable American Kobe-beef sliders that stand out even in this burger-mad town. And isn’t it fun to watch see-through model-actresses giving their arteries a shock with the decadent bone-marrow flan? Puck himself, looking very Hollywood with his close-up-ready smile, is often seen working the black-leather banquettes consistently packed with Industry players. Clearly, he doesn’t want to miss out on the party, either.
L.A. has never been particularly rich in modern European-style restaurants, which is why the arrival of Providence (5955 Melrose Ave.; 323/460-4170; dinner for two $140) is so significant. An ambitious collaboration between Italian-born Donato Poto—he’s the elegant maître d’—and the gifted chef Michael Cimarusti, Providence announces its serious intentions with the very first amuse-bouche: say, a shot glass of frothy fennel soup, chased by rounds of saffron gelée. Fusing French and Japanese sensibilities with modern Spanish techniques, Cimarusti is at his most creative with seafood, embellishing raw kanpachi with wasabi sorbet and a frosting of osetra caviar, or giving a dreamy risotto an Asian twist with shimeji mushrooms and anago eel. In the softly lit, earth-toned dining room, dinnertime chatter is more likely to run to Burgundy vintages than to development deals. And even if your waiter can recite the ingredients of the Santa Barbara sea urchin sabayon like a well-practiced soliloquy, somehow you don’t get the feeling that he’ll disappear after the next pilot season.
Let others play Spot Lindsay Lohan at this week’s celebrity hangout while you engage in a far more thrilling Los Angeles pastime: exploring the authentic cuisines in the city’s far-flung ethnic communities. Haven’t done Chinese in Monterey Park? Hop in the car and get yourself to Macau Street (429 W. Garvey Ave., Monterey Park; 626/288-3568; lunch for two $40). Nominally Macanese, the menu is actually most reminiscent of casual Hong Kong coffee shops, where red-bean slushies and safe Cantonese standbys coexist with exotic animal parts. The red walls, decorated with prints of Old Macao, get brighter with each new dish brought by the yellow-bloused servers: soft, rich slices of "roasted pig neck"; squab with a lacquered, mahogany skin; a crisp-bottomed rice hot-pot larded with nuggets of sweet Chinese sausage and preserved duck. And don’t even think of passing over the chicken knees. Chewy and crunchy at once, these spice-dusted nubbins are a million times more addictive than Buffalo wings.
Ever since 2005, when Alain Senderens renounced his Michelin macaroons and opened a bistro de luxe, every chef in Paris, it seems, has decided to go prêt-à-porter. While still clutching the three stars at Le Grand Vefour, Guy Martin made headlines last fall by opening the more casual Sensing (19 Rue Bréa, Sixth Arr.; 33-1/43-27-08-80; dinner for two $140) in Montparnasse. Blond sycamore tables, video projections on the walls, and an endless alabaster bar fronted by cool but comfortless stools add up to the chilly-chic look so popular in Paris these days. (The back room on the first floor is the coziest.) The same aesthetic continues on the plates, with geometric arrangements of rectangles and cylinders and Miroesque squiggles of sauce, but don’t dismiss Sensing as a fashion victim. First, try the squab, trapped in a muscovado-sugar caramel crust and served alongside perfectly glazed turnips. Then sample the elegant baby-mackerel tart, with its palate-cleansing dollop of fennel confit, and the pink slices of herb-crusted veal escorted by tubes of mushroom-filled macaroni that are nothing if not ancienne. It’s annoying to see ladies’ menus sans prices—those haute-cuisine habits die hard—but should Madame wish to pick up the tab, she’ll find the total très acceptable. Now that’s modern.
Parisian chefs are in a revolutionary mood these days: Away with white table-cloths! Down with the tyranny of truffles and foie gras! Leading the neo-bistro charge right alongside Yves Camdeborde’s mobbed Le Comptoir is Le Chateaubriand (129 Ave. Parmentier, 11th Arr.; 33-1/43-57-45-95; dinner for two $120), helmed by Inaki Aizpitarte, a raffishly handsome young Basque pan-rattler. After a stint at the boho La Famille, Aizpitarte took over this vintage bistro and has left its classic dark thirties’ ambience mostly intact. The setting would seem to promise lentils with andouillettes; instead, waiters with six o’clock shadows deliver shucked oysters on a bed of puréed açai, an exotic Brazilian berry with a flavor that hints at chocolate. Aizpitarte’s global palate owes more to his frequent-flier status—he has spent time in Israel and Egypt and roamed across Asia and Central America—than to the current Parisian vogue for fusion. His startlingly short blackboard menu might list tartare de boeuf with peanuts and a tangy Vietnamese dipping sauce; steamed cod accented with Moroccan spices; or a beautiful dish of rare tuna slices bathed in a pink-beet foam and scattered with pomegranate seeds and white-beet julienne.
Under attack in its homeland, grand French dining is finding an unlikely refuge in the Nevada desert. Vegas as the Paris of the Wild West? The mock Eiffel Tower visible from Guy Savoy (Caesars Palace, 3570 Las Vegas Blvd.; 877/346-4642; dinner for two $350) renders that illusion rather persuasively—except that you’re simultaneously staring at a faux- Roman Forum. For anyone who’s been living under a rock: Guy Savoy is the neoclassicist whose Paris restaurant holds three Michelin stars, and who coached the likes of Thomas Keller and Gordon Ramsay to greatness. And while his bring-on-the-truffles brand of grande cuisine hasn’t quite caught up with the times, Savoy’s new Vegas outpost makes a good case for saving it from extinction. With cathedral ceilings and enough space between tables to plot a casino-vault heist, the room is an exercise in understated glamour. Indulge in the "color of caviar," a shot glass that layers purée of haricots verts with osetra caviar and caviar-vinaigrette foam; a satiny artichoke soup strewn with truffle shavings like a gambling table with poker chips; and the clean flavor of turbot steamed with spinach and a poached egg laid atop a garlicky fish bouillon. If the sweet barrage of ganaches, glaces, and crèmes that follows inspires you to propose, the restaurant shares a floor with a wedding chapel. You won’t find that in Paris.
So you’ve lost your private jet at baccarat, then had to pawn the Rolex to pay for the Guy Savoy meal? That’s still no excuse for bailing out of a dinner at Robuchon at the Mansion (MGM Grand, 3799 Las Vegas Blvd. S.; 702/891-7925; dinner for two $320) and discovering why Joël Robuchon has been hailed as the greatest chef on the planet. A cart loaded with 15 types of bread baked in-house, all sublime (especially the bacon-laced epi lardon)? Voilà. Jewel-like amuse-bouche? Lemon gelée veiled in anise cream, and Granny Smith apple "pearls" on vodka granita brightened with yuzu foam—coming right up, Monsieur. Every morsel served in this spiffy dining room, which evokes an Art Deco town house, is a marvel: ephemeral langoustine dumplings bobbing in an intense crustacean reduction; an amazing truffled napoleon of spinach and tofu. While you dine, Robuchon might be busy tending his fifth Atelier—in Hong Kong—but the precision, perfection, and ingenuity of his flavors prove that the man keeps his creative edge as sharp as a Laguiole knife. The only thing as astonishing as your meal is the check, though a gift bag of bread somewhat softens the blow. Chew on the soft, oily basil focaccia as you reemerge into the din of MGM’s penny slot machines—and good luck trying to recover your fortunes.
Feel like crashing a boisterous soirée in the cramped-but-adorable living room of a friend? Then call ahead and book a banquette at the bistro-oyster bar, Joe Beef (2491 Notre-Dame St. W.; 514/935-6504; dinner for two $80). Having named the place after the legendary 19th-century Montreal innkeeper, owners David McMillan and Frederic Morin channel his ebullient hospitality into this vest pocket-size space, which manages to be both down-home and branché. Inspired by whatever Morin feels like cooking that day—not to mention his deep affection for bacon and cream—the blackboard menu pushes all the right buttons with a cozy mix of Gallic-Canadian standards (rabbit ballotine or sole meunière) and New England inspirations. The deeply flavorful chicken legs, braised in crayfish-infused cream and brought to the table in a red-lidded pot, prove that cuisine grand-mère is alive and well. Slow-simmered beef might come garnished with a towering marrow bone. Clams, crab, and lobster tend to be prepared with minimum fuss (though sometimes overcooked). But the soul of the place is the oyster bar, where world-champion shucker John Nil—he’s the one with the tattoos—tends to his sweet, briny Cape Bretons and Malpeques. Don’t stop at a dozen.
L’Atelier (5308 St. Laurent Blvd.; 514/273-7442; dinner for two $75), a streamlined, airy storefront in the trendy Mile End district, is a virtual primer on boutique Québécois foodstuffs. Black-and-white photographs of produce adorn the walls; the owners’ passion for local duck, rabbit, venison, and even bison and horse fuels the kitchen’s bold, meaty flavors. Scenesters gather on a brown banquette under a log-paneled wall to share small plates of crisp wonton-skin ravioli filled with boudin noir, and terrific house-made charcuterie. Though the menu doesn’t offer English translations, someone will be on hand to explain the ingredients of the wild-rice risotto scattered with escargots and foie gras shavings, or to recommend that you try the poutine—a vernacular grease-bomb of fried potatoes, gravy, and curd cheese, reinterpreted here as fat Yukon Gold frites under a cap of pulled rabbit, dabbed with barbecue sauce and curls of nutty Allegretto cheese.
Within months of its opening, Three, One, Two (312 Drummond St.; 61-3/9347-3312; dinner for two $110) snagged multiple Best New Restaurant awards from the Australian press. Everyone loves to love a sharp, quirky gem infused with the chef’s personality. Especially if that chef is the fabulous Andrew McConnell, who has won quite a following at Circa at the Prince hotel. With white-napped tables, cowhide rugs on terrazzo floors, and whimsically torn faux-suede curtains, the setting at his new place is crisp and sexy. And McConnell’s focused cooking strikes just the right balance between adventure and comfort. The best strategy: order his nine-course degustation, which kicks off with crunchy Tunisian brik, pastry rolled around fromage blanc and figs—cleverly served in a Romeo y Julieta cigar box. An entrée of Chinese white-poached chicken with feather-light corn quenelles, pickled shimeji mushrooms, and a gingery watercress sauce pays elegant homage to Hong Kong, where McConnell once cooked for M at the Fringe. The roasted pheasant, by contrast, tastes like British gourmet-granny fare, with its bread sauce, salsify, and perky accent of sorrel. For dessert, a terrine of sliced apples, simmered just short of forever until reduced to a pure essence of fruit, then chilled, is lifted right off the plate with burnt-butter ice cream and a sweet-salty caramel sauce. What’s not to love about that?
Rockpool Bar & Grill (Crown Casino, 8 Whiteman St., Southbank; 61-3/ 8648-1900; dinner for two $150) is the opposite of a small, chef-centered restaurant—but then nobody expects understatement from Neil Perry, the ponytailed übertoque who has better name recognition in Australia than the prime minister. Here he is wokking prawns on telly, there he is designing a menu for Qantas and launching yet another product line. For his Melbourne debut, Perry chose a glitzy location and spent millions furnishing the cavernous, copper-hued room with spotted-gum tables, a showy polished-steel exhibition kitchen, and a dramatic partition, made of 2,000 pieces of sailing rope, that divides the bar from the dining room. Whereas his Rockpool in Sydney is famous for its razzle-dazzle Pacific Rim fusion, here Perry draws on American steak houses. OD’d on steak houses, you say? No worries, mate. Besides the awesome Blackmore Wagyu beef, the menu presents a veritable roster of crowd-pleasers: live Tasmanian scallops on the half-shell with a sprightly ceviche dressing; a perfect lobster-and-avocado salad highlighted with hazelnut-lime foam; slow-roasted chicken from ecologically pristine Kangaroo Island, and biodynamically raised local lamb, simply grilled with garlic and rosemary. Locals are still deciding whether Perry’s gambit rocks their world ("too flashy," "too Sydney," some say) but that doesn’t prevent them from bragging that Rockpool’s arrival finally proves Melbourne’s culinary supremacy over the rival city.
Judging by the recent openings of Nobu (at the InterContinental) and Joël Robuchon’s Atelier (in the posh Landmark shopping mall), Hong Kong may be the new favorite playground of global celebrity chefs. The loudest buzz, however, was reserved for the October debut of Pierre Gagnaire’s Pierre (5 Connaught Rd.; 852/2825-4001; dinner for two $260), atop the Mandarin Oriental hotel. Every black-and-gold-upholstered banquette was booked weeks in advance while the French iconoclast was still obsessing over—and, often, personally designing—the details: the shaggy black lampshades; the pink-tinted water in the hydrangea vases. Simultaneously austere and sumptuous, the gray-and-black room sets the tone for Gagnaire’s brainy cuisine with its herbaceous accents, citric jolts, and complicated flavor arrangements. A sea-bass carpaccio confettied with tiny white-and-pink cubes of horseradish-and-red currant gelée is haute couture for the palate, but basic dishes like roast pork with fennel and cabbage shine just as brightly. Even the flops—such as the cold poached egg in a strange, new-wave tonnato sauce—are rather fascinating. Still, not even the astounding desserts (try the "passion du citron," composed of multicolored lemon Jell-O sticks, meringue, and limoncello) can diminish the heartbreak of peering out at the harbor and seeing the ghost of the old Star Ferry terminal, a beloved city landmark now shut down (and relocated) by the callous city authorities. So much for progress.
Classic Cantonese cooking focuses on texture, fanatical dedication to quality, and status-laden exotica like abalone and shark’s fin, and it reaches exquisite heights at the Four Seasons’ Lung King Heen (8 Finance St., Central; 852/3196-8888; lunch for two $100). The confident modern space is refreshingly free of chinoiserie, instead offering acres of warm amber wood, columns wrapped in coils of Indonesian silk, a silver-leafed ceiling, and sweeping views of Kowloon. Tycoons and fashionable tai-tais gathered around damask-swathed tables clearly think that this is the best Chinese food in town. We agree. The illustrious chef Chan Yan Tak was lured out of retirement to deliver his signature refined, crystal-clear flavors—which are mainly Cantonese but include an occasional French or Southeast Asian flourish. Among the stellar dim sum are such masterpieces as Chan’s weightless green dumpling of lobster and prawns, and his flaky barbecued-pork puffs with their unexpected accent of blueberries. If the famous Shanghainese hairy crab is in season, its delicate meat and roe might be folded into an emerald tangle of sautéed pea shoots. Crisp frog’s-leg lollipops are presented in a crunchy basket of tiny fried whitebait; suckling pig arrives paired with foie gras. And don’t write off Chinese desserts until you’ve tried the bright-orange chilled sago cream dotted with pomelo and mango. Simply perfect.
Anya von Bremzen is a Travel + Leisure contributing editor. Her latest book is The New Spanish Table.
The crowds spill onto the sidewalk outside Inopia (104 Carr. Tamarit; 34/93-424-5231; lunch for two $45), a wildly popular tapas bar owned by Albert Adrià, the dessert genius from El Bulli. Even big brother Ferran loves the classic nibbles (ham croquettes, sardine sandwiches, anchovy-stuffed olives).
The Adriàs' archrival, Santi Santamaría, just earned his sixth Michelin star with Evo (Hesperia Tower Hotel, 144 Gran Via; 34/93-413-5030; dinner for two $230). The dining room, designed by Richard Rogers, may resemble a spaceship, but the food is firmly planted on earth: chestnut cream with nuggets of foie gras; spoon-tender suckling pig.
Cuines Santa Caterina (Avda. Francesc Cambó; 34/93-268-9918; lunch for two $50) is a perfect lunch spot inside the renovated Santa Caterina market in El Born. Standouts include grilled clams strewn with rosemary sprigs, gambas al ajillo (giant prawns in garlicky olive oil), and caramelized baked rice studded with cuttlefish.
Pizzeria Mozza (641 N. Highland Ave.; 323/297-0101; dinner for two $80), jointly run by Mario Batali, Joseph Bastianich, and Campanile's Nancy Silverton, deserves all the hysterical hype that preceded its opening. The pizza crust is as perfectly calibrated as a Maserati's engine and the irresistible toppings range from burrata (creamy buffalo mozzarella) and squash blossoms to lardo and rosemary. Good luck beating Jake Gyllenhaal to a table.
The swell Philippe Starck design at Katsuya (11777 San Vicente Blvd.; 310/207-8744; dinner for two $120) features white leather sofas, giant fetishistic photos of eyelids and lips, and two decorative bars—one robata, one sushi. Food seems beside the point, but it's hard to stop eating the minced spicy tuna mounded on crispy rice cakes and the seared albacore carpaccio scattered with fried shallots.
Serious sushi fans are discovering Sushi Dokoro Ki Ra La (9777 S. Santa Monica Blvd.; 310/275-9003; omakase meal for two $190, by reservation), whose young owner prides himself on not serving overwrought rolls. Though the small room has all the ambience of a concrete shed, the omakase tastings—rich slices of akinomo (monkfish liver), flash-seared maguro dotted with basil oil—will make you feel as if you've landed in Kyoto.
A sleek shrine to the organic faith, Kurkku Kitchen (2-18-21 Jingumae, Koti Bldg. 1F, Haraju-ku; 81-3/5414-0944; lunch for two $60) resembles a Scandinavian sauna and serves wonderful pumpkin soup with potato-and-ginkgo nut gnocchi, lovely salads, and impeccable grills of sustainably raised Japanese meats. The retail shop upstairs proves that with the right packaging, even a roll of environmentally correct toilet paper can be a thing of great beauty.
Folded into the striking Mikimoto Ginza 2 Building and accessed through its gleaming kitchen, Dazzle (2-4-12 Ginza, Chuo-ku; 81-3/5159-0991; dinner for two $100) delivers on its name with a glam supper-club look and a flashy display of baby-doll cocktail dresses from the fashion-crazed clientele. They come here to nibble on sexy fusion offerings such as crab cakes with spicy bisque sauce or chilled sea urchin-and-scallop pasta.
Sasuga (1-19-12 Ginza, Chuo-ku; 81-3/3567-0012; dinner for two $70) elevates the traditional soba-focused repast with its refined, spare interior of washi paper and a menu that begins with supple hand-cut buckwheat noodles (try them mori, or cold, with a dipping sauce) and goes on to ethereal tempura, addictive baby-shrimp fritters, and soba gaki, a soothing buckwheat polenta. Regulars here drink champagne with their noodles.
Sushi Dokoro Ki Ra La
Lauded as some of the city's best, the sushi and sashimi dished up at this Japanese restaurant is fresh and authentic. In an understated dining room with gray stone walls, classic white tablecloths, and a floor-to-ceiling window, diners munch on edamame before diving into dishes showcasing fish that is handpicked daily by the chefs. Among the favorites are the light oyster tempura sprinkled with black truffle shavings, the yellowtail carpaccio with avocado and jalapeno, and the blue crab wrapped in smoked salmon and topped with sour cream and tobiko.
Soba is a staple of many Japanese dishes, from soups to mori soba (a cold-noodle dish), but it's rare to find them made by hand. At Sasuga, diners can sit at one of the dozen counter seats (or the other tables, which seat two dozen more) and watch the kitchen staff make soba from scratch: grinding the buckwheat, kneading the dough, rolling it out, and cutting it. Sasuga uses minimal flavoring to let the fresh buckwheat taste come through. This intimate space is busy, so reservations are almost a requirement.
Dazzle gets its name from the star-like, LED-light-enhanced Swarovski Crystal lamps that seem to float above the cavernous dining room of this upscale restaurant in the Mikimoto Ginza 2 building. A futuristic-looking, circular, glass-encased wine cellar containing more than 3,000 bottles from around the world dominates the space, indicating the importance of wine on the restaurant's world-fusion menu. From duck with sweet potatoes and spiced olives to lamb with pumpkin-prosciutto rolls and salted bok choy, the entrees are heavy of modern European influences with just a hint of Japanese flavor.
Kurkku Kitchen is part of Tokyo's budding green scene. Located in a modern, two-story glass and wood, architect-designed building with a turf roof, the restaurant focuses on organic produce and meat prepared with a French flair (although the restaurant's name is Finnish for a type of pickle). The focal point of the dining room — outfitted with light wood furniture and subtle lighting — is the charcoal-fired grill where chefs prepare vegetable and meat dishes in front of counter-seated guests. A good selection of organic wines is available, along with healthy beverages such as pomegranate juice.
Cuines Santa Caterina
Housed in the renovated Santa Caterina Market, this casual eatery serves four types of cuisine: Asian, Mediterranean, Italian, and vegetarian. Echoing the contemporary design of the market’s undulating mosaic roof, the industrial-style restaurant contains a high ceiling with skylights, exposed wooden rafters, an open kitchen, and communal tables crafted from olive wood. Surrounding the dining room are tall, warehouse-style shelves stacked with flour, vinegar, and olive oil. The menu ranges from sushi and pasta to local dishes like fideuá, a Catalan version of paella. Arriving early is a must, as the restaurant does not accept reservations and is usually crowded.
Located 345 feet above ground, this Michelin one-starred restaurant is housed in a large glass dome atop the Hesperia Tower hotel, just five minutes from the airport. Accessed via a glass-enclosed staircase, the restaurant is designed with black lacquered tables, white pod chairs, and large amorphous light fixtures. Each of the 12 tables provides panoramic views of the business district and, in the distance, the Mediterranean Sea. Formerly led by renowned late chef Santi Santamaría, the culinary team prepares globally inspired Mediterranean fare, such as Iberian pork terrine with pickled onions, and pheasant consommé with foie gras ravioli.
Lung King Heen
This is the only restaurant in Hong Kong to get three stars from the 2009 Michelin guide, and the locals were not all pleased. Sample harangue: “These French [Michelin] people, what do they understand? They only care about the view. So many better restaurants in Hong Kong, but not so fancy.” Well, it is true, you cannot beat the view from atop the Four Seasons Hotel, the meditative arrangements of wood and glass dipping into the harbor. Still, the food is phenomenal. The lightly fried pork looks golden and actually tastes golden, while the spring onion has been julienned with startling precision. And then there’s the off-the-menu house favorite: the pan-fried, silky-smooth grouper with a shading of black truffle used with perfect restraint. (The chef apparently keeps an emergency supply of black truffles for those in the know.)
Three, One, Two
A bring-your-own-wine restaurant, L’Atelier combines market produce with comfort food by chefs Patrick Garneau and Benjamin Fortier. The Mile End restaurant is rustic with unfinished wood tables, logs sliced and stacked to resemble a woodpile, and photo portraits of local farmers. The know-your-neighbor photographs introduce those who have grown, raised, and produced the ingredients for L'Atelier's seasonal cuisine. An upscale version of poutine—a traditional Quebec dish—layers fries with five-year-old cheddar, shredded rabbit, and barbecue sauce. Other dishes on the game-heavy menu may include roast guinea fowl with wild mushroom polenta and local Stanstead rabbit cassoulet.
Restaurant Guy Savoy
Guy Savoy attracts serious gourmands—in fact, those who plan ahead can actually book a cooking lesson with the executive chef and dine at the his table in the kitchen. But it’s not all traditional French cuisine. In 2012, the three-Michelin star chef wrote a more playful menu loaded the new 13-course “Innovation” that includes such fanciful creations as spot prawns in a “sweet and sour fishnet” of mesh-cut daikon radishes. The classics (like his famous truffle artichoke soup and guinea fowl) are still here, and his mellow lounge is stocked with a collection of more than 30 rare Cognacs and makes for a sexy place to have a nightcap.
A modern, dimly-lit space with seating at a wooden counter or at tables with views over Tokyo (lncluding an impressive angle on Tokyo Tower), this robatayaki (charcoal grill) restaurant cultivates an upbeat atmosphere with drum-based Japanese festival music playing in the background. Seafood from Sendai province is the speciality, along with slow-cooked Wagyu beef, Kurobuta pork, and seasonal vegetables. Impeccable craftsmanship and plating are also integral to the Hinokiya experience. There's an extensive sake list which changes regularly, and the staff can recommend food pairings.
Shunju Tsugihagi Hibiya
Roughly translated, tsugihagi means something akin to "patchwork" in English, and that's the apporach this contemporary izakaya takes in everything from its atmosphere to its menu. With decorative wooden panels repurposed from a 200-year-old Balinese home, a traditional sushi counter, a grill counter, and more intimate "themed" dining areas, Shunju Tsugihagi Hibiya straddles the boundary between traditional and urbane sensibilities. The menu includes everything from sushi and sashimi to grilled steak or lobster and a chef's tasting menu.
Managed by acclaimed chef Martín Berasategui, this Michelin two-starred restaurant is located in the Hotel Condes de Barcelona, which comprises two 19th-century palaces on Passeig de Gràcia. The intimate, 30-seat dining room is designed in a minimalist style with large windows, cream-colored wall murals, and white-clothed tables topped with stark, miniature tree sculptures. The menu combines Basque, Catalan, and Mediterranean cuisines, with possible dishes including baked sea bass with sesame lemon dressing, followed by a dessert of olive oil cake, green apple, lemon peel ice cream, and juice of rice pudding and cardamom. The tasting menu requires approximately four hours.
Overlooking the marina in Port Vell, Mondo is an upscale seafood restaurant by day and a laid-back dance club by night. Located on the top floor of the IMAX theater, the restaurant is designed with black and red banquettes, dim table lanterns, and huge windows framing panoramic views of the yachts anchored on the water. Outside, an open-air terrace provides additional seating surrounded by palm trees. Attracting an older, sophisticated crowd, Mondo provides dinners of fresh shellfish and lobster bouillabaisse, followed by late-night cocktails and dancing to an eclectic mix of music, which may include rock, R&B, hip-hop, and house.
Just off Passeig de Gracia, the city’s Art Nouveau shopping street, Tapaç 24 is great for a breakfast of bocadillos (sandwiches) and cafe con leche. Dashing chef Carles Abellan is Barcelona's top egg guy, go early for brunch or hold off for late-night meals of fried duck eggs with wild mushrooms.
When Nancy Silverton teamed up with Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich to create—heaven help us all—a pizza parlor, you kind of knew it would be great. But not this great. Since 2006, this dream team has been dishing up spectacular Neopolitan-style pies with puffy, charred crusts to throngs of fanatics. Silverton’s astonishingly flavorful pies are worth every second of the two-hour wait—whether it’s the squash blossom–tomato-burrata combo or the masterpiece of gooey Stracchino, shaved artichokes, olives, and lemon. While the semi-traditional toppings are excellent (house-made fennel sausage with sweet red onions), try the more outré toppings (sweet Gorgonzola, radicchio, and fingerling potatoes).
The 25th floor of the Mandarin Oriental offers a taste of contemporary French fare from well-known chef Pierre Gagnaire. Chef de cuisine Nicolas Boujema (a student of Gagnaire) leads the culinary efforts, earning the restaurant two Michelin stars in 2011 and 2012. Earth tones, circular mirrors, and soft lighting from multi-faceted gold chandeliers set the tone inside. Tasting menu offerings include dishes with crayfish, hake mousse, and eggplant caviar, while à la carte options range from sea bass with tofu to breast of farm hen with herbs and pasta.
Rockpool Bar & Grill
This up-market, sophisticated venue is chef Neil Perry's Melbourne calling card. Part of the Crown Complex, it's been pulling in diners for a decade and is ever popular with businessmen, celebs, and high rollers. There are plenty of offerings on the menu, but the beef is a highlight. Every cut—from wagyu sirloin to grass-fed Scotch fillet (rib-eye)—is aged on the premises and cooked on a wood-fired grill. The sides are an event in and of themselves, especially the mac and cheese and chunky onion rings. To accompany dinner, order a glass or a bottle from the extensive (but pricey) wine list.
Not far from the Jardin du Luxembourg, chef Guy Martin established Sensing, and then left it to young chef Fabrizio La Mantia. Sensing was named one of Gayot’s 2011 Hot 10 Paris Restaurants. Royal-purple banquettes and chairs surround natural wood tables. White walls provide a stark contrast for colorful art, while other walls are parchment-colored with subtle textured designs. The gourmet French menus change with the seasons and have featured a la carte items like Anjou pigeon in Muscovado sugar, and lunch and dinner dishes such as roast chicken with creamy polenta and steak with gnocchi and seasonal mushrooms.
Wolfgang Puck opened CUT in 2006 inside the Beverly Wilshire hotel. The menu focuses on dry-aged beef; cuts range from filet mignon to porterhouse to ribeyes that are wood and charcoal grilled, then finished in a broiler. Steaks can be paired with toppings such as wasabi-yuzu kosho butter, black truffles, and bone marrow.
Architect Richard Meier, who designed the Getty Center, crafted the bright, white-walled space, which includes tiered seating, a glass-front kitchen, and floor-to-ceiling windows.
Brentwood’s most popular sushi destination happens to be the chain restaurant Katsuya by Starck. Master sushi chef Katsuya Uechi and design impresario Philippe Starck fuse their talents to create the restaurant’s colorful (and often spicy) signature dishes, including crispy rice with spicy tuna, yellowtail sashimi with jalapeno, and miso marinated black cod. The modern dining room boasts all-white sofas and armchairs, wood paneled booths, and oversized images of a geisha (her eyes, lips, and kimono) printed on the walls.
Le Chateaubriand was ranked ninth in S. Pellegrino’s 50 Best Restaurants of the World in 2011. When he took over Le Chateaubriand, Basque owner Inaki Aizpitarte kept most of the 1930’s look and the restaurant name, but added his own flair, bringing choices that reach past the French bistro standbys to offer dishes like shucked oysters over puréed açai and steamed cod with Moroccan spices. Diners also sample new Parisian wines like Overnoy’s Arbois Pupillin and Herve Villemade’s Les Ardilles.
Chef-owners Frédéric Morin and David McMillan are the mavericks behind Joe Beef, a delightfully disheveled counterpoint to the city’s often overstyled restaurants. The décor (a bear’s head trophy over the bar; rustic wooden tables; très country checkered napkins) verges on irreverent, but the food is far from it. Though oysters and crab cakes make a cameo, the emphasis here is decidedly Québécois—heavy on meat, with healthy doses of foie gras and boudin, served with a poached egg. Morin and McMillan’s antiestablishment stance has worked so well that their peanut-size dining room in the up-and-coming Little Burgundy is now a favorite of both the city’s star hockey player, Saku Koivu, and the Quebec premier, Jean Charest.
Wild seafood in its "purest and simplest form" is the guiding passion behind Executive Chef Michael Comarusti’s Providence, LA. Combining East coast tradition with "West Coast eccentricity," the fine-dining establishment is home to some of the best-reviewed seafood on the West coast. Signature favorites include the Wild Striped Bass and Kanpachi Sashimi, complimented by excellent desserts and an extensive cellar. Recipient of two prestigious Michelin stars, the Melrose Avenue eatery features earth tones and elegant lines whimsically accented by clusters of porcelain seashells.