By Elizabeth Valerio
New York City may be the king of restaurant cities. But here are some foreign restaurants you shouldn’t miss.
Begin in Berkshire, England with Heston Blumenthal’s The Fat Duck (fatduck.co.uk). The restaurant first opened in 1995 as a bistro in a pub-style environment, serving appetizers, entrees and desserts ranging in price from $9 to $20. Today, the a la carte menu is available nightly for $160 per person and the chef’s tasting menu, which samples Blumenthal’s specialties, costs $230 per person. Dishes offer some unusual tastes like the sardine on toast sorbet or the snail porridge with joselito ham. Stay in Berkshire more than one night to taste both menus: the restaurant’s Web site posts helpful links to hotels, inns and spas in the area and dinner reservations can be booked up to two months in advance.
Next, stop by Oaxen Skärgårdskrog (oaxenkrog.se), located on the island of Oaxen, south of Stockholm in Sweden. Part of an archipelago in the Baltic Sea, it has been functioning as a restaurant since 1994, with ferries shuffling patrons across the sea to reach it. The restaurant runs out of an old mansion, refurbished to suit its guests, and the dining room seats only 40 people at a time allowing for an intimate experience. Oaxen Skärgårdskrog features four menus: a la carte, five-course, vegetarian, and tasting, all with entirely different options. Reservations can be made at any time, and are necessary, especially since this restaurant has been named the best in Sweden.
La Colombe (lacolombe.co.za), in Cape Town, South Africa, is raved about as the most luxurious dining room in Africa and one of the most expensive, but not by American standards. With meals ranging from $35 to $42, this French menu boasts ever-changing options so you’ll never order the same dish twice. The facility has indoor seating with private rooms and wood-burning fireplaces for the winter in addition to an outdoor terrace overlooking the ocean, preferable for the summer months. The atmosphere is calm and relaxing and patrons are an even blend of locals and tourists so you’ll fit right in.
With famed head chef Ferran Adria manning the stoves for 23 years, it’s no wonder that Spain’s El Bulli (elbulli.com) is so well respected and not to be forgotten. Using the theories of molecular gastronomy, the application of science in the culinary arts, Adria prepares Spanish dishes experiementing with new technologies, tastes and textures. Extravagant is an understatement for the 30-course meal, costing an estimated $230 per person. You’ll no doubt sample everything Spanish cuisine has to offer. Arrive early for a drink at the patio bar and watch the sunset over the mountains or plant yourself in front of the kitchen to see Adria at work. Either make an enjoyable preshow for a stellar meal to come.
Make a stop in Monaco in the French Riviera to visit Le Louis XV Restaurant (alain-ducasse.com) and taste French cuisine rich in local flavor. Head chef Frank Cerutti’s menu describes dishes from the sea, the farm and the woods alike with Mediterranean sea bass and bacon-stuffed squid, black morel and Mona Lisa gnocchi potatoes, and breast of squab with duck foie gras all gracing the menu. Entrees range from $80 to $560 and you’ll want to save some room for the desserts, typically priced at $30. Located in the Hotel de Paris, the beautiful frescoed ceiling, fresh bright flower arrangements and floor to ceiling French windows make it difficult to focus on dinner.
Finally, jet to Sydney, Australia, and feast on 10 courses at Tetsuya’s (tetsuyas.com). The dinner goes for $185 dollars and is wildly popular, due in part perhaps to the multiple dessert courses. Menus change constantly, but some typical dishes are west Australian marron with asparagus and truffle mayonnaise, tartare of tuna with fresh wasabi and marinated fillet of trevally with preserved lemon set on sushi rice and tataki of venison with rosemary and honey. Large dining rooms overlook a traditional Japanese garden and are breathtaking at any hour. Reservations are a must, and book quickly in advance. The restaurant also serves lunch on Saturdays for a lighter fare.
Photo: Chef Ferran Adria of Spain’s El Bulli