There are some dishes, chefs and dining experiences that are worth building your whole itinerary around. We asked some of Australia’s most respected chefs to recommend the restaurants they would go out of their way to experience again.
Pujol and Quintonil, Mexico
According to… Pete Evans, PeteEvans.com
I recently travelled to Mexico City for the first time with no expectations as I had never visited Mexico before. I was immediately blown away by the capital. For fine dining, Mexico City has some of the top restaurants in the world at the moment, and I was fortunate enough to snare a table at the Pujol and Quintonil restaurants, which are both in The World’s 50 Best Restaurants. Each has its own style and flavour, and dinner at Pujol offered me the opportunity to taste a superb mole (traditional Mexican sauce) that had been cooking for five years, and lunch at Quintonil is probably the best meal I have ever eaten in my life. There were so many highlights, but the ones that really stood out were the cactus ceviche and the charred avocado with ant larvae, which was just perfection on the palate. I would recommend visiting Mexico City for anyone with a desire to immerse themselves into a rich tapestry of culture.
According to… Andrew McConnell, Cumulus Inc., Cutler & Co. Dining Room, Supernormal
Dining at Den is a Michelin-star experience quite different from any other in Tokyo. Chef Zaiyu Hasegawa is a creative chef who manages to bring a sense of fun to the dining experience, yet he does so while maintaining a strong respect for tradition. The menu served is modern Kaiseki, a beautifully executed set menu that accommodates all and showcases the most impeccable produce from across Japan. Dinner is served at a communal table in front of an open kitchen. It is a magical experience sitting in this restaurant, a space that is so comfortable it feels like home. The front of house is led by Zaiyu’s wife, Emi, and restaurant manager, Noriko, and deserves a special mention for its genuine, warm hospitality, which is honest and fun. The front of house service style contributes greatly to the experience at Den. It is a place where the food makes you happy and the service makes you smile. A complete package.
St Hubertus, Italy
According to… Christine Manfield, ChristineManfield.com
At the top of my radar for an exceptional food experience is St Hubertus in the alpine region of Alta Badia in the Dolomites, a three-hour drive north of Venice. I have been fortunate enough to visit this restaurant twice in the last year. Recently awarded three Michelin stars, chef Norbert Niederkofler’s ‘food from the mountains’ is extraordinary, elegant and restrained yet so intensely flavoursome. He is inspiring the next generation of chefs he works with, leading the way with a philosophy and practice of zero miles, seasonality and no waste. He works only with farmers (doing away with middlemen), raising animals and planning crops to be planted for the year ahead. This is what determines the menu: a direct link to the land. There is seamless attention to detail in every aspect of service, and the wines suggested work in brilliant harmony with the food. By far the most rewarding and captivating dining experience worth travelling for.
Asador Etxebarri, Spain
According to… Neil Perry, Rockpool Dining Group
Etxebarri, half-way between Bilbao and San Sebastián, is my favourite place to eat in the world. The beautiful craft of cooking over charcoal is Victor Arguinzoniz’s reason to be. He blends that with some of the best produce from sea and land you can imagine. The result is some of the most delicious food on the planet. The smoked caviar, the grilled prawns, lobster and aged steaks are some of the best you can eat. He also makes all of the cheese and smallgoods, the constant being the smoky flavour of his charcoal grills which runs through everything.
The Grill, USA
According to… Luke Mangan, Luke Mangan & Company
If you ever want to feel like you’re in New York, then The Grill is the place to eat. This is your classic upmarket grill with all the bells and whistles. Waiters are dressed in tuxedos and bow ties, and tables are impeccably dressed. Start with a dry martini at The Bar while you wait for your table or, if you’re lucky, a cosy booth seat. The menu can be a little expensive, but save it for a special occasion. The trolleys are the main attraction here, with a Spit Roasted Prime Rib delivered to your table with all the sides. They also do an amazing Wild Mushroom Omelette, also prepared table-side.
Gunther’s Restaurant, Singapore
According to… Tetsuya Wakuda, Tetsuya’s, Waku Ghin
I love Gunther’s Restaurant in Singapore. The design is elegant, with food from Belgian chef Gunther. It has all the hallmarks of his classical European training and pedigree in technique. It’s a fine-dining restaurant with a legacy, which is what makes it so special. I think Gunther is one of the most creative chefs in Singapore. The menu is almost Japanese in its style and approach. He cooks with true respect or each ingredient and the food is light and the flavours are clean. I never have the same dish twice; I want to try everything!