Harbor House Inn Restaurant (update), Elk, CA., 7/22 & 23/21

exterior (5600 CA-1, Elk, CA, 95432 / (707)-877-3203)

The  Harbor House Restaurant is the Michelin starred restaurant in the Harbor House Inn in Elk, CA (Mendocino County).  Super talented Chef Matt Kammerer and his excellent staff continue to turn out innovative and delicious tasting menus and thus Frankie chose to re-visit.  The Inn is still lovely and they are now able to seat guests inside as well as outside, all over-looking the beautiful coast line.  We were lucky to eat there 2 consecutive nights and Chef Kammerer was kind enough to make changes for the second night’s dining.  They have a small kitchen so some dishes were repeated but there were a number of different dishes.  I’ll present the two night’s meals but may omit photos for repeats, depending on which night I got the better photo.  Frankie and I highly recommend visiting and if you can even stay at the Inn.  The staff will make you feel very welcome and do allow several hours for the meal. Continue reading

Le Bernardin, New York City, 4/12/21

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It’s been several years since Frankie visited Le Bernardin, Chef Eric Ripert’s 3 Michelin starred restaurant.  It’s an elegant interior with lots of wood, windows, flowers and a massive wave art piece at one end.  In the daytime, light flows in through the windows but at night the lights are lowered and windows are shaded.  Now plexiglas partitions are between the tables and servers are masked.  Every table was full and turned by regulars and those celebrating something, but it was still easy to talk at the table.  Heavy white linens drape the smallish tables and service is excellent.  The menu offers 2 longer tastings, one seafood and one vegetarian, or a 4 course fixed price where you choose from a large selection in each section with an optional addition of a cheese course.  Wine pairings are available for the tasting.  In the front part of the restaurant is the Lounge with a limited menu. We decided on the Chef’s tasting menu and ordered our own wines. Continue reading

Chef’s Table at Brooklyn Fare, New York City, 5/11/21

exterior of building

We were last at The Chef’s Table at Brooklyn Fare in May of 2019 and not much has changed in the physical place but Covid 19 has made spacing between guests larger (50% capacity).  Brooklyn Fare is the grocery that is the front of the building and the Chef’s Table is in the rear.  Chef César Ramirez was in the kitchen and doing much of the plating of courses.  It is a tasting menu only with seats around a large C-shaped wood counter and booth seating around the perimeter.  The open kitchen is the center of the well lit room with older rock music in the background.  Wine pairings are available or bottles can be individually purchased.  There are a lot of staff and all are very friendly with guests but Ramirez is more about cooking than visiting with diners.  The beautifully presented luxury foods are filled with flavor and texture, but many of the courses were quite similar to what we had 2 years ago. Continue reading

The Inn at Little Washington; Washington,VA.; 4/2/21

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The Inn at Little Washington is a 42 year old restaurant about 70 miles east of Washington DC.  It is the only restaurant in the area to have been awarded 3 Michelin stars and the chef, Patrick O’Connell received the James Beard Lifetime Achievement Award for his contributions to American food.  The town with a population around 200 and the oldest of the 28 cities in the U.S. with that name, got the nickname Little Washington due to its proximity to DC.  The Inn/Restaurant had to overcome some resistance in the town but now most of the town seems to revolve around it.  The main inn has 18 bedrooms and suites and now there are a number of buildings in town that it also has rooms in, with one under construction across the street that will be a casual restaurant. Continue reading

Addison Restaurant, San Diego, 3/24/21

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Addison, San Diego’s only Michelin starred (one) restaurant, has been on the property of the Fairmont Grand Del Mar for 15 years.  Chef William Bradley is in charge of the kitchen where they offer 5 and 10 course tastings featuring California gastronomy.  Wine pairings are available but there is a huge wine list also.  Due to Covid the recently renovated indoor area is closed but there is seating on the large heated outdoor terrace.  It you stay at the Fairmont it is a bit of a hike to get up the hill so the hotel graciously provides car service up for you and the staff call for a pick up when you are finished.  It’s little touches like this that make it a lovely experience.  The staff anticipate your needs – like bringing a glass of ice for my water or a stool for my purse -and yet it never feels stuffy, and there is the beautiful back drop of the hotel’s golf course with bubbling streams.  We chose the 10 course menu and got bottles of red and white to pair with courses as we chose.  In addition, it is a surprise menu but they were kind enough to email a copy of what we had that actually did have the courses detailed.  There was only one supplement offered that night and that was to substitute A5 Wagyu for Barbecued Squab.  I chose the supplement and my husband had the pigeon. Continue reading

Harbor House Restaurant, Elk, CA., 8/13/20

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exterior

Harbor House Restaurant had a 25 seat dining room but now offers seating on its back deck overlooking the Pacific coastline.  The Inn is in a 1916 logger’s retreat that has 9 rooms which were restored in 2018 by a 5 year remodeling.  Chef Matthew Kammerer uses exceptional local products based on the season to produce a seafood based tasting menu that is cooked with fire and steam.  The restaurant has one Michelin star and Chef Kammerer was named as a Best New Chef in 2019 Food & Wine Magazine.  They serve only a tasting menu of 9 savory and 2 sweet courses, with wine pairings available.  It is a pre-paid menu and not available on Tuesday and Wednesday.  There is plenty of parking out front and a selection of accommodations if you wish to stay there also.  The view is as magnificent as the food and they have a couple large awnings to provide some shade when the sun is up.  Later in the evening they roll those back and turn on the lights that are strung above and the portable heaters.   Staff were all friendly, helpful, masked and gloved and I noticed even during prep time in the kitchen the staff all wore masks.  Chef Kammerer does come out to serve some of the courses and visit with guests.  It appeared to have only one seating and the pacing was good but plan to spend about 4 hours, although it never lagged it was a nice relaxed pace.  Portion control was good.

Continue reading

Aubergine (update), Carmel, 7/30/20

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L’Auberge Hotel

We visited Aubergine one year ago but currently California does not permit indoor dining.  Luckily Carmel has great weather for this change and the L’Auberge Hotel has a beautiful courtyard to move the restaurant guests to.   The polished wood tables are well spaced from each other and set with placemats and large linen napkins.  The patio has a brick floor, lots of plants and is punctuated with various lighting sources and heat lamps.  It is a lovely place to sit in the lighted hours as well as after the sun sets.  Various benches and chairs on the perimeter are used by people who ordered a separate drink from the bar.  All staff wore masks and were extraordinarily welcoming (as are all the staff at the hotel), especially Chef Justin Cogley who served some of the courses and visited with guests.  They now offer just one tasting menu to all and wine pairings are available.  You can view the wine list on your smart phone with the link provided.  Portion control was good and pacing was leisurely but never lagged.  It started quicker and then slowed slightly.  It still has one Michelin star but I see this place moving to 2 stars soon.  Put it on your list of places to go. Continue reading

Coque (update), Madrid, 3/7/20

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exterior

We visited Coque a little over 3 years ago and 2 years and 7 months ago they moved to a new location.  It still has a similar format to the older place in that you move to different locations in the building to eat and drink various offerings.  This 2 star Michelin restaurant serves everyone the same tasting menu.  It is a modern, stylish set up but it does not allow you to make personal connections with staff or other diners.  There are lots of bites on the menu but it is not a stuffing meal, despite that.  I also found the timing to be off with some rooms lingering too long while others were sped through.  They offer drink pairings for purchase and then some courses come with a beverage.  We selected our own wine which you do while in the large wine room.  They have a large list but not much help in selection.  It would have been nice to have the list while in the bar area where we spent a good amount of time with just one bite and  a cocktail.  In this new location they have changed the dining room chairs I objected to in the original place, which is a huge plus in my opinion.  One of the most memorable parts of the place is it’s amazing collection of plates and serving dishes. Continue reading

Antiqvvm, Porto, 3/5/20

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museum on the top, restaurant below

Antiqvvm was located on the basement level of a large building that housed a museum on the floors above.  There was a terrace off the back that had amazing views of the water and city but weather was not with us that day however the table we had was next to floor to ceiling windows which felt about the same.  The white cloth covered tables were well spaced and music was in the background.  The room we sat in looked like it was an enclosed porch but now had carpets on the concrete floor however the stone details of the walls and windows were still intact.  A timber ceiling had been painted over and some the the seating was in a bench format.  They had been open for 5 years last October and received their one Michelin star in the first year they were open.  They offered 3 tastings, one of which was vegetarian and one was entirely seafood.  They also had an a la carte menu and a special lunch menu of 3 or 4 courses (for 3 you chose between fish or meat and with 4 you get both).  They had a number of wines by the glass and we ordered some of them to go with the lunch menu.  Service was efficient, super friendly and our server spoke great English. Continue reading

Restaurante Pedro Lemos, Porto, 3/4/20

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exterior

Pedro Lemos, located on a really narrow little street, opened in 2009.  The downstairs level had wine storage, the bathroom and a large dining table for big groups.  In 2015 they did a major renovation and made the upstairs a room with more widely spaced  tables and took out a bar area and fireplace to make this additional space between tables.  The nice sized tables were set with white clothes, napkins, purse stools and armless padded chairs.  There were windows to the outside on 2 walls and a beautiful old wood floor.  A decoration of swallows crossed the ceiling and on to the upper part of the dark walls.  Music was in the background and the lighting was lowered.  They offered two tasting menus of 8 or 10 courses and optional wine pairings.  We chose the 10 course tasting.  Portions were on the large side and pacing was good.  The staff were quite friendly and spoke great English.  It has one Michelin star. Continue reading

La Scene par Stephanie Le Quellec, Paris, 12/7/19

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exterior

La Scene par Stephanie Le Quellec opened on October 9.  You enter on the street level and there is a stunning bar counter and a few tables.  To go to dinner you head down the stairs to the totally stylish dining room.  Banquette seating is along both of the long walls in the rectangular room.  One end of the room is the open kitchen  and opposite that are a couple free standing tables.  The tables are marble topped  and appointed with lovely linen napkins.  The walls of the room have curved wood pieces and lighted opaque glass between them. It is truly striking but very difficult to describe, so look at the pictures below.  The tables are on the small side and fairly closely set but each had lovely flowers in an unusual vase on them.  Music is in the background and the room is softly lit.  There are a couple seats at the kitchen counter and carpet is on the floor, so noise was not an issue.  Chef Le Quellec was in the kitchen and did come out to the room to visit with all the guests.  They offer several tasting menus (3, 4 or 7 courses and a truffle menu) and a la carte selections.  Since we were there they have been awarded 2 Michelin stars. Continue reading

Arpège (update), Paris, 12/6/19

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building

It’s been 3 years since we visited Alain Passard’s Arpège and while the interior hasn’t changed the prices have continued to creep up and the surprise tasting lunch now contains no major meat course, that is to be ordered separately off the a la carte menu.  It’s still cheaper than dinner but it’s definitely more expensive.  They also have more expensive tastings and the a la carte menu if you so chose.  We took the surprise tasting and added the roast guinea fowl (lunch took about 4 hours).   I was surprised to find so many dishes that were similar to our past visits.  Another change was when we arrived they tried to seat us downstairs.  Mind you it’s a nice room downstairs and it is on the same level as the bathroom but it feels a little like you’ve been banished to the non-French room.  We asked to sit upstairs and they had to deliberate a bit which considering that no one was seated there seemed off-putting.  Chef Passard was in the house and worked the room and was most gracious when he visited with us, but I felt for those others who meekly took the table they were guided to.   Another change was that vegetables no longer adorn the tables as decorations and instead new plates add color to the table. Continue reading

Le Pré Catelan, Paris, 12/5/19

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building

Le Pré Catelan is in a rental conference building that dates back to 1935.  It was a casino in the days before it became a restaurant that now holds a 3 Michelin star rating.  The elegant room is set with large tables covered first with a floor length beige satin cloth and then covered with a white linen one.  Music is in the background, heavy drapes are beside the windows that look out on the lighted landscaped grounds.  The green carpet makes a nice contrast with the white marble parts of the wall.  Lots of sculpted plaster adorns the walls with lowered lighting in the room and an huge chandelier hangs in the center of the room over the small service table.  Candlelight is from the long stemmed candles on each table.  A couple of the tables near the windows are set with rounded couches opposite the chairs but otherwise the tables are appointed with comfortable arm chairs.  The room exudes class and only holds 10 tables, but the service is nicely friendly and welcoming, not stiff or too formal.  Perhaps they detected my preference?  The menu is a la carte with one tasting menu option. Both pacing and portion control were good. Continue reading

Pierre Gagnaire (update), Paris 12/4/19

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exterior

It’s been 5 years since we ate at Pierre Gagnaire, a long standing Paris restaurant with 3 Michelin stars.  While Chef Gagnaire moved his talents to Paris in 1996, he now has many restaurants but this one in the Hôtel Balzac is his flagship, where it has been there 15 years.  It has a separate entrance from the hotel and a small bar area where you enter.  It is a medium sized place spread over several rooms.  The main dining room was redone by Carolyn Quatermaine who used pages of books to cover the walls with recipes some of which were handwritten by Pierre Gagnaire’s father who was a cook.  The well spaced large tables are draped with double long white clothes and set with fine linen napkins.  The lighting is lowered and there is no music in the background.  Along with the carpet, many wood surfaces and padded chairs the noise level is low and because of the spacing conversations remained private.  The menu offers a la carte options, a tasting menu and the night we were there a truffle tasting menu.   Wine pairings are available for the tasting menu.  We opted to start with a cocktail, order our own wine and have the tasting menu.  Service and pacing were excellent and portion control generous.  They did bring the truffles by to tempt you to add them to something or order that menu.   Continue reading

Restaurant Bel Etage, Basel, 10/26/19

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exterior of hotel

Bel Etage is the one Michelin Star restaurant on the second floor of the Der Teufelhof Hotel.   It is made up of several rooms of well spaced tables covered with ecru cloths and coordinating striped napkins.  Windows to the street were in the room which had a lovely old wood floor and crystal chandeliers.  No music is in the background and the rooms are mostly quiet except for the creaking of the old floors.  Lots of art adorns the walls.  Service was not polished but mostly friendly and English was limited.  They never re-offered the bread tray and didn’t pick up some dropped flatware that was on the floor. They offered 3 different tasting menus as well as an a la carte menu.  Wine pairings are available as well a a liquor of the month.  We thought the smallest tasting sounded best and so chose it and our own bottle of wine. Continue reading

Restaurant Stucki – Tanja Grandits, Basel, 10/25/19

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building

Tanja Grandits or as it was called Stucki is spread over several rooms in a large mansion in a residential neighborhood of Basel.  The restaurant was named for Hans Stuki who opened it in the 1960s and ran it until passing away in 1998.  Chef Tanja Grandits took over in 2008 and has since obtained a 2 Michelin Star rating.  It is a modern looking place inside with gray walls and carpet.  The good sized tables are well spaced and set with white clothes and napkins.  There were votive candles and small flowers on the table but both had broken blooms included.  The lighting was slightly softened and the windows to the outside were covered with drapes.  There was no music in the background and the room had a small center service table.  They serve only a tasting menu of 8 or 12 courses and offer wine pairings as well as non-alcoholic pairings.   We got the longer tasting and ordered our own wines.  Pacing was awful, starting really slow, speeding up and then moving to painfully slow but portion control was good. Continue reading

Roots, Basel, 10/25/19

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exterior

Roots is a large place located down by the waterfront.  The fairly well spaced pedestal tables were covered by white cloths and appointed with bench seating opposite chairs.  The room is filled with art and signs with funny statements about food and beverage.  Music was in the background and the room was well lit but there were 3 sides full of windows.  You can watch the boats and joggers go by.  There is a patio but no one was out there the day we went.  They have been in this location for 2 years and already have one Michelin Star.  At lunch the offered a business lunch of 2 or 3 courses offering options from the dinner menu and a ‘rootilicious lunch’ of 3 to 4 courses.  They had specials on wines by the glass to go with the menus.   We chose the business lunch and some of their wine by the glass.  The pours were small.   Service was effecient and friendly and the chef did come out but he did not visit with every table. Continue reading

Restaurant Le Cheval Blanc, Basel, 10/24/19

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hotel exterior

Le Cheval Blanc is the other restaurant in the Grand Hotel Les Trois Rois but this one has 3 Michelin Stars.  It is a large elegant room with a candelabra or single candle on each double clothed well spaced table set with huge linen napkins.  The ten tables vary in size and the smaller ones have a little service table adjacent to them to hold wine or whatever.  Purse stools are available, the lighting is lowered, there is no music (but the piano playing in the lobby did bleed into the room), there is a patio, windows look out onto the water and crystal chandeliers hang from the ceiling with the largest being over the center marble service table.  They offer a tasting menu as well as an a la carte menu.  The larger version of the tasting menu comes with 4 starters whereas a slightly smaller tasting comes with just 2.  The prices include service and VAT.  Service was friendly and efficient and the staff spoke great English.  Chef Peter Knogl came out toward the end of service to greet and talk with his guests.  He has been with this restaurant 12 years.  You also could see him in the kitchen through the window in the hall that you pass on the way to the bathroom.  His awards line one of the windows.  Before service begins they brought around a warm moist cloth to wipe your hands, always a nice touch. Continue reading

Restaurant Les Quatre Saisons, Basel, 10/23/19

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outside entrance

Les Quatre Saisons is a one Michelin star restaurant in the Pullman Hotel.  The hotel is lovely as is the restaurant dining room.  The large room is filled with well spaced, good sized tables that are covered with nice cloths and large well starched matching napkins and set with comfortable stuffed chairs.  Brown wood cabinets are along some of the perimeter and from the ceiling hang many large chandeliers covered with concentric circles of strung beads that provide a nice amount of light.  There are less than 15 tables, faint music is in the background (in fact it was really quiet), some of the floor has carpet but tile is around the edge and the walls are decorated with mirrors.   The menu offers a la carte options and vegetarian and degustation tastings.  The staff spoke great English.  We chose the degustation menu and the pacing was very slow but portion was control good, that tended toward large.   Continue reading

Atomix, New York City 10/15/19

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entrance

Atomix is a tasting menu only for 14 people at a lower level u-shaped counter.  It has only been open one year and was recently elevated to a 2 Michelin star rating.  The lighting is lowered in the room and small spots shine on the granite counter and light wood ceiling and walls.  The bar is upstairs where you enter and then down the stairs is a small lounge area.  Modern music plays in the background.  Each course is presented with a corresponding card that talks about the dish and has an illustration associated with it.  The dishes have a Korean influence and wine pairings are available.  The menu changes 4 times a year.  Without knowing what was to be served we opted to try the pairings for the meal.  The service was pleasant (there seemed to be more staff than guests), portioning light and pacing moved along nicely but I never got a commrodery at the counter.  Explanations are more from the cards than the staff and while I found the dishes artistic, precise and thoughtful they were mostly on the bland side of things but with very clean tastes. Continue reading

Restaurant Haerlin, Hamburg, 9/21/19

 

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entrance from hotel

Haerlin is one large dining room right off the lobby of the Fairmont Hotel in Hamburg. Ecru floor length cloths drape the good sized tables that are set with matching napkins and stuffed armchairs.  Music is in the background of this elegant room.  Windows overlook the street outside on one end of the room.  While the setting was nice the service was stiff and cold.  (They were most upset when we poured our own wine but they continually passed the table and left our glasses empty.  They actually took away one of the empty glasses with the bottle still half full.)  Even with a 2 star Michelin rating it was not a particularly comfortable atmosphere unless you wanted to pose.  They offered 2 tasting menus and wine pairings are available for each, but do not pair wine with each course.  We chose the “Big Palate Party” and ordered out own wines.  Pacing was on the slower side but portion control was good.  Overall the food was on the bland side even with a lot of ingredients on the plate and the dishes chosen often proved to be distracting/clashing to the food presented.  On the table was a card holder where they would place a written description of what you are having.  It was a nice touch. Continue reading

Louis C. Jacob Restaurant, Hamburg, 9/20/19

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building

Louis C. Jacob Restaurant is in the hotel of the same name.  It is an elegant large room overlooking the water in the small boutique hotel and has a rating of 2 Michelin stars.  The building dates to the 1700’s with the last major renovation in 1990’s.  The restaurant had one star by 1995 and its second in 1997.  The building has always been a restaurant or bar.  The beautiful hard wood floor is set off by two massive crystal chandeliers overhead.  Sage green velvet arm chairs are at the white cloth covered tables and gray plush velvet chairs are at the bare polished wood tables.  All the large tables are nicely spaced and set with well starched large cloth napkins. Service was excellent and most of the staff were very conversant in English.  Music is in the background.  They offer two tasting menus, 4 or 6 courses, with pairings offered and a la carte. Most of the a la carte dishes were available to substitute on the tasting but there could be a surcharge.  We chose the longer tasting and ordered our own wines. Continue reading

The Table Kevin Fehling, Hamburg, 9/19/19

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The Table Kevin Fehling can accomodate a couple dozen people whose arrival times are slightly staggered.  Inside the non-descript brick building is a modern interior with a serpentine bar for seating and high ceilings.  There is a small balcony that overlooks the dining room where guests can have cocktails prior to being seated.  Shades of gray dominate the room with colored pieces curling off the ceiling that are not only striking but also provide sound dampening. Spot lighting keeps each seat well lit while the room lights are dimmed.  The walls are concrete and the open kitchen is the focal point.  Art and flowers provide some softness for the interior.  They serve only a tasting menu and all guests have the same thing, except where allergies don’t permit.  The menu changes one course every 3 months.  Wine pairings (pours looked generous) are available.  The pacing of the meal was great as was the portion control.   They present you with a copy of the menu at the end to take with you.  The staff all spoke great English and were quite friendly.  The restaurant has been awarded a 3 Michelin star rating. Continue reading

Seven Seas Gourmet Restaurant, Hamburg, 9/18/19

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exterior

Seven Seas Restaurant is in the Süllberg Hotel on top of a hill by the water.  It is a small elegant room with ten large, well spaced tables set with lovely linens and large napkins.  Faint music is in the background and the lighting is lowered.  The colors are gold and beige with heavy pulled back drapes.  The restaurant is named Seven Seas because they are at the harbor where all the ships arrive on their way to Hamburg.  The windows around the dining room allow you to watch all the ships and small craft that do pass by.  It was a lovely view even after the sun went down.  The round room has a center column that is decorated to look like a compass.  The room was re-done in 2002 when Chef Karlheinz Hauser took over.  They offer 3 tasting menu options with wine pairings available.  One tasting is vegetarian.   Servers were friendly, but kept their distance, with good English but the pacing of the meal was slow. Continue reading

Restaurante Tuju, São Paulo, 9/13/19

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exterior

Restaurant Tuju is a good sized modern looking place.  The large bare wood tables are well spaced on a tile floor with a wood ceiling overhead.  They are set with padded arms chairs and lovely cloth napkins.  Soft lighting is in the room and music is in the background.  An open kitchen is on one end of the room and opposite is a bar.  Spanning the two are a glass wall behind which is the plant covered wall opposite to a wall with mirrors.  It has a 2 Michelin star rating, has been open 5 years and offers 2 different tastings for 5 or 12 courses.  The menu changes every several months.  Wine pairings are available.  We chose the longer tasting and ordered our own wines.  The staff were efficient, friendly and spoke good English. Continue reading

DOM, São Paulo,9/12/19

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exterior

DOM is a small place with about 7 tables, one some being upstairs.  There is little marking of the place outside but the valet stand indicates something fancy is inside.  The front door is huge – maybe 10 feet tall.  It has been awarded 2 Michelin stars, has low lighting, music in the background and a center serving table under a decorative chandelier.  Some of the closely spaced large tables were a polished wood with linen placemats and others were cloth covered and some had bench seating while others had stuffed chairs.  The kitchen is in one corner of the room but mostly closed off from the dining room except for a small window.  They offered several different tasting menus, no a la carte, with one being vegetarian.  The menu stresses Brazil’s indigenous foods and flavors.  Wine pairing are available with the tastings.  The food has quality ingredients but mostly was underflavored for me.  This was their 20th anniversary of being in business. Service was attentive and the staff spoke good English.  Pacing and portion control were good. Continue reading

Maní Manioca, São Paulo, 9/11/19

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exterior

Maní Manioca has a one star Michelin rating.  It is a long fairly large place with a good sized enclosed patio in the back.  Upon entering there is a long hallway for waiting that has benches on either side.  The small tables are nicely spaced and set with white clothes and napkins, however they were too small to hold the dishes if you had the breads.  The stucco walls are decorated with mirrors and art.  Music plays in the background and lighting is lowered with lots of short candles in the rooms. They offered 3 tasting menus.  The 3 course allowed you to pick courses from the a la carte menu.  Wine pairings were available with the largest tasting.  Service was friendly and helpful with passable English.  Portions were generous but pacing was a tad variable.  We ordered the largest tasting menu which was by Chef Helena Rizzo, who was named Best Female Chef of the Year by Restaurant Magazine in 2014. Continue reading

Aubergine, Carmel, 8/9/19

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interior

Aubergine is a tiny place that received a one Michelin star rating in the newest California guide, a first for the central coast.  It is one smallish room in the L’Auberge Hotel, but they also have a table in the wine cellar and some lounge seating.  Two of the walls of the room have bench seating while the third wall is windows to the street that were mercifully covered with curtains – as they get the afternoon sun.  The white ceiling is decorated with dark beams and the flooring is  a gray wood.  The white tablecloth covered tables are small and surprisingly close, but it was a small room and they only had 9 tables.  The 5 waiters provided plenty of attentive service.  Pacing was good to relaxed and portion control good.  There was some music in the background, lowered lighting and constant flow of people in and out of the hotel.  They serve two tasting menus, seasonal and signature, and do offer wine pairings (2 levels).  We chose the signature menu and ordered our own bottles of wine.  The service included lots of the main dishes coming out on platter to be shown before preparing your portion.  It was usually before you were served the item but I’ve grouped the photos with their appropriate course.  The ambiance is different but the place is worth a visit if you have the opportunity. Continue reading

Ox and Finch, Glasgow, 8/3/19

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exterior

Ox and Finch is a medium to large place with 2 sides of the room being windows to the street.  It has a Bib Gourmand rating in the Michelin guide. and has been at this location 4-5 years.   They are located right next to a bus stop so it is ultra convenient if using public transportation.  Music plays in the background and the kitchen is open at the front of the place with a bar and a few seats.  The rest of the seating is a combination of high top tables, booths and regular tables with bench seating.  A wall of wine, with a few decorative items, frames one side of the place and also is the back wall on the stairs down to the bathrooms.  Other walls are made of stone and brick with an old wide plank wood floor and decorated plaster ceiling.  It’s a very casual feel with a friendly staff and really fast pacing on the service.  The dishes looked small but they were rich and fill you up.  Their dishes are recommended to be shared and the server suggested we order 5 plates for the 2 of us.  We did just that and with leaving a little there was still room for dessert.  We had some of their draft beers with the meal.   They did offer wine by the liter as well as bottle and some beer specials. Continue reading

Providence (update), Los Angeles, 6/1/19

exterior
exterior

It’s been 3 years since we visited Providence.  Since that time Michelin has issued a new California guide that reinstated the previous rank of Providence as a 2 Michelin star restaurant.  Also the restaurant has redone the dining space.  The new gray walls are in place of the patterned ones but are still decorated with the white flowers and the ‘netting material’ continues to cover the ceiling.  They retained an elegance in the room with a double white table cloth covering the large tables that are moderately spaced.  The bench seating is now covered with leather and dark velvet mated on the other side with comfortable chairs. Music plays in the background and service is friendly and very attentive.  They offer 3 tasting menus with optional pairings, additional options (oysters, caviar, uni, and spot prawns) and a full bar.  We chose the Chef’s tasting menu and ordered our own wines.  It was an excellent meal – full of wonderful flavors and textures.    This place gets 2 strong thumbs up from me.  Pacing started rapidly and then slowed down a bit.  Portion control was great. Continue reading

Somni, Los Angeles, 5/31/19

seating counter
seating counter

Somni means “dream” in Catalan and this place is the dream of Chef Aitor Zabala and Chef José Andrés’ ThinkFoodGroup.  It is inside the SLS Hotel Beverly Hills and offers a surprise tasting menu of about 20 courses.  The menu changes with the seasons and mostly as an individual item at a time and they did have a printed version of the tasting for you when you finished.  They received a 2 star Michelin rating in the new California Michelin Guide.  You entered into the hotel lobby, which felt more like a mini department store, where you waited to be ushered into the dining room.  The dining room is a lovely light wood curved counter with plush chairs for 10 people.  The large group of chefs work at the several counters in front of you and also in a back area that is less visible.  The white surfaces look pristine with the light woods and marble and small spotlights hang over every seat so you can enjoy the artistry of the dishes.  Some art is on the back walls but the real art is in the kitchen in front of you.  It felt elegant and serene.  Service was amazing along with questions easily answered by any of the chefs that served you.  It was a totally delightful and delicious experience.  I suspect that this is the work of manager Eric Jeffay (who we met at D.C.’s Minibar) and is well versed in providing the finest service.  I encourage you to go if you get the chance the food is gorgeous, as is the room, and explodes with flavor.   Continue reading

Momofuku Ko (update), New York City, 5/4/19

open kitchen
open kitchen

We visited Ko one year ago and the entrance changed positions but not much else has changed significantly.   The seats at the counter seemed better spaced but the loud music still makes conversation difficult.  They offer 2 seatings in a night and they are staggered slightly so waiting wasn’t a problem.  They offer only the same tasting menu to all and it was surprisingly similar to what we were served a year ago.  They probably offer wine pairings but we chose to order our own wines.  They do have a couple tables for larger groups but everyone else is seated at the wood bar in acceptable but not super comfy seats.  They have purse hooks under the counter but it was so far under you’d never be able to retrieve your purse if you need anything.  Pacing was uneven and portion control was on the light side.  You do receive a menu at the end but many of the things I well recognized from our last visit.  I mentioned this to the chef who was a bit defensive that they’d made changes but they were minor to the diner.  Unfortunately this similarity made the meal less exciting to me. Continue reading

Chef’s Table at Brooklyn Fare (update), New York City, 5/3/19

building
building

We were at Chef’s Table at Brooklyn Fare in the fall of 2015, back when it was in Brooklyn.  It has since moved into the city and relaxed a few of the rules.  Chef César Ramirez now allows note taking and photos but still does not permit jeans and requires coats for men in the dining room.  I was not a fan of such policies back then and still am not but was willing to try the new location that was more under my terms.  The new place in still in the back of a grocery store but the room is beautiful, softer than the old one with a lot less stainless steel and more woods.  It is also much larger with 20 seats at the counter and 20 at tables around the perimeter.  This allows larger parties to attend and the comfortable counter seats have backs and are now spaced between parties.  Shining copper pots hang above the large open kitchen that has lots of people making preparations.  The rock music in the background was a bit jarring for the otherwise elegant setting.  It still is a surprise tasting menu only but they do give you a copy of what you had at the end of the meal.  Pairings are available.  Pacing was good but portions tend to the large size and are fairly rich. Continue reading

Marea (update), New York City, 5/3/19

entry
entry

It’s been 4 years since we ate at Marea, a 2 star Michelin restaurant that specializes in seafood with an Italian influence.  The food here is all very flavorful with out dots or smears – just plain good and fresh.  It is a huge place, elegantly appointed but with closely set tables and some noise issues when it is full.  At lunch it was packed.  There is a lot of art on the walls and windows to the street on two sides of the large dining area.  They also have a long bar area with a beautiful yellow glass wall running behind the bar.  The wood on the walls is polished to a high sheen and you’re likely to spot some bold name people dining with you or in passage from one of the private dining rooms.  (I spotted Michael Douglas as he exited).  At lunch they offer a selection of primi and secondi courses with a fixed price of $63 for the two of your choice, however some selections will have a supplemental charge and a 5 course tasting menu for $99 with optional wine pairings offered.  The tasting includes dessert and although the menu is already set they were willing to make some changes for us and we did not have to get the same things, so that is the deal to get.  We ordered our own bottle of wine and had a cocktail and still beat the cost of buying the pairings, but just barely.  Service was excellent, friendly and efficient.  Put this place on your list if you can. Continue reading

Bozar Restaurant, Brussels, 4/27/19

one entrance
one entrance

Bozar is the one star Michelin restaurant in the Palais des Beaux Arts Museum.  Chef Karen Torosyan, the ‘Pie King’,  is noted for his pâté en croûte and in 2015 he was named the World Champion of Pâté en Croûte.  However be warned, if you want to try any of his crusts they must be order about a week ahead of time.  We ordered a Pithiviers a week before and tried to order a Millefeuille that evening and were told it was not possible.  They also offer 3 and 5 course tasting menus with wine pairings available.  It is a large place on multiple levels with bare marble tables closely set and appointed with bare wood armless chairs.  One end of the longer room is the open kitchen where there is a always a flurry of activity.  Karen Torosyan was there and very busy in the kitchen, with his name etched on the end of the huge stainless steel cooktop.   Lights are dimmed and the noise level is high.  Service was friendly, spoke good English and reasonably attentive.   Continue reading

Restaurant De Jonkman, Brugge, 4/27/19

entering
entering

De Jonkman was started in 2006 by Chef Filip Claeys and his wife Sandra Claeys.  It is a short train ride from Brussels to a shrubbery surrounded modern house in Brugge.   There are colorful and whimsical animals outside the windows and in some of the several dining rooms. Detailing of the interior and exterior design is lovely and lots of large windows to the lush grounds serve as walls for the dining rooms.  Art by Belgian artists and mirrors adorn other walls and the large white cloth covered tables are well spaced and fitted with comfortable chairs.  They have 2 Michelin stars and chef Claeys was on hand the day we were there to produce some wonderful dishes for us to enjoy.  He really stresses sustainable food sourcing and works to highlight local products that are not usually on menus, especially fish that would often be thrown back and he finds a way to turn them into something delicious.  It is worth a trip to Brugge; the food is outstanding.  The staff were all friendly and spoke great English.  The menu offered a la carte options as well as 5, 6 and 7 course tastings.  Working with the chef we were able to select a la carte options that would highlight what he thought looked best that day. Continue reading

La Paix (update), Brussels, 4/26/19

building
building

We last visited La Paix 2 years ago.  Since then they have been elevated to a 2 star Michelin rating.  The beautiful origami bird sculpture still graces the 1892 dining room built in a retired bank that processed the money from the meat slaughterhouses across the street.  Chef David Martin was in the kitchen and while he has changed the hours and days the food is still of great quality and flavor.  I recommend you visit here if you can.  The tasting menu changes every couple months but individual dishes  change with availability and seasons.  His staff, along with his partner Nathalie Obbiet, could not have made us feel more welcome.  They offer a 6 course tasting only on Thursday and Friday evenings and lunch Tuesday through Friday.  The large open kitchen is at the back of the room and one side is filled with an old bar that serves as a service area, not for seating, and stocks a full bar.  The large fish tanks have moved into the center of the room for all to easily admire the size of the crabs and lobsters.  The bare wood tables are nicely spaced and most include a side service table so crowding is not an issue.  The old wood floor is gorgeous and the lighting is lowered but far from dim.  Pacing was great as was the portion control of the tasting. Continue reading

L’air du temps, Liernu, 4/26/19

building
restaurant building

L’air du temps is in an old farm house about an hour train ride from Brussels and then a 30 minute cab ride from Namur station.   The good sized dining room is in one of the many buildings on the compound and had floor to ceiling windows on three sides that overlook some of the gardens.  I understand that some of the other buildings offer lodging if you want to stay out there.  The restaurant has a 2 star Michelin rating and the room has a contemporary feel with swirling wood decorations covering the ceiling and low pile gray carpeting, both of which dampen sound.  They had upholstered chairs that I did not find particularly comfortable – they felt too hard.  The good sized, white cloth covered tables are widely set and minimally decorated.  The back wall is mostly cabinets except for the glassed in passage to the kitchen.  Piped in bird sounds are in the background.  They offered 2 tasting menus and an a la carte menu.  There was a special smaller option for lunch only.  Pacing was pretty good and portion control was excellent.  Alcoholic and non-alcoholic pairings are offered.  We chose the smaller tasting and ordered our own wine.   Chef Sang-Hoon Degiembre was in house and came out to chat with guests as well as present some of the dishes.  He is from South Korea but is now a Belgian citizen.  The Korean letter that seems to be a symbol of the place is the first letter of his name and also the world for world in the Japanese alphabet. Continue reading

The Jane, Antwerp, 4/25/19

building
building

The Jane opened in 2014 in the former chapel of an old military hospital complex.  The building is well restored and already has 2 Michelin stars, however they did have a fire a few months ago and much of the kitchen had to be replaced.  It is a large dining room with one end being the open kitchen.  The balcony above is a bar and it gives a visitor a spectacular view of the room below as well as many seats at the bar to lounge and get ready for the meal.  It also serves an a la carte menu of bites to be shared.  The coved ceiling of the building has been restored to look old with a distressed paint treatment.   Stained glass windows have whimsical designs in them.  New age music plays in the background of the large white cloth covered tables which are closely spaced. Bench seating with lots of pillows is along some of the walls and the middle tables are outfitted with 4 chairs, but some are worked into built in partitions.  A huge overhead light fixture as well as a sculpture over the kitchen are centerpieces of the stylish design. Continue reading

Bon Bon (update), Brussels, 4/25/19

building
building

We last visited Bon Bon, a 2 star Michelin restaurant, 2 years ago.  The interior decorations of the old mansion haven’t changed much but now the whimsical sheep are also by the front door to greet you.  The white painted tree branch still extends into the room and the lovely old wood floors have nice rugs that provide sound absorption.  Tables are well spaced and with the ceiling sound panels, noise level is really not a problem, even with soft music playing in the background.  The large open kitchen is still humming and there are some counter seats for those who want an even closer view.  Windows around the perimeter look over the lush gardens outside.   They now offer a 6 course surprise tasting as well as a 5 course vegetarian one, in addition to an a la carte menu.  After a heavy lunch we chose the vegetarian option and ordered our own wine.  Pacing of the meal was good as was portion control.  Chef Christophe Hardiquest was in the kitchen and cam out to speak with each of the tables. Continue reading

Chambre Séparée, Ghent, 4/24/19

exterior
exterior

Chambre Séparée is a u-shaped counter for 16 around a large open kitchen dominated by wood fired grills, which do all the cooking.   There is a comfortable space out front where you wait for your seat at the counter.  They invite you to come early to enjoy the space and a cocktail.  Our reservation ran a little late so they started with the snacks out there.  I don’t know if this was usual or not. Two seatings fill the spaces for this surprise tasting menu.  Wine pairings are available but we chose our own bottles of wine to accompany dinner.  Vintage rock records are played on a turntable, smoke fills the air ( which will also permeate your clothes by the time you leave) and lighting is pretty dim at the counter.  They have been in this location for two and a half years and hope to move the restaurant to the country in another year and a half when it would be time to remodel the building.  It is a several hour meal with good pacing, no lags, and great portion control.  At the end of the evening they have a written copy of the menu for you as well as a parting gift of housemade bread and butter.  Kobe Desramaults is the chef and he and the other chefs presented the food and described it well.  They were all very friendly, spoke good English and didn’t mind questions. Continue reading

Sea Grill (update), Brussels, 4/24/19

entrane
entrance

We were last at the Sea Grill in November of 2013, a 2 star Michelin restaurant in the Radisson Blu Royal Hotel.  The elegant dining room is located below the hotel lobby with widely spaced large tables set with lovely clothes and napkins.  The lighting is lowered but there are spots directed to each table so it’s good lighting for photos.  There were 2 adjoining rooms with larger tables for bigger parties. Wood walls are on either end with art on the other walls and music plays in the background.  The excellent service was provided by a staff that all conversed well in English.  An old school atmosphere did not provide my menu with prices but did provide a purse stool.   The menu offered a la carte options as well as a 4 course tasting, for which they were willing to do some substitutions (we substituted the Sole for the Sea Bass). Pacing of the meal was on the slow side but portion control was very good.  They did provide us with a printed menu of our meal however it was not exactly what we had. Continue reading

Restaurant Alliance (update), Paris, 4/12/19

building
building (you can see chef through the window)

It’s been 2 years since we visited Restaurant Alliance, a small one star Michelin restaurant with Chef Toshitaka Omiya at the helm – someone who seriously knows how to cook.  If you have the opportunity to get there, do.  I give it solid thumbs way up.   The food is wonderful combinations of really flavorful ingredients that will leave you wanting more and then they’ll bring the next course that is just as good or better.  They offer 2 tasting menus, one a 7 course surprise menu selected by the chef or a Harmony Menu of set courses.  They do offer a smaller tasting menu at lunch but go at dinner if you can because you don’t want to miss any of the dishes this chef turns out.  Pacing is good, no lags and portion control great.  There are only around 7 tables in between the windows to the street and the large window looking into the kitchen.  Shades of gray and cream along with lower lighting provide a peaceful, cozy ambiance along with some cool circular overhead light fixtures.  Service is stellar, with welcoming and helpful staff that all spoke great English.  We were warmly greeted by  the chef and manager Shawn Joyeux, who is great at finding you a fun wine at your chosen price point. Continue reading

La Condesa (update), Paris, 4/12/19

building
building

It’s been just over a year since we visited La Condesa and this trip we tried lunch instead of dinner.  It is a really small one star Michelin restaurant that has been open about a year and a half.  There are about 8 closely set small bare wood tables.  The use of mirrors helps make the place seem bigger but it has a cozy atmosphere.  Music is in the background and the chef Indra Carrillo is in the kitchen but makes frequent trips to the dining room to bring food and check on diners.  The menu offers tastings of 3, 4, or 6 courses and wine pairings are available.  We chose the 6 course menu and ordered our own wine.  Portion control and pacing are both good and the staff is all super friendly, helpful and speak great English.   Continue reading

Le Clarence (update), Paris, 4/11/19

entrnace
entrance

We were at Le Clarence last fall for lunch and so this spring we tried their dinner service.  The physical location had not changed but it did feel different without the sunlight streaming in the windows.  The same menus cost more at dinner but they offer the same great and friendly service at both times.  Of the 3 tasting menus we chose the Menu Inspiration.  The meal was presented with groupings of different plates, sometimes presented together and others in succession.  It made for fun combinations.  We ended up at the exact same table, but that was fine because I think it is the prettiest of the rooms.  However with the large, well spaced tables, all the rooms offer a lovely atmosphere for dining.  Chef Christophe Pelé was in house and stopped by to say hello to Frankie, as did restaurant manager Cédric Servain.  Chef’s creativity and flavor intensity make this a place a must when you are next eating in Paris.  It is pure, relaxed elegance. I did take photos of a number of the old photographs in the menu and will place them throughout this post. Continue reading

Restaurant H, Paris, 4/11/19

building
building

Retaurant H is a small place of about 8 well spaced tables.  Soft music plays in the background, one wall has windows to the un-busy street and the back wall has a window into the kitchen.  The bare topped tables are set with lovely large napkins.  The modern room has wallpaper on some walls and others are decorated with arty photographs.  Decorations are minimal.  The menu is tiles in a box where you can pick how many courses you want.  They offer tastings of 3, 5 or 7 courses with wine pairings available.  We chose the 5 course omnivore menu and ordered our wine.  Service was exceptionally friendly and servers spoke great English and were helpful. The chef, Hubert Duchenne came out to visit with diners.  The restaurant currently has a one Michelin star rating. Continue reading

Restaurant Antoine, Paris, 4/10/19

street
exterior

Antoine is an enclosed patio with about 10 well spaced tables of various sizes.  Those tables nearer the windows to the outside were smaller whereas the ones along the kitchen wall were larger.  However those at the windows could have a view of the Eiffel tower and/or the museum across the street.  There is music in the background and the tables are covered with nice white clothes and set with good sized white napkins.  You are greeted at the table with the champagne cart – a wheeled “figure 8” table with the ice bucket of champagnes on top (later on it carries the cheese selection).  We were there at lunch time and they did have a special lunch menu as well as an a la carte menu and a 4 course lunch surprise tasting.  Wine pairings were available and they are known for their seafood.  We chose their 4 course lunch with our own bottle of wine.  They currently have a one star in the Michelin guide.  Servers spoke good English and were friendly and helpful.   Continue reading

Alcyone, Marseille, 3/23/19

hotel
hotel

Alcyone is a one star Michelin star restaurant in the Intercontinental Hotel.  It is a stylish dining room on the second level of the hotel with large windows overlooking the city.  The good sized room is filled with large well spaced tables draped with white clothes and set with large napkins.  Beige tones are in the chairs, curtains and walls and a stunning overhead fixture gives off muted light while music plays in the background.  There was a soundboard in the ceiling and the chairs were well padded with arms, so noise was not an issue.  Table decorations were different sizes of metal fish.   A modern rug is in the center of the room set off by the dark wood floor. The menu offers a 5 course chef selected tasting menu or a la carte selections. Wine pairings are available.  Pacing  started rapidly and then really slowed down and portion control was okay.   The staff was friendly and spoke good English.   We chose the tasting and a printed menu was offered to be presented at the end of the meal, but when that time came it was not ready or started. Continue reading

Restaurant AM, Marseille, 3/22/19

exterior
exterior

Restaurant AM is a small place that offers 3 tasting menus based on the number of courses (10, 15-20, 20-30) with the courses sometimes just being one bite.  The night we were there they did offer a supplemental courses with truffles (some were under a dome on the table to temp you) for 55 euros and a comté cheese with caviar for 35 euros.  We chose the longest tasting and the cheese course.  It sounds like a lot more food than it was;  it is easily manageable because of great portion control and a fairly rapid pacing.   The rustic bare wood tables with metal legs are set nicely a part and with comfortable ‘plastic string chairs’.  The open kitchen is one corner of the place and music plays in the background but sound panels in the ceiling control noise levels.  A few seats are available at the bar where you could interact more with the chefs.  A couple windows are open to the street and the light fixtures are set to give a warm glow to the room.  Servers spoke good English and were really helpful and friendly.  Chef Alexandre Mazzia was in the kitchen, as he has been for 5 years, and was awarded 2 Michelin stars last February, which are a good indication of the quality of the food you’ll find here.  The dishes are innovative and loaded with flavor.  You’ll want to lick the plate clean in many instances.  They were nice enough to give me a listing of the courses before we left but it is a surprise as you dine.  If you have the opportunity to go, I would suggest you take it! Continue reading

Le Petit Nice, Marseille, 3/21/19

exterior
exterior

Le Petit Nice is the only restaurant in Marseille to receive a 3 Michelin star rating.   It is in a luxury hotel that overlooks the water with Gérald Passedat as the chef.  The dining room has windows on 3 sides of its hexagon shape that overlook the water and lights of the city.  It was a lovely view even in the dark when you could’t see as much.  It was a bit hard to find the entry as we were walking to it.  A taxi would know to call at the gate to the parking lot but in the meantime we got to look into the kitchen from the passage way alongside the building.  The well spaced cloth covered tables are good sized and set with comfortable swivel chairs.  No music plays in the background, candles are on the tables and lights are slightly dimmed.  It is old school enough that the ladies menus don’t have prices.  They offer several tasting menus and an a la carte menu which is mostly seafood and vegetables. Service was good as was portion control of the tasting menu. Continue reading

L’Epuisette, Marseille, 3/20/19

entrance
entrance

L’Epuisette is on top of a rock overlooking the cove of Marseille and the Mediterranean Sea.  Chef Guillaume Sourrieu, who started here in the 1980’s,  prepares local and Mediterranean cuisine that is created around what he can obtain from his local fish and vegetable suppliers.  It is a medium-sized place and received one Michelin star in 2001.  The dining room is striking with windows on two sides that look out to the water and the stone cliffs, however visibility is limited at night, but you could see boats and late night fisherman.  There are some lights hanging from the ceiling that looked almost like jelly fish.  Hanging fish, paintings, mirrors decorate the room with well spaced white cloth-covered tables.  Music is in the background (it was turned down when more people arrived) and the lighting is lowered at night.   Sound dampening panels are on the ceiling The menu offered tasting  of 7 or 9 courses (a cheese course supplement is offered for 12 euros), a bouillabaisse menu and a la carte dishes. Continue reading

Benu (update), San Francisco, 3/16/19

gates
gates

It’s been 3 years since we’ve been to Benu and I don’t know that I detected a lot of change in the interior, however they said it was completely re-done since we were there.  Classical music is in the background and completely fits the soothing peacefulness of the place.  The well spaced large bare dark wood tables are set with comfortable seats, exquisitely thin stemware and gilded flatware and chargers.  Service is friendly but totally professional, shown with their knowledge of our previous visits and orders.  You feel elegantly at home.  Everyone still has a tasting menu and the food is fantastic.  Pacing is spot on and portion controls allows you to really enjoy the meal with its amazing flavors and textures.  The spectacular visual affects (down to the presentation plates) of the food are not for show, they match the quality.  If you can, get there, you won’t be disappointed.   Continue reading

In Situ, San Francisco, 3/16/19

exterior
exterior

In Situ is the one Michelin star restaurant inside the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.  It is a very modern large place with a separate entrance from the street, so you don’t have to be in the museum.  A couple of long wood tables with bar stools are up front opposite a painting created for In Situ.  The other tables are small blond wood and appointed with bench seating or wood chairs. It’s very bright and open and a really interesting ceiling sculpture of wood is a highlight of the decorating, as there is surprisingly little art on the walls.  Their concept is to present some of their own creations but also to feature some highlights from their ‘current collaborators’ or well-recognized chefs around the world.  We have been lucky enough to visit some of these places in their home countries and had the original take on the dish and when possible I have posted those pictures following the ones from In Situ.  The chefs do advise and approve of the version of their dishes and I thought they did a good job.  It’s a fun concept.  Service was excellent.  Our server Katerina, from Lithuania,  was most helpful and interested in seeing pictures of the corresponding dishes.  She even brought us an extra dessert, one developed by their staff, so we could get a real sample of what was going on there.  I would recommend the place for a fun lunch. Continue reading

Birdsong, San Francisco, 3/15/19

exterior
exterior

Birdsong is a good sized one star Michelin place that has opened in May of 2018.  Most of the space in the dining room is taken up by the large kitchen which is surrounded by a low counter and seats.  A few tables are on the outer edge of the place and we were lucky to snag a table right across from the kitchen action.  There is a comfy little reception area as well as party rooms downstairs that they were nice enough to give us a tour of after we ate.  Windows to the street are on one wall and the bare light wood tables are set with a large cloth napkin that houses the evening’s menu. Everyone receives the same tasting menu.  Clear glass ball light fixtures hang from the ceiling that add good lighting but most light comes from the glow of the kitchen which is filled with action.   Lots of plants, background rock music and wood beams soften the affect of the exposed ductwork.  Service was exceptionally friendly and helpful.  After they clear that there are no allergies or dietary restrictions the menu starts promptly and pacing continues at a good rate throughout the evening.  Portions are well done to not stuff you before the end. Continue reading

Nico, San Francisco, 3/15/19

exterior
exterior

Nico opened in May of last year at this new location.  It is a fairly small place with one Michelin star rating.  Windows to the street make up one end of the place and the open kitchen is opposite that side.  One wall has a bench seat with a line of small light wood tables opposite it.  Exposed brick is on the walls, rock music plays in the background, a wide plank wood floor are all the backdrop for a friendly staff.   The small menu has  series of smaller plates to share or snack on and 3 larger plates for main courses.  From talking to the waiter it sounded like a lot people just come to the 5 seats at the bar and enjoy the snacks with drinks rather than come in for a meal.   It was a nice place but the food had mixed results. Continue reading

Atelier Crenn, San Francisco, 3/14/19

exterior
exterior

Atelier Crenn is a small restaurant with only 8 tables.   It’s been several years (pre Frankie site) since we were there and since then Chef Dominique Crenn has become the first female chef in the U.S to attain a  3 star Michelin rating.  It is a warm setting with paintings by chef’s father Allain decorating the walls.  They re-modeled 2 years ago and now round polished wood tables are set off with dampened lighting and music playing softly in the background.  The presence from the street is very discreet with no name, just the number marking the place.  They have 2 seatings for a multi course tasting menu, for which wine pairings are offered.  The evening we were there it was a spring menu that featured many items now grown on their own farm and locally sourced other ingredients.  Dishes are complex yet simple with a depth of flavor and texture in each dish that is amazing.   Many had a tableside finish that was a nice show and added to the information about the dish.  A poem greets you at the table with each line symbolizing a part of the meal to come.  Afterward you are presented with a summary of your courses. Service is friendly and helpful and pacing and portion control of the meal are good.  Chef Crenn did come out and greet each of her guests and allowed time for a bit of conversation.  Continue reading

Guy Lassausaie Meilleur Ouvrier de France 1993, Lyon, 12/15/18

exrterior
exterior

Guy Lassausaie, located 13 miles from Lyon, is a large modern building with a good sized parking lot across the street.  It seemed to have been built in a circular design with various size dining rooms off the center circular hallway surrounding the kitchen.  A large comfortable waiting area holds small tables, deep chairs and wood floor whereas the dining rooms have large widely spaced tables on carpet.  No music  is in the background, tables are set with white clothes and napkins, some display cases and art decorate the rooms.  Noise level is non existent and yet your conversation feels private. It is well lit with a combination of ceiling lights and wall fixtures.  One large table is in the center of the room for service and ours was decorated with beautiful large red flowers.  Our room had two mantels but no fireplaces underneath.  The windows to the outside were covered with shades.  Service was good and the greeters even came out to the car with umbrellas as it was raining.  The menu offered 4 tastings as well as an a la carte section.  We chose the Discovery Menu which was a surprise tasting of 5 seasonal courses chosen by the chef, not necessarily on the menu.  Pacing was a little slow and the portions size was variable.  They have a 2 Star rating with Michelin.   Continue reading

Paul Bocuse – Le Restaurant Gastronomique, Lyon, 12/14/18

exterior
exterior

Paul Bocuse Restaurant is located a few miles out of town in colorful and well lit building on top of a small hill.   Doormen in red hats and coats (who also come in with the happy birthday cart where they grind out your tune) greet you as you look around a large patio painted with murals of other famous chefs (photos at end) and a large window into part of the huge kitchen.  It has 3 Michelin Stars, which they have had since 1965, but on our visit neither the service or food would merit that rating.  Mostly the staff seemed to be ‘cranking’ it out as fast as possible with little personalization.  It had more the feel of a business rather than an elegant dining experience.  The food is made with good ingredients and has lovely presentations but doesn’t sing at all and the place felt sterile.  The place is divided into several rooms that have wall paper, mirrors and lots of art on the walls.  One had a beautiful terrazzo floor another had marble (floors had to be smooth since their cheese/dessert carts don’t have wheels).  The ceilings are hung with chandeliers and with the additional lighting on the walls the place is well lit.  Well padded chairs and purse stools are set for you but no music is in the background.  The large widely spaced tables are covered with long white clothes and set with huge napkins in a paper ring covered with “PAUL BOCUSE”.  In fact, everything is well labeled with the ‘Paul Bocuse’ name – you won’t forget where you are.    The menu offers a la carte options and 3 different tasting menus.  We chose the Paul Bocuse menu that offered some of his best known dishes.  Pacing was good and portion control on the large side. Continue reading

Restaurant La Mère Brazier, Lyon, 12/13/18

exterior
exterior

Restaurant La Mère Brazier is made up of a number of small rooms on a couple levels. Heavy drapes and carpet provide much sound dampening in the rooms decorated in 2 shades of gray, white and cream.  The nice sized tables are well spaced, covered with white clothes and set with very starched napkins and set with alternating dark charger with light bread plate or the opposite combination, all with silver accents.    The comfortable chairs are a swivel type.  They offer 2 tasting menus, with optional wine pairings and an a la carte menu.  We chose the 3 course Classical Menu and got our own bottle of white and half bottle of red.  The “3” course tasting also had a cheese course and choice of dessert.  The pacing and portion control were great as was the service.  The staff were all very friendly and helpful, along with speaking good English.  Chef Mathieu Viannay, who also became the owner in 2008, was in the house and came out to visit with his guests.  They did a re-model of the restaurant a couple years ago.  The restaurant has been awarded 2 Michelin Stars. Continue reading

Takao Takano, Lyon, 12/13/18

building
building

Takao Takano has about 9 tables, interesting light fixtures with embossing on the interior, old wood on the floor, nicely spaced small bare pedestal tables with good quality cloth napkins, wood decorations on the wall, no music in the background and windows to the street on two sides.  It has been recognized with two Michelin Stars.  They offered 3 tasting menus – one for a lunch special and 2 longer tasting menus.  We actually found the lunch tasting most appealing and so ordered it.  Interestingly, my menu had no prices.  Pacing and portion control were good as was the service, although not engaging. Continue reading

Restaurant Le Neuvième Art, Lyon, 12/12/18

entrance
entrance

Restaurant Le Neuvième Art is a 2 Star Michelin with about 10 widely spaced pedestal tables with a large staging area in the middle of the dining area.  Some of the tables are in two pieces where the smaller one serves as a staging table.  The lighting is lowered as is the ceiling, gauzy curtains cover large windows on two sides of the room, an automatic sliding door opens to allow quick looks into the kitchen, “crumpled paper” covers are on the overhead and wall light fixtures, a box on the table turns into a flame for each table, no music is in the background, the purse stools are topped with cork and lots of friendly staff speak good English  in this comfortable yet elegant dining room.  Chef Chrisophe Roure was in the house and made the rounds of the tables.  He and his wife opened their restaurant in June 2014 and offer a couple tasting menus, with optional wine pairings, as well as a la carte options. We had the 5 course tasting that also includes cheese and dessert and ordered our own wines.  Pacing and portion control of the tasting were good and the food was really tasty. Continue reading

SingleThread Restaurant, Healdsburg, CA, 12/5/18

building
building

SingleThread Farm, Restaurant and Inn opened in December 2016 and is a large corner building in Healdsburg, an hour and a half drive from San Francisco.  Upstairs they have some elegant rooms to stay in and downstairs they have a large kitchen and several dining areas.  There is a roof top terrance for some courses but it was not in use the night we were there.  The building is quite modern, with soft lighting  and music, set with large bare wood tables, a wood ceiling, gold wood tiles on some walls, some faux fire places, a bouquet of flowers and herbs from their garden on top of your napkin and lots of bench seating filled with extra cushions for back support.  They only seat about 52 people but some early diners’ tables were turned.  The reservation system is a pre-pay one with no refunds but you can try and re-sell tickets if you can’t use them.  Service was wonderful with most every person who approached our table addressing us by name.  Pacing is at a good rate and portion controls allows you to easily get through the surprise tasting (pairings are available) but will not leave you hungry.  At the end of the meal they do present you with a copy of the menu. Continue reading

Restaurant PAGES, Paris, 12/1/18

entrance
entrance

Restaurant PAGES only has 7 or 8 tables with much of the room being taken up with the open kitchen.   They have one Michelin star.  White clothed tables are widely spaced and set with a wooden container of potato chips.  Pale walls with some exposed brick, a stone floor, and lots of stainless around the kitchen and on some of the walls and ceiling, set the tone of the room.  A display case is in the back with meats they are aging and soft music played in the background.  It felt very modern but I wouldn’t call it a fun ambiance.  They have been open 4 years and offer only a tasting of 8 courses.  There were 3 supplements available the night we were there, caviar, truffle and/or Wagyu beef.  We opted to include the last one.  There are no menus before or when you finish.  They did bring a nice warm cloth to wash off before you started. Continue reading

Cobéa, Paris, 11/30/18

exterior
exterior

Cobéa is a smallish place that was really busy.  The setting is white clothes and napkins covering the small close tables, lowered lighting, no music, a wall of barred windows overlooking the garden and a small window serving as a pass through area for the kitchen.  The staff kept a frantic pace but seemed to be fairly inefficient in their service in spite of that, however it did leave me feeling rushed and yet I wasn’t.  There was lots of carrying things to and from the kitchen and the pacing quite variable, in addition the explanations of the dishes was poor.  The menu lists the items and you pick 4, 6, or 8 courses with the items already selected for the number of courses you pick.  There was little price difference in the tastings.  We chose the 8 course menu which featured both of the protein options.  Portion control was all right.  They have a one Michelin star rating. Continue reading

Le Clarence, Paris, 11/30/18

exterior
exterior

Le Clarence has been around about 3 years and is in the private mansion of Prince Robert of Luxembourg, who is also President of a wine estate in Bordeaux, Domaine Clarence Dillon.   The building has been meticuously restored and decorated to provide a ‘lived-in’ feel while still being quite elegant.  There are three small dining rooms, each with a different decor, and a large area upstairs lounge to relax and have cocktails or after dinner drinks if you prefer that to sitting at the table.    There are also some private party rooms.  Some rooms have windows to the street and other have windows looking over the courtyard toward the glassed in kitchen area.  Beautiful carpet is on the floors topped with large widely spaced tables draped with pale green satin underskirts topped with white cloths whose color scheme perfectly mimics the charger plates on the table (marked with the CD logo).  Chef Christophe Pelé works some 2 star Michelin magic on the 3 different tasting menus that are offered.  Wine pairings are available.  There was also a truffle supplement offered the day we were there but we opted to just have their longer tasting, Menu Le Clarence. Pacing and portion control were great as was the service.  Every need was happily attended to and afterwards they showed us around some of the other rooms as well as having a printed menu of what we had for me. Continue reading

Guy Savoy (update), Paris, 11/29/18

entrance
entrance

It’s been 3 years since we were at Guy Savoy, a large 3 star Michelin restaurant.  Not much had changed in the physical structure but the feel was definitely of a tourist driven  machine.  We were in a room with mostly non-French speaking people and it was unsettling to hear the same “witty” remarks delivered to each table, like they were something new and personal.  Nevertheless service is well done with no need is too much to ask for.  The lunch special is not as good a deal now.  You are limited in your choices with it and the various lunch compilations did not appeal either, so we ordered from the regular menu.  Interesting enough the menu is printed in about 6 languages.  Chef Guy Savoy is still in house and makes the rounds of the tables but leaves early enough that I seriously doubt he was doing any cooking –  he is there just to be seen.  If you need to see him then I urge you to go but even though the food is really good you can eat better at a better price any number of other places. Continue reading

L’Arcane (update), Paris, 11/28/18

exterior
exterior

We visited L’Arcane for the first time about 18 months ago and they hadn’t been open long (opened June 2016).  On this re-visit pretty much every thing that bothered me about the place has been corrected and food remains outstanding.  Get it on your list as soon as you can.  The tables are still small but well spaced and the lighting is at a good level.  Soft music is in the background and some decorative changes, like wide planked wood floors and nice artwork, have been made that are all for the better.  They now have a well deserved one Michelin star rating.  Chef Laurent Magnin is now married to Sophie Keller who runs the front of the house.  They offer a tasting menu only with the option of 3, 4 or 5 different courses, but there are a couple of amuse bouche to add to it.  There is no printed menu.   Portion control was good and pacing on the slower side but nicely regular as opposed to having long gaps. Continue reading

Smyth, Chicago, 11/17/18

exterior
exterior

Smyth has a large open kitchen (with a wood fire), a small waiting area and 2 Michelin stars.  Upstairs from it is a ‘sister’ restaurant with a more casual mode.  Lighting is lower with plenty of candles in the room.  A variety of music plays in the background, including rap, on a real turntable.   The polished wood bare tabes were well spaced and set on a concrete floor with a wood ceiling overhead.  A couple of large wood columns are in the room, but they appeared to be structural.  It serves only a tasting menu which you designate the length of when you make your reservation.  Ours was the Omaha tasting.  Wine pairings were available, as are non-alcoholic pairings, but we ordered our own wines.  Service was excellent and friendly and pacing was good.  This meal started strong and never let up the quality – put it on your list if you’re in Chicago. Continue reading

Oriole, Chicago, 11/16/18

entrance
entrance

Oriole is located on an alley that the Uber driver didn’t want to go down because he was sure that a 2 star Michelin restaurant wouldn’t be ‘down that little alley’.  However it was and worth walking those extra 20 feet to the subtly lit door.  Once inside there is a small waiting area where we were served a warmed spiced drink.  They actually sent us home with the herbs and recipe to recreate at home if desired.  After we had chatted with the hostess and checked out coats she opened what looked like an old elevator door and we were led into the nice dining room.  There were only about ten 2-top and two 4-top tables, so I wouldn’t call it large, but the tables were well spread out and good sized.  The lighting was lowered and the exposed brick walls were lined with bench seating equipped with pillows.  From the wood ceiling with exposed ductwork,  a number of  light fixtures hung that came in a variety of shapes and sizes.  Some glass bricked windows, jazzy music in the background, an open kitchen, lots of candles, some  interesting art work and wood columns completed the decorative elements.  There was a definite hum in the room but no noise problem.  They have been here for 3 years and offer one tasting menu that is full of wonderful flavors for all guests.  Wine pairings are offered (2 levels as well as non-alcoholic) but we chose to order our own wines.  Pacing was great and portion control perfect. Continue reading

Roister, Chicago, 11/16/18

entrance
entrance

Roister is a good sized place that opened in 2016 with a large bar surrounding the open kitchen that also has seating in addition to the dining room. It has been awarded one Michelin star.  It is a part of the Alinea group but the food is under the supervision of Chef Brochu.  We were there for lunch/brunch and I noticed the dinner menu offers some different  options.  The casual atmosphere had fairly loud background music and comfortable bar seating.  In the back was a pile of wood that is used in some cooking.  The lighting is subdued but spot lights provide plenty of light at each seat.  The staff was exceptionally friendly and helpful, however the prep people that stood right in front of us seemed to have no interest in interaction with guests.  The menu had a number of interesting sounding dishes so we ordered a series of plates to split. Continue reading

Alinea, Chicago, 11/15/18

Entrance
entrance

Alinea opened in 2005 and is Chicago’s only 3 star Michelin restaurant.  This is a second visit for us, but we read about their big redo around 2015 and thought maybe things had changed, especially since Alinea means “the beginning of a new train of though.”  Grant Achatz is still the chef and he is no more personable than he was before, however most of the staff were very friendly and exceptionally attentive.  What I objected to before has just become even  more prominent.  If you’ve read many of my write ups, you know flavor is most important to my dining experience.  This place is all about the theater and show of your dinner.  You move around, lots of props are in play (music, smoke, ceiling art, etc.) and there is really a show of all the staff moving about servicing the tables.  Flavor is too far down on their list of priorities for me, but if you’ve never been to a place with so much show and innovative cuisine, it is worth one visit.  But be forewarned, you will leave with a lot less money and still hungry. Continue reading

Werneckhof by Geisel, Munich, 10/27/18

building
building

Werneckhof is a good sized place that spreads over 2 rooms.  Marble tile is on the floor and the lots of dark wood makes up the walls and seating.  Benches line most of the walls that match up with comfortable chairs at the well spaced large tables.  Low lighting, white tablecloths and napkins, no background music, leaded glass windows on one wall and an enormous chandelier are other features to the room.  They have achieved a 2 Michelin star rating because of their great food and superior service.  Twin brothers fill the rolls of sommelier, Toby Klaas, and manager, Markus Klaas.   They were both totally welcoming and helpful as well as keeping the pacing spot on while attending to your every need.  In fact all the service people we dealt with there were outstanding.  Chef Tohru Nakamura has been here since 2013 and was also very personable.  If you get the opportunity to go, do so cause he makes food you don’t want to miss.  The menu offered 2 tastings with 5 or 7 course options with optional wine pairings.  The table didn’t all have to get the same thing so we opted to have both of the 7 course options and order our own wines.  Some of the courses did overlap.   Continue reading

Schuhbecks Fine Dining, Munich, 10/27/18

building
building

Schuhbeck’s Fine Dining is made up of 2 rooms with shiny wood tables and windows along one wall looking out on the street.   An elegant atmosphere with plush banquette seating along the walls and arm chairs for those facing.  Paintings, mirrors and fancy plaster work decorate the walls and reflect the elaborate chandeliers hanging from the ceiling.  The bar area in one room is gold material behind the lighting reflecting the glassware.  Music in the background is 60’s American songs,  They opened 2 years ago and already have one Michelin star.  For lunch they offered an a la carte menu or a 2, 3, 4 or 5 course menu with wine pairings available for the 3 – 5 course options.   There were at least 3 choices to pick from for each of the courses and I’m guessing for the 5 course you just chose 2 from one section.  Service was attentive and super friendly and welcoming.  We chose the 3 course menu and ordered our own wine. Continue reading

Restaurant Atelier, Munich, 10/26/18

hotel
hotel

Restaurant Atelier is located in the Bayerischer Hof Hotel.   The chef has been here only 4 years but already has 3 Michelin stars, a very quick attainment of that rating.  There were only 8 large tables and a larger party table in the back portion of the room.  Each of the well spaced tables had its own service table and were covered in a single beige cloth with a matching napkin.  Places were set with really heavy, large charger plates made of stone.  Lights were lowered and faint music played in the background. The staff all wore wrap coats, with the colors seeming to identify them.  (The sommelier was the only one in red).  Two tasting menus were offered with varying numbers of courses for each.  They offered to move or delete things as we would want.  We chose the Atelier Seven course menu and ordered our own bottles of wine.  At the end of the meal they nicely brought a copy of our menu with the names of the wines included.  Service was moderately friendly, portion control was good but pacing was too slow.  Service also was a bit unattentive, like not re-filling wine and water glasses and it took forever to deliver the ordered cocktails. Continue reading

Les Deux, Munich, 10/26/18

building
building

Les Deux Restaurant, a one Michelin star place, is upstairs over the Les Deux Brasserie.  The building is in the shape of a triangle in a shopping area, with the restaurant benefitting from the second story windows on two sides.   The great view of the people moving about was pretty entertaining.   The good sized room has a much more formal tone than the downstairs.  The various sized pedestal tables were covered with a beige cloth and set with a cream colored napkin and comfortable swivel chairs.  A large center service table was set with wonderful flowers and the floor was composed of really narrow wood slats.  No music was in the background but the soft rumble of voices provided a good ambiance.  At lunch they offered a tasting menu, a la carte option and a 3 course business lunch that included coffee and water.  We chose the latter and the portions were generous but the pacing was irregular.  Service was friendly and efficient. Continue reading