T he privilege to celebrate the great restaurants of the world, to have the opportunity to frequent them may be one of the most delightful pleasures one can have.
From France, Italy to Spain and Hong Kong, from the streets of California to the deepest corners of Tokyo, we reveal a selection of Pierre Chen’s favourite restaurants from around the world. In these pages, Chen’s lifelong passion for travel and gastronomy unfolds to tell a captivating story.
Many of the restaurants selected by Chen have appeared on the prestigious ranking of The World’s 50 Best Restaurants, while others are featured in “50 Best Discovery”, a wider, location-based, digital guide to expert-curated restaurants and bars launched in 2019. What connects these restaurants featured is how each uphold the highest standard of showcasing the finest ingredients and how the chefs, sommeliers and the teams are all striving to bring the very best of gastronomy to the table.
What’s more, three of the distinguished establishments have basked in the glory of being named The World’s Best Restaurant over the history of the ranking: The French Laundry in California (in 2003 and 2004); Spain’s El Celler de Can Roca (2013 and 2015); and Osteria Francescana in Italy (2016 and 2018).
Given the hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of restaurants around the globe, to be named one of just 50 is a truly extraordinary achievement. It means that these places are by definition exceptional, often unusual, almost always memorable – and notoriously difficult to bag a reservation at.
The restaurants identified and celebrated in this publication each reflect broader epicurean trends, too. For example, Asador Etxebarri, located in the Basque Country of Spain, is largely responsible for the revival of cooking over fire. Locally born chef Victor Arguinzoniz is not only self-taught, but he has custom-built his own grills, over which literally <everything> on the menu is cooked: from giant prawns and enormous steaks to eels, buffalo mozzarella and even ice cream.
In Italy, Osteria Francescana chef-owner Massimo Bottura has taken classic dishes and ingredients from the Emilia-Romagna region and reinvented them through an artistic, modern lens. He has been at the forefront of what is now a global gastronomic movement that simultaneously mines and reinterprets hyperlocal culinary heritages, whether that be in Italy, Peru, Thailand or South Africa.
In France, at Le Restaurant Blanc Shinichi Sato melds together simplicity, delicacy and finesse to draw out the best of his French cuisine. This newcomer to the block which opened its door in September 2023 has great potential to be among the world’s greats, boasting one of the finest restaurant wine cellars out there, stocked by Chen himself as chief sommelier. An epicure and wine esthete, Chen believes a fine wine harmonises elegantly around the dynamics of the dish.
Just as it did back in its inception in 2002, The World’s 50 Best Restaurants continues to celebrate great restaurants – not just food or wine or service or technique or location or atmosphere, but any combination of those elements that creates something brilliantly memorable.
The restaurants, chefs, sommeliers and their teams are undoubtedly the stars of the show. Whether it is the very existence of the list and awards or the passionate pursuits of an epicurean such as Chen, the motivation is to help push gastronomy forward by promoting cross-border collaboration, encouraging culinary adventures and fostering greater cultural understanding through food and wine.
Image: Ollie Tomlinson / Stills.com