All tagged michelin 1*


At Saison, chef Joshua Skenes uses simple cooking techniques to maximize each ingredient's flavor. While the cooking techniques are simple, the process is not: meats are aged for several months, fish bones are roasted over embers and turned into a broth subtly brushed over cuts of sashimi, lemons are preserved for hundreds of days to counter their acidity. With a casual glance of a dish, one may never notice the labor involved; but when tasted, every course reveals a depth only possible by an involved cooking process. My recent meal was one of the most memorable, and delicious, meals I have ever tasted. Chef Skenes is obsessed with flavor and how best to enhance it. In contrast to restaurants that over-embellish dishes and add complexity at the expense of flavor, Skenes takes away. Flavor is paramount for chef Skenes; everything else comes secondary. There is a firm Japanese influence in his cooking rooted in its simplicity, from his cuts of sashimi and live prawns to his use of sea vegetables. Skenes builds on this base of Japanese ingredients and applies fire, culminating in a magical and unique cooking style.


Hisop, what the Spanish refer to as a "bistro gastronómico," serves an avant-garde cuisine with a firm basis in its Catalan roots. Some of the dishes on the menu are hundreds of years old, only prepared with updated modern cooking methods. The restaurant is informal while still remaining serious about the food it offers. This was my first Spanish gastronomic bistro. It definitely won't be my last. The menu read very straight forward: a handful of dishes with a single main ingredient supported by a fruit, vegetable, liquor, or combination of the two. The beauty of this menu lies in its apparent simplicity; it was refreshing to not have to read a laundry list of ingredients, or an ironic single-word title.

The service was a bit odd. At first it seemed like the wait staff had just gotten home from work and we were intruding in their living room. There was a sense of lethargy or general lack of enthusiasm. But as the clock crept towards midnight (the Spanish eat late) and the restaurant's service calmed, things livened up.

Tapas Molecular Bar Revisited

The 7-seat Tapas Molecular Bar in the sky lobby of the Mandarin Oriental Tokyo is the home of chef Jeff Ramsey, formerly of Minibar in Washington D.C. My first meal in 2008, while delicious, featured many of the same dishes featured at Minibar. I think a lot of this was due to the newness of the restaurant and the difficulty in finding its place. It's no easy task to integrate new molecular techniques with traditional Japanese cuisine. However now, two years later, this restaurant has really found its niche in its surroundings and thoroughly impressed me with innovative, delicious, and really fun cuisine. One aspect of the Molecular Bar that makes the experience so fun is its chefs. Instead of creating an environment in which interactivity is passive-aggressively shunned, chef Ramsey and his team explained the back story of each dish and how it related to Japanese culture. This was particularly crucial for the nostaligic dishes as many of the diners did not grow up in Japan. Questions were encouraged, and frankly, this in-depth understanding of the food I was eating really added another dimension to the meal's enjoyment. Not only did I learn a tremendous amount about the food and its preparation, but I felt like I was eating a story with each course.


Signature is the home of chef Olivier Rodriguez who formerly worked at the Tokyo location of Enoteca Pinchiorri. His menu read straightforward with two tasting menus and an à la carte section. The tasting menu seemed like a little much since my body still thought it was seven in the morning. So we ordered a few of dishes from the à la carte section and decided to split them. Well, maybe we ordered a lot of dishes. The exorbitant prices are justified (somewhat) by the exquisite view. We were lucky enough to have a window table, and maybe it was the jetlag but I felt like I was eating on the edge of a cliff. My eyes were in awe of the view: thousands of red lights flickering atop the Tokyo skyline.

La Bigarrade

It's springtime in Paris. The peas flowers are beginning to blossom, morels tulips are starting to be seen, and restaurants things stay open just a little bit later. Yes, it is a happy time here, particularly when restaurants embrace the life that spring brings to the vegetable garden. My friend from Genova was in town this weekend, and had e-mailed me the two restaurants he was "thinking" about visiting during his short trip to Paris: Le Bristol and La Bigarrade. I knew Le Bristol had garnered a third star this year, so I was excited about that. But what was the second one, La Bigarrade? A quick reference to my Michelin guide revealed they too had just gotten a star. I thought about it, at first with reservation, but I quickly remembered that my wise friend has a knack for finding interesting restaurants, even in cities where he doesn't live ! I humbly agreed and suggested we make a reservation. "I already made one ... last month," he told me. He's also very organized. Located in the seventeenth by the Brochant metro stop off the thirteen, La Bigarrade is located just outside of convenient. Did my Genovese friend want to go here because the co-chef, Giuliano Sperandio, was also from Northern Italy? My suspicion grew, as Italian pride can be very strong.

Il Canto

There is an Italian proverb -- chi non risica non rosica -- meaning he who doesn't take risks won't nibble anything. And I welcome taking risks in the kitchen when it leads to exciting and innovative dishes, so long as flavor remains paramount. But when taking risks for its own sake is the priority, the experience suffers. Chef Paolo Lopriore is such a risk taker. He intentionally uses flavors that other chefs shy away from, and with reason: to about 99.9% of the human population, they don't taste good. But taste is in the mind of the beholder, I had to keep telling myself throughout this roller coaster dinner at his restaurant, Il Canto. Il Canto is located in the Certosa di Maggiano hotel, a Relais & Chateaux property in Siena. The hotel is beautiful, both intimate and rustic. It's non-descript entrance gives way to a medieval courtyard whose focal point is a well dating back to the 13th century. Bordering this open space, on the first floor, are salons for the hotel's thirteen guest rooms and outdoor seating for taking an evening apéritif. The second floor is where the hotel rooms are located, each with a view overlooking the courtyard. When we arrived, we were the only people around so our footsteps clicked on the cobblestone and resounded through the cloisters. If it were just a little warmer, we would have stayed outside in this calming atmosphere for a bit, a silent and surreal pause before dinner.

L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon

No matter the time of day, my appetite, my clothing, or my food preference, L'Atelier always seemed like the right place to go, and I think that's a really important quality of a favorite restaurant. Considering the amount of times we've eaten here, it would not be an exaggeration to say that Aaron and I have tried everything on the Fall 2006, Winter 2006, Spring 2007, and Summer 2007 menus, and even some of executive chef Yosuke Suga's experimental dishes. Maybe this is why L'Atelier is perhaps our favorite restaurant in Manhattan. L'Atelier's location inside the Four Seasons Hotel might suggest a level of stuffiness, but this is quickly eliminated by Joël Robuchon's unique sushi-bar style seating, which forces complete strangers to talk with, rather than about, each other. This setup also means that the final platings are done directly in front of diners, allowing them to have an increased appreciation of the work that goes into each course, while cleverly hiding the messier kitchen elements behind closed doors. The energy from the adjacent Four Seasons cocktail lounge also flows into the restaurant, setting a lively tone without airs, something that is very much appreciated in contrast to many other haute French restaurants where the only sound is that of cutlery hitting the plate.