In the age of Yelp and similar open-source forums, restaurant recommendations must often be taken with a grain of salt. Particularly, when you’re in a new city, you often have no way to test the veracity of online claims. Is it really worth checking out this bistro over that one, or are the reviewers over-hyping? Is the service in that sushi restaurant actually terrible, or did someone just have a bad day? If you don’t have a personal, word-of-mouth connection, your only non-Yelp option is to turn to an anonymously compiled and far too vague directory that often leaves you with less information than you want or need. This is especially true when it comes to high-end dining, which is a central part of many epicurean's travel experience, and indeed might even be the reason for their trip. Travel guides like Fromer’s or Lonely Planet might offer slightly more information than the average directory, but they often lack an informed understanding of fine dining, and tend to gloss over it in their food-related suggestions.
The Foodie Top 100 Restaurants Worldwide guidebook provides an alternative when it comes to finding the most renowned restaurants, virtually wherever you are. The guide, which spans cities on four continents, is the brainchild of Glam Media’s Samir Arora. Glam’s Foodie vertical brought together some of the world’s top food critics, including Patricia Wells, Gael Greene, Masuhiro Yamamoto, and Ruth Reichl in order to apply their expertise toward the painstaking selection of the world’s best fine dining experiences.
The book, slim enough to fit in a back pocket, isn’t just a series of names and addresses. Each featured restaurant is discussed with intimate and intelligent fluidity. The paragraph-long descriptions include the history of the establishment and the culinary style of the chef, as well as menu suggestions that consider which dishes best express the specific attributes of the restaurant in question. Beautiful, glossy-paged photographs illustrate the written content, either displaying the chef in his or her element or signature dishes that are as artistically inspiring as they are appetizing. In the “Critics Tips” segment that also accompanies each entry, the authors offer seating suggestions, off-menu items, and other insider information. One might not have known, for instance, that the razor clams at Venice’s Osteria Alle Testiere are not to be missed, or that the best place to sit at Le Louis XV in Paris is the left-hand side of the far end of the restaurant (which affords the best view of the gorgeous dining room). The authors have included a wide variety of cuisines, both ethnically and in terms of the equal representation of traditional and modern technique.
Even if you’re not planning on traveling any time soon, the book is full of useful, interesting information about culinary history, technique, and innovations in the world of food. Written simply enough for anyone to understand, but with enough complexity that it doesn’t condescend, these sections are fascinating and useful to anyone who’s interested. Topics include the world’s top ten General Managers, Maitre D’s, and Sommeliers, basic guides to wine and truffles, and an explanation of the farm-to-table relationship. The information conveyed is as appropriate for the relative layman as it is for the expert. While reading about newly emerging types of tastemakers, for instance, we learned about the newly emerging field of the Water Sommelier, an expert arbiter of the world’s best water, and that Berlin’s First Floor already has one on staff.
This book is a great resource for the fine dining traveler, as well as a great read for anyone who enjoys reading about good food around the world. It’s as appropriate as a field guide as it is on a coffee table. We definitely suggest picking up a copy for yourself or as a gift for a foodie friend.
FOODIE TOP 100 RESTAURANTS WORLDWIDE by Glam Media. Chronicle Books /August 2013/ $19.99/ ISBN 9781452127910