Grant Achatz flight of hearts of Palm at Alinea in Chicago. See the rest of the Cuisine Gallery at AlineaRestaurant.com.
|If we won the lottery, we’d take our main squeeze and our four best friends on a tour of these top temples of cuisine, named by Forbes Magazine as the 12 most expensive restaurants in the world. Order the right wines, and your tab can double. We’ve been to four of them, and can attest that the cuisine is worth every penny. We’re starting our trip in California and working our way east around the world.
– CALIFORNIA (Napa Valley): The French Laundry. This small, modest wood building was once a French laundry. You can eat Thomas Keller’s nine-course tasting menu indoors, or, weather permitting, in the much lovelier garden, where some of the vegetables and most of the herbs you’ll eat are grown. The $240 tab includes gratuity.
– NEVADA (Las Vegas): Joel Robuchon. M. Robuchon is perhaps the greatest chef we have been privileged to experience. We are both desirous and fearful of trying his Las Vegas venture—dying to see if the $360, 16-course tasting menu can be even 50% of what the great chef produced at Jamin in Paris, and fearful of carrying around the disappointment for the rest of our life if it isn’t 90%.
– ILLINOIS (Chicago): Alinea.We have been a huge fan of chef/owner Grant Achatz since his days at Trio in Evanston. But to show his kinship to the rest of this list, he worked as a sous chef at The French Laundry and as a crew member of El Bulli (see below). His $195 tasting menu, 24 courses, is reminiscent of his El Bulli mentor, Ferran Adrià.
– NEW YORK (New York City): Masa’s. Just a stone’s throw from THE NIBBLE offices, this sushi bar experience of a lifetime is described by the Forbes article as costing $400. Let me tell you, ladies and gentlemen, that is the bare bones minimum: there are a la carte extras suggested by Masa Takayama that you won’t want to miss. Thirty courses and four hours later, our tab was $600 per person. It money were no object, we would visit Masa more often, for delicacies we’ve never seen (or even heard of) before.
– CANADA (Montreal): Toque. We’re not sure how this restaurant got on the list: a seven-course seasonal menu is $92, $147 with wine, making this a pretty inexpensive option in this company. We could fly there and back for dinner and spend less than we spent at Masa, down the street from us. The locavore menu serves Quebecois-style entrees such as roasted guinea fowl, leg of suckling pig).
– ENGLAND (London): Restaurant Gordon Ramsay. The flagship restaurant of the brash but telegenic celebrity chef is tiny (just 44 seats) and elegant. The seven-course tasting menu here is $224—the priciest dinner in London. With all of his media and business interests, it’s highly unlikely that the main man will be in the kitchen.
– FRANCE (Paris): L’Arpège. We first dined here in 1989, and it was hot stuff then—but chef Alain Passard did not publicly condemn red meat in 2001. Fresh-picked greens from his organic garden 150 miles southwest of Paris are delivered every day in time for lunch service. You’ll pay $495 for the nine-course tasting menu—or more if we don’t shore up the dollar.
– SPAIN (Las Roses): El Bulli. Ferran Adrià is our hero. He invented molecular gastronomy (there would be no foams without him), and keeps pushing the button. The restaurant is only open six months of the year; Adrià and his spend the rest of the year inventing new dishes at their Barcelona “kitchen lab.” It may be the toughest reservation in the world, but the faithful will angle for them and pay $270 for the 30-plus course tasting menu.
– ITALY (Rome): La Pergola. A rooftop restaurant atop the Rome Cavalieri Hilton atop the highest hill in town, with views of St. Peter’s Dome. La Pergola is the only three-star Michelin restaurant in Rome (and the Cavalieri Hilton is the only three-star hotel-restaurant in all of Italy). Chef Heinz Beck’s nine-course tasting menu runs $285.
– INDIA (New Delhi): Bukhara. Specializing in tandoor cooking, entrées like marinated leg of spring lamb range from $28 to $50, which is huge in India, where an anesthesiologist earns $15,000 a year. And, pricey though the menu and location are, there’s no flatware unless requested: diners are encouraged to eat with their fingers, the local tradition.
– JAPAN (Tokyo): Aragawa. O.K., now we’re talking money. Warned that the tab would be at least $550 at this “exclusive but modest little steakhouse” in Tokyo’s Shinbashi District, we look forward to steak, steak and more steak, the only entrée. Kobe, sourced from only one local ranch, is served simply with pepper and mustard—and trust us, it needs nothing at all. One problem we anticipate: is there a No Smoking section?
– AUSTRALIA (Sydney): Tetsuya’s. An émigré from Japan, Tetsuya Wakuda has created the best restaurant in Australia, sporting innovation fusion cuisine. The degustation menu, a 10-course minimum, is $195. This wraps up our global restaurant safari, but we think we’ll stay in Sydney for a week to eat at Tetsuya’s a few more times.