Maple Leaf’s John Placko looks at the World’s Top 10 Best Restaurants
From the January/February 2012 issue of Food in Canada
In spring 2011 S. Pellegrino announced the World’s 50 Best Restaurants. I’ve been fortunate enough to dine in seven of the restaurants on this top 10 list and wanted to share my experiences and favourite dishes, as well as review the other three restaurants in the top 10. I’m also excited by how some of the chefs on the list are collaborating with large multi-national food companies and retailers to bring their style of cooking or ideas on food to consumers.
1. Noma, Denmark www.noma.dk
Chef Rene Redzepi cut his teeth working at some of the top restaurants in the world – Spain’s elBulli, The French Laundry in California, and Kong Hans Kaelder in Copenhagen – and is known around the world as an innovator. I had the opportunity to interview Rene on the houseboat/R&D centre whilst at Noma last year. His team forages for ingredients from spring to fall, and finds ways to preserve the food to be used in the harsh winter months.
Most memorable dish: Langoustine with oyster and parsley emulsion, rye crumbs and seaweed powder served on a cold natural rock.
2. El Celler de Can Roca, Spain www.cellercanroca.com
This is one of the most beautiful restaurants – and kitchens – in the world. I was fortunate enough to get a tour of the kitchen when I was there in August 2009 and there’s not much missing in terms of kitchen gadgets. The restaurant is operated by the three Roca brothers: Joan, Jordi and Josep.
Most memorable dish: Caramelized eggplant with eggplant ice cream on a smoke filled bowl. The bowl is covered in plastic wrap with a hole for the smoke to escape gradually.
3. Mugaritz, Spain www.mugaritz.com
Chef Andoni Luis Aduriz also worked at elBulli and has developed his own signature style of cooking. The creativity, techniques, textures as well as the garden right by the kitchen made this a very special dining experience.
Most memorable dish: Small potatoes that looked like stones but were actually coated in an edible clay and served with a garlic mayonnaise for dipping.
4. Osteria Francescana, Italy www.osteriafrancescana.it
Chef Massimo Bottura has the highest-ranked Italian restaurant on the top 50 list. Two of his iconic dishes are “memories of a bologna sandwich” and “five ages of Parmigiano Reggiano with diverse textures and temperatures.”
5. The Fat Duck, England www.thefatduck.co.uk
Self-taught chef Heston Blumenthal has had a massive impact on the U.K. and world food scene with numerous TV shows, including “In search of perfection,” which all started with his small 40 seat restaurant in Bray. Blumenthal has also partnered with well-known cookbook author Delia Smith to develop a line of signature products for U.K. grocer Waitrose. The products have been a massive success and have brought Blumenthal’s fare to the masses.
Most memorable dish: Sound of the Sea – fried eel powder, seaweed, ice lettuce, razor clams, cockles and seaweed stock foam served on glass suspended over a sand box with the sound of the sea via ear phones from an iPod inserted in a conch shell. What an experience!
6. Alinea, U.S. www.alinea-restaurant.com
Grant Achatz recently published a book entitled Life on the Line about having survived tongue cancer without missing a beat at Alinea whilst preparing for the opening of Next and Aviary (an avant-garde cocktail place) in Chicago. I had the chance to chat with Achatz after dinner there last year and tour his kitchen.
Most memorable dish: A dessert created “on the table” and on a latex tablecloth, complete with liquid nitrogen-aerated chocolate mousse. Outstanding creativity and taste!