12 best restaurants to experience in 2019
A globetrotter and luxury consultant chooses 12 restaurants to experience in 2019
Some people travel to collect experiences and some to discover new cultures. I travel mainly for the food. For me, foreign travel is an opportunity to acquaint myself with some of the world’s best restaurants. Each trip involves meticulous planning, from discovering the newest stars in the restaurant universe and the chefs who helm them to securing reservations, often months in advance. The run up to a year’s worth of international eating out is often as exciting as the end result itself.
I wrote about the 12 best restaurants I had experienced last year and this year I’ve been fortunate enough to have had a dozen more stand-out experiences. My list, however, is subjective, and intended to serve as a guide for fellow food lovers.
Housed in the beautiful National Gallery, Singapore’s highest rated restaurant is helmed by the young French chef Julien Royer. The menu features elegant Parisian cuisine inspired by classic recipes of the chef’s grandmother Odette. It was awarded two Michelin stars and holds the positions of No. 5 and No. 28 on Asia’s and the Worlds 50 Best lists, respectively. A meal here rivals the top (and more expensive) restaurants you would find in Paris.
Do not miss: Do not skip dessert. You have probably never tasted a better version of the lemon tart. Royer uses lemon curd, sable betron and yogurt and presents the dish on a sweetened cracker with the perfect ratio of citrus to sweet.
Gaggan, Bangkok, Thailand
If you haven’t tried the food of one of the most successful Indian chefs as yet, you may only have a year to do so. Book ahead as chef Gaggan Anand insists that he will wrap up his two Michelin star progressive Indian restaurant at the end of 2019. The restaurant is rated as World No. 5 and the Kolkata-born chef will floor you with familiar flavours from around India presented in bite sized dishes that make up his famous emoji menu.
Do not miss: Perhaps the most absurd (and fun) dish on his menu is ‘Lick It Up’, it is a combination of chutneys (he changes them regularly) topped with black truffles that are stenciled in on a plate and served along with a portable speaker that plays the famous song by KISS. You are expected to pick up the plate and well yes, literally ‘Lick It Up’.
Osteria Francescana, Modena, Italy
There is not much left to add about Massimo Bottura’s little piece of heaven, tucked away in a small cobblestoned road in the sleepy town of Modena in northern Italy. The restaurant has been termed the ‘World’s Best’ on multiple occasions and with good reason. Bottura champions his region’s produce and each dish has a personal connection to the chef. Reserve your table online at least six months in advance as this is perhaps the world’s most difficult table to score.
Do not miss: Most of Bottura’s dishes have been afforded iconic status but if I had to choose one it would be: ‘Five Ages of Parmigiano Reggiano’. It is the chef’s rendition of the region’s famous cheese that he cooks in five different temperatures and textures which, as a result, produces five different tastes.
Azurmendi, Bilbao, Spain
The Basques take their food seriously and their local hero is chef Eneko Atxa who helms the sprawling Azurmendi, located on a hill overlooking the city of Bilbao. Azurmendi has held on to its three Michelin stars for a decade and this year was awarded the title of the ‘World’s most sustainable restaurant’. The restaurant is divided into six different spaces and guests float around during the meal while consuming almost twenty-five bite size courses of the regions produce.
Do not miss: Served inside the kitchen, ‘Truffled egg cooked inside out’ is perhaps Eneko’s most inventive dish. Part of the yolk is removed from the egg (from the restaurants own hens), which is then injected with black truffle consommé that cooks the egg entirely.
Mikla, Istanbul, Turkey
Led by Scandinavian-Turkish chef Mehmet Gurs, the restaurant is located on the rooftop of the Marmara Pera hotel and offers the best views of the Bosporus. It is the only restaurant in Turkey to feature in the World’s 50 Best list and this is partly because of its emphasis on re-defining Turkish cuisine. A lot of effort goes into sourcing the rarest Turkish ingredients and the restaurant even employs a full-time anthropologist as part of its research and development unit.
Do not miss: The ‘Octopus’ dish served as a starter is perhaps the most daring on a relatively ambitious menu. The octopus is blanched and cooked sous vide and added to Turkey’s famous Tarhana soup broth which is the chef’s take on a Turkish staple.
Campton Place, San Francisco, US
In many ways, chef Srijith Gopinathan is the Taj group’s best kept secret. The young chef was the first Indian to be awarded two Michelin stars (he still has one) many years ago, but perhaps lost the accolade due to the small uneasy dining room (that doubles as the hotel’s breakfast room). The food is outstanding though, and the chef uses the Bay area’s fresh produce to create modern Indian dishes with an emphasis on subtle flavours of south India.
Do not miss: The signature dish is the ‘Spice Pot’ which is one of the dishes that made the chef famous and is essentially his rendition of chaas, presented like a Californian poke bowl, served with potatoes, lentils and tamarind chutney.
Suhring, Bangkok, Thailand
German twin chefs Mathias and Thomas are living a dream. Their experiment of serving modern German food has not only made them the hottest Western restaurant in Bangkok but also introduced the world to German contemporary cuisine. In two years, they have been awarded two Michelin stars and the restaurant is rated the 4th best in Asia. A meal at Suhring is like a personal visit to their home; they both live above the restaurant and make sure to chat with each customer.
Do not miss: Request to be seated in the Küche’ (kitchen) area of the restaurant, where you get a bird’s eye view of the twins preparing their signature dish the ‘spatzle’, which is soft hand cut egg noodles laced with spring onions and mushrooms and a generous serving of black truffles.
Mugaritz, San Sebastian, Spain
Perhaps Spain’s most revolutionary restaurant, an experience at Mugaritz is not for everyone. It is the only restaurant to feature in the top 10 of the World’s 50 Best list for the last 12 years and this is partly because it manages to re-invent itself every year, offering a new experimental menu. Chef Andoni Luis Aduriz’s believes that ‘taste’ is not always the most important characteristic of a dish and aims to change traditional approaches to fine dining. Go with an open mind and be prepared for the experience to last five hours.
Do not miss: If you are feeling adventurous, try the ‘frozen kiss’ which is a fresh oyster served upon a frozen citrus ice ball. You are requested not to use any cutlery for this dish and the oyster must be ‘kissed’ to be consumed.
Tresind Studio, Dubai
Hidden behind a large bar in the glamourous Tresind restaurant, the studio is a distinctive experience. It is more like a 20-seater private dining room, where chef Himanshu Saini, who trained under Manish Mehrotra at Indian Accent, has set up a small kitchen and personally serves each dish.
Do not miss: Each meal ends with a ‘khichdi’ dish that uses one distinctive ingredient from each of India’s states and is cooked lovingly in a home-style manner to make sure you don’t leave hungry.
Majordomo, Los Angeles, US
You have probably heard of chef David Chang from his frequent TV appearances or have tasted his food at the Momofoku chain of restaurants in New York. Majordomo is located in large and abandoned warehouse in an old industrial compound in Chinatown and is Chang’s long awaited West coast debut. The unpretentious menu features a mix of Korean and Californian influenced dishes as well as some of the signature pork baos that made him famous.
Do not miss: Chang’s favorite dish is the pork belly and you cannot go wrong with it. The pork belly is perfectly crisp and served along with lettuce and a spicy Korean influenced sauce he calls ‘domojang’ in a DIY style for you to make your own rolls as per your spice quotient.
Burnt Ends, Singapore
If you are a meat eater, look no further than Burnt Ends, a 17-seater live grill counter set up by Australian chef Dave Pynt. The restaurant has a Michelin star and is rated in the top 15 of Asia’s 50 Best list. Choose from Australian, US and Japanese cuts and the chef will smoke, roast or cook your meat right in front of you. Australians take their BBQ seriously and the restaurant has an envious custom-designed oven that heats up to 1700 degrees Celsius.
Do not miss: Order the ‘steak tartare en frites with caviar’ as a starter and you will not be disappointed. The restaurant may as well change the name of the dish to caviar with streak tatare. As they present you with an unheard-of helping of fresh Russian caviar and you are sure to get you money’s worth!
Le Bernadin, New York, US
To be awarded three Michelin stars in the world’s most competitive fine-dining market, you have to be doing something right. Only five restaurants hold that honour today. Eric Ripert’s midtown upmarket seafood temple takes dining out very seriously (they will present you with a jacket, if you are deemed to be underdressed). Each course in Le Bernadin’s tasting menu is an expert lesson in cooking fish. If you enjoy creatures of the sea, served with fine wines, make this your first stop in Manhattan.
Do not miss: It is uncommon for the most visually stunning dishes to also be the most delicious, but the steamed halibut ‘borscht style’ is just that. The fish is served along with beets and horseradish crème fraiche to add some kick and is perfectly balanced to be a standout.
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