The 20 most influential restaurants of the last 20 years
Restaurants come and go, but some stand the test of time and offer something truly unique and awe-inspiring that leave diners speechless and satiated. Restaurants on this list in one way or another – creating new cuisines, crafting new dishes, pushing the boundaries of conventional cooking – have had some influence on the food and restaurant landscape over the past 30 years. From masterful grilling to fine dining and experimental cooking, here are the 20 most influential restaurants of the last 30 years.
Serving fun and provocative dishes, Alinea uses the unique ‘Tock’ booking system, so diners need to buy a ‘ticket’ in advance of the meal. After a renovation in 2016, chef Grant Achatz and restaurateur Nick Kokona invite diners into one of their three unique and distinct experiences: the Gallery, the Salon, and the Alinea Kitchen Table. At the first-floor Gallery, guests can enjoy a multi-sensory 16-to-18 course menu that combines fine dining with experimental moments while the Salon offers a 10-14 course tasting menu and the Alinea Kitchen Table is an intimate six-person kitchen table immersive experience.
Asador Etxebarri, Atxondo, Spain
At Asador Etxebarri, self-taught chef Victor Arguinzoniz brings skillful barbecuing techniques into a beautiful rural setting. Relying on fresh ingredients and masterful grilling, the menu is prepared daily with each dish having a small (or large) taste and semblance of fire and smokiness. Arguinzoniz’s juicy Palamós prawns and huge tomahawk steaks are staples on the menu, whose flavor comes from carefully selected firewood in the Atxondo valley and surrounding areas.
Au Pied de Cochon, Montreal
Martin Picard’s menu at Au Pied de Cochon is dedicated to meat, think foie gras, pig, poultry, bison and lots of beef. A disciple of nose-to-tail dining, the menu features items like the stuffed pigs trotter which are served in large portions in a long, stripped-back dining room. Gluttony and decadence is taken to a new level at Picard’s restaurant, deeming it one of the top spots in all of Canada.
French Laundry, Yountville, California
The French Laundry commits itself to creating classic French cuisine with the finest quality ingredients through its daily changing menu. A member of French-based Relais & Chateaux, Relais Gourmands and Traditions & Qualité, two nine-course tasting menus are offered daily: Chef’s Tasting Menu and the Tasting of Vegetables, with no single ingredient being repeated throughout the meal.
Gramercy Tavern, New York
Opened in 1994 by restaurateur Danny Meyer in a historic landmark building, Gramercy Tavern serves refined American cuisine without pretension. Choose to eat a more casual à la carte in the front tavern room or experience the tasting menu in the dining room featuring farm-to-table food. Experience the comfort of a late-19th-century American inn with the three-course $129 menu with a wide variety of choices, be sure to save room for the third course and one of pastry chef Miro Uskokovic’s delectable desserts.
Offering food of the South, Husk is located in historic downtown Charleston dishes from James Beard Award-winning Chef Sean Brock. Set within a complex dating to the late 19th century and an ingredient-driven cuisine indigenous to the South, Husk offers new Southern cuisine with a modern approach. In the Victorian mansion, wood-fire cooking is a hallmark but the menu is ever-changing as Brock crafts menus throughout the day, responding to what local purveyors are supplying the kitchen at any given moment.
Following receiving three Michelin stars in 1996, it has maintained all three ever since. Chef-owner Alain Passard cooks at the restaurant everyday featuring haute cuisine végétale with grand cru vegetables, fruits and herbs. Sourced from his biodynamic farm in Sarthe or two gardens in Eure and Manch, food is delivered to the restaurant daily.
Le Bernardin, New York
Seafood lovers rejoice as Le Bernardin is NYC’s shrine to sophisticated seafood. Headed by Eric Ripert for more than 20 years now, the menu is split into three sections – Almost Raw, Barely Touched and Lightly Cooked. The sleek/modern space sees waiters in Nehru-style jackets serve sparkling fresh fish and shellfish, in highly refined dishes.
Le Chateaubriand, Paris
Iñaki Aizpitarte’s Le Chateaubriand was a stalwart in the bistronomy scene in Paris in the 2000s and features creative fare made without overly expensive ingredients. If you are late to make a reservation for the first seating, reservations are booked one-month in advance, you’ll have to wait in line from 9pm to enjoy improvisational cooking paired with natural wines.
Nobu restaurants (various locations)
Nobu currently operates 38 restaurants spanning across five continents and is one of the worlds most recognized Japanese restaurant, known for its innovative new style cuisine paired with a hip crowd and celebrity following. Chef Nobuyuki “Nobu” Matsuhisa is known for his fusion cuisine blending traditional Japanese dishes with Peruvian ingredients, inspired by his background growing up in Tokyo and moving to Peru as a young adult.
Re-opened in February of 2014, chef René Redzepi recently transplanted the restaurant that invented New Nordic cuisine. With a rooftop garden and a cluster of huts, Danish architecture firm BIG, led by Bjarke Ingels was inspired by the clustered structures on a traditional Danish farmstead. With the reopening of noma earlier this year, the restaurant now divides the year into three seasons, during which the menu changes dramatically and features ingredients that are at their peak at any given time of the year.
Pujol, Mexico City
Celebrity chef-owner Enrique Olvera offers Mexican food presented as haute cuisine with his own special twist. Located in the upscale Polanco district of Mexico City, Pujol features a wood-burning oven, terrazzo flooring and a private side room that serves its own taco menu. Diners can choose from a daily menu that includes snacks for all and then choose from a menu for the next six courses.
Spago, Los Angeles
The flagship restaurant of Wolfgang Puck’s, Wolfgang Puck Fine Dining Group, Spago continues to set the standard for fine dining in Beverly Hills. The sleek and simple design of the restaurant complements the market-driven menu which guests can choose from a seasonal a la carte menu or explore the best of the west with the chefs’ multi-course California Tasting Menu. Spago is the recipient of the AAA Four Diamond Award and received two stars in The Michelin Guide-Los Angeles edition, one of only three restaurants in the city to win this coveted distinction.
St John, London
Opened in 1994, Fergus Henderson began creating inventive dishes following the nose-to-tail dining, where nothing goes to waste. St John’s main dining room is stripped back while the bar is packed nightly with a separate short bar menu. The converted smokehouse in Clerkenwell focuses on meaty dishes like the Rabbit Offal while unique dishes like the Pigeon and Courgettes or Poached Rabbit are a plenty on the menu.
Michel Bras, Laguiole, France
Set up by Michel Bras in 1992 on a hillside in Aubrac, near the village of Laguiole, Sebastian, his son, is now the head chef. Known for inventing a dish called the chocolate coolant along with his best-known dish being the gargouillou, it has been rated three stars in the Guide Michelin since 1999.
El Celler de Can Roca, Girona
Located in the medieval city of Girona in Catalunya, northern Spain, the Roca family moved the restaurant into an airy space with a large kitchen. Run by three brothers – Joan, chef, Josep, sommelier, Jordi, pâtissier – they take infuse ingredients, techniques and inspirations for their menu from their annual tours around the world. Guests can be invited by Josep into their magical walk-in cellar before enjoying the complex and flavorful chef’s tasting menu.
Osteria Francescana, Modena Italy
The small discreet restaurant in Modena helmed by Massimo Bottura, combines Italian tradition with modern techniques. Influenced by are and music, the kitchens creations mirror the high-quality contemporary artwork in the three dining rooms. Playing with ingredients from the surrounding regions, courses include the famous Five Ages of Parmigiano Reggiano and the Adriatic Chowder.
Nihonryori RyuGin, Tokyo, Japan
Recently Moved to the new Hibiya Midtown development, Nihonryori RyuGin serves contemporary kaiseki cuisine under the guidance of chef Seiji Yamamoto. Dragons play a powerful presence in the décor of the dining room and can be seen in its table settings, and derive from the restaurant’s name, Nihonryori means “Japanese cuisine,” while RyuGin is a term used in Zen Buddhism, meaning “dragon’s voice.” Yamamoto brings avant-garde cooking techniques to his cuisine grounded in kaiseki cuisine.
Steirereck, Vienna Austria
Under the guidance of chef Heinz Reitbauer, Steirereck has been family owned for generations and serves Austria’s rural Styrian region cuisine in a cutting-edge style. Located in Vienna’s Stadtpark in a monolithic glass cube, the super-modern design is bright and features a tasting menu along with the popular lunch Wiener Schnitzel. Equal part theater and precise culinary technique, the freshwater mountain fish, char, takes center stage cooked tableside.
D.O.M. San Paulo, Brazil
Established in 1999 by former DJ Alex Atala, D.O.M. fuses fine dining with unique ingredients from the Amazon basin. D.O.M. stands for Deo Optimo Maximo, which translates as ‘To God, The Good, The Great’, and is a Benedictine motto which was often used to indicate places where weary pilgrims could eat and rest. Vibrant food takes center stage with native ingredients like the jambú, a herb that creates a tingling sensation on the tongue, and its use of ants in dishes
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