Once a year in the early spring, the restaurant world holds the equivalent of a beauty contest for restaurants and their chefs called the World’s 50 Best Restaurants. This initiative's metamorphosis from a modest initiative aiming to “provoke discussion and spark debate” into a supposed “absolutist food-first ranking” conceals certain flawed and disheartening aspects to the undertaking.
A recent meal there in April 2017 moved me sufficiently to write about Hedone. To put it very bluntly, in my first meal I have had some good and very good dishes, but not a single great or signature dish. Now I have found three to four signature dishes. As such, I can say that it is a destination place.
The world looks like a bigger place when you stand on the edge of a hill in Piedmont, Italy. Light blue, dark blue and green… These are the colours that you can see on the horizon in Piedmont, Italy. It is clearly a landscape with an inspirational spectrum of colours for any artist. But, if you are into food, the colour that you should associate with Piedmont is actually white. That is because of tartufo bianco, which almost single-handedly places the region on the world gastronomy map.
A Pierre Gagnaire dish might be extremely cerebral at its initial conception and dangerously experimental during its development. Such a process may strike one as cunningly relying on accidental discoveries. One may also be tempted to qualify this practice as tainted by a self-absorbed, self approbating ego who presumes the fatality of circumstances will often bring about flavors he is entitled to, feeling certain that when that doesn’t happen his clientele should still be more than content to be able to take part in “his” adventure.
Ca l’Enric makes me think of the cold, game, mushrooms, the forest floor, and savoury truffle. Their fireplace and the woodcock spring to mind. It transports me to a rural setting that has been transformed to the 21st century and it makes me think of what it would have been like in the beginning.
Ettore Botrini is an excellent chef with a clear vision. Before heading to his restaurant I had the wrong impression that his cuisine was dominated by the molecular philosophy. It is not, except one amuse with a green olive served in a spoon where he uses the spherification technique, and another amuse with squid ink caviar with the same technique. Otherwise his cooking respects the natural and local ingredients, and the tastes are clear. He achieves depth without sacrificing clarity.
You have to be brave to convert Castroverde de Campos, a small town in the middle of Tierra de Campos, a depressed area from Old Castille between Asturias, Burgos and León-into a pilgrimage destination for gourmets.
I started serious dining out in 1986 when I had a fellowship to study for a year in France and lunch menus in three star restaurants were affordable. [...] Nowadays things are very different. While it is still very difficult to get the highly-coveted third star, many three star restaurants are not worth the special trip. This is the bad news. But the good news is that there are still quite a few great product-driven destination restaurants. They are simply not captured by the criteria used by Michelin.
Manresa’s multi-course degustation menu is among the few exceptions for several reasons. Chef Kinch knows well how to build a progression throughout the five hour meal and the courses are not repetitive. He also does not adopt the trendy Scandinavian formula of composing multiple dishes around the same theme of the trio of “raw seafood-fermented green-dairy” and “lots of vegetable stocks”. His cooking is more complex, but remains focused and balanced.
Le Petit Nice is the only three starred restaurant in the close vicinity of Marseille. Some claims that Michelin accorded three stars to Petit Nice due to political reasons. I disagree, based on my own experience. The service, wine list, surroundings, product quality, conceptualization, execution, etc., are all first rate and what I would expect from a Michelin three starred restaurant.
"The Michelin guides awards more three stars to Tokyo than to any other city in the world, but for many of us, including myself, the very best of the Japanese cuisine remains a black box. Kinch, owner and chef of the Manresa Restaurant in Los Gatos, where I had some of my best meals in the States, has visited Tokyo with a Japanese friend who helped him navigate some terrain unknown to Westerners." Vedat Milor
Sometimes the most simple (but not simplistic) is also the most decadent. But one is equally flabbergasted to see that Passard can also fail, and that his failures, as befit a genius, come in a grand way.
The participants in the event included Albert Adrià of elBulli, Andoni Luis Aduriz of Mugaritz, Alain Passard of L'Arpège, Pedro Subijana of Akelaré, Santi Santamaria of Can Fabes, Martin Berasategui of the eponymous restaurant, Joan Roca of El Celler de Can Roca, Claude Bosi of Hibiscus, and Oriol Balaguer. Chefs, such as Heston Blumenthal, Gianfranco Vissani, and, probably my favorite under 30 years old chef in the world, Fabio Barbaglini of Café Groppi in Trecate, were among the guests.
The sheer utterance of this name conjures up images of romance and beauty, but not culinary treasures. This is strange because the Venetian lagoon is a very special place to have some of the world’s best seafood. One can feast on simply prepared superb seafood in Venice that cannot be found elsewhere.
The seafood of Venice and the Adriatic coast to the south is one of the very best and unique in the world. However, it is not always easy to find authentic restaurants which make the best use of fresh and local ingredients. One restaurant that had been recommended by some frequent visitors of Venice with discriminating palates is Osteria alle Testiere.
Sensationalism and marketing gimmicks aside, is it true that the Haute Cuisine in France is on the verge of death? My answer to that question may sound equivocal at first: Yes, and No. Yes, it is dying when the French cater to the level and expectations of an international clientele and start cutting corners in classical dishes, or, supposedly move in a “fusion” and creative direction by, say, imitating techniques and using ingredients from Asian cuisine in a superficial way.
Following our trip to Alba, we had four more outstanding meals in Italy: superb fresh seafood at Alla Testiere in Venice, some of the best charcuterie from cinta senese pork products at Pompiere in Verona and two unforgettable meals at Le Calandre in Rubano near Padua and Da Vittorio in Bergamo. Le Calandre has been a favorite of mine for some time.
6 trips in the last 7 years and we are as thrilled about the Spanish Basque country and cooking as we were in the beginning. Perhaps more so as we have finally understood well that what made this place a gastronomical mecca is more than the existence of a few internationally renowned restaurants but the prevalence of a culture, which sustains a way of life that puts a premium on community and tradition over full capitulation to the forces of globalization.
Main courses are equally successful at Da Renzo. Roasted suckling pig with balsamic vinegar is as good as one can get in Spain (say, at Zuberoa) and the pork is the noble Cinte Senese variety(very rare and an endangered species). They also prepare a traditional dish called finanziera consisting of internal organs of very young veal and cock's comb, held together by cooking juices and cream. Brain, sweetbread, kidneys, heart, liver, tripe and gelatinous feet all vye for attention in this memorable dish. Certainly a cardiologist's dream.