Each year Elite Traveler readers are open polled for their favorite restaurants, producing a top 100 list driven by thousands of votes of paying customers. In 2015 readers were asked to vote on their favorite restaurants, chefs, young chefs and which culinary maestro deserves the lifetime Elite Traveler achievement award. With the average Elite Traveler reader taking 41 private jet trips a year and eating in the worlds finest restaurants this really is the guide that leads the global fine dining conversation.
1. Alinea Restaurant, Chicago
Featuring a single, seasonally driven tasting menu of between 18 and 22 courses, the experience of dining at Alinea is not only delicious, but also fun, emotional, and provocative. Alinea has been universally praised for its innovative approach to modernist cuisine.
It has three times been named the Best Restaurant in America and is the only restaurant in Chicago, and one of only 12 in the U.S., to earn the coveted Michelin 3-Star rating. It has also won the James Beard Award for Best Service in the United States.
2. El Celler de Can Roca, Girona, Spain
El Celler de Can Roca is at heart a local family-owned restaurant rooted in the fiercely independent state of Catalonia. But at the same time, it has featured on this list for almost a decade – reaching the vaunted number one spot last year – and secured a global reputation for its gastronomic prowess.
Brothers Joan and Josep opened El Celler de Can Roca in 1986 alongside their parents’ simple restaurant in a working class suburb of Girona. In 2007 they relocated to the current premises up the road. By then Joan, a hugely accomplished chef, and wine aficionado Josep had been joined by their much younger sibling Jordi, who was forging his own stellar career as a pastry chef. The combination has proved to be a gastronomic holy trinity.
Guests entering El Celler de Can Roca immediately find themselves enveloped into a world of genuine hospitality. The 14-course culinary experience not only sees Catalan ingredients cooked with supreme precision, but that also stimulates diners’ senses, emotions and memories – whether via an evocative smell, an explosion of flavour or a visual trick. Some dishes are elaborate, such as a salad of sea anemone, razor-clam, cucumber and seaweed in escabèche, others are more straightforward; but each is beautifully balanced.
3. Azurmendi, Larrabetzu, Spain
Perched on a hillside just outside Bilbao with stunning views of the Basque countryside, chef Eneko Atxa’s restaurant is a game-changer in more ways than one. The striking glass-and-steel building is a trailblazer in eco-friendly design, with features such as solar capture, geothermal heating and rainwater harvesting, plus its own internal greenhouse growing dozens of native vegetables.
Atxa’s cooking is equally pioneering, with cutting-edge gastronomic techniques a feature of his kitchen. The chef, who previously trained at famous Basque restaurant Martin Berasategui, has collaborated with the local university to develop completely new cooking methods. Ultrasound is used to alter the texture of food and the chef has devised a unique system for capturing flavour in ‘three-dimensional’ essences and aromas.
4. Eleven Madison Park, New York, USA
You’d be excused for thinking that a fine-dining restaurant housed in New York’s Credit Suisse building would be something of a dour affair. After all, global financial services and food don’t make for obvious bedfellows. But at Eleven Madison Park, chef Daniel Humm and co-owner Will Guidara’s sleek Art Deco restaurant, the experience is anything but dull.
From card tricks – a server appears with a deck of cards on which different ingredients are written and bids the diner pick a card, only for a chocolate to be revealed from a secret compartment under their dessert bowl that is made from the filling on the chosen card – to unusual serves, nothing about a meal here is humdrum. Take the carrot tartare course (yes, really) which begins with a waiter affixing a meat grinder to the table and inserting two frighteningly fresh carrots. As they are being ground the diner is presented with a selection of condiments, including a quail’s egg yolk and shaved fresh horseradish, and is then left to construct their own dish.
5. The Fat Duck, Bray, UK
Heston Blumenthal’s hyper-experimental restaurant in the tiny village of Bray celebrates its 20th birthday this year and its relevance hasn’t waned during that time. In fact, Heston and The Fat Duck team, led by Canadian-born head chef Jonny Lake, continue to push the envelope both on and off the plate. For example, diners can watch a secret online animation a month before their reservation, taking them on an interactive menu tour designed to whet their appetite before the main event.
The menu includes exquisite and often exciting dishes, not least the nitro-poached aperitifs; the ‘sound of the sea’ that is accompanied by an iPod; and the ‘Mad Hatter’s tea party’, an edible magic trick in which a golden pocket watch is transformed into a mock turtle soup. And the often-underrated service element remains as well-drilled but full of personality as ever.
6. Robuchon au Dome, Macau, China
Robuchon au Dôme, situated at the dome of Lisboa Hotel, has a magnificent view of Macau. The breathtaking crystal light chandelier cascading from the middle of the ceiling creates a dramatic ambience for a truly exquisite fine-dining experience.
Enjoy the epitome of fine dining at Robuchon au Dôme, with the executive Chef Francky Semblat and his team, where culinary artistry is met with the finest wines, impeccable service and a décor to match.
6. Per Se, New York, USA
Celebrating its 10th anniversary, Per Se has featured in The World’s 50 Best Restaurants for its entire life. The East Coast satellite of Thomas Keller’s iconic French Laundry in Yountville, California, it represents the urban ideal of an American luxury restaurant offering a synthesis of culinary art and superlative service.
Per Se’s large dining room is unflashy, contemporary and elegant, with stained woods, stone and muted tones, and sweeping windows offering uninterrupted views of Columbus Circle and Central Park. The food is as understated yet immaculate as the décor. Menus embrace seasonality and show a witty playfulness that punctuates the confidence in the kitchen, now under the matured stewardship of Eli Kaimeh, who has been Per Se’s chef de cuisine since 2010.
8. La Pergola, Rome, Italy
One of the best restaurants in Rome, if not in Italy, La Pergola is much more than just a famous menu. Its three-Michelin stars – the only Rome restaurant to be accorded such an honour – attest to the excellence of its cuisine. A wine cellar with over 60,000 bottles, a water menu with 29 choices, olive oils and vintage balsamic vinegars from the best producers in Italy, and the finest ingredients to be sourced in the Mediterranean – all attests to the pursuit of culinary excellence.
But like everything at the Rome Cavalieri, it is all about ambience. Your table is laid with vermeil plates and cutlery. All around are the Hotel’s art treasures: paintings, a rare Aubusson tapestry, Sèvres porcelain, an 18th Century bronze candelabra, imperial furniture and a wonderful collection of hand-blown glass by Emile Gallé. At the centre of the room is an imposing 17th Century Celadron vase, adorned each day by the Hotel’s master florist.
9. Le Bernardin, New York, USA
Widely considered one of the top seafood restaurants in the world, Le Bernardin has been perfecting its sophisticated and refined food offer under the guidance of chef Eric Ripert for 20 years. Yet the restaurant continues to move forward by constantly evolving its menus.
With a focus on freshness, sourcing and subtle textures and flavours, dishes are exquisitely delicate in their execution and presentation. Drawing inspiration from its New York surroundings as well as French cooking techniques and international flavours, Le Bernardin pays homage to its ingredients themselves, with a graceful simplicity at the heart of the cooking, enhancing and elevating the fish.
10. Osteria Francescana, Modena, Italy
The menu of the restaurant can be split into three categories. First up are the traditional dishes from the Emilia-Romagna area that have little or no edgy elements, such as Bottura’s spectacular tortellini with Parmesan sauce and tagliatelle with ragù. Indeed, overseas visitors may notice that a good proportion of the restaurant’s Italian customers will opt for these superior staples.
Then there are the modern classics, such as the kitchen’s five ages of Parmesan and foie gras crunch – a take on a Feast ice cream with a hunk of foie gras bound in hazelnuts and filled with balsamic vinegar. Finally, there are the newly developed dishes, with recent examples including ‘camouflage’ – a thin layer of foie gras decorated with powders (hare blood, chestnut, various herbs), arranged to look like army woodland camo.