World's Top 10 Life-Changing Restaurants
René Redzepi is out to define New Nordic cuisine at Copenhagen's Noma. His inspired, personalized vision is fiercely regional: He cooks with North Atlantic seafood and game, like deep-sea crabs from the Faeroe Islands and musk ox from Greenland. Yet he isn't afraid to turn traditional cooking methods on their head. One of his more sensational dishes involves edible "soil" made from malted grains (left).
Thomas Keller (an F&W Best New Chef 1988), probably the most esteemed chef in America, is worshipped for his supremely refined, whimsical dishes at Napa Valley's French Laundry. Among his most heralded dishes is the luxurious Oysters and Pearls: oysters and white sturgeon caviar laid on a bed of tapioca pearls and sabayon (left).
The Fat Duck
At the Michelin three-starred Fat Duck in the English village of Bray, Heston Blumenthal subverts traditional notions of taste and texture with ingenious dishes like smoked bacon-and-egg ice cream and cauliflower risotto accented with chocolate jelly (left).
Known as "the Salvador Dali; of the kitchen," Ferran Adrià of El Bulli on Spain's Catalonian coast has a cultlike following for his cerebral cooking. His inventive techniques challenge conventional notions of how food should look, taste and feel. Each year, some two million would-be diners angle for a reservation at El Bulli, which is only open half the year; for the other half, Adrià retreats to a workshop to perfect dishes like the "red mullet mummy"(left).
Top chefs make the pilgrimage to Pierre Gagnaire's eponymous restaurant in the Hôtel Balzac, in Paris's Right Bank, to experience his daring and technically dazzling takes on French classics, like braised veal with raspberry and sorrel (left).
Seiji Yamamoto's blend of traditional kaiseki with the avant-garde is so innovative that even superstar chef Ferran Adrià has made the pilgrimage to eat in this tiny Tokyo restaurant. Yamamoto's favorite new dish: wild Magamo duck from the Kagoshima prefecture seared over charcoal, smoked over straw, and served with a mix of freshly grated wasabi and soy sauce (left).
Blue Hill at Stone Barns
Many chefs may espouse the farm-to-table mantra, but few take it as seriously as Dan Barber (a F&W Best New Chef 2002). At Blue Hill at Stone Barns, 30 miles north of New York City, Barber cooks primarily with meat, poultry and produce raised and grown from the 80 acres around the restaurant and from his family's farm in Massachusetts.
In a glassed-in dining room in Spain's Basque country, the superascetic Andoni Luis Aduriz sends out reverential odes to produce harvested from surrounding fields and nearby woods, such as his famous potatoes encased in a brittle shell made with edible white clay and lactose, and sun-ripened red fruit with beet bubbles (left).
It's only fitting that Davide Scabin's restaurant is located in Piedmont, Italy's Castello di Rivoli contemporary art museum: The chef's provocative dishes often resemble performance art. For instance, his Piolakit includes Piedmontese classics like bagna cauda served in mini-jars with vials of Barolo housed in a cardboard box.
Aronia de Takazawa
The only indication of what's behind an unassuming door in Tokyo's Akasaka business district is the word Takazawa etched on its handle. There, young Yoshiaki Takazawa mans his pristine two-table restaurant, concocting elaborate, precise dishes like the steaming "fish and chips" —seasonal fish and potatoes coated with homemade breadcrumbs and served with a black mayonnaise mousse (left).