London East@West Chef Christine Manfield, an Aussie expat, divides her menus into jokey categories, such as "Sublime," "Divine," "Fabulous." But her cooking deserves serious attention. She might combine halibut with foie gras and soy-ginger broth or chile-fried quail eggs with coconut and pomelo. Such confidence is indeed sublime, divine and fabulous (1315 West St., WC2; 011-44-20-7010-8600).
Devon Agaric Formerly at the helm of the famous Carved Angel restaurant in Dartmouth, chef and owner Nick Coiley has opened the ideal 21st-century country restaurant in the town of Ashburton. Coiley has lost his heart to local food suppliers, from the fishermen of Brixham to the Ticklemore Cheese Shop in Totnes. He enlists his family to help him forage for chanterelles, comb the beach for razor clams and grow exotic crops like elephant garlic and white alpine strawberries. Coiley cures his own salami, smokes fish, brews vinegars, makes terrines, cheeses and yogurt and bakes bread twice daily. Consequently, plain-sounding dishes are stratospherically elevated by ingredients and attention: Dartmouth crab with lime and smoked-paprika mayonnaise; John Dory with watercress-crème fraîche sauce (30 North St.; 011-44-1364-654-478).
London Tom Aikens After he became London's youngest Michelin two-star chef at 26 for his work at Pied à Terre, Tom Aikens left the restaurant to cook for Andrew Lloyd Webber. He made a triumphant return to the London scene last year with an eponymous placenow the city's most desirable reservation. Aikens's classical French-based cooking is wildly innovative but not gratuitously trendy. His braised pig's head is served with a stuffed trotter and a lasagna of spring vegetables, and humble braised pork belly turns up next to roasted langoustines with chervil sauce, artichoke puree and truffle ravioli. Aikens loves amuse bouches, both savory (shot glasses of pear-and-mint mousse topped with chervil foam and cured duck breast; spiced-bread sandwiches with onion-and-apple chutney) and sweet (pistachio and coffee madeleines; tiny prune parfaits). His oven-dried wafers of beetroot or fruit act as exclamation points. He's already got one Michelin star back; more are sure to follow (43 Elystan St., SW3; 011-44-20-7584-2003).
Piedmont Caffè Groppi Why do urban food lovers flock to this Michelin one-star place in the obscure village of Trecate 40 minutes by train from Milan? Because 30-year-old Fabio Barbaglini's menu is worldly, inventive and exciting. He creates masterpieces from foods that don't seem to belong together: chicken poached in marjoram broth and paired with lobster and aged vinegar; tripe braised in spumante, which goes surprisingly well with foie gras and candied onions; Belgian beer and chocolate in a gorgeous gelée (Via Mameli, 20; 011-39-0321-711-54).
Anya von Bremzen
Piedmont Combal.Zero Chef Davide Scabin's provocative, conceptual and scientific cooking style is in the tradition of iconoclasts like Heston Blumenthal of England's Fat Duck. Having recently found a perfect home for his restaurant, Combal.Zero, at the hyperdesigned contemporary-art museum in Rivoli (near Turin), Scabin has been developing a cult following for his outré creations: Cyberegg (soft yolk, vodka and caviar enveloped in gelatin), virtual oyster (a combination of watermelon, bottargasalted and air-dried roeand almonds that inexplicably tastes like a real oyster) and a foie-gras milk shake (a strangely sublime concoction served in a tall glass with a straw). While it took the conservative Italian press some time to warm to Scabin's anticsit's not easy being a renegade in Italythese days the chef is being rewarded with impressive ratings in Italian food guides, as well as a Michelin star (Castello di Rivoli, Piazza Mafalda di Savoia; 011-39-011-956-52-25).
Sicily Duomo Even the most idiosyncratic chefs use classical dishes as a jumping-off point, but Sicily's Ciccio Sultano goes further. At this restaurant in the Baroque historic quarter of Ragusa, Sultano demonstrates a talent for resurrecting Sicilian recipes and ingredients that have vanished and reintroducing them into the modern repertoire. His strategy pays off in dishes like spaghetti sauced with carrot juice, fresh anchovy tartare and a pungent jolt of tuna bottarga; rosy baby lamb chops with Etna pears braised in jasmine honey and crusted with Bronte pistachios; and chocolate cake served with pine-nut ice cream, saffron cream and wild-fennel sauce. Sultano's presentations are impeccably elegant, as is Duomo's dining room, a dressy space lined with rich fabrics (Via Capitano Bocchieri, 31; 011-39-0932-65-12-65).
Berlin Vitrum Chefs at Europe's grand hotels don't often get the chance to let their creativity roam. Thomas Kellermann, the 33-year-old chef at the new Ritz-Carlton on Potsdamer Platz, is a rare exception. In a grand space with Italian marble floors and Murano-glass chandeliers, Kellermann's inventiveness is on full display. The chef, who trained at the Michelin two-star Tantris in Munich, presents four tasting menus, all featuring delicious riffs on European and Mediterranean cuisines. On his Menue Aproccio ("connection" menu), each dishsuch as the venison with a cannelloni of Périgord truffles and the langoustines three wayscomes with its own related amuse bouche. The other menus have their own surprises: roasted tuna served on a leek risotto with a tangy-sweet grape sauce; retro-French coquilles St. Jacques with orange-ginger jam. The desserts are no less adventurous: Prosecco soup with radicchio ice cream is an unexpectedly harmonious match (Potsdamer Platz 3; 011-49-30-33-77-77).
Cologne Vendôme The ornate interior and gorgeous views of Cologne aren't the only reasons to visit Grandhotel Schloss Bensberg, a Baroque castle built in the 19th century and converted four years ago into a luxury hotel. At the castle's restaurant, Vendôme, 30-year-old chef Joachim Wissler is creating one of Germany's most groundbreaking menus. The dining room is formal, but Wissler, who received two Michelin stars at Marcobrunn in Eltville, displays a younger, lighter sensibility. His pumpkin soup is flavored with curry, coriander and cream of coconut and served with a skewered scallop and a sesame cracker; a gratin of pigeon and truffles is paired with a chicory-tinged orange marmalade (Kadettenstrasse, Bergisch Gladbach; 011-49-220-44-20).
Athens 48 The Restaurant Cyprus-born Christoforos Peskias, is the most talked-about young chef in Athens these days. His menu shows a brilliance and daring reminiscent of his mentor, famed Catalan chef Ferran Adrià. Peskias might rework Cyprus's traditional sheftalia (grilled lamb patties) as an accessory to suckling pig or serve stuffed grape leaves "undressed" as rice cakes with a grape leaf garnish. For dessert, halvah is turned into ice cream and paired with roasted pear (48 Armatolon and Klefton St.; 011-30-210-641-1082).
Paris La Famille In the 18th arrondissement, near the grocery store featured in the film Amélie, is a tiny, unassuming restaurant with small tables and vintage tablecloths. Inside, Basque-born chef Inaki Aizpitarte is creating one of the city's most original menus. He marinates pearly white John Dory in lemon and oil, slices it and serves it raw with a quenelle of beef-cheek consommé; sprinkles a lightly cooked mackerel fillet with pistachio nuts and pairs it with orange slices and a sliver of roasted duck skin; matches wonderfully light cod cakes with tiny deep-fried fish. The first Sunday night of each month is the time to visit La Famille; that's when Aizpitarte serves his "Miniatures" menu, with as many as 20 small-plate courses that showcase his latest ideasand serve as prototypes for dishes that will turn up on his menu later in the month (41 rue des Trois Frères; 011-33-1-42-52-11-12).
Vichy Restaurant Jacques Decoret The town of Vichy may seem an out-of-the-way spot to find one of France's most promising chefs, but talent seekers are making the pilgrimage. Decoret, a recipient of the coveted Meilleur Ouvrier de France award, manages to balance sophistication and playfulness, offering subtle but perfect preparations: Slow-cooked lamb sliced thin and served with thick wands of aubergine and a chive jus is on the menu, alongside more tongue-in-cheek dishes like fried eggs and bacon (breaded and deep-fried poached eggs served on vanilla-flavored Jerusalem artichoke surrounded by bacon-infused foam). Decoret's potato "stick of dynamite" dessert is a visually ingenious dish: a mixture of potatoes and sugar rolled into a wafer-thin tube, filled with sweetened potato mousse, decorated with a fuse made out of a potato stick and served with parsley ice cream (7 avenue de Gramont; 011-33-4-70-97-65-06).
Prenois Auberge de la Charme Chef David Zuddas's intimate Burgundy restaurant once housed the village forge, and it retains a rustic feel. In such a setting, Zuddas's bold menu is all the more arresting. The chef, who trained with the renowned Pourcel twins at Jardins de Sens in Montpellier, is inspired by Mediterranean and global flavors, as in his grilled langoustines on a bed of shredded pork in a broth of asparagus, ham and hazelnuts, or his avocado mousseline with a fruit chutney. But he also honors local traditions, offering simple favorites, like escargots with grilled goat cheese and parsley sauce (12 rue de la Charme; 011-33-3-80-35-32-84).
Basque Country Fagollaga Like many of his compatriots, Isaac Salaberriathe chef at this former cider bar in Hernani, near San Sebastiánhas an experimental bent. He cooks fish at extremely low temperatures and creates palate-provoking contrasts by pairing dishes with shot glasses of shockingly concentrated vegetable extractions and consommés. His inventions can occasionally seem overly intellectual, but usually it's thrilling to see what he comes up with: perhaps a terrific cod belly flavored with eucalyptus-infused oil, or chicharro, a type of mackerel, with tapioca and a shot of watermelon juice. In recognition of Salaberria's talent and potential, Spain's most influential restaurant guide, Lo Mejor de la Gastronomía, ranks Fagollaga just a half-point below Arzak, the famed nearby restaurant co-owned by Spanish celebrity chef Juan Mari Arzak (Ctra. De Goizueta, 68, Barrio Ereñozu, Guipuzcoa; 011-34-943-55-00-31).
Catalonia Les Cols Chef Fina Puigdevall hired local designers to turn an old farmhouse in the town of Mas les Cols into the most avant-garde restaurant dining room in Spain, with furniture sheathed in gold-lacquered sheet metal and a glass wall framing a yard filled with chickens and ducks. Her foodcall it rustic futuristicfits right in. Relying on modern Spanish techniques, she reimagines Catalan classics, cooking lamb shoulder in a vacuum-sealed bag for 11 hours and serving it with a sheep's-milk custard or coloring a barley "risotto" deep crimson with beet. Dessert? Popsicles made with ratafía russet, a Catalan walnut liqueur (Ctra. de la Canya s/n Olot, Gerona; 011-34-972-26-92-09).
Madrid Chantarella In a culinary scene that puts a premium on wild experimentation, it takes courage to create food that's about pure taste rather than pyrotechnics. The 30-year-old Alvaro Diaz and his 33-year-old brother and co-chef Enrique do just that at their spare but cozy Chantarella. Their creative but restrained approach is apparent in every dish on their menu, be it a supremely silky celery-root puree topped with sea-urchin roe, a lusty duck ravioli with chanterelle escabèche, or a whimsical faux couscous fashioned from cauliflower and broccoli. Judging from the crowds and critical raves the brothers have drawn, the Diazes may have just started a new less-is-more trend in Spain (Doctor Fleming 7; 011-34-913-44-10-04).
Rioja Echaurren The quest for Spain's greatest wine-country restaurant ends in the adorable village of Ezcaray, where chef Francis Paniego conjures up lyrical and seemingly simple flavors based on adventurous techniques. He cooks merluza, a type of hake, with split-second precision; it's as good as fish gets. And his recent inquiry into the aromas of various woods results in dishes like pumpkin puree whipped with oak-infused milk, and shrimp smoked over pulverized vine cuttings. Since this is Rioja, the wine list is exceptional, with more than 300 Spanish bottlings (Heroes de Alcazar, 2; 011-34-94-135-40-47).
Glasgow Brian Maule at Chardon D'Or When Brian Maule was just 24, the Roux brothers of London's Le Gavroche hired him to head up their haute salon. Two years ago, the brothers set up their protégé in his own place, and Glasgow is loving him. That's because Maule has left the ties-required classical world in favor of something still French, but more modern. A typical dish is nothing much to read about (roast rib eye of Scottish beef with cèpes and garlic; salmon fillet on leeks with Champagne sauce), but it's all in the taste. Scottish produce, especially meat and salmon, is the best there is, and Maule knows when to leave well enough alone (176 W. Regent St.; 011-44-141-248-3801).
Helsinki Chez Dominique One eats surprisingly well in Helsinki, but Chez Dominique is still an exciting discovery. For all his spiky-haired youth, 34-year-old Hans Valimaki has fused the high points of the last decade of innovation into a style all his own. A meal here is an exhilarating experience full of colorful, detailed presentations: duck-fat-and-truffle-poached egg with cèpe foam; foie-gras ravioli with an apple-cider "caviar." Now that he's earned a second Michelin star, Chez Dominique is neck and neck with Valimaki's alma mater, the venerable Swedish restaurant Edsbacka Krog (Ludviginkatu 3-5; 011-358-9-612-7393).
Stockholm Mistral Mistral's 26-year-old owners, Björn Vasseur and chef Fredrik Andersson, had little restaurant experience when they opened this place. But they managed to attract crowds almost immediately, and earned a Michelin star within just one year. Although other hot Swedish restaurants are spacious, design-savvy spots serving pricey modern Scandinavian cuisine, Mistral is tiny (only 18 seats), plain (white walls and wooden furniture) and comparatively well-priced ($100 for an eight-course tasting menu). Andersson's menu strays well beyond Nordic staples. Dishes like almond and Jerusalem artichoke soup with fried apples, and slow-cooked pig's cheeks are more likely to be on the menu than herring with dill. Mistral's reputation is still spreading and there aren't any plans to expand the premises, so visitors should make reservations well in advance (Lilla Nygaten 21; 011-46-8-101-224).
Oaxen Oaxen Skärgårdskrog The hour-long trip from Stockholm to Magnus Ek's restaurant in the Stockholm Archipelago gets prettier and prettier as the city falls behind. Rolling fields, white church spires, the rocky shoreline, a short ferry ride across a blue bay and then suddenly, the small limestone island of Oaxen. Ek and his wife, sommelier Agneta Green, have built a beautiful restaurant in the quarry captain's house overlooking the water. A true modernist, Ek creates dishes that are pared down but complex, as with his lobster carpaccio on herb ice accompanied by green-tea jelly (open from April 30 to September 19 and November 27 to December 21; 153 93 Hölö; 011-46-8-551-531-05).