For anyone interested in the state of upper-echelon dining, there is no better way to keep “au courant” than by reading some of the websites of members of the 2019 “The World’s 50 Best Restaurants”. Upon reading, they beg the question “Who writes this stuff?” Several words connoting the sites’ out-sized exaggerations come to mind: “Hyperbole”, “Self-Aggrandizement”, “Hyper-glorification” and “Flights of fancy”. Several themes permeate the verbiage. Paramount among them is that chefs don’t want you to think of them as “just chefs” or even craftsmen that practice a trade whose primary role is providing sustenance even when on a high, rarified and creative plane. This is why a photographer never takes their picture in front of pieces of kitchen equipment or the stuff of kitchens such as stoves; ovens; refrigerators; and knives or cutting boards, but rather bent over a counter holding tweezers, squirt bottles or paint brushes as if making an engraving or painting an icon. Furthermore, these men and women of the kitchen want you to see them as poets, explorers, artists, magicians, philosophers, weavers of dreams and fantasies, narrators and storytellers, and even members of the intelligentsia. Their formula of choice is the no-choice, many-course menu because its singularity, or indivisibility, lends itself entirely to the chef’s dominance, making the client completely passive as if he were attending a musical performance or viewing pictures at an exhibition. The tasting menu* thus becomes a kind of artifact or package, a control-freak means that is incapable of accommodating spontaneity or the tastes, preferences, moods and desires of those who consume it. Stripped of any autonomy or freedom to choose, the client is completely at the mercy of the chef who hopes that you will have read the website and arrive in a state of critical numbness so as to be oblivious to the flaws; susceptible to otherwise nonexistent sensations and emotions; and believing that the chef has done the impossible of making the non-spiritual spiritual by virtue of being a self-proclaimed artist.
*(Two years ago, 24 of the 50 restaurants on the World’s Best list offered tasting menus only. Now this number is 31. Of the 22 websites below, five of these restaurants also offer à la carte menus. (Maido, White Rabbit, Piazza Duomo, Restaurant Tim Raue, and Hof van Cleve.)
I have added the bold type and the underling to emphasize noteworthy verbiage, and made a small number of minor corrections for grammar and punctuation. All the text below is excerpts from the websites. The number before each restaurant name is its ranking on the World’s 50 Best Restaurant list.
1. Mirazur. (Menton, France)
Through his personal interpretations of ingredients and flavor combinations, Mauro Colagreco has forged a style of his own. He has absorbed his Italian-Argentinian cultural heritage and that of the chefs with whom he trained, and now follows his intuition as he draws on the local culture on both sides of the border. Inspired by the sea, the mountains and the fruit and vegetables grown in his own gardens, Mauro invents colorful, pictorial dishes that play with textures and bold contrasts.
Light, honest, respectful of nature, Mauro’s cuisine expresses itself freely.
At Mirazur, nothing is immutable; everything changes with the seasons, available produce, and the inspiration of the chef.
5. Geranium. (Copenhagen, Denmark)
Thoughtfulness can be tasted.
Geranium’s kitchen is loose, enlightened and dynamic. Our mission is to create meals that involve all our senses-restores, challenges and enriches.
Dynamic means force and stands for the limited forming forces of nature. These forces are not visible, but their biological “footprints” are. The effects can be seen if one learns to observe and understand the connection between the formative forces and the physical matter of all organism.
6. Central. (Lima, Peru)
The Central team, with its ally MaterIniciativa, forms a group of expeditionaries full of curiosity about Peru.
Aware of the lack of connection, we wanted to humbly assume the great challenge of knowing and re-knowing this beautiful country full of unique inputs, landscapes, culture and traditions, stories but,above all, those who live and narrate
Our collaborative team works hard to generate links, and try to make visible elements that in everyday life cannot be seen by everyone.
The expedition that we undertook our beginning has neither destination nor end, but it is centered in the constant movement, in the observation and the respect of the temporality and the seasonality that the earth dictates to us.
7. Mugaritz. (San Sebastian, Spain)
We love to feed our minds…
Feeding curiosity, the senses or desire, we seek to satisfy the hunger of risk, game or answers and to satisfy the pleasure of surprise, of discovering and exploring the unknown.
To achieve this, we question the logic of the gastronomic world, rethinking the social habits and prejudices. We seek to create a context where diners give free rein to their senses to overcome the imposition of customs.
For approximately three hours, and through about 20 creations (discover here our 2017 creations), together we will try to weave a tale of stories, gestures and emotions around the table. And also out of it, flavors, textures and aromas that you can enjoy and feel using your hands to stimulate all the senses and to evoke our more primal customs.
10. Maido. (Lima, Peru)
Life is movement.Nothing is static or absolute. No one is. We are in a state of constant flux just like the Earth, the tides, bacteria, light, the blood in our bodies,colors, seeds. Like family trees, cuisines are constantly being redefined,their identities enriched by an intense intercultural exchange which has formed the basis of all civilization ever since humans shared their first sounds,products, ideas, and customs. Fusion cuisine is just that: cooking, an inclusive word that perfectly encompasses it all. The fireplace is where bloodlines merge, where people come to sing. Individual and group histories are forged; life gestates. The fireplace is where dialogue is fostered, the elements meet, opposites attract. Thus was born Peruvian Nikkei cuisine from a complex history called Peru, and another, equally complex, far-off and foreign history called Japan that merged to live in harmony and create the third reality: Nikkei Cuisine.
13. White Rabbit. (Moscow, Russia)
The great things are always a union and a struggle of opposites; they emphasize and complement each other.The goal of the great things is the balance and harmony of these opposites: There is no sun without a moon, a land without sky, a future without past, life without death, happiness without suffering and good without evil. Contrast is a significant difference of these opposites, antonyms of one field – time,emotions, sensations, location, condition, color, texture, taste. The contrastemphasizes the difference and creates an overall picture, which we see andperceive as holistic and beautiful. In the new set Vladimir Mukhin focuses onthe eternal war and friendship of these opposites both in life and art, and inwork and gastronomy. You will see and feel the contrast between the Past andfuture (time), Heaven and earth (dwelling), South and north (origin), Fire andwater (processing), Light and dark (color), Hard and soft (texture), Cold andhot (feeling), Sweet and bitter (taste), Joy and sadness (emotion). Discovernew tastes and new emotions, and we hope you will become a little bit happier.You decide what through…
We have also started unique gastronomical performances, which are played in our gastrobar by Vladimir Mukhin and chief-bartender Oleg Reshetnyakov. A fascinating story about a combination of food and cocktails charms and convinces that gastronomy is as much art as literature and painting.
14. Azurmendi. (Bilbao, Spain)
“Connecting with our roots to dream, travel, discover, feel aterritory, and fly to reach the same starting point, Azurmendi is my home”
The Azurmendi*** restaurant is the place where our culture,customs, and way of doing things walk together towards the future. A sea ofauthenticity where you feel the tradition and the cutting edge. The essence,intensity, and flavor of the cuisine of Eneko Atxa. Eneko Atxa’s cooking is a journey in time, from yesterday to tomorrow, the love for traditions, crafts, and the contemporary, towards a place simply called pleasure. Landmark pleasure.
18. Odette. (Singapore)
“I owe everything that I am to my family, especially my grandmother, Odette. She showed me how the most remarkable dishes can come from the purest ingredient,s and taught me the importance of adding that ‘little something’ to create dishes that excite the palate and fill the heart.
Her devotion to people and ability to demonstrate love through food continue to inspire the Odette experience.”
Led by Singaporean artist, Dawn Ng, the overall creative direction stems from a deep understanding of Chef Julien’s culinary philosophy.
Titled A THEORY OF EVERYTHING, the body of art explores the visual beauty of raw ingredients from Chef Julien’s kitchen;
broken down and re-imagined into a surreal universe of shapes and forms that float and settle, drift and pirouette.
These deconstructed, magnified images of Chef Julien’s most precious ingredients inform every aspect of Odette’s creative design including the aerial installation – the centerpiece of the main dining hall.
22. Narisawa. (Tokyo, Japan)
Forests comprise almost 70% of Japan.
Its coastline is ranked 6th in the world.
Japan is surrounded by forests and seas.
In this limited space,
people cultivate the land and grow rice,
they live and work hand in hand with nature,
with the forests and seas,
and they call this type of place the Satoyama.
Taking the rich culinary culture of the Satoyama,
and the wisdom of our ancestors,
we pass it through the NARISAWA filter
to create a new, independent genre called,
“Innovative Satoyama Cuisine”
Responding to the four seasons,
the severe changes between them,
understanding this environment,
and living our lives taking
only the most necessary resources for daily life
from the earth: this lifestyle is called
The Japanese term,“Ji’nen,”
referring to the spirit of nature,
includes people carrying on
the Satoyama culture like instinct,
together with the natural world.
From this spirit
we at NARISAWA create gastronomy
Beneficial to both body and spirit,
and a continuously Sustainable environment,
which we call,
Beneficial and Sustainable Gastronomy.
Chef Yoshihiro Narisawa
26. Borago. (Santiago, Chile)
In our effort to reflect what the soil gives us, we have brought the best products from a somewhat unusual corner of our planet that we consider invaluable. Our tasting menus collect and combine the best endemic product of the Chilean territory, in continual evolution throughout the year. Much of the food is cut from soils not intervened, by collecting communities and small producers throughout Chile, which is why the dishes can vary even during each course.
The water served in Boragó comes from the rain of Patagonia, with a high degree of purity.
The milk used, especially in our ice cream, is milked by us and comes from natural aging.
We do not have a wine list. In return, we seek to add the effort of family projects full of passion. We have a wine pool. These represent particular conditions in the Chilean territory, occasionally with surprising results.
30 minutes from Boragó, we grow vegetables our way, with maximum use and always in the most natural way.
We understand the restaurant as a provider; One day we can cut a wild fruit that grows three weeks a year at 3,500 meters and the next, unique mushrooms from a forest.
We work without intermediaries, but directly with fishermen.
There are more than 200 collectors and small producers throughout the country. They have the same role as the rest of the team. Unfortunately, they are not visible in our dining room, but without them, we could not even give 10% of the food we offer.
29. Piazza Duomo. (Alba, Italy)
THEN INDIVIDUAL PERSONALITY COMES INTO PLAY
The personal journey tocreating my contemporary cuisine, both light and beautiful to the eye.
I am Italian, but I have worked in France and then in Japan Each of these elements is clearly visible in my work. Finally, it is a matter of what I want to do, or even better, what I need to do.
Even if I am driven by what is offered from my vegetable garden and this region, there is a moment where my ideas and personality emerge: if these were missing, I would be unable to transmit the energy that I generate when I cook for my guests.
31. Le Calandre. (Rubano, Italy)
“Like a needle pulling through a threadthrough a series of successive holes to create a delicate but sturdy seam,cuisine binds us together without us even being aware of it.”
32. Nerua. (Bilbao, Spain)
Nerua takes its name from the Nervión River,the backbone of Bilbao, which in ancient Latin was called Nerva. We combine innovation with our roots, our surroundings. It is a space designed for a gastronomic and cultural experience.
Nature sets the pace of our kitchen. We adapt to each season without censorship to do the cuisine that we feel. A local cuisine that begins at the vegetable gardens, in the sea, and in the farms.
Our experience is the best technique—we cook with freedom to create pleasure and enjoyment. Faithful to our principles, we defend our environment and the producers who make our goal possible: to be at the cutting edge and to innovate without losing the flavor of our roots.
“Muina”—Basque forcore, heart, or essence—is the soul of our kitchen.
We work on the present to create the future. We apply the steps that make up our creative process, to innovate and be the vanguard.
We start to work on each menu one year before it reaches the hands of our guests to play with the best products of each season—we leave our comfort zone to explore our surroundings with the help of our producers. Our trusting relationship with them helps us to discover new products that will later become a new proposal to be shared with our customers.
We study each product in detail: its origins, its uses throughout history, its qualities… to apply techniques, develop knowledge, and innovate with what we learn.
Above all, we are diners, we understand and enjoy cuisine, and capture this enjoyment in our work.
Each detail is a response to a need. The temperature of the serviette, of the cutlery, coordinated movements…
Observation and reflection bring us closer to our cuisine. We invite you to discover sensations, culture, the magic of the preparations, the essence of each product…
We look for wines that reflect the character of the land where they are produced and that capture the personality of who made them—wines that surprise due to the unusualness. We work with producers who know how to interpret what happens in the vineyard, who respect the grape’s identity. Each wine has its own story, written by the producers and told by us, the sommeliers.
We do the pairings with our mind open to the world, to make a journey through different regions, with a clear objective: that the wine accompanies the dishes, that neither of them is left behind, but mutually enhanced.
With the pairings without alcohol, which we offer since 2012, we seek the same goal: to awaken the senses through the dishes and our essences.
35. Atelier Crenn. (San Francisco, California)
Behind an unassuming facade mere steps from the San Francisco Bay, Dominique Crenn offers a multi-course experience in a homey and luxurious dining room. Atelier Crenn is an homage to her father, Allain, with his paintings hung upon the walls. Each guest is greeted with a poem, each line symbolizing a presentation in the meal. The menu is focused on seafood and vegetables, drawing from the memories of her mother’s garden in Brittany through the lens of California product and produce.
The synergy between Dominique and Juan Contreras, the Chef Pâtissier, is evident through his use of food as a means to share a story and reconnect guests with nature. Inspiration for the creations are often very personal and rooted in a sense of constant evolution. The wine list offers a tiered pairing as well as a curated selection of glasses and bottles from our cellar. We select winemakers from around the world that believe in thoughtful stewardship of the land as the key to creating wines of intrigue, varietal expression and regional character.
37. Alinea. (Chicago, Illinois)
“People like to think the creative process is romantic. The artist drifts to sleep at night, to be awakened by the subliminal echoes of his or her next brilliant idea. The truth, for me at least, is that creativity is primarily the result of hard work and study.
38. Hisa Franko. (Kobarid, Slovenia)
Her cuisine is expressive,intense and unorthodox, her philosophy is simple – follow the nature. Take what the season offers, combine the unexpected, don’t be afraid to take risks.
When you come to her restaurant, the first rule is: try to relax, enjoy and put aside any prejudice you might have. When she can fully express her culinary vision and the unique terroir, Ana can create magic.
40. Restaurant Tim Raue. (Berlin, Germany)
He who wants to do what he has to do, is free…
…That’s our guiding principle, an idea that has shaped us-and drives us every day. It is the basis of everything we create and was therefore also the inspiration for our logo, the HUMMINGBIRD.
We associate the hummingbird with aspects such as creativity, uniqueness, and freedom – attributes that also inspired the design of our restaurant, as well as our cuisine and our service.
42. Belcanto. (Lisbon, Portugal)
At Belcanto, José Avillez offers a unique gastronomic and sensory journey.
Here he offers a contemporary Portuguese cuisine
in a sophisticated setting that takes us on a journey in time,
from Chiado’s old romantic past to the future.
“The light, the life and the people.
The history, the sea, our regions.
Portugal. This is where we live and grow, are inspired, tread.
Cuisine is our fado, our way of expression. “
Belcanto offers some of the best Portugese flavors
in different menus that recreate, reinvent
and take the traditions of Portuguesecuisine further.
At Belcanto, we cultivate some of the fundamental traits of Portuguese culture and identity.
– hospitality, attention to detail and genuine care with those who sit at our table.
We take great pride in our country’s exceptional products
spread out through different, contrasting terroirs.
At Belcanto, we tell the long story of Portugese cuisine.
The ingredients and technique, the dedication and passion of each cook and each waiter.
The search for the perfect balance between creativity, the new, the unique and unknown,
with the classic, the ingredient, the raw material in its most natural state,
as it arrives at our door, with the least intervention.
The disturbing realization that there may be magic in the simplest,
most obvious, ultimate detail of a creative surge.
Emotional memories, re-encountering the past
and the transformation of unique recollections captured in a bite.
The heritage of a fascinating past discovering new seas, lands, peoples and products.
Exploring a bustling present and passionately imagining the future.
We are history, memory, knowledge, creativity, dream, emotion and action.
The chicken or the egg, traditional or vanguard,
who came first, what stirs us, deepens our feelings and makes us travel.
Yesterday, today or tomorrow – a dateless, timeless cuisine, with all the time in the world.
Apparently hermetic at times, again and again constantly evolving.
A startling journey through a whirlwind of emotions?”
43. Hof van Cleve. (Kruishoutem, Belgium)
You and I have a lot in common: we won’t compromise in choosing the best in life, unrivalled enjoyment, professional craftsmanship.
At Hof van Cleve, every dish you taste is a masterpiece of robust teamwork, based on values like authenticity, respect and solid effort. Every day, I set myself and my colleagues anew the challenge of topping yesterday’s achievements, being inspiring and taking a keen look at the world around us. Life is beautiful! Join us in tasting its joys.
Tasting is something you do with all five senses. So we’ve given painstaking thought to each detail, from your arrival to our parting handshake. The level we reach in the kitchen is continued in our style and interior design.
At Hof van Cleve, you will be dining in a truly special setting created by Belgian designers and artists. They are without exception experts in their craft whose creations exude authenticity, character and spirit. One-off furniture pieces, specially-designed cutlery and tablecloths, drinking glasses, lighting and even our tailored costumes; they all add to the refinement of the atmosphere.
A JOIN EFFORT
What drives me with renewed vigor every day is my passion for culinary delectation. I certainly wouldn’t want to say, though, that Hof van Cleve was all my own achievement. My wife Lieve and all the members of our team are people with the enthusiasm to give their all day after day for you. Their talent and elbow grease free me to be creative and innovative, to be and to stay excellent.
Only if you leave us happy, inspired and with a smile will we have attained our goal, which is making outstanding cuisine a total experience.
To have your kitchen awarded Michelin stars, you must have only the best ingredients. I am not a man to compromise, I go only for true quality. My conscious choice is to use local specialities from Belgian soil and waters. The regional horticulturalists, farmers, growers,fishermen, huntsmen and cheese-maturers who work with us are passionate about giving us the very best they can. I consider myself privileged to be in a position to work with so much local fresh produce.
Of course, I don’t imagine that quality ends at the Belgian border: international ingredients add a special touch to my creations. After all, dining delectation is all about balance, authenticity and subtlety of nuance.
45. Sühring. (Bangkok,Thailand)
After years of working experience in Germany, the Netherlands, Italy and Thailand, Thomas and Mathias settled down in a charming 1970s villa situated in the heart of Bangkok. Without altering the soul of the house, they remodeled it and opened the dream they always had: a place for their creativity that they can call home and invite their guests and friends to discover their renewed vision of German gastronomy.
Sühring showcases the best of modern German fare inspired by childhood memories, family recipes and years of traveling experience combining the essence of traditional dishes with contemporary Central European influences. All elevated to the level of haute cuisine. Mathias, Thomas and the Sühring team invite their guests to their home, offering a warm hospitality in a relaxed, yet elegant environment.
The dynamic kitchen is designed for the full Sühring Erlebnis only. It showcases the best of modern German fare inspired by childhood memories and family recipes. All elevated to the level of haute cuisine and combining the essence of traditional dishes with contemporary Central European influences. The menu reflects the chefs’ philosophy of quality, seasonality and simplicity.
Sample the Sühring Erlebnis and take a step into a culinary journey. From the first bite to the last, the menus reflect the chefs’ philosophy of quality, seasonality and simplicity. The creations change continuously according to the season and the ingredients passing through the kitchen.
46. De Libreje. (Zwolle, Netherlands)
Jonnie and Thérèse: ‘We all eat and drink every day, but what we really enjoy is making that every-day routine a special experience, and to share our love of fine foods and beautiful wines with you. We were both born and bred in the region around Zwolle. We spent our childhood catching pike perch, picking water mint, searching for mushrooms, sneaking the punt into the decoy. In that kind of environment, how could you not fall in love with all those fabulous regional products?
Many people consider these to be our specialty. But to us,it feels more like we’re special because we don’t actually have a specialty. When you cook and serve a meal with a generous heart, and you put something of yourself into it, it all becomes special. Together with the team, we discover and explore the ingredients of a loving relationship between wine and food every day. We love sharing our discoveries with you, and to treat you to a wonderful experience without any fuss. We love going that extra mile for you.’
48. Ultraviolet by Paul Pairet. (Shanghai, China)
We eat more myths than calories. The psycho taste is everything about the taste but the taste.
It is avant-garde, yes. But figureative avant-garde. Not abstract, but flesh and bone.
The psycho taste
is everything about the taste
but the taste. It is the expectation and the memory, the before and the after, the mind over the palate.
It is all the factors that influence our perception of taste. See a tomato, and your mind will call upon its memory to tell you its taste. Smell bread baking, and you can taste the finished loaf. This subconscious outcome is at work all around us. Salivation is a primary tangible effect of the psycho taste. . . on you.. . on this lion too. We all psycho-taste before we taste. Ultraviolet incorporates technology traditionally used in unrelated fields to drive and control the psycho taste and enhance the perception of food.
Critically acclaimed avant-garde gastronome Paul Pairet has always caused a stir in the kitchen. He was first-introduced to Shanghai’s diners as the Chef de Cuisine of Jade on 36, but has now moved on to his highly acclaimed new project, Mr & Mrs Bund. Every month he treats readers to the good, the bad and the spectacular world of high-class cuisine.
Let’s get wild Darling! Tonight, I’ll take you out to a fancy restaurant. I’ve heard about this place.
– Je Ne Sais Quoi – I’ll make the reservation. Rrriing, rrriing . . . “Allo?”
(I know that this ringing simulation isn’t crucial to the overall understanding of the column, but I’ve always felt it’s important to create an atmosphere, set the stage and immerse the reader in the action. Call it my Spielberg touch!)