My Favorite Restaurants

Remove the constraints of time and money and you will find me tucked into one of the restaurants below. They are my picks for “best in the world.”

United States

Saison (San Francisco) – [last review]
Chef Josh Skenes has crafted a temple for the wild and pure. The hearth anchors the food, each dish touched, with a remarkable range of flavors and textures. Seafood is pristine; vegetables are revered; and meats, with a new emphasis on aging, make this one of the best restaurants in the country. The brassicas dish is a textural marvel – one of the best vegetable dishes anywhere in the world.

Manresa (Los Gatos, CA) – [last review]
Chef David Kinch has blazed the path for farm to table restaurants; but, where many are content to feature the product, Kinch creates a story of the season. With an increasing Japanese influence, dishes are become more sublime. The raw milk panna cotta with abalone is arguably the best dish in America.

McCrady’s & Husk (Charleston) – [last review]
Chef Sean Brock made a reputation for himself with fancy modern techniques but it is his appreciation for ingredients that made this meal special. He is committed to growing his own vegetables and meat; and I think McCrady’s will become a destination restaurant for eaters worldwide. He has created a special place with an interesting mix of modern technique and Southern charm.

Una Pizza (SF) – An Una pizza is akin to eating a sublime piece of sushi – the range of small details. This is one man and his quest for serving the best pizza – without any compromise – one of the few artisans in pizza. There is a perfect amount of salt in the crust, the just-charred enough w/o being burned crust, & the nice flavor of the yeasty crust.

Sawa (Sunnyvale, CA) – [last review]
My go-to sashimi restaurant that, in my opinion, has some of the best raw fish in America. It is expensive, exclusive, and controversial but the sashimi feast can not be rivaled in the US. Kuruma Zushi in NYC comes close though.

Georges on the Cove (La Jolla, CA) – (new review soon)
A very careful and refined expression of Southern California produce and seafood – vegetables are woven throughout the Table Three tasting menu, proudly on display as the main ingredients in their dishes. There are Mexican and Japanese accents, not fusion, but nods to the area and its influences.

Honorable Mentions: Urasawa, The French Laundry (Yountville, CA), Providence (LA), Masa (NYC), Bouley (NYC), Roberta’s (NYC), Alinea (Chicago), & Elements (Princeton)

Europe

Restaurant Quique (Denia, Spain) – [last review]
My dinner at El Poblet (Restaurant Quique’s previous name) was that rare meal that truly impressed me with something new, daring, and delicious. He has gone beyond the Ferran Adria experiments and is playing with his own unique concept of cuisine. This restaurant should be a mandatory stop for anyone interested in food.

In de Wulf (Belgium) – [review soon]
A charming restaurant that sits in the middle of Belgium farmland – dishes are light and exact. Chef Kobe Desramaults is fascinated with the natural – vegetables are as frequent as protein – and a dinner at this one-star restaurant is just as magical as many three-star.

L’Arpege (Paris) – [last review]
The costs are extraordinary for what sometimes seem like ordinary dishes, but one of life’s greatest pleasures are vegetables in season at L’Arpege. Chef Alain Passard will re-define any notion of what vegetables should taste like.

Michel Bras (Laguiole, France) – [last review]
One has not eaten a salad until one has tried the infamous Gargouillo. 20+ different vegetables cooked separately – you can smell it from across the room as they deliver it to your table.

Mugaritz (San Sebastian, Spain) – [last review]
Spain is known for its tricks, and Chef Andoni Aduriz has plenty of them, but the imagination of his food stands beyond his contemporaries. His food is unique and personal.

noma (Copenhagen, Denmark) – [last review]
noma is at the forefront of a new movement, or loose confederation, of restaurants devoted to exploring nature and a food truly of the land and season. Anything that is edible might appear on the plate, and with a pristine uninhabited Nordic land mass as his backyard being combed by foragers, the surprises and revelations are in constant supply.

La Vie (Osnabrück, Germany) – (review soon)
An exploration with ingredients where dishes alternate between landscapes and pure expressions. The meal has a well-timed rhythm and a confident sense of texture and temperature. Plates draw you into the chef’s carefully constructed world, with just enough randomness to keep it very interesting.

The Sportsman (Seasalter, UK) – [last review]
A man and his land – outside of Japan, there may not be a more obsessive chef around – where everything is sourced from the immediate land (and sea) and nearly everything is made in-house (like ham with harvested sea salt.) It’s that good.

Honorable Mentions: Ledoyen (Paris), Pierre Gagnaire, Regis Marcon (FR), Rias de Galicia (Barcelona), & Can Roca (Girona, Spain)

Japan

Ryugin (Tokyo) – [Last Review]
A stunning meal. Chef Seiji Yamamoto made an international name for himself with daring Spanish techniques but he is now entering a more traditional phase. The ingredients in this kaiseki dinner were remarkable.

Sushiyo Masa (Tokyo) – [Last Review]
A red curtain, seven seats at a bar, three men, and their fish. Masa is a whitefish specialist and one will eat as many as 40 different varities during the meal. A stunning meal that is on an entirely different playing field than anything found in the US, including Masa (NYC) and Urasawa (LA).

Koju (Tokyo) – [last review]
A small restaurant in Ginza that serves a slightly modern kaiseki meal. This is about ingredients, nothing more, nothing less – minimalism and perfectionism at its more pure expression.

Sawada (Tokyo) – [ last review]
A 6-person counter with what might be the world’s best fish. Serious business.

Closed – No Longer With Us

Town House (Chilhowie, VA) – [ (last review]
An unassuming restaurant, a husband-wife chef, and just two cooks, crank out some of the most refined and beautiful food in the United States. John and Karen Shields have taken their Alinea pedigree, mixed in an ample dose of farm and foraged, and have created an experience unlike no other.

  • http://pepsimonster.blogspot.com/ Pepsi Monster

    Hi Chuck,

    I can see why you love Urasawa that much.After reading your posts about the place, it tempted me to splurge on it. What surprised me is that Providence only made to your “honorable mention” list (so is French Laundry). Too razor thin to not make the final cut?

    Your list is a great read! Of course I can dream about it and live through you, but reading that Urasawa review with the picture of Turnip filled w/ Seafood Paste was just simply awesome.

  • Petter Schønberg

    Hi Chuck

    If you ever go to the Noto penninsula, look up the Sakamoto Ryokan.
    Sakamotosan makes fresh tofu most mornings fro breakfast!

    Cheers,

    Petter

  • http://www.xanga.com/aromes S Lloyd

    Awesome work, Chuck!

  • stephen

    Hi Chuck,
    So does that mean that Keste was better that Bianco in Phoenix? Also, I am surprised that The Sportsman is not on this list, has it not held up as well in memory?

  • chuckeats

    Stephen (who i can verify is *not* the Sportsman Stephen :-) ) – it was just a glaring omission. Fixed now. So good that I am staying in Seasalter overnight and eating back to back meals in a month or so.

  • stephen

    what about Keste v. Bianco?

  • http://www.chuckeats.com/ chuckeats

    Keste vs Bianco – it’s close – i’d need to try Bianco once more to see where it falls. Keste is that good IMO.

  • Stephen

    Chuck, always curious about such things, Urasawa has fallen from your “favorite” restaurant in america, (along with Manresa), to an Honorable Mention. Is there a story there? 

  • http://www.chuckeats.com/ ChuckEats

    the story is japan – opened my eyes.  i’d rather not try to rank them anymore – too much ebb & flow – but no question they are my favorites.

  • George

    hi chuck- george from georges. we are going to be in naples for three days in may. any recs?

  • amr2002

    Which days George?! we’re going to be at Georges the 19th… unless we should come a different day :)

  • Phoenixpink

    I can vouch for the Sportsman, spent a wonderful evening there with the love of my life and some of the best bread I’ve ever eaten..