December 2, 2007

My Top 10 Restaurants in the World

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I was browsing the web and was looking through ChubbyHubby's website, when I decided to read his review of per se. I'm not sure why, but I was suddenly struck by an urge to list out the top restaurants that I have had the pleasure, no priviledge, of dining at.

Since many of my friends know of my reputation (or is it infamy) as a foodie, I am often asked about my favorite restaurants. So here goes:

1. El Bulli (Roses, Spain)
This restaurant deserves every bit of the attention it has been getting. It is the single hardest reservation to make in the world. I was fortunate to have secured a table for June 2006, on my birthday no less! My experience here surpasses any other meal I have ever had, so it will probably remain #1 for quite some time.

2. per se (New York, USA)
Many people would be amazed that I would rank this ahead of the French Laundry, since Thomas Keller is usually found in Yountville, not New York. However, I think the atmosphere of per se just makes the dining experience so much better, although the courses in the tasting menus are almost identical to that of the French Laundry. Last visited in March 2006.

3. The French Laundry (Yountville, USA)
This is Thomas Keller's flagship restaurant and justly deserves its place among my top experiences. It lost out to sister restaurant per se simply because we were seated upstairs and space was very cramped. One can't help but listen in on the conversation at the next table, which is very annoying to me when dining at fine establishments. Last visited in March 2006, a few days after the per se visit.

4. La Tour d'Argent (Paris, France) Given my penchant for creative and nouvelle cuisine, many people may be surprised at the ranking given to this grande dame of a restaurant, the symbol of haute cuisine for many. I am awed by the history of the place, the gigantic wine cellar (the collection was around 500,000 bottles during my last visit), and the amazing courses I had. It was here that I first had milky smooth foie gras d'oie scooped out to me using large dinner spoons. I have also had the caneton on both occasions, and received the little cards with their serial numbers. It's all about tradition here. Last visited in August 2002.

5. Kyubey 久兵衛 (Tokyo, Japan) Despite receiving only one Michelin star in the recently published guide, this is still my favorite sushi restaurant in the world. It is the one restaurant which I must go to during every visit to Tokyo (and only to the Ginza restaurant). I may try other sushi restaurants in the future, but for now Kyubey remains tops on my list. Last visited August 2007.

6. Guy Savoy (Paris, France) My only visit to this restaurant comes months after Guy finally receiving the third Michelin star that he rightfully deserves. I had ordered a bottle of nice white Burgundy, and I was offered different types of bread to pair with my choice of wine! That was a first for me. Last visited in August 2002.

7. Akelarre (San Sebastian, Spain) Maybe it was the drive out past Monte Igueldo on a nice day, but I really enjoyed the dining experience at this restaurant with views of the sea. The food is decidedly creative, like many establishments in Spain. Being able to order in half portions is definitely a plus. Last visited in June 2006.

8. Martin Berasategui (Lasarte, Spain) This Michelin 3-star restaurant is almost on par with Akelarre in my book. The food is wonderfully delicious, creative, and you can order everything in half portions. We sat out on the terrace for lunch on a beautiful day. The only thing marring the experience slightly was the periodic smell of manure floating in with the wind (which was fertilizing the beautifully green hill in front of us. This was also the first experience with how casual the Spaniards are when it comes to dressing to eat - some guy was wearing denim shorts and flip flops while dining at a 3-star restaurant! Last visited in June 2006.

9. Le Bernardin (New York, USA) Eric Ripert is a creative master, and I love dining at Le Bernardin when I'm in New York. This guy can do magic with all kinds of seafood, and the way they pack the large dining room every night is a testament to his skills. Last visited in March 2006.

10. Pierre (Hong Kong) It was tough deciding the 10th place on this list. Admittedly I have had many meals at great restaurants, and some with Michelin 3-stars have not made it into my Top 10. Why do I think Pierre deserves to be here? Well, the food IS extremely good and consistent. And the ambience is also wonderful, befitting a dining establishment of this stature. The biggest downside is the poor and expensive wine list, and the fact that they don't normally allow BYO. Last visited In March 2007.

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