All tagged michelin 2*


I first visited Manresa in Los Gatos, California, during the spring of 2006. I was immediately intrigued by chef David Kinch's cooking. This is a chef with a near perfect understanding of his restaurant's time and place, one who truly utilizes the local ingredients of the bay area; Manresa would not work if located elsewhere. Chef Kinch has a masterful understanding of when to enhance an ingredient's flavor through cooking, and when to step back and let nature speak for itself. I have since been back half a dozen times, each time a completely different menu and experience. Each meal has been progressively better. The ever evolving cuisine reveals a chef with tremendous versatility, precision, and passion. For these reasons, I believe Chef Kinch is currently the best chef in America.

Quique Dacosta Revisited

I first visited Quique Dacosta in 2009. That write up is here. Since then, the food has only gotten better. The menu has been redesigned and simplified with more focus; it now tells a story. The dishes have less added sweetness and really take advantage of the restaurant's location by the sea. Reflecting back on my recent meal, I was deeply moved by Chef Quique Dacosta's ability to use local ingredients, combine them with local Valencian traditional cooking, and build from that base a truly inventive and modern cuisine. His cooking is inspirational and, to date, this is the best non-Japanese meal I have had. Over the course of three meals, we were brought on a comprehensive and well-organized tour of Chef Dacosta's cooking. My first visit meal started with a dinner. The following day my friend the ulterior epicure and I basically hung out all day at the restaurant. We had two more meals. I am writing about the second of those three meals, which was my favorite. You can see photos of the other two meals here.

Quique Dacosta

Quique Dacosta, at first, seems out of place. It’s in the center of a tourist town and the tourists don’t eat there. During high season, a large portion of the town is foreign: most signs are in German. Regular ferries carry young club-goers eastward to the Balearic islands, while older couples stay behind to enjoy the serenity of the Mediterranean. Except the restaurant is in exactly the right place; it's clear that the local seafood has had a profound influence on Dacosta's cooking. Though Quique Dacosta doesn't receive nearly as much hype as his compatriot Ferran Adrià, I'd argue that his cooking is equally as exciting. And he's just getting started. When I made it to Quique Dacosta in 2009 I was blown away by his creative use of local shellfish and vegetables. When I returned in 2011, I was even more impressed.

Our meal began with Universo Local, the more extensive of the two tasting menus.


Beige Tokyo, Alain Ducasse's Tokyo outpost, is located at the top of the Chanel flagship store in Ginza. The floor to ceiling windows are framed with thick black borders, much like a pair of Chanel thick-rimmed glasses. The space is decorated in beige tones bringing an element of warmth to the otherwise stark atmosphere. Waiters and waitresses quietly whisk about in custom-fitted black suits. The sleek and stylish restaurant, designed by Karl Lagerfeld, is a must-visit for fashion-conscious diners. Beige is essentially a restaurant by a high-end designer in collaboration with Alain Ducasse. The food is also pretty good. The menu highlights traditional French ingredients, most of which are flown in from Europe. The dishes read in Alain Ducasse style with a simple ingredient made bold by a bombardment of luxurious accoutrements. The restaurant's dishes are consistent and familiar.

Sushi Kanesaka

It's fairly easy to find good sushi in Tokyo, but rather difficult to find exceptional sushi. Even the bento boxes at Tokyo Station, which makes for a great accompaniment on a long Shinkansen ride, are of very high quality -- much higher than the average sushi quality in New York. But truly out of the ordinary sushi -- the rare combination of perfect textures, temperatures, and flavors -- is a rare commodity. There are only a handful of places at this level. Sushi Kanesaka is one of them. Located in the basement floor of a nondescript building in Ginza, Sushi Kanesaka is unassuming. Its thirty-something year old chef, Shinji Kanesaka, offers no indication from talking with him that he holds two Michelin stars. He is both humble and friendly.

The restaurant only serves omakase. However Chef Kanesaka's palette seems to prefer shellfish, which is what I would mostly order anyway. What made this restaurant so special aside from the freshness of ingredients was the fish selection: I wouldn't have ordered anything different from what was served. Chef Shinji Kanesaka read my mind.


As an ultra-modern restaurant located in Northern Italy's seventeenth century Castello di Rivoli, Combal Zero at first appears as a place of contradiction. This is because Scabin is often misunderstood. The words spoken of his cuisine bounce between traditional and modern, trite and inventive. Some go so far as to say he is a mad scientist concerned with superficial appearances and technology while lacking attention on flavor. After my meal, I strongly disagree. Scabin, it appears, likes to have fun. And he thinks his diners should, too. Located in a suburb of Torino, Combal is not the easiest restaurant to get to. As I exited the subway and ventured towards the restaurant, I battled for thirty minutes against an intense downpour up steep and winding hills until finally, the large glass walls overlooking the modern art museum greeted me like a light at the end of a tunnel. I arrived soaking wet, but the warm and friendly staff masked the squeak of my shoes with laughter and grace.

Momofuku Ko

Before deciding to visit Momofuku Ko, a diner is wise to ask how far he should go for good food. To start, the restaurant only accepts reservations via their website. Starting from 10am, spots fill up in a matter of seconds. This got pretty frustrating after the first two weeks. I wrote a small python script to automatically find the next available reservation and to book it. Except it didn't work. In some cases the day opened with no available tables. Other times availability lasted just an instant. In other words, people were clicking so quickly that even automated attempts were stressful and futile. I gave up after a few weeks of trying, until one day, I saw the green check of availability.

To further complicate things, the lower east side restaurant is easy to miss: it looks like a shop with the security gates permanently locked. The entrance is completely encased in a ragged metal mesh which blocks out most daylight, reminiscant of the eletromagnetic mesh cage in which Gene Hackman's extremely paranoid character worked in Enemy of the State. It's fenced up like a prison. It's very unwelcoming.


"Eating with the terroir," "earth to plate," "fiercely local;" these lofty phrases which at one point had meaning are now often hollow tag lines used to pepper conversations. Frankly, I'm guilty too. It's not easy to describe the appreciation invested in a food's source. But at the same time, an ingredient's source should never supersede flavor. Just because hand-picked moss comes from the high hills of northern Hokkaido, or if tomatoes come picked this morning from a farm nearby, doesn't mean they will necessarily taste good.

Unfortunately, there are few restaurants that combine an ingredient's unique naturalness with an inventive cuisine that doesn't take the spotlight away from nature. It's usually a tradeoff. Noma has both. The unique flora and fauna found in Scandinavia provides a full spectrum of ingredients with which René Redzepi, chef of Noma Copenhagen, can paint into sophisticated flavor.


Chef Yamamoto Seiji (山本征治) opened RyuGin in December 2003 at the young age of thirty three. Before that he had worked under Koyama Hirohisa (小山裕久) at Aoyagi (青柳) for ten years, channeling his talent for cooking the highest quality ingredients flawlessly. In theory, the highest quality ingredients combined with impeccable cooking should guarantee an unforgettable meal. At least that's what I thought. The restaurant is located on a small side street in Roppongi. The area used to be a bit seedy but after the construction of Roppongi Hills (六本木ヒルズ) completed in 2003, the neighborhood perked up. Now it is known for its sophisticated nightlife including a handful burgeoning restaurants eager to collect their stars. Yet despite being in such a lively neighborhood, RyuGin remains humble and quiet having just under twenty seats.

The service at RyuGin, like the service at nearly every other fine dining establishment in the city, was flawless and graceful. The staff spoke with tremendous knowledge about the menu yet remained impressively humble. The stage was set for a fantastic meal. Everything was ready, that is, except the food.

Le Cinq

Le Cinq has had three chefs over the past two years. Although it's kept the same name, has been in the same George V hotel, and has been housed in the same beautiful baroque dining room, it has been three different restaurants with each chef exercising his vision of what fine dining should be. The first chef, Philippe Légandre, brought the restaurant its three Michelin stars with a refined seafood-focused menu highlighting simple flavors and combinations. Then in February 2007, Le Cinq lost its third star. Légandre stepped down. His sous-chef took over during the transitory period and played off the better known dishes with minimal modification. Most recently, Éric Briffard took house, specializing in rustic yet sophisticated dishes bringing Le Cinq to an all new high. With him as chef, it's only a matter of time before the third star returns.


There are few chefs who tell a story without speaking, who can transport diners to a far away place without ever stepping on an airplane, and who can make diners feel at home and comfortable without taking off their shoes. Chef Hiro Urasawa is one of those chefs. And he does it all with a wide smile. Perched on the second level of the luxurious Two Rodeo shopping center, Urasawa sits above some of the most famous designers in the world: Fendi, Cartier, Tiffany, Prada, Cerruti and Versace to name a few. But unlike the downstairs world of fashion and style, upstairs flavor rules. But it's not like the outside world is hidden; in fact, sunlight pours in through the large windows overlooking the most famous shopping street in the United States. Rather, the simplicity of the space combined with Chef Urasawa's humility, sense of humor, and genuine good nature encourage pretense and entitlement to be left downstairs. Without a doubt, the combination of Chef Urasawa's personality, skill, and selection of ingredients made this my best sushi meal in the United States.