Five International Restaurant Hot Spots

noma's Rene Redzepi

The always controversial, discussion provoking 2012 San Pellegrino World’s Fifty Best Restaurants listhas just been announced. Whatever import one may or may not ascribe to the rankings, the list remains a useful tool to get a glimpse of the rising and falling fortunes of many of the world’s great restaurants, especially those coming from areas not necessarily traditionally associated with world class high end cooking.   There are a few countries or areas that one automatically thinks of as high-end, creative food destinations. France, Italy, Spain, England, Hong Kong and Japan are probably the places that historically have most aptly fit into this category. There are, however, a number of other countries and regions that have earned this kind of reputation. These countries have always had good or even great food, but within the last ten years or so have elevated their culinary cachet. Here are five areas any creative food enthusiast should consider worth visiting now.

  1. Scandinavia – Led by Rene Redzepi and his number one ranked new-Nordic restaurant noma, this area that had formerly been almost completely off the food-centric radar clearly now belongs on the front line of creative food destinations. While noma has garnered most of the attention and accolades, it is far from being the only great restaurant in its home city of Copenhagen let alone Scandinavia. When it comes to restaurants, Copenhagen has arguably become the hottest city in Europe if not the world. In addition to noma, restaurants such as A.O.C., Relae, Geranium, Kiin Kiin and more are lighting it up. Stockholm is stating its case as a major contributor to Scandinavian supremacy as well with restaurants like Frantzen/Lindeberg and Mathias Dahlgren’s dynamic duo of Matsalen and Matbaren amongst others. Then there is Faviken Magasinet, located in the distant north of Sweden. Magnus Nillson’s primal restaurant may be the hottest of them all at the moment. Finland and Norway are not to be dismissed either, though for the time being, these two up and comers still remain largely in the shadows of their more culinarily illustrious neighbors, Norway’s great Bocuse d’Or successes notwithstanding.
  2. Germany – My trip to this country last fall was a real eye and palate opener. As a country, Germany is second to none in the quality of its high end dining. Its national and regional culinary identity may not be as easily distinguishable as those of France, Spain, Italy and now the New Nordic cuisine of Scandinavia, but it is one of incredible quality with its wines every bit as glorious as the food. Germany is a three Michelin star wonderland with the notable brilliance of Michelin three star restaurants like Aqua, La Vie, Schloss Berg, Schwartzwaldstube, Amador, Vendôme and more.
  3. Benelux – There is a theme emerging here. Northern Europe is ablaze with exciting food. Belgium has had a strong reputation for its high end French restaurants for some time, but now it is gaining more and more attention for its new, creative restaurants. Places like In de Wulf and L’Air du Temps have garnered rave reviews as has De Librije in the nearby Netherlands and let’s not overlook Oud Sluis and Hof van Cleve. I haven’t been yet, but this region is at the very top of my international get-to list, with those restaurants leading the way.
  4. South America – This is admittedly a large chunk of territory for a list like this, but the whole continent has become a fascinating culinary destination. Peru continues to lead the way, both in the high end restaurant realm with places like Lima’s Huaca Pucllana, Astrid y Gaston and Malabar and in its smaller restaurants and street foods which have been influenced by its multi-ethnic culinary traditions. Peru is a must for any culinarily curious traveler. Brazil holds a restaurant that I have been wanting to get to for at least half a decade or more – Alex Atala’s D.O.M. now up to number 4 on the new San Pellegrino list. Another restaurant I now have to somehow get to Santiago, Chile to try is Borago, a place that captured my imagination at the most recent Star Chefs International Chefs Congress.
  5. Singapore – I know little of Singapore, but my curiosity has certainly been stoked by their fine showing in the new San pellegrino list with restaurants like Iggy’s, Waku Ghin, Les Amis and Restaurant Andre all in the Top 100 on the most recent list.

What makes the San Pellegrino Worlds 50 Best Restaurants List interesting to me is not the absolute rankings. Is it really possible to arrive at an objective ranking at that level? Rather, it is the snapshot in time of restaurants deemed to be influential and at the top of their game as selected by a large panel of reasonably informed diners (unfortunately, I am not one of them) and the restaurants that are brought to light that I might not otherwise become aware of, such as the ones from Singapore. Clearly, being named to this list means a lot to the bottom lines of the restaurants so awarded. Good for them. Not being named to the list is by no means a death sentence as there are, by necessity, many, many great restaurants, both established and new, that must fit this much greater list. Still, it must be rather disappointing to have been number 101.

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2 Responses to Five International Restaurant Hot Spots

  1. Sanders says:


    If you go to Lima, check out Central. It’s far and away the best I tried in Lima..though I didn’t try Huaca Pucllana.

    • docsconz says:

      I would love to get back to Lima. When I do, I will try Central. Thanks, Sanders, for the recommendation!

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