First sitting: The world's hot tables
He's eaten his way around the world - and in all the best restaurants. Our food critic Terry Durack reveals the coolest places to unfurl your napkin
Sunday 11 December 2005
1: Play spot the celebrity in LA
Cancel the Movie Stars' Home Tour in Los Angeles and play spot-the-celebrity at Providence, recently opened by Michael Cimarusti. You may only get a booking if you, too, are a celebrity. The emphasis is on Cimarusti's highly polished take on seafood, leaning on French and Japanese influences. His salmon belly with salmon skin and salmon rillettes, Santa Barbara spot prawns with candied cumquat, and squid with pig's ears and piquillo pepper are bringing in rave reviews. LA Times's reviewer Irene Virbila called it "the most significant opening in LA in a long time".
Price per head: California Coastline menu and market menu $90 (£51) food only.
Book ahead: Five weeks.
Address: 5955 Melrose Avenue, Los Angeles (00 1 323 460 4170; providencela.com).
Can't get in? Try Dakota, a hot post-modern LA steakhouse with bar scene to match (001 323 769 8888).
2: A star turn in Paris
In 2001, restaurant critic Patricia Wells reviewed a pretty, 40-seat restaurant in the 16th arrondissement of Paris under the headline: "A star is born". She saidchef, Pascal Barbot, was "headed for nothing but success". A year later, L'Astrance received its first Michelin star. Two years later, its second. Barbot was named 2005 chef of the year by Gault et Millaut. Now it's more difficult to get a reservation at L'Astrance than at most Parisian three-stars. Among his most acclaimed dishes are avocado filamelle filled with crabmeat and flavoured with almond oil, hare terrine with sweet onion salad, and pigeon sauteed with paprika and cocoa, and slow-cooked monkfish with girolles and tomme d'Auvergne.
Price per head? €150 (£100) food only.
Book ahead: Two months.
Address: 4 Rue Beethoven, Paris (00 33 1 40 50 84 40).
Can't get in? Try Le Cinq at the Four Seasons Hotel George V, for chef Philippe Legendre's mix of classic and contemporary French cooking (00 33 1 4952 7000).
3: 'Nuclear hot' in Hong Kong
There is nothing like the arrival of a glamorous hotel to set the pulse racing in Hong Kong, especially when it has a gorgeous restaurant. Caprice, in the Four Seasons hotel, shares the DNA of the three-starred Le Cinq restaurant in the Four Seasons Hotel Georges V in Paris. The décor is a sleek fusion of eastern and western, while the cooking is resolutely French; the view of Victoria Harbour is Hong Kong on a plate. Former Le Cinq sous chef Vincent Thierry deftly re-invents the classics with dishes such as ballotine of foie gras with gingerbread jelly, langoustine tartare with watercress mousse, and roasted suckling pig with stewed broad beans and coriander. According to Grant Thatcher, the editor of the Luxe guide to Hong Kong, Caprice is not just hot, but "nuclear hot".
Price per head: A taste of Caprice menu HK$1,050 (£78) food only.
Book ahead: One month.
Address: Four Seasons, Hong Kong, 8 Finance Street, Central, Hong Kong (00 852 3196 8888; fourseasons.com/hong kong).
Can't get in? Try the Four Seasons' equally new, equally glamorous, and almost as hot Chinese restaurant, Lung King Heen (00 852 3196 8888).
4: Keep it cool in Bondi
Sydney's hottest restaurant, Icebergs Dining Room and Bar, shares its name and its premises with what has to be the coldest club in the country. The Bondi Icebergs are a legendary bunch of hardy souls who swim in the club's outdoor seawater pool every day, even in the depths of winter. While the club occupies the lower levels, the top floor, with its glorious box-seat views across Bondi Beach, has been given over to this chic, cushioned, candle-lit space. The blond and the sun-tanned go for chef Robert Marchetti's simple, sophisticated Mediterranean treatment of Australia's finest seafood. Everyone finishes with a mind-blowing sgroppino of lemon sorbet and Prosecco, instituted by the ultra-cool co-owner and front-of-house Maurizio Terzini. The coral trout risotto, spaghetti with clams and zucchini flowers, the cocktails, the vibe and the power of a Bondi sunset keep the heat levels so high you'll get a suntan over dinner.
Price per head: About A$75 (£32), food only.
Book ahead: Four weeks.
Address: 1 Notts Avenue, Bondi Beach, Sydney (00 612 9365 9000; idrb.com).
Can't get in? Try Justin North's highly rated Becasse, which just moved to new digs in the city (00 612 9283 3440).
5: Book (very) early in Spain
El bulli, a seaside restaurant in Spain, has been so hot for so long you'd think it would have burnt itself out. Yet every year it gets harder to book a table - a problem made more difficult by it only opening from April to October. This year, about 500,000 hopefuls tried for a mere 8,000 seats. Why the fuss? Chef Ferran Adria is the most important motivational force in food in the 21st century. After a classical culinary upbringing, he now breaks more rules than he has learnt, harnessing new technology and old showmanship. A "typical" meal consists of 30 courses of little surprises, and a few shocks. There could be a deconstructed pina colada, black olive cup cakes, seaweed croquante, freeze-dried foie gras, parmesan "marshmallows", "sniff and crack" ceps, corn and guacamole cannoli, or cauliflower couscous.
Price per head: €155 (£104) food only.
Book ahead: 2006 almost booked out already.
Address: Cala Montjoi, Vercel de las Nieves, Roses, Spain (00 34 9 7215 0457; elbulli.com).
Can't get in? Try Ferran Adria's two Michelin-starred La Alqueria restaurant at Hacienda Benazuza, Sanlucar la Mayor, near Seville (00 34 955 703 344).
6: Double helpings in Japan
The new Conrad Hotel near Tokyo's Ginza district is home to two of the city's hottest restaurants. The first is Gordon Ramsay at Conrad Tokyo. Just a few steps away lies Kazahana, a showcase for the considerable talents of one of Japan's most highly regarded chefs, Akio Saito. It's an unusually glamorous restaurant, fusing the traditional and the modern with its semi-open kitchen, gleaming columns, flower-etched glass panels, exquisite crockery, and kimono-clad waitresses. Saito aims to take the beauty of Japanese food into "the next generation". His meticulously honed dishes, include the finest grilled Japanese sirloin and a velvety toro tuna sashimi. This is also the place to try fresh matsutake mushrooms, with a market value of around £75 each. Thrown in are gasp-worthy views of the Hamarikyu Gardens and Tokyo Bay.
Price per head: Chef's special kaiseki 25,000 yen (£120), food only.
Book ahead: Three weeks.
Address: 28th Floor, Conrad Tokyo,
1-9-1 Higashi-Shinbashi, Minato-ku, Tokyo (00 81 3 6388 8000; conrad hotels.hilton.com).
Can't get in? Try the Gordon Ramsay restaurant on the very same floor (00 81 3 6388 8000).
7: All that jazz in London
Gordon Ramsay has a knack for opening wildly successful restaurants. Maze, a jazzy New York-style split-level space in London, has been a hit from day one. It won the Time Out Award for Best New Restaurant in October. Chef Jason Atherton sends out a glittering array of tiny tapas-sized plates that combine fabulous produce with vivid Miro-like imaginings. Favoured dishes include marinated beetroot with sheep's milk ricotta; honey and soy roasted quail with Landes foie gras, peach and Persian saffron chutney, and a grown-up, peanut-butter-and-cherry-jam sandwich with cherry sorbet.
Price per head: Eight course chef's selection menu £42, food only.
Book ahead: Six weeks.
Address: Marriott Grosvenor Square, 10-13 Grosvenor Square, London W1 (020-7107 0000; gordonramsay.com).
Can't get in? Try the other big opening in London this year - Nigel Platts-Martin and Phillip Howard's The Ledbury in Notting Hill (020-7792 9090).
8:Small wonders in Amsterdam
Amsterdam has had so many high-profile openings in recent months the me-first brigade are left frantically trying to keep up. If they're not drinking at The College or Odeon, or sipping Asian broths at Brasserie Harkema, they're trying to get into Envy. Why? Because of owner Bert Van Der Leyden, the man behind the bed-bedecked, music-oriented Supperclub, and designers Concrete Architectural Associates, the darlings of Wallpaper* magazine. Butmainly it's because chef Remco van der Weerd serves up a stunning array of small plates, each one a miracle of compatible flavours such as pata negra-wrapped scallops on truffled mash, fried turbot with chanterelles, and a platter of tuna sashimi with wasabi foam and squares of sweet soy jelly. Set in a leafy canal street, it is one long lean space with the moody good looks of a wine bar. The 54 bookable seats are much fought over, but the good news is that the 44 high stools at the long, communal, central table are available for drop-ins.
Price per head: Five course Chef's Choice Menu €50 (£33).
Book ahead: Three weeks for a table, but try it on for a walk-in.
Address: Prinsengracht 381, Amsterdam (00 31 20 344 6407).
Can't get in? Try the Mansion in Hobbemastraat with its cool bar scene, new style sashimi and steamers of dim sum (00 31 20 616 6664).
9:Go for broke in Monte Carlo
Alain Ducasse now owns three, three-Michelin-starred restaurants, but Louis XV-Alain Ducasse in Monte Carlo remains his grandest achievement. Rarely have the earthy flavours of Provence had such a grand setting as this sumptuous Versailles-style room designed in 1864 with soaring ceiling, elaborate frescoes and crystal chandeliers. Elsewhere, the gold cutlery would be of doubtful taste. Here, amid portraits of courtesans and marble clocks, it is completely at home. Dishes run from a collection of the babiest of Provencal vegetables flavoured with truffle to breast of squab with grilled foie gras and Piedmont polenta, and a divinely crunchy, chocolate gold-leafed confection known as Le Louis XV au croustillant de praline.
Price per head: Louis XV: Les Jardins de Provence menu €150 (£100).
Book ahead: Five weeks
Address: Hotel de Paris, Place du Casino, Monte Carlo, Monaco (00 377 98 06 88 64; alain-ducasse. com).
Can't get in? Try Bruno Cirino's Michelin-starred Hostellerie Jerome, just a few miles above Monte Carlo in La Turbie (00 33 4 92 41 51 51).
10: West is best in San Francisco
Its inclusion in Restaurant Magazine's top 50 restaurants in the world and recent rave reviews in San Francisco and London have raised the profile of one of the Bay area's most lauded restaurants. Set in a low-slung ranch house, Manresa showcases the inspired, French and Catalan-influenced cooking of chef's chef David Kinch. Impeccably sourced ingredients litter an inventive menu that includes biodynamic risotto with pine mushrooms and meat jus scented with coffee and parmesan, local abalone Meunière-style with shallots braised with pig's trotter, and black seabass on the plancha with butterbeans and wild fennel.
Price per head: Manresa: Tasting menu $150 (£86).
Book ahead: Three weeks
Address: 320 Village Lane, Los Gatos, California (001 408 354 4330; manresa restaurant.com).
Can't get in? Try the elegant French cuisine of chef Roland Passot at San Francisco's recently remodelled La Folie (001 415 776 5577.
The best in the Big Apple: Keller knows his onions
Having been hailed America's best chef for French Laundry, Thomas Keller tried his luck with Per Se. The three menus change daily. His salmon and crème fraiche ice-cream cones, slow-cooked butter-poached lobster, oysters, tapioca and oscietra caviar have earned him three Michelin stars. Price per head is $210 (£120) (00 1 212 823 9335; perseny.com).
Can't get in? Try Masa, the nearby Japanese restaurant, (00 1 212 823 9800).
The best of British at Bray: Guaranteed gastro gasps
One thing is certain: you won't be bored at The Fat Duck, Heston Blumenthal's three-starred temple to molecular gastronomy in Bray, Berkshire. From the puffball of lime and green tea mousse poached in liquid nitrogen, snail porridge, sardine on toast jelly and roast foie gras with almond gel to the leather, oak and tobacco chocolates, this is edge-of-your-seat dining. Price per head for a three-course menu is £67.75(01628 580333; fatduck.co.uk).
Can't get in? Try The Hinds Head (01628 626151).
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