With two long, culinary focused trips to Spain in 2015, it is no surprise, to me at least, that this list is dominated by Spanish restaurants. While my travels may not have been as geographically diverse as in some years, I still ate extraordinarily well, forcing me to leave many a superb meal off the top 25. Creativity, technique and “magic” remain extremely important elements to me, but, perhaps, because so many of my Spanish meals focused on primacy of product and traditional preparations, these elements show particularly strongly on this list, especially in the forms of Etxebarri, D’Berto and Kaia. I did not get to Mexico this year, but I didn’t have to given the outstanding quality of some of the Mexican influenced meals I had outside of Mexico, especially at Hoja Santa, Cosme and Niño Viejo, all of which were stellar and need no qualifiers.
- Abac – 2/11/2015 – Barcelona, Catalunya, Spain
Creative, elegant and delicious, an extraordinary experience that married great product with intense creativity, terrific technique and absolute luxury! This restaurant should have three Michelin stars without a doubt!
- Etxebarri – 11/4/2015 – Axpe, Euskadi, Spain
Nobody cooks with the finesse and brilliance of Bitor Arguinzoniz. He takes product already second to none and somehow manages to elevate it even further using incredible subtlety so as not to mask the product’s inherent brilliance.
- Hoja Santa 1/24/15 – Barcelona, Catalunya, Spain
There is no question that Albert Adria is a creative genius, but part of his genius is having the right people to contribute to and execute his vision. In this case, that person is Paco Mendez, who creates a modern Mexican menu in Barcelona that is sheer brilliance!
- D’Berto – 2/6/2015 & 10/30/2015 – O Grove, Galicia, Spain
Pristine product simply, but perfectly prepared along with great wines make a fabulous meal. I’ve never had better shellfish and the region’s albariño wines are the perfect match for the perfect product served here.
- Kaia Kaipe -11/5/2015 – Getaria, Euskadi, Spain
Elkano gets all of the notoriety, but its sister restaurant, Kaia, serves food no less extraordinary. The wine list is extensive, great and reasonable.
- Momofuku Ko – 10/23/15 – NYC
I never made to the original Momofuku Ko, which had a reputation of being a bit stand-offish. If that were true then, it is so no longer. This iteration is warm, inviting and totally terrific!
- Disfrutar 1/29/15 – Barcelona, Catalunya, Spain
This is not elBulli, but with Ferran’s three right hand men, who were not his brother, Albert, it does a great job of channeling the spirit and creativity of its inspiration into something all its own. but still reminiscent of elBulli. Enjoy!
- Bodega 1900 – 2/10/2015 – Barcelona, Catalunya, Spain
Primarily the best of traditional Spanish with an overlay of Adria creativity in a comfortable, intimate environment has placed this restaurant on my Top 10 list for the second year in a row.
- Restaurante El Crucero – 2/9/15 – Corella, Navarro, Spain
Vegetable centric, but still doing great things with meat and meat products, this fabulous restaurant is largely unknown outside of its region.
- Wildair – 10/27/2015 – NYC
Classics with totally delicious and original twists. These guys bring it!
- Restaurant Elias – 1/30/15 – El Xinorlet, Alicante, Spain
Extraordinary arroz in the region where its is done best!
- Cosme – 5/9/15 – NYC
Excellent and keeps getting better! Chefs Enrique Olvera and Daniela Soto-Innes have hit a grand slam!
- Fiola Mare – 5/23/15 – Georgetown, DC
Elegant and delicious, Fiola Mare is a deceptively large restaurant that still provides intimacy and the feeling of being coddled and special.
- La Gabarra -11/3/2015 – Bilbao, Euskadi, Spain
Some of the finest steaks that I’ve ever eaten.
- Asador Chuleta La Balconada – 2/5/15 – Chinchon, Spain
Extraordinary roast baby lamb as only the Spanish do!
- Niño Viejo – 1/24/15 – Barcelona, Catalunya, Spain
Simpler and more down to Earth than its sister, Hoja Santa, Niño Viejo serves some of the best Mexican cooking outside of Mexico utilizing top quality product from Mexico and Europe.
- Los Arcos – 11/3/2015 – Cangas de Onis – Asturias, Spain
Great Fabada Asturiana and much more.
- Asador El Torreón – 2/5/15 – Tordesillas, Spain
Outstanding Spanish chuletón with attitude!
- Restaurante Rafa – 2/2/15 – Madrid, Spain
Not on everyone’s list of get to places in Madrid, nor as famous as the similarly named spot in Roses in Catalunya, Madrid’s Rafa was a great spot for classic Spanish seafood.
- Curaté – 8/7/15 – Asheville, VA
As great a Spanish meal as I’ve had outside of Spain – honoring tradition, but taking its own creative path.
- One Restaurant – 8/6/15 – Chapel Hill, NC –
Vanguardism with taste and skill, but without pretense.
- The Crimson Sparrow – 7/10/15 – Hudson, NY
The food is gorgeous and delicious with Japanese overtones at this Hudson Valley gem.
- The NoMad – 8/31/15 – NYC
It was lunch and we shared but one dish. That one dish, whole roast chicken, doesn’t get any better than this, though.
- BarBas – 2/9/15 – Barcelona, Catalunya, Spain –
My biggest surprise of the year – the food was great in a location where I would have expected a tourist trap!
- Community Table – 5/7/15 – Connecticut
He’s no longer there and is currently waiting to open his own restaurant in Connecticut, but Chef Joel Viehland crafted a fabulous meal at Community Table last spring showing a deft touch blending ingredients.