The best restaurants in the World

Every year a panel of over 800 chefs, critics and other industry experts from around the World, choose the best restaurant of the year. The poll is organized by Restaurant Magazine – a British magazine, from 2002 has been producing The World’s 50 Best Restaurants.

This is the most prestigious list, ranking the best of the best  restaurants in the world, and it is published in April of each year (next one coming out on 26 April, 2010).

The list actually contains two parts – 1-50 Best Restaurants in the World and 51-100 Best Restaurants in the World. Guide). The Restaurant Magazine publishes a comprehensive guide, packed with details of the world’s greatest restaurants, including in depth articles about the winning restaurants and chefs.

The list of  is at the end of the article.

For four years in a row (2006 – 2009) the famous Spaniard Ferran Adrià tops the list with his iconic  El Bulli restaurant in Catalonia, Spain (watch video bellow). Experts compare his cooking to the innovative art of Piccaso and insist he will leave a huge legacy in the development of cooking as an art. Second, again for four consecutive years, is the Brit Heston Blumenthal, with his The Fat Duck, in Bray, (Berkshire, England).

The World’s 50 Best Restaurants list is compiled from the votes of chefs and experts from around the World. Here is how the system works:

The world is divided into regions, with a chairperson in each region appointed for their knowledge of their part of the restaurant world. They chair each selected voting panel, who cast a total of 4,030 votes.

There is no list of nominees; each member of our international voting panel votes for their personal choice of five restaurants. They may vote for up to two restaurants in their own region, the remaining votes must be cast outside their home region. Nobody is allowed to vote for their own restaurant and voters must have eaten in the restaurants they nominate within the past 18 months.

Contrary to popular belief, the Restaurants selected do not have to meet any criteria like Michelin or other guides. This has allowed restaurants like Momofuku Ssäm Bar, Extebarri and St John to be among the molecular and traditional cuisines of Restaurants like The Fat Duck to Les Ambassadeurs.

The World’s 50 Best Restaurants for 2009:
1  =      El Bulli Spain The World’s Best Restaurant &
Best Restaurant in Europe
2 =       The Fat Duck UK
3   ↑7    Noma Denmark Chef’s Choice
4   =     Mugaritz Spain
5   ↑21  El Celler de Can Roca Spain Highest climber
6   =     Per Se USA Best Restaurant in the Americas
7   =     Bras France
8   =     Arzak Spain
9   ↑6    Pierre Gagnaire France
10 ↑11  Alinea USA
11 =     L’Astrance France
12 ↓7   The French Laundry USA
13        Osteria Francescana Italy Highest New Entry
14 ↑2    St John UK
15 ↑5    Le Bernardin USA
16 ↑11  L’Hôtel de Ville – Philippe Rochat Switzerland
17 ↓8    Tetsuya’s Australia Best Restaurant in Australasia
18 ↓4    L’Atelier de Joël  Robuchon France
19 ↓2   Jean Georges USA
20        Les Créations de Narisawa Japan Best Restaurant in Asia, New Entry
21 ↑18  Chez Dominique Finland
22 ↑21  Ristorante Cracco Italy
23 ↑12  Die Schwarzwaldstube Germany
24 ↑16  D.O.M. Brasil
25 ↑9    Vendôme Germany
26 ↑2    Hof van Cleve Belgium
27         Masa USA Re Entry
28 ↓16 Gambero Rosso Italy
29 ↑13  Oud Sluis Netherlands
30         Steirereck Austria New Entry
31         Momofuku Ssäm Bar USA New Entry
32 ↑16   Oaxen Skärgårdskrog Sweden
33 ↓4   Martin Berasategui Spain
34 ↓4    Nobu London UK
35         Miraz France New Entry
36 ↓17  Hakkasan UK
37 ↑13  Le Quartier Français South Africa Best Restaurant in the Middle East and Africa
38         La Colombe South Africa Re-Entry
39 ↑5    Asador Etxebarri Spain
40         Le Chateaubriand France New Entry
41 =     Daniel USA
42      Combal.Zero Italy Re-Entry
43 ↓28  Le Louis XV Monaco
44 ↑3   Tantris Germany
45        Iggy’s Singapore New Entry
46        Quay Australia New Entry
47 ↓2   Les Ambassadeurs France
48 ↓25 Dal Pescatore Italy
49 ↓13 La Calandre Italy
50       Mathias D Sweden New Entry

World’s most unusual foods – Part One

Black chicken (or Silkie or wu gu ji) – Taiwan

(To start off, I will treat you gently with my first choice…)

Whole black chicken in a soup bowl

Share it, don't be stingy!

Black Chicken is considered a delicacy in Taiwan. Some people get put off by its unusual appearance but it actually quite interesting on terms of looks and taste. It takes a while to get used to the colour. It has black skin and bones, and the meat is slightly darker that of the usual white chicken.

In China, the Silkie is called wu gu ji — black-boned chicken. It has been prized for its medicinal value since the seventh or eighth century, it is seen as a kind of health food because it has a high level of anti-oxidants. Women who have just given birth eat it for energy. But its curative powers are not necessarily gender-specific.

In an Asian home, most often a Silkie will be made into a deeply flavored, aromatic, amber-colored soup, simmered or steamed with ginger, ginseng, dried wolfberries and dried red dates, also known as jujubes.

Chuno blanco (naturally freeze-dried potatoes) – Peru & Bolivia

(The sweet story of the bitter potato)

Andean people still use natural, traditional methods for processing white  “chuño blanco”, a process of freezing and dehydrating potatoes that may take up to 50 days. They take advantage of the unique geography and climatic conditions of the Andes: the freezing temperatures at night and strong sun in the daytime, these variations being more marked in the dry season when the nighttime temperatures frequently drop below 0ª C. This is chuño making time, particularly in the coldest months of June and July. The widest variation of temperature in the Andes is daily rather than seasonal due to the combination of high altitude and geographical location in the tropics.

Thus, the extreme temperature variations in the Andes present the perfect environment for this ancient method of preserving otherwise bitter and inedible potatoes.

I can pass for anything, really...

Here is how they do it:

Soaking

Once frozen, potatoes are put into pits dug in the stones of a river- or streambed and left immersed in cold running water for up to 30 days.

Pre-peeling

Potatoes are once again exposed to freezing during the night; on the following day they are stepped on to peel off most of the skin and squeeze out almost all of the water they contain.

Drying

The peeled potatoes are exposed to direct sunlight for 10-15 days, until an almost complete dehydration is achieved. The water content is reduced to 14%.

Final peeling

Dehydrated potatoes are then rubbed against each other to remove the remaining bits of skin, the final step by which white chuño obtains its characteristic white chalky appearance and firm consistency.

These naturally freeze-dried potatoes are a treat in the local markets.

Pig’s Blood Cake (zhū xiě gāo) – Taiwan

(My experience from Taiwan shows that this is not your typical ice cream on a wooden stick…)

Womans hand holdinga pigs blood cake on stick

Some cake for dessert?

In Taiwan, pig’s blood cake is sold on a wooden stick, almost like we were used to buy our ice cream, when we were kids. Easily found at street markets, it’s a sweet treat generally made from pig’s blood and rice. It is found in many roadside stalls and if you ask nicely for it, the vendors will serve coated it with fresh peanut powder and some coriander. Then, you can dip it in different chili sauces.

How to find it when in Taiwan? Just go on any of the main streets nearby and when you see a long queue in front of the stall, the chances are you have found it. Mind you, you better go there before six in the morning, or they would be completely sold out after then.

Hurry up!

Live Octopus (sannakji) – South Korea
Mans hand lifting a glass lid, revealing a live baby octopus

Guess what's under this lid...

Unlike calamari which is still, octopus in South Korea often arrives at the table alive and moving.  The live baby octopus is cut up and served right away, usually with some sesame oil. Korean experts of the dish say it’s best to eat this dish quickly. The fun is the tentacles are still twisting, turning and fighting – which feels like hosting a party in your mouth as you attempt to chew them.

Dessert anyone?

Grasshoppers – Uganda

(How about a crispy grasshopper?)

Black woman about to put a fried grshopper in her mouth

Let me show you how you do it...

There are more than a dozen bug-eating countries on earth, but Uganda is probably topping the list. Caught during the rainy season that is around November and eaten cooked or raw, these are a locals’ favorite. Sold with or without wings and legs, they are easily found at the local markets.

If you’re going to eat a bug for the first time, go for something that is fried and crunchy. It’s much easier to keep down.

Durian – The King of Fruits (well, according to lovers) – Malaysia
Mans hand holding a whole Durian fruit

I can hold it like this for hours... as long as it's far away from my nose!

Greeny-yellow in colour and covered with spikes it has the appearance of an oversized Horse Chestnut; but it is the distinctive smell that sets it apart from other fruit. So strong is the smell of rotting flesh that in many Malaysian public places, such as hotels, buses and aircrafts they put up signs banning the durian (see the picture bellow). The ultra-strong aroma of this spiky fruit may turn off tourists, but many Malaysians love its doughy taste. Durian is reputed to have aphrodisiac properties. There is a Malay saying: “When the durians are down, the sarongs are up.”

Durian banning signThe taste of durians ranges from sweet to bitter, and in the case of durians, bitter does not immediate translate as bad. Some are dry, others creamy, like ice cream or chocolate. Good durians usually have a substantial amount of flesh, or body, between the skin and the seed. The flesh could be separated from the seed by the inner skin which itself is as tasty as the flesh.

To me it’s one of those things that you either love or hate!

Witchetty Grubs (large, white, wood-eating larvae) – Australia

These white, high-in-protein snacks are actually the larvae of moths, once a staple in the diets of some Aborigines, today in Australia, the humble witchety grub is enjoying a renaissance. So much so that Prince Charles was given one to eat on a recent visit to Alice Springs (he refused).

Witchetty grub is white and its head is black and yellow, with the length of 12cm long and a width of 3 cm. It lives in the roots of the Witchetty Bush, and is therefore called as the Witchetty grub. Witchetty grub is dug out of the trunks and roots of gum trees during the summertime.

They seem to enjoy it...

The aborigines used to eat it live and raw. Well, upscale restaurants roast the grubs like satays, these barbecue food is served as an appetizer and is highly nutritious. The center of the grub is quite juicy, it has a sweet, juicy flavor, quite like chicken, and to some it tastes like eggs. Supermarkets in Australia are selling tinned witchetty soups.

There has been a lot of aboriginal influence on Australia cuisine, which deserves admirations but eating witchetty grubs seems a bit weird to me.