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January 15, 2012

Experts' Expert: David Chang's 5 favorite restaurants in the world

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In last Sunday's New York Times Travel section the über-chef and owner of Momofuku Restaurant Group revealed his top five to all and sundry.

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I featured one of them — Sushi Sawada in Tokyo — that day and now bring you the remaining four.

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What Chang said:

In Paris, Le Chateaubriand looks like a typical bistro, but you're getting extraordinarily intelligent food. The chef is Iñaki Aizpitarte — there’s nobody like him. He's doing food in new ways, and in the sort of relaxed setting that you might find in America but is rare in Paris. Everyone who ever goes to Paris asks me if I can get them a reservation at Chateaubriand.

Everyone goes to San Sebastian, in Spain, for food. But if you want to have the best seafood experience of your life, drive about 10 to 15 minutes outside the city to Elkano Restaurant. It may not look like it, but it's got a state-of-the-art storage space for seafood; they get a shipment of sea water every week that they use to keep things fresh. And everything's cooked over charcoal — it's like Basque barbecue. A dish might consist of turbot, a local sherry, a few other ingredients. Very simple, but everything is delicious.

Don't worry if you can't get a reservation at Noma, the acclaimed Copenhagen restaurant. Head to Restaurant Relae. Christian Puglisi, the chef, and his team are all Noma veterans, serving exquisite and light vegetable-centric food, and amazing bread. Christian is a great chef — he’s worked all over Europe. And he's Italian, so there’s sometimes an Italian bent to his dishes. His food is simple, but not simple.

In New York, you have to try Kajitsu in the East Village. I think, consistently, it might be the best restaurant in the city. And it's totally a value; there’s an eight-course tasting menu for $70. The executive chef, Masato Nishihara, serves Shojin temple food, an ancient cuisine developed in Buddhist monasteries — sort of Japanese comfort food. It's all vegetables, but you're not going to miss the meat. And his pickles are so delicious. It's a thought-provoking experience, but also incredibly fun and extremely tasty.

Mr. Nishihara is extraordinarily talented. When I was in Kyoto, where he cooked for years, the chefs there told me, "Even though he's in New York, he's one of ours." That’s the highest compliment.

My chance of ever getting to even one of Chang's jewels? 

<1% — and that number's getting smaller every day.

Photos from Kajitsu's website.

January 15, 2012 at 12:01 PM | Permalink


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Comments

David Chang's love of pickles and fermented vegetables knows neither boundaries nor limits. From his book, Momofuku the primary pickle recipes include:

Apples,
Asian Pear,
Beets,
Cantaloupe,
Carrots,
Cauliflower,
Celery,
Cherries,
Cherry pits,
Chiles,
Crosnes,
Fennel,
Melon(s) (other than Cantaloupe),
Mustard Seed,
Napa Cabbage (not as Kimchi),
Ramps,
Sunchokes,
Tokyo Turnips,
Watermelon,
Watermelon Rind;

and, those are only the vinegar-based pickles! All of the recipes appear on, or before, Page 73 of David's best selling cookbook.

Kajitsu simply makes David's pickle palate pleased. I find Mr. Chang's claim that Kajitsu is the best restaurant in the city a bit of puffery where David Chang owns no fewer than four of the hottest restaurants in the city.

Posted by: 6.02*10^23 | Jan 15, 2012 2:20:38 PM

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