Why trust the critics? They get paid to dine deliciously and dish up piping hot plates of opinions (it’s OK to be jealous). The finest restaurants on the planet deserve to be judged by the same people who lovingly prepare your plate, but when the world’s top chefs aren’t available, we’re happy to help you out. These seven establishments earn their tasty reputations by consistently knocking the culinary socks off all who enter in search of life, liberty, and the pursuit of food comas:
1. Noma – Copenhagen, Denmark
Playing with your food was one of the best things about childhood (your mother would disagree). Chef René Redzepi taps into that childlike sense of wonder by reinterpreting traditional Nordic cuisine. At Noma, you’ll be presented with a dazzling parade of tiny plates meant to inspire and delight. Redzepi’s dishes look like they came straight out of Wonderland. Feast on radish appetizers that you actually pluck from miniature malt soil-filled pots, nosh on arrangements of fried reindeer moss and mushrooms (it’s tastier than it sounds), and let your taste buds rejoice on exquisite combinations of wild duck and beets.
2. El Celler de Can Roca – Girona, Spain
Do you daydream about dining at a trusted family-owned restaurant disguised as an architecturally modern eatery? That’s a very specific fantasy, but your culinary prayers have been answered. Welcome to the Roca brothers’ astonishing establishment in Spain, where you can anticipate mouthwatering twists on traditional Catalan fare. You’ll be harvesting caramelized olives from bonsai trees, and indulging in caviar and foie gras—muy elegante! Be the first on your block to devour pig trotters Carpaccio, but certainly not the last. Once the secret’s out, people will do anything to get a taste of the meaty treat.
3. Osteria Francescana – Modena, Italy
Chef Massimo Bottura’s restaurant only contains 12 tables, but it boasts a wine list offering more than 1,200 selections (holy hangover). Resist the temptation to case the joint for its wine cellar, and splurge on a classy, eclectic meal. Give in to the mouthwatering magic of mortadella mousse and the decadence of deconstructed risotto, or surrender to suckling pig and classic ossobuco. Mind your manners, and you might get a peek at that wine stash if you ask nicely; a nice tip might help your case, too.
4. Eleven Madison Park – New York
Feeling finicky? To the delight of everyone at your table, it’s not a problem. Chef Daniel Humm prepares a different multi-course tasting menu every evening, so you don’t even have to decide on an entrée. His locally sourced flavors derive from an ever-changing cast of New York’s culinary favorites. Mouthwatering showstoppers may include delicate cheddar cookie appetizers, Duxbury oysters in champagne sauce, or dry-aged rib eye grilled over white oak. Every night is a deliciously unique performance, and we give it a standing ovation.
5. Dinner – London
This restaurant’s simple name doesn’t begin to describe its historic complexities. Chef Ashley Palmer-Watts must be a history nerd at heart, because his menu offers entrées with footnotes. Yes, the dates of origin and cookbook references are yours to enjoy as you choose from treasured culinary archives, so don’t forget to bring your reading glasses—man, are you getting old. If wine-infused calf tail and hay-smoked mackerel are on your taste buds’ bucket list, you’ll find them here. Looking for something a bit tamer? Then sink your teeth into slow-cooked short ribs or Black Foot pork chops.
6. Mugaritz – Errenteria, Spain
Trying to avoid the hipsters who are taking over the big cities? Run away to this secluded spot just off the Bay of Biscay. Settle in and relish dishes prepared from the restaurant’s own orchards and gardens—an organic junkie’s dream. Chef Andoni Luis Aduriz brings a creative flair to his menu with silky samplers of Scarlett shrimp, red snapper blanketed under amaranth, and roasted duck tongues nestled in ice plant leaves. Go ahead and make those corny “duck got your tongue” jokes, but those bad boys are tasty.
7. D.O.M. – São Paulo, Brazil
Don’t let the sight of that massive, black 15-foot door slow down your samba. Dance on through, and sway to the culinary harmonies composed by Chef Alex Atala’s blend of authentic Brazilian dishes. If sultry Carpaccio of palm hearts and scallops makes your palate sing, imagine the melodies inspired by duck leg confit consorting with green peppercorn poivre vert sauce. Don’t be shy; indulge your appetite for rhythmic foodie thrills, and savor the night away.