A year of eating with the world’s best
A globetrotter and luxury consultant chooses 12 restaurants and star chefs to experience in 2018
Not everyone can be a truffle, most of us are potatoes, but a potato is a very good thing to be,” Massimo Bottura, the Italian chef, once said. It is an analogy that has resonated with me because it sums up what gastronomy is about and the flavours that a great chef can extract from the humblest ingredients. As the chief executive officer of the luxury advisory firm, Sanguine, I work with brands around the world. One of the offshoots of my profession is extensive overseas travel. And through it all I am always searching for that exceptional chef and that perfect meal in a restaurant that will become a memory for life. I always make sure to research, plan in advance and make reservations at my restaurant of choice. Several of them feature on The World’s 50 Best Restaurants and Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants lists and often they are Michelin-starred. More importantly, all of them merit the praise they get. I am positive there are trendier lists, more revolutionary restaurants and other genius chefs. But this, my list of a dozen standout restaurants that I’ve eaten at over the past year, is intended to serve as a guide for fellow food lovers.
Osteria Francescana, Modena, Italy
Massimo Bottura’s 28-seater Osteria Francescana in Italy won the title of the World’s Best Restaurant in 2016 and continues to retain its three Michelin stars. Bottura’s food is based on his memories from childhood and the menu has most dishes you would find at an Italian restaurant, but with an artistic twist. Bottura believes that the dining experience should be interactive. When he is in the kitchen, it is not uncommon for him to chat with guests and explain the process that went into creating each dish.
Tip: Osteria Francescana has a six-month waiting list, but Bottura has just opened his second restaurant, Gucci Osteria, in Florence, and the odds of getting a reservation have doubled.
Oops! I Dropped The Lemon Tart, a deconstructed classic lemon tart that was born out of a comical error when his sous chef dropped a tray of lemon tarts. Also try the Risotto Cacio E Pepe, or a cheese and pepper risotto made with Parmigiano Reggiano.
La Petite Maison, Nice, France
The branches of LPM in London and Dubai are favourite hang-outs for Indian tourists. But the original restaurant in Nice is a different experience. It focuses on the simplicity of Nicoise cuisine, without the glamour quotient. Each guest is greeted personally by the owner, Nicole Rubi. Though service can be slow, this is the only LPM to have been awarded a Michelin star, for good reason.
Tip: Request an outdoor table, with a view of the Mediterranean Sea.
Do not miss: The famous escargot (snails) cooked in a generous serving of garlic-parsley butter.
Morimoto, Chelsea Market, New York, US
Chef Morimoto, the legendary Japanese Iron Chef (a title he received after winning the TV competition), runs two successful restaurants in Mumbai and Delhi (Wasabi by Morimoto with the Taj group). I visited the New York branch and Morimoto cooked omakase (dishes selected by the chef). None of the dishes he prepared were on the menus in India. What stood out was the uni sushi made from sea urchin, the pork ramen noodles and the fresh burrata topped with black truffles. Morimoto is a former executive chef of the Nobu chain of restaurants and many of the popular dishes on the Nobu menus, like the black cod miso, rock shrimp tempura and yellowtail carpaccio, have been co-created by him and are a fixture on his menus.
Tip: Always eat nigiri sushi with your fingers, and never dip the rice side into the soya sauce, it effectively destroys the delicate balance of flavours.
Do not miss: Order the tuna tartare, which is served with guacamole, caviar, sour cream and Rice Krispies for texture.
Nusr-et Steakhouse Etiler, Istanbul, Turkey
A video of Nusret Gökçe, the Turkish butcher, seductively priming raw meat with salt, went viral in 2017. Since then, he has become a household name, better known as “Salt-Bae”. His Dubai steakhouse is perhaps the city’s most expensive restaurant and is frequented by the likes of actor Leonardo DiCaprio. But the original in Istanbul is better, and also half the price. He now has branches in Miami and New York, while London opens later this year.
Tip: The restaurant doesn’t believe in a reservation system; even if you have a confirmed reservation, be prepared to wait at least 2 hours to be seated.
Do not miss: The Nusret Special, a beef fillet cooked in a generous pool of melted butter. If you are a fan of showy presentations, order the meat sushi, which is prepared with a blowtorch on the table.
Joël Robuchon, Hotel Metropole, Monte Carlo, Monaco
The iconic French chef is popularly known as the “Michelin Man” because he is the only chef in the world to hold over 30 Michelin stars across all his restaurants. His two-starred restaurant in Monaco serves all the classics like the foie gras burger and the chocolate soufflé.
Tip: Reserve a table at lunchtime, when the restaurant is relatively quiet.
Do not miss: Ask for the famous mashed potatoes, made with dollops of butter and cream. It is not on the menu, but is served on request.
Ministry of Crab, Colombo, Sri Lanka
Chef Dharshan Munidasa is Sri Lanka’s most successful chef and restaurateur, with two restaurants featured on Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants. Though I have eaten at all four of his restaurant brands, Ministry of Crab (MOC) is still my favourite. The crabs are specially farmed for the restaurant, often in sizes we don’t see back home in Mumbai. He is extremely fastidious about the quality of crab. Do not ask for it to be de-shelled, as tackling it with your hands is part of the experience.
Tip: Munidasa is set to open a chain of MOC restaurants in India this year, so you will not have to fly all the way to Colombo to try his food.
Do not miss: Try the Crabzilla, the restaurant’s name for giant crabs weighing 2kg and above, marinated in a spicy black pepper sauce.
Gaggan, Bangkok, Thailand
The world’s most famous Indian chef, Gaggan Anand, achieves more milestones each year. He won the title of Asia’s Best Restaurant three years in a row and was awarded two Michelin stars last year, which makes Anand the only Indian chef to currently hold the honour. I have eaten his food over two dozen times since he opened, and, contrary to popular belief, Gaggan is no longer a modern Indian restaurant serving “molecular gastronomy”. Today the food is more influenced by Japan. He will shut down in 2020 and move to Japan, so make sure to book at least two months in advance while the restaurant is still around in its current avatar.
Tip: Request to be seated in the 14-seater gastronomy lab where Gaggan cooks every night, often with rock music blasting in the background.
Do not miss: Because his menu changes so often, it is hard to recommend a dish, but two classics which have remained are the Scallop Curry which is served cold, and Charcoal, a dish where fish is coated with charcoal ash and served as a briquette.
Sühring, Bangkok, Thailand
German twin sensations, Thomas and Mathias Suhring’s restaurant in the suburb of Chongnonsi, also doubles up as their home. Only a year after its opening, the restaurant was rated No.1 on Bangkok’s Top Tables list, and No.13 on Asia’s 50 Best List. A few months later, it was awarded a Michelin star. Gaggan is a partner in the restaurant and in many ways the Sührings are his protégés. The menu is progressive German cuisine and the chefs have added a modern touch to their grandmother’s classics.
Tip: The Sührings are tipped to achieve a second Michelin star, so these are chefs to watch out for.
Do not miss: Order the signature spaetzle (a German variant of pasta) with black truffles. Make sure to opt for the wine pairing as the restaurant boasts of one of the best (and well-priced) wine lists in the city.
Arola, Hotel Arts Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain
Indian diners may remember the tattooed two Michelin-starred chef Sergi Arola. He had a short-lived restaurant at the JW Marriott in Mumbai. His restaurant Arola, on the rooftop of the beautiful Hotel Arts Barcelona, is a celebrity hangout and overlooks the Barcelona Marina. It serves some of the best Catalan food in the city. Make sure to order the seafood paella.
Tip: The restaurant is well located, surrounded by popular nightspots like Opium and Eclipse, so you should definitely have dinner at Arola before a boozy night out.
Do not miss: Most times, the simplest dishes are the best; order the patatas bravas, a Spanish staple that has become Arola’s signature dish.
Indian Accent, The Lodhi, Delhi
The talented Manish Mehrotra, whose Indian Accent in Delhi has been awarded the title of India’s Best Restaurant, also features consistently on Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants list. The restaurant opened a branch in New York in 2016, and in London in December 2017. The latter has opened to rave reviews and is a hot favourite for a Michelin star. The menu has largely remained the same; some of the signature dishes are the innovative kulchas that come in fillings like bacon, blue cheese, butter chicken and truffle served with black dal. When Mehrotra is cooking himself, ask for the tasting menu.
Tip: Indian Accent in New Delhi now occupies a large two-storey space at The Lodhi hotel. Be sure to book in advance.
Do not miss: If you have space for dessert, order the popular Daulat ki Chaat served with Rs2,000 notes (not real!).
Nahm, Metropolitan Hotel, Bangkok, Thailand
Australian chef David Thompson is widely credited with putting Thai food on the global map. His restaurant Nahm in Bangkok features on every top restaurant list and was recently awarded a Michelin star. Thompson is no longer a fixture in the Nahm kitchen, but if you are looking for an authentic Thai culinary experience in a five-star setting, Nahm is your best bet. The dishes are simple and champion local Thai ingredients.
Tip: Skip lunch here, as it is a very limited menu that leaves out many of the speciality curries.
Do not miss: Order the tasting menu, which is well priced and features all the signature dishes, like crispy duck salad rolls and the spicy basil curry with minced prawns.
Le Jules Verne, Eiffel Tower, Paris, France
Alain Ducasse is a name synonymous with French fine-dining. He has multiple Michelin stars for many of his restaurants, including Le Jules Verne, located on top of the Eiffel Tower, possibly the most spectacular venue in the world. Though most guests go for the setting, the restaurant’s classic Parisian menu is extraordinary—headlined by dishes like filet mignon served with a red wine jus or the seared sea scallop with cauliflower and gold caviar.
Tip: A reservation at the restaurant allows you to skip the long queues for the Eiffel Tower. Le Jules Verne has private access to the best view in Paris.
Do not miss: You cannot go wrong with the classic preserved duck foie gras, which is a staple on every Ducasse menu.
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