Stories by Nick Ross, Manos Angelakis, Richard Frisbie, Barbara Angelakis and the Staff
Photos provided by the contributors and the restaurants and cafés mentioned
Restaurants and Cafés of the World
In our opinion, this year's 15 better places to eat.
Our peripatetic lifestyle has contributed to our discovery of some of the best and most intriguing cafés and restaurants. Though, because of COVID, the editors have not travelled for a couple years, we have correspondents that live in major world cities and we asked them for their opinion as well as writing our own recollections of great establishments and proposing re-reading of past articles.
The Opening of 2021 Award goes to Neapolitan chef Antimo Maria Merone who, after working at 8 ½ Otto e Mezzo Bombana in Macau, under chef Umberto Bombana, opened his own place, Estro in Central Hong Kong, a Southern Italian eatery of refined taste and originality.
Estro means inspiration in Italian and is the first solo restaurant associated with this chef, though it is backed by a group operating numerous Michelin-starred restaurants. Certainly there is plenty of imagination, plus flawless technique involved in most of chef Antimo’s dishes even though many of them also seem to follow the culinary traditions and seasonal style usually associated with Campania.
The restaurant’s eclectic design results in the look of an “inspired residence”, a sophisticated Italian sitting room in a Neapolitan villa. I loved the residential feel that is decidedly opulent but not ostentatious. The seasonal tasting menu offers such unusual dishes as Pigeon Under Ashes, a “Tomato Homage’” appetizer as a nod to Italian summer fare, or the superb Mafalde pasta in ragù Genovese, made with Montoro onions slow cooked for 10 hours with short ribs.
Les Deux Magots of Paris, France, has been a very traditional café; one of many such establishments that grace every third Parisian corner. Located at the heart of Saint-Germain-des-Prés, it has been the favorite place of the city’s artistic and intellectual elite including Ernest Hemingway, Pablo Picaso, Albert Camus, James Joyce, Julia Child, and Mikis Theothorakis to name but a few. It has always been a great place to eat and its steak tartare with a side of frites or the timeless soupe à l’oignon gratinée and a glass of Pastis, still let me know I’m in Paris every time I eat there.
In the Spanish town of Cáceres, in Extremadura, if you wish to eat well there is always the kitchen of Atrio, the home of Michelin-starred chef Toño Pérez. Atrio is a Relais & Châteaux Hotel, meaning the finest of the finest, with 14 rooms and suites on the top floor. His domain also houses this most impressive restaurant that sits on top of one of the best wine cellars in the world.
In the restaurant, chef Toño only serves tasting menus which include an ice bowl of grouper ceviche served with a scoop of tomato and green onion ice cream on a half lime. As instructed, I ate the spoonful of ice cream sitting on the lime first, then squeezed the lime on the ceviche and devoured it.
Another fish course was the complete opposite in taste, but with a twist. A strip of rare tuna was placed on cubes of sweet potato paste, topped with small pieces of jamón de bellota fat. It took three people to serve: one to place the plate, one to pour a tiny dab of sauce on the tuna and one to use tweezers to place tiny strips of ham fat on the tuna. It was an extravagant presentation, fascinating to watch, and very delicious.
In Vienna, Café Landtmann is as much of a cultural institution as the more famous Café Frauenhuber, the oldest coffeehouse in town. It is located on the Ringstraße at the corner of Lowelstraße 22 in the Innere Stadt first district in Vienna, Austria. Owned by the Querfeld family for almost 150 years, the Café Landtmann has contributed its share of sweet temptations to the pastries that Vienna is so famous for and this capital’s coffee culture. Their clientèle is a wonderful blend of artists and politicians; students and businessmen, local retirees and international travelers. The café’s pastry specialties include Apfelstrudel (apple strudel) and Maroni Blüte (i.i. bloom of chestnuts). But the kitchen can also turn out an outstanding wiener schnitzel, a luscious breaded veal dish, or a very Hungarian-tasting goulash.
The Peninsula Hotel in Hong Kong is still considered as “The Grand Dame of East Asia” offering the utmost in elegance and hospitality since the hotel's opening in 1928. One of the many restaurants in this storied property has been Gaddis and we still think of it as “the best French restaurant East of the Suez” to quote an international traveler of the 1930s. Eating in the opulent dining room amongst the elegant international clientèle is quite an experience and the dishes of the kitchen of young chef Albin Gobil, especially the tasting menu, are exceptional. The Michelin-star awarded is indeed well deserved.
Periyali, in Manhattan, that has now a Michelin recommendation, has been one of the many Greek eateries that dot New York City, but its classic Greek cuisine is, in our opinion, second to none. I’ve been eating there since it opened in the early ‘80s; it was very near our studio and production facility on 21st Street. Through the years, the kitchen had its ups and downs but at a recent visit it offered solid Greek specialties; they also really know how to cook fish... the broiled lavraki i.e. bronzino we had was perfectly moist and smoky, just like the one I had during my last visit to Athens, at the Michelin-starred Varoulko.
And, of course there are Azurmendi, Larrabetzu, Spain; Combal-dot-Zero, Torino, Italy; Hotel Maria Cristina, San Sebasti’n, Spain; Jockey Hollow Bar & Kitchen, Morristown, NJ, and Serenade, Chatham, NJ; Villa Corinthia in Malta; Pandeli Locandasi, Istanbul, Turkey; Restaurant Bridges at Sofitel Legend the Grand, Amsterdam, and gastronomic restaurant Dani García; about which we have written in the last few years.
All are excellent eateries that we love and highly recommend.
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