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10 Best Food Islands

From Sicily to St. Bart's, some of the finest destinations for people who travel to eat.

"Loved the beaches, hated the food." It's a common complaint made by people returning home after an island vacation. To help those who are desperate to love both, we took an informal poll and chose 10 islands from around the world that are great for epicures (though you won't get a tan on all of them). Then we asked experts to recommend the best places to eat and the most delicious dishes to order. Granted, it's an idiosyncratic list. But follow our advice and you'll find both stalwarts that no first-time visitor should miss and hangouts that only locals know about. We also highlight foods unique to the place--whether it's obscure shellfish, a wild green or a regional specialty--and point out where you can get them. Here's a quick tip sheet for your next trip.

Crete

BEST CLASSIC RESTAURANT
Kyriakos, Heraklion; 011-30-81-2246-49. This quiet restaurant is a wonderful spot to rest after visiting Heraklion's fine museum of Minoan antiquities. The food is simple but memorable: bulgur pilaf with snails, fresh favas with artichokes and dill-scented lamb stew with lettuce leaves in an eggy lemon sauce.

BEST HOTEL RESTAURANT
Elounda Mare Hotel, Elounda; 011-30-841-41-102. The hotel lies 5 miles outside Agios Nikolaos, the busiest western seaside town on Crete, but it has no problem drawing customers: Relais & Châteaux has deemed it the only place in Greece worthy of its imprimatur. The seafood is especially fresh: The restaurant serves fish the same day it's caught.

BEST INSIDER'S PLACE
Eftychia, in the village of Skoutelonas, which is on the road from Khania to Kastelli; 011-30-824-22-540. Strike up a conversation with Eftychia Gereoudakis, the owner and chef, and she will proudly recommend signature dishes such as tourta, a round bread stuffed with lamb and cheese, and kalitsounia, small fried turnovers filled with mint and mizithra, a local cheese.

ISLAND SPECIALTY
Try the bougatsa, a custard pie made with milk or fresh cheese and wrapped in phyllo. Kirkor, a coffee shop across from the Morosini Fountain in Heraklion, has the best in the city.

BEST LOCAL PRODUCE
Horta--a mix of wild greens, like pea shoots, wild dandelion, sweet mustard greens, purslane or others that are found only in this area--is often steamed or blanched, then drizzled with lemon and olive oil; it can also be cooked in yahnera, a stew with wild fennel and lemon.

DON'T MISS
Everyone goes to the coffee bars for people-watching, especially Best Seller, in Heraklion. The bars stay open until very late and offer all sorts of coffees, from Turkish or Greek varieties to frappé, a foamy, cold instant coffee served in tall glasses over ice.

--Aglaia Kremizi


Martha's Vineyard

BEST HOTEL RESTAURANT
L'étoile, the Charlotte Inn, Edgartown; 508-627-5187. Islanders and well-heeled tourists flock to this elegant inn set among former sea captains' mansions. French-inspired dishes, like the étouffée of lobster, keep the greenhouse dining room filled to its 45-seat capacity.

BEST INSIDER'S PLACE
Café Moxie, Vineyard Haven; 508-693-1484. Locals pack this bistro, one of the few places open off-season, for designer pizzas and comfort food.

BEST NEWCOMER
Alchemy, Edgartown; 508-627-9999. Located in a turn-of-the-century two-story building that once housed the island's first A&P supermarket, Alchemy serves a memorable grilled cider-soy-marinated salmon and a rich lemon tiramisu. The choice seats are on the upper and lower front porches.

ISLAND SPECIALTIES
Order seafood of any sort, especially striped bass, bluefish, bay scallops, clams and lobster. Try them at the harbor where the fishing boats come in; the best are at the Home Port, Menemsha; 508-645-2679. Or get lobster steamed to order at Larsen's Fish Market, Menemsha; 508-645-2680. Sit at the picnic tables on the docks, and round out your meal with freshly shucked cherrystones, steamers and the island's best potato salad.

DON'T MISS
The Steamship Authority's ferries serve killer clam chowder. The Quarterdeck, near the Chappy ferry dock in Edgartown, makes the best fried clams. And the homemade ice cream at Mad Martha's (in Edgartown and Vineyard Haven) is scooped so generously, it all but falls off the cone.

--Steven Raichlen


St. Bart's

BEST CLASSIC RESTAURANT
La Gloriette, Plage de Grand Cul de Sac; 011-590-27-75-66. This restaurant transports the Riviera to the tropics on the most Gallic of all the Caribbean islands. French Creole specialties, such as curried chicken and stuffed crab, are the primary lure at this waterfront spot.

BEST INSIDER'S PLACE
Maya's, Public; 011-590-27-75-73.The fashion glitterati that descend every winter love dishes like christophene au gratin (chayote squash baked with béchamel) so much that they're clamoring for a branch in the Hamptons.

BEST NEWCOMER
Cafe Massai, Lorient; 011-590-27-76-78. This new kid on the block is creating a buzz with a menu blending French, Creole and African foods.

ISLAND SPECIALTIES
The light-as-air codfish fritters, called acras, are addictive. The yeasty batter makes them better than the fritters offered on other Caribbean islands. Also, many local bars and restaurants make their own rum infusions with tropical fruits or vanilla. If you taste one you like, ask to buy a bottle. To savor a taste of the island in America, order the infused rums at the Manhattan outpost of the St. Bart's restaurant Vincent Adam, So. Barth's; 212-751-2323.

BEST BAR
On the Rock's Bar, Eden Rock Hotel; 011-590-27-72-94. This is the spot to be seen at sundown drinking a mojito made by Gerard.

--Jessica Harris


Jersey

BEST CLASSIC RESTAURANT
La Bastille, St. Helier; 011-44-1534-874-059. Perhaps this place is so well established because it captures the island's mixed French and British heritage perfectly. (Jersey lies just 14 miles off the coast of France but is an independent part of the British Isles.) La Bastille offers both steak-and-kidney pudding and onion tarte Tatin.

BEST HOTEL RESTAURANT
Longueville Manor, St. Saviour; 011-44-1534-25-501. This exclusive hotel features mostly classic French cuisine, and the five- and six-course degustation menus use local seafood and meat--as well as vegetables and herbs from the property's walled garden--in dishes such as langoustine with tortellini and wilted greens.

BEST INSIDER'S PLACE
The Village Bistro, Gorey Village; 011-44-1534- 853-429. You have to book weeks ahead to get a table at this Michelin-starred--albeit casual--bistro, where Jersey's wealthy tax exiles love to order the warm scallop salad, rump of lamb and duck confit with onion marmalade.

BEST NEWCOMER
Suma's, Gorey; 011-44-1534-853-291. Overlooking both the 13th-century Mont Orgueil Castle and the harbor, this terraced restaurant captures the best of modern Jersey cuisine: a blend of French food with new English influences--for example, a cassoulet of grilled sea bass with lobster sausage and red wine.

BEST MARKET
The Central Market, St. Helier. This Victorian covered market in the island's main town has stalls with regional cheeses and produce; rich, yellow Jersey cream produced by local cows; and Jersey Royals, new potatoes grown only on the island. You can also try Jersey black butter, a spicy preserve of molasses, cinnamon and apples.

DON'T MISS
The ormer, also known as oreille de mer, is an abalone unique to local waters and a prized delicacy available only when spring and autumn tides allow it to be harvested.

--Valerie James


Hong Kong

BEST CLASSIC RESTAURANT
Fook Lam Moon, Wanchai; 011-852-2866-0663. The black-and-brown marble decor prepares you for the ornate, yet delicate, classic Cantonese seafood. Try the yellow-oil crab and fish, especially the steamed green wrasse.

BEST HOTEL RESTAURANT
Island Shangri-La Hotel, Central; 011-852- 2877-3838. The rooftop Restaurant Petrus serves elegant French food, such as pan-fried foie gras with spinach leaf. On the ground floor, the Summer Palace has a great Wuxi-style sparerib casserole and ethereal dim sum.

BEST NEWCOMER
Ye Shanghai, Wanchai; 011-852-2918-9833. Hearty Shanghai food has invaded: Lion's head meatballs are spiked with crab, and bok choy and bean curd knots float in the salt-pork soup.

BEST FOOD TO BRING HOME
Roast goose from Yung Kee, Central; 011-852-2522-1624. Don't pack it; dig in on the plane.

DON'T MISS
Mandarin Grill, Mandarin Oriental Hotel, Central; 011-852-2522-0111. This place always gets some of the first Scottish grouse of the season and serves great Australian lamb.

--Fred Ferretti


Singapore

BEST CLASSIC RESTAURANT
Yet Con; 011-65-337-6819. The residents of this tiny island city-state are so devoted to eating that they flock to this simple outpost for Hainan chicken rice: sliced chicken served over rice moistened with broth.

BEST HOTEL RESTAURANT
Empress Room, Raffles Hotel; 011-65-337-1886. The decor evokes a wealthy Chinese home, with polished wood columns and furniture, and lanterns hung from the ceiling. The food is just as lovely, with dishes like shark's-fin soup (an intense stock, flecked with crab roe) and braised duck with chestnuts.

BEST INSIDER'S PLACE
Red House, UDMC Seafood Center, East Coast Hwy.; 011-65-442-3112. This restaurant on the harbor serves shockingly hot chile crabs.

BEST NEWCOMER
House of Mao; 011-65-533-0660. Don't let the kitschy trappings of revolutionary China fool you (the waitstaff is outfitted in faux Red Army uniforms, and the chairs are covered with antimacassars). The Hunan dishes, such as noodles in a meaty hot bean sauce and bean curd in a spicy chile sauce, are superb.

ISLAND SPECIALTY
Don't leave without trying Nonya food, the Singaporean blend of Chinese and Malay cuisines. Order dishes like itek sioh duck marinated in shallots, coriander and tamarind juice at Blue Ginger; 011-65-222-3928.

--F.F.


Barbados

BEST CLASSIC RESTAURANT
Atlantis Hotel, Bathsheba; 246-433-9445. The Sunday buffet brunch gives you a taste of the regional specialties, from flying fish (so identified with Barbados that it's on its coat of arms) to breadfruit served soused (pickled in lime, hot chiles and onion) to okras cou-cou (boiled or steamed, then mashed).

BEST HOTEL RESTAURANT
Lone Star, Mount Standfast; 246-419-0599. The wealthy regulars on the island's Gold Coast throw on pareos and saunter down the beach for curries served in baltis (cast-iron pots) at lunch, then return in swirling silks for dinner.

BEST INSIDER'S PLACE
The Cliff, Derrick's; 246-432-1922. This dramatic, amphitheater-like space, with staggered semicircles of tables lit by flaming torches, faces the water so that the sea is center stage. It attracts the island's beau monde for a menu that couples Asian techniques with Caribbean ingredients.

BEST NEWCOMER
The Town House, Hole Town; 246-432-6090. Chef Trevor Byer's intimate year-old boîte is buzzing, and locals already have favorite dishes, such as grilled swordfish steak with red grapefruit and tequila salsa.

--J.H.


Anguilla

BEST HOTEL RESTAURANT
Malliouhana, Malliouhana Hotel, Meads Bay; 011-264-497-6111. Consulting chef Michel Rostang jets in from Paris to create innovative menus for both the high and low seasons; wine lovers come for the 25,000-bottle cellar.

BEST INSIDER'S PLACE
Koal Keel, The Valley; 011-264-497-2930. This former 18th-century plantation great house, decked in flowing draperies and antique mahogany furniture, features an eclectic menu that includes delicacies such as smoked grouper on a bed of leeks. Definitely order the lethal chocolate fondant.

BEST NEWCOMER
Santorini, CuisinArt resort and spa, Rendezvous Bay; 011-264-498-2000. If anyone needs proof that the island has recovered from Hurricane Lenny, this spectacular new CuisinArt resort is it. Santorini's glass-walled kitchen gives diners a peek at the chefs, who create Caribbean-Mediterranean fusion food using produce from the property's own hydroponic farm.

BEST BAR
Johnno's, Sandy Ground; 011-264-497-2728. Local bands may draw the crowds, but it's the tropical fruit drinks spiked with rum that convince patrons they've caught a glimpse of the legendary green flash at sunset.

--J.H.


Maui

BEST CLASSIC RESTAURANT
David Paul's Lahaina Grill, Lahaina; 808-667-5117. The airy, white-pillared dining room hearkens back to colonial days, taking diners far from the souvenir shops and bars down the street. The seared ahi tuna crusted with Maui onions is marvelous, as is the rack of lamb with Kona coffee infusion.

BEST HOTEL RESTAURANT
Ritz-Carlton Kapalua, Lahaina; 808-669-6200. Classic Hawaiian cuisine gets updated in dishes like spicy lobster and taro root soup.

BEST INSIDER'S PLACE
Sansei Restaurant & Sushi Bar, Lahaina; 808-669-3169. Locals pack the house for the late-night karaoke, the sushi bar specials (including yellowtail sprinkled with bonito flakes) and Sansei's other Asian-influenced recipes, such as snapper seared in sesame oil and laced with cilantro.

BEST NEWCOMER
Feast of Lele, Lahaina; 808-667-5353. This place reinterprets the tried and trite luaus still offered at most hotels. Hula sirens may sway, but the Samoan grilled mahimahi in banana leaf and the pungent Hawaiian pohole fern salad are welcome alternatives to the usual pig roast on the beach.

ISLAND SPECIALTY
Poke (pronounced "poke-ay")--a mixture of raw ahi tuna, sesame seeds and oil, chile pepper, ground candlenut and salty limu (seaweed). For the true local style, try it at Ooka's Supermarket, Wailuku; 808-244-3931. Do ask how fresh the fish is (but nicely, please!).

--Alex Salkever


Sicily

BEST CLASSIC RESTAURANT
Charleston, Mondello; 011-39-091-450171. This restaurant sits on poles above the water, so it feels like you're dining on the deck of a ship. You can't go wrong with the fish of the day. Or try the ditalini, a pasta baked in an eggplant.

BEST HOTEL RESTAURANT
Il Dito e La Luna, Timeo Grand Hotel, Taormina; 011-39-0942-23801. The only five-star hotel on the island, Il Dito enjoys views of Mt. Etna and the bay and is known for its seafood dishes.

BEST NEWCOMER
Bye Bye Blues, Mondello; 011-39-091-684-1415. This tiny place, behind the Church of Mondello Valdesi, serves only a few specialties each night, like shrimp with pureed fava beans or raw sea bass marinated in lemon and orange juice with a lemon-rind marmalade.

ISLAND SPECIALTY
You can make a whole meal out of the fried foods served at the friggitorie. Try the arancini, rice balls stuffed with meat, and the supplí, rice balls stuffed with cheese and béchamel sauce, at Fratelli Testaverde in Partanna and I Cuochi on Via Ruggero Settimo in Palermo.

BEST LOCAL PRODUCE
Make sure you taste the tomatoes from Paccino, near the island of Malta, where farmers grow the best in the world.

--Anna Tasca Lanza

Published May 2000
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