The best restaurants in the world. What does that mean now? Sure, crossing a remarkable restaurant off your bucket list is satisfying. But many people are looking for more than a good meal: they want to forage for ingredients, understand how those ingredients are connected to the land, the sea, the impact on the environment and, more importantly, how they are interconnected to local communities.
For our first #bestrestaurants list, our editors have picked 10 of the world’s most delicious dining spots helmed by some of the most creative chefs. With the global hospitality industry in crisis, it seemed more important than ever to recognize these culinary masters and creative restaurateurs. The restaurants here represent what we believe best capture the spirit of culture, community and cuisine.
Ultimately, if you had to fly for just one meal, after reading this, you’ll want to hop a flight. Here’s where we suggest you book a table.
White Rabbit, Moscow
It isn’t just the opulent 16th-floor dining room with sweeping views of Moscow that makes this one of the best restaurants in town. Or the domed glass roof, the newly built summer veranda or the airy and modern interior created by famous architect Natalia Belonogova. This elegant space is a temple for nouvelle Russian cuisine created by Chef Vladimir Mukhin (who some may recognize from the Netflix documentary series, Chef’s Table). Mukhin started his career at the age of 12 in his father’s restaurant, later training in France, Spain and Japan. In 2012, he moved to Moscow and opened White Rabbit, where he uses Russian ingredients—like Black Sea oysters, Crimean truffles and produce he grows himself—to come up with an inventive take on local cuisine, like rabbit pâté, baked cabbage with caviar and roast goose with black currants and black truffle.
El Chato, Bogota
There’s a reason why El Chato in Bogota’s bohemian Chapinero Alto neighbourhood has made it onto Latin America’s 50 Best list three years in a row. Chef Álvaro Clavijo returned to his homeland after working in top kitchens across Europe and North America, opening El Chato in a moody space with plenty of exposed brick, an open kitchen, a spice library and a chef’s table on the second floor. The menu reflects local ingredients, from local producers, often blending Colombian ingredients with Creole flavours. But Clavijo puts his own spin on classic local dishes, like chicharron—thick-cut bacon served with dehydrated cilantro, candied lime and charcoaled chili—taking them to a whole new level.
The Chairman, Hong Kong
At The Chairman, the food is all about simplicity—2,000 years in the making. The Cantonese culinary style has been around for two millennia, and The Chairman focuses on tradition by bringing out the original flavours of ingredients rather than overplaying them. That means only the freshest ingredients are used: staff head to the Aberdeen Fish Market each day at 6 a.m. to handpick the seafood. Beancurd sheets are procured from Shu Kee, a local shop that has produced beancurd since 1942. All sauces are created from scratch, and meats and salted eggs are cured at The Chairman’s small farm in Sheung Shui. Worth the flight is Chef Kwok Keung Tung’s showstopper flowery crab, steamed with 15-year-old Chinese wine, chicken fat and clam juice.
Disfrutar means ‘enjoy,’ and there’s plenty to enjoy at this two-Michelin-starred Barcelona hotspot. While the menu is avant-garde, the entire experience is meant to be welcoming and informal in an airy, light-filled space. The brainchild of Chefs Oriol Castro, Mateu Casañas and Eduard Xatruch—who helped to pioneer the avant-garde molecular gastronomy movement at Spain’s legendary elBulli—Disfrutar continues their exploration of gastronomy, earning it a spot on The World’s 50 Best list for 2021. The chefs combine unexpected flavours and textures, aiming to surprise and delight—so what you see on your plate may not be what you taste in your mouth. Standouts (if one had to choose) include crispy egg yolk with mushroom gelatin and the “panchino” bun stuffed with sour cream and Beluga caviar.
Restaurant Taniere, Québec City
Steeped in history, Taniere is truly one of Québec’s hidden gems—it’s located in underground vaults that date back to 1686 in the heart of Old Québec (an entry code to the vaults is sent prior to your arrival, adding to the mystique). Created by rising star Chef François-Emmanuel Nicol, the menu is inspired by Québec’s rich past and land, featuring sustainable ingredients and seasonal fare—yet Nicol’s approach is contemporary, pushing the boundaries of Québec cuisine. There is no à la carte menu; Taniere offers a blind tasting menu with between 15 to 20 courses, reflective of seasonality. But the culinary experience is meant to be immersive, with two distinct dining experiences: the intimate dining room cellar or the chef’s counter, where you can interact directly with Nicol and his team as they take you on a culinary adventure.
Ikoyi almost defies description. Despite its name (Ikoyi is an affluent district in Lagos, Nigeria) and the use of West African ingredients and processes, it’s not a West African restaurant. Chef Jeremy Chan adds in flavours from around the world, spanning Southwest Asia to rural England, using local ingredients such as sustainable line-caught fish and aged native beef. With a focus on “British micro-seasonality,” Chan takes local to a new level, like his signature smoked jollof rice with ingredients that match the British seasons. And he brings new flavours to European cuisine with a vast collection of spices from sub-Saharan West Africa—like grains of selim, a smoky peppercorn with the scent of eucalyptus—to invent dishes like plantain caramelized in ginger and kelp with uziza jam. While the cuisine may be hard to define, its taste leaves no doubt it’s worthy of its status as a Michelin star newcomer.
Lido 84, Gardone Riviera, Italy
Gardone Riviera in northern Italy, known as the ‘Lemon Trees Riviera’, is lush with olive trees, oleanders and bougainvillea. And stepping into Lido 84, on the edge of Lake Garda, feels like stepping onto an Italian movie set. But the food here is the star of the show. The concept, from brothers Riccardo and Giancarlo Camanini, is Italian; their creative tasting menu focuses on the region’s produce, pastures and, of course, the lake. Local Bagòss cheese is used in the tortellini, raw mountain milk in its fior di latte ice cream and local lemons and Wisteria flowers in the desserts. It’s worth the trip alone for the cacio e pepe en vessie, rigatoni pasta cooked inside a pig’s bladder with pecorino cheese, served tableside. Be sure to dine al fresco in summer, on the large lakeside patio surrounded by gardens.
Boragó, Santiago, Chile
Set in the foothills of the Cerro Manquehue, Boragó will take you on a journey of Chilean cuisine. Chef Rodolfo Guzmán takes his culinary inspiration from Mapuche culture, the Indigenous people of southern Chile, using endemic and often unusual ingredients—such as seaweed, wild fruit or forest mushrooms—collected by more than 200 foraging communities and small producers throughout Chile, from the Atacama Desert to Patagonia. Boragó also has its own biodynamic farm, just half an hour from the restaurant, producing vegetables, milk and ducks for the kitchen. Guzmán’s Endémica menu is typically vegetable-led, created by what happens to be available on a particular day—and only what is available in Chile (even the drinking water is rainwater from Patagonia). A typical dish, for example, could be roasted flowers à la Van Gogh, with false morels cooked in a seaweed bladder. It’s an experience of Chilean cuisine—and culture.
Though Noma has been declared the world’s top restaurant multiple times—and René Redzepi’s New Nordic cuisine has inspired a generation of chefs—the restaurant closed its original location in 2016, reopening in 2018. Now located in Copenhagen’s autonomous district of Christiania, Noma includes a fermentation lab for experimentation with koji, garum and miso, as well as three greenhouses, a rooftop garden, a butchery and a wine storage house. Even before you taste the food, Noma is an experience: a sky-lit dining room, large windows overlooking a pond and floor-to-ceiling oak and Douglas fir, create a hygge atmosphere. This new iteration of Noma offers three seasonal tasting menus—fish, vegetable, and game and forest—and, while the menu changes regularly, a sampling of previous dining experiences includes vegetarian celeriac shawarma and fried cod collar with crème fraiche and caviar. If you manage to snag a reservation, it’s worth the trip to Copenhagen.
With a secret entrance, limited seating and word-of-mouth cachet, EIGHT is worth the trip for a gastronomic experience seldom seen here in Canada. Helmed by Chef Darren MacLean, known for pushing culinary boundaries, EIGHT has—you guessed it—just eight seats around an open black-marble kitchen that encourages an evening-long dialogue. And the menu explores the mosaic of cultures, both indigenous and international, that make up the Canadian culinary landscape.
So what exactly is Canadian gastronomy? “I’ve been asked this question a lot,” says MacLean. “For me, Canadian gastronomy is too young to have a clear definition. I’m more concerned about being a part of the evolution into what it will become. Like the cuisine of any country, ours will also be defined by the movement of people and how they adapt their cultures and traditions to the foodscape they encounter in new regions.”
EIGHT’s winter series runs until mid-March, when a new block of seats will be released. Some highlights? The Alberta wagyu glass short rib—cured in red miso and salt for three months before being dry-aged for up to a year—is shaved paper-thin and served over poached B.C. matsutake mushrooms. And the squid offal curry, featuring charcoal-grilled tubes of Fogo Island squid, is served in an à la minute fresh green curry made from the liver of the squid, finished with cilantro blossoms from the EIGHT farm.