Thursday June 11, 2009
From Men's Health Magazine: Any seasoned traveler can tell you that the "best" meals on the planet
are the result of an ephemeral confluence of circumstances. A table at
the most expensive restaurant in the world does not guarantee a truly
great meal. That said, if you're planning on dying in the near future
and want to knock off a list of final, glorious dining experiences,
these places would make a very respectable binge. Start with one. Make
a reservation today. Go on an empty stomach. Trust me: This is livin'.
1) St. John (London) If I had to die with half a bite of anything hanging out of my mouth, it would probably be the roast bone marrow in Fergus Henderson's plain-white dining room at St. John. Scooped out and slathered onto a crust of toasted bread and sprinkled with sea salt, it's simple yet luxurious. The menu is proudly English, a rebuke to anyone still laboring under the impression that English food sucks. Famously pork-centric and focused on traditional offal and game dishes, St. John is as wonderful for what it does as for what it doesn't do: compromise. It specializes in good ingredients from "happy" animals that are treated with love and respect. Henderson has become a reluctant spiritual leader to a whole generation of chefs--and even the old-guard guys love to stop by for crispy pig tails, ham in hay, or a properly roasted bird. This is one of the truly bullshit-free zones on the culinary landscape.
2) elBulli (Girona, Spain) It's the hardest reservation in the world. And everything they say is true: It's an adventure, a challenge, a delicious and always fun acid trip to the farthest reaches of creativity. Brothers Ferran and Albert Adrià and their team are the most influential and creative people working in food--and this surprisingly casual restaurant on a sleepy cove on Spain's Costa Brava is probably the most important restaurant of our time. Love it or hate it, if you have the opportunity to wangle a reservation, do it. It's like seeing Jimi Hendrix's first show. Forget any preconceptions you might have. Is it good? Yes. More important--is it fun? Yes. Yes. Yes.
3) The French Laundry (Napa Valley, California)
4 Per Se (New York City) The best sit-down, multicourse, white-tablecloth meal of my life was at the French Laundry. And subsequent meals at Per Se, also run by chef Thomas Keller, were no less wonderful. There's no better way to go than the full-on tasting menu, a once-in-a-lifetime marriage of the best ingredients, creative thinking, and high standards, along with the personal imprint of the most respected chef in the world. How can Keller be at both restaurants at once? It doesn't matter. Pick one. Fast for 2 days, stretch your stomach with water the day of, and then see how they do it at the very top. It's a level of perfection in food and service that few even try to approach.
5) Sin Huat Eating House (Singapore) It's grimy looking, the service can be less than warm, the beer is served in a bottle (often with ice), and the tables sit halfway into the streets of Geylang, Singapore's red-light district. But the crab bee hoon--giant Sri Lankan beasts cooked with a spicy mystery sauce and noodles--is pure messy indulgence. The whelks, steamed spotted cod, prawns, scallops (in fact, any seafood available that day) are all worth having. Warning: It looks cheap, but it's not.