Travelers of color are venturing to the outer reaches of the globe for cultural experiences, sites beyond imagination and food. Yes, food. In fact, some travelers are booking flights abroad with only the culinary experience in mind. Most simply want to eat what the local fare has to offer, but there are some whose palates demand a little more than what “mom and pop” has to offer and seek out food entirely on another level, a culinary journey that engages all of the senses. Michelin rated restaurants are the traveling foodie’s dream.
Originally developed to assist French travelers in finding miscellaneous stopovers, it has evolved to identify the best of the best in dining worldwide with a straightforward three tiered rating system that takes into account not only food and presentation but, service, ambiance, decor, and even the cadence of the experience. In essence, one Star guarantees you an excellent meal. Two Stars will get you a most exceptional meal, and three stars will provide you with an exquisite meal experience.
But, one doesn’t have to travel abroad to be introduced to a Michelin rated eatery. In fact, New York has 99 rated restaurants alone, placing it in the top 20 cities with the most Michelin stars. With that said, we’ve asked three world travelers to highlight their dining experiences at their favorites. See if you can find the common theme.
I once read that eating, and by extension, dining is a function of class or your station in our society. To paraphrase that author, the poor only ever ask “did you have enough?” That’s because poverty makes the scarcity of food a constant challenge. The result is being a high value placed on the quantity of food. The middle class, having solved having the resources to eat all day, every day, tend to judge food differently. They’ll ask “did you enjoy your meal?”
The more refined, only every question whether they enjoyed the experience. They only expect to be treated like royalty while having their senses delighted. That’s ALL their senses. Building anticipation upon arrival, through seating, while experiencing beautiful surroundings and an incredible amount of attention (all before taking a single bite). It’s about what your eyes take in on a plate. It’s the thought a master chef put into every ingredient, every flavor, every fragrance and all textures. It’s an experience that dazzles. It’s a window into another world. You can, for a few hours, taste how the other half lives. It is, in an interesting way, a trip. And for that, it’s worth the price of admission.
To date, I’ve eaten at many Michelin Star restaurants in locations around the world. Each experience was excellent. Each is unforgettable. Every experience is singular and frankly, an experienced restaurant critic, steeped in the understanding of what it means to be awarded a Michelin Star, is the best source of nuanced, detailed, critical review. My dilemma is choosing a single experience when each was so different. So after some deep thought, I’m sharing some of the thoughts of my dining experience at Le Bernardin on W 51st Street in NY.
Coming off the busy street, filled with other fast-moving suits, exiting from black Town Cars, Yukons, and Escalades, into the calming, quiet of Le Bernadin is enough to set the expectation of something special.
Metal and honey-colored wood-lined walls that are more contemporary than traditional. Light is flowing in, but not imposing on you in any way. Impossibly large white floral arrangements draw your eyes inward. Private, cloistered, comfortable and somehow unassuming. In a word; Inviting. And a staff that seems to be completely attentive without being over-bearing. That, in itself, is both artful and pleasurable.
Le Bernardin specializes in fish. Its flavors are confounding and satisfying delivered via Chef’s Tastings menus designed to deliver on every detail. You are presented a succession of courses, as many as nine. Each intended to complement the other. And the presentation will leave you torn on whether to eat or take endless pictures. The dining experience itself that lifts fish to unbelievable heights. And the Tastings Menu relieves any real pressure of sorting what to order. This takes the responsibility of choice as a reason for a failed evening of potentially the best dining you may ever experience.
You need this experience. It’s as valuable to your travel experience as getting another stamp in your passport. Then, do it again in another fantastic city in another part of the world. By the second time, you will begin to understand what you’re after and what the world of fine dining truly is.
– XAVIER JENKINS
Noted as one of New York City’s best steakhouses, Peter Luger’s definitely lives up to its name and reputation. I have had the opportunity to dine here, and for me, it was an exceptional experience. Going to this restaurant is for the carnivores in us, you must love meat to eat at
this fine establishment. The cuts they offer are many, and the simplicity in spicing allows that natural flavor to flourish. I am not a rare meat eater, so the medium rare to medium well is the way to go for me. It was one of the most mouth-watering experiences I have had in a long time. Having one Michelin Star seems to be an injustice unless there is somewhere out there that does steak better and I am just unaware.
The dining experience was exceptional, from the maitre’d to the staff and servers, they offered truly great service, to a packed house. The ambiance is far from cozy and romantic, but comfortable and nostalgic reminding you of someplace from the 50’s or 60’s. Being a fan of dry-aged beef and they do offer quite a bit in that territory, which accounts for the exceptional taste. My steak, cooked to perfection, nice crispy sear on the on the outside and the inside was light pink and tan, the meat was incredibly moist and juicy, and the first bite sent my taste buds into orbit. The portion sizes were large, along with a nice choice of accompaniments, each deserving of their own plate. By far, this was quite the dining experience, and I look forward to future Michelin rated eateries matching or going beyond this. Bon Appetit.
– Dave Reynolds
With 73 countries stamped in my passport(s), I’ve seen my share of beautiful churches, bridges, and both manmade (and natural wonders) but nothing excites me more than a good meal. I am the consummate foodie.
One of the most memorable meals in my life was at NoMad in New York City. Surprisingly, and perhaps I could be missing something here, NoMad is rated one star but for this professional eater, could easily be a two as it did provide what I would define as an exceptional dining experience but wait, there is more. The NoMad provides an environment that truly stimulates all of the senses (not to mention all of its fashion conscious patrons). The staff is engaging, informed, knowledgeable, and amazingly accommodating.
Describing the cuisine to someone who hasn’t eaten there is tantamount to describing the color red to a blind person. It is virtually impossible but, the “Chicken for two” will certainly cause the Colonel’s stock to drop immediately and dessert there, is quite simply a religious experience.
The bottom line, dining at the NoMad, will change how you view food and will set the bar for all future dining experiences that others will certainly fail to reach.