Chefs' most stimulating dishes: eye-popping, mouthwatering, aromatically exhilarating.
See: Double-Take Dishes
© Brian Canlis
Tequila Sunrise Egg
At Canlis in Seattle, chef Jason Franey serves an amuse bouche that looks like an egg yolk but bursts in the mouth to release a cocktail of tequila, orange juice and grenadine.
Courtesy of L2O
For the asparagus plate at Chicago's L2O, chef Laurent Gras makes one phony spear with white asparagus, cream and shallots that are pureed together, then poured into a silicone mold.
One of pastry chef Brooks Headley's post-dessert extras at Del Posto in New York City appears at first glance to be a salmon-roe tart. But it's really blood-orange pearls piled on top of Meyer-lemon cream.
Hear: Sound Engineering
Courtesy of Alinea / Lara Kastner
Chef Grant Achatz at Alinea in Chicago serves a sheet of liquefied raspberries turned into brittle. Breaking it sounds like shattering a wineglass, which was the dish's inspiration.
At the Fat Duck in Bray, England, diners who order "Sound of the Sea"seaweed and fish atop a sandlike mixture of tapioca, bread crumbs and miso oillisten to an iPod loaded with seaside noises while they eat. Chef Heston Blumenthal believes the audio makes the flavors seem more intense.
Smell: Thank You for Smoking
Courtesy of Jesse Ratliff
At Town House in Chilhowie, Virginia, servers lift the cloche over chef John Shields's rabbit confit with earthy ingredients like juniper, black garlic and salsify. Fragrant puffs of pine-needle smoke drift out.
© Teshira Nobie
Chef Josh DeChellis's aromatic lamb at La Fonda del Sol in New York City is seared and grilled, then baked in a pastry crust with herbs and grasses from the orchards the animal once grazed on. Diners break the crust open at the table to release a smoky hay scent, along with the meat's steamy juices.
Taste: Sauces in Disguise
Courtesy of R2L
Chef Daniel Stern's deconstructed Caesar salad at R2L in Philadelphia includes a dollop of mousse-like dressing thickened with agar. Guests can use it as a dip for the croutons.
At the Bazaar by José Andrés in L.A., steamed shrimp comes with tubes of cocktail sauce for guests to squirt into their mouths as they eat the shellfish. Others are following Andrés's lead: The Vanderbilt in Brooklyn, New York, serves pig-skin chips with hot-sauce pipettes.
Touch: Supercrunchy Bits
Courtesy of Jennifer Silverberg
At Niche in St. Louis, Gerard Craft dehydrates porcini until extra-crunchy. The mushroom crumble becomes a base for fried potato-squid puffs served with shards of crispy hen-of-the-woods mushrooms and thinly sliced, compressed potatoes.
Crushed dehydrated-blueberry meringues become a crunchy topping for a Meyer-lemon-curd dessert at Crabtree's Kittle House in Chappaqua, New York. Chef Brad McDonald also adorns the dish with pine-nut pralines and bits of sponge cake.
Touch: Restaurant Farms
Courtesy of The Inn at Dos Brisas
The Farm-to-Table Tour
Lots of chefs source their ingredients locally, but these two restaurants let diners play farmer. Customers at The Inn at Dos Brisas in Washington, Texas, can pick produce from its organic vegetable gardens and greenhouse to eat in dishes like squash-wrapped eggplant with coriander. Guests at Farm 255 in Athens, Georgia, can tour the restaurant's farm, which grows the peas for the puree that accompanies line-caught cod with green-garlic gremolata.