FOOD VACATION IDEAS
10 Restaurants That Started a Food Movement
Some of the most popular foods—like Asian noodles, gastropub fare, sushi, and locally grown produce—were relatively unknown only a generation ago. Here, we recognize, and recommend, some of the restaurants and chefs that changed the food world.
New York City
Famous New York Times restaurant critics Ruth Reichl and Frank Bruni have each given Mario Batali's NYC restaurant Babbo three stars since the place opened, in 1998. Equipped with knowledge gained from spending three years training in a small Northern Italian village, Batali brings his version of rustic Italian cuisine to the states via the restaurant every day, and is currently serving up new classics like beef-cheek ravioli and oxtail gnocchi.
To soak up Batali's oeuvre for less, check out his restaurant Otto Pizzeria and Enoteca, which dishes up reasonably priced pizza and pasta dishes.
How to order at Otto: The humble signature pepperoni pizza, with its house-cured meat is a can't-miss, the restaurant says ($15). Also keep an eye out for the rigatoni con stracotto, made with braised Berkshire pork shoulder and a tomato and basil sauce ($10) and the vongole pizza, a white pie topped with New Zealand cockles, garlic, and mozzarella ($14, ottopizzeria.com).
L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon
When Joël Robuchon opened L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon in Paris in 2003, he simultaneously put a modern twist on French haute cuisine and gave French food a new look and feel: With a kitchen designed so guests can watch the chefs at work, stylized red-and-black décor, and signature dishes including langoustines (large prawns), the concept was so popular that Robuchon opened seven more L'Ateliers (French for "workshops") in seven other cities.
In addition to his traditional restaurants, Robuchon also opened two relatively affordable tea salons (Salon de Thé De Joël Robuchon) in Hong Kong and Taipei, where you can experience Robuchon's cuisine at a lower price point.
How to order at Salon de Thé De Joël Robuchon in Hong Kong: The sandwiches and pastries are the most popular menu items at the Hong Kong tea salon, so order a sampling of everything with the Afternoon Tea Set for two (about $42), which includes coffee or tea and an artful spread of light bites, including a Norwegian smoked salmon and caviar sandwich, lemon and raisin scones, and Macaroon ganache, plus many more selections, served on a minimalist wooden board (robuchon.hk).
Why eat only the expected cuts from an animal when you can have the whole thing? Chef Fergus Henderson and co-founder Trevor Gulliver opened St. John Restaurant in London in 1994 and promptly put delicacies like kidneys and fried brains front and center on the menu. Upscale restaurants all over the world followed suit. Vegetarians, don't despair: There are plenty of reasonably priced beast-free dishes, including asparagus and hot butter ($12.50), an ever-present green salad ($7), and a cheese and chutney sandwich ($8).
How to order at St. John: To save some serious cash while still being well-fed, head to the bar section of St. John and pick from that menu. Gulliver himself suggests ordering a dish each—the menu changes twice-daily, but past selections have included roast bone marrow and parsley salad ($11) and snails and oakleaf ($11)—then sharing a pudding ($11). A recent menu offered seven different pudding options ranging from chocolate cake and malt ice cream to poached rhubarb and spiced ice cream (stjohnrestaurant.com).
Take a traditional watering hole and infuse it with well-crafted dishes, and you've got a gastropub, a concept that began at The Eagle in London when it was revamped in 1991. A "roast of the day" takes prominence on the menu, and a thinly sliced steak sandwich is also a standby alongside a wide selection of ales (naturally).
One American restaurant that was influenced by goings-in at the Eagle in London is New York City'sThe Spotted Pig, a joint run by designer Ken Friedman and chef April Bloomfield, who has won critical praise for the British and Italian dishes she serves up there.
How to order at The Spotted Pig: Try these wallet-friendly dishes, recommended by the restaurant as imparting the true essence of the place: deviled eggs ($4), chicken liver toasts ($6), and gnudi with sage and brown butter ($16, thespottedpig.com).
Beverly Hills, Calif.
Before the name "Nobu" became synonymous with sushi, chef Noboyuki Matsuhisa opened his first namesake restaurant, Matsuhisa, in Beverly Hills in 1987. Critics loved the inventiveness and Peruvian twist that Chef Nobu put on sushi. The famous Nobu in New York City's Tribeca opened in 1997 thanks to a partnership between Nobu and actor Robert De Niro, and dishes like miso-marinated black cod became menu standards. Nobu now has 18 restaurants, from Tokyo to Waikiki.