Les Ambassadeurs at the Hotel de Crillon is ideally situated in a prime spot on the famed Place de la Concorde. Its central location makes it convenient as much for first time visitors to the City of Lights as for city dwellers. Although the restaurant’s location is appealing it was the food that drew us back to revisit the hotel restaurant. Once inside the pretty dining room we were in a gourmet cocoon. Tables were spaced conveniently to allow private conversations and the ambiance was serious and subdued with many of us concentrating on our multiple course meals.
The new Jules Verne, 125 meters above the Paris skyline in the city’s most famous tourist attraction, was delightfully romantic. We were curious about the renovation and new chef and were looking forward especially to lunch. From beginning to end it was a pleasure. A private elevator whisked us directly from the base of the Eiffel Tower to the restaurant. Although the restaurant had seating for 120 guests, it was divided into several dining rooms. Our dining room was intimate and serene.
Set on 42 hectares of forest minutes away from the heart of the city what first impressed us about The Roundhouse Restaurant was its amazing view of Camps Bay and the 12 Apostles Mountains on the outskirts of Cape Town. From where we sat we could even see Table Mountain and its cable car. We felt like VIPs, dining under the shade of a tree just outside the restaurant entrance, basking in the summer breeze and our bird’s eye view of Camps Bay. From our table, we could almost see forever.
A sunny summer afternoon found us enjoying a marvelous lunch at the aptly named The Greenhouse Restaurant at The Cellars-Hohenort Hotel and Spa just outside of Cape Town. From our indoor table in a cozy corner, we could see through the glass walls to the lovingly maintained lush gardens and Table Mountain, and observe fellow guests enjoying their meals on the restaurant terrace.
Pure was a joyful discovery. It was tucked away in a pretty and newly renovated hotel in Hout Bay, a small coastal town near Cape Town. While we had been intrigued by the name, it was the recommendation of a fellow foodie that drew us to discover Pure and visit the town overnight.
We were surprised to discover Vintner Grill tucked in an office building in a strip mall in Summerlin, an elite Las Vegas suburb. Once inside, the décor was modern and inviting, full of gentle waning sunlight. Although the patio looked positively alluring with its tented theme we chose to remain indoors for dinner. The staff were welcoming and before we knew it we were sipping the most delicious peach and blueberry cocktails at Table 32, which we later discovered is the restaurant’s best table, known as the “Power Table.”
Located in the casino of a Las Vegas mammoth, Joel Robuchon seems out of scale, seating only 42 guests in the main dining room.
Outside the doors of this famous restaurant, typical casino dissonance was pervasive, inside was an oasis of quiet.
In a city where size, opulence, impersonal attitudes and larger than life motifs reign over substance, Joel Robuchon stood out for its simple formula. During our visit, we shared the restaurant and staff with between one to three other tables, further enhancing the luxurious ambiance. .
Tucked away in the garden of the regal Wentworth Mansion, a vine-shaded trellised walk led to the green door of a charming pink brick cottage. Behind this unassuming facade, a memorable dining experience awaited: Circa 1886, the domain of award-winning chef Marc Collins, who has been in residence for almost a decade. The “cottage” was in fact the beautifully restored 19 th century carriage house the mansion. Its restoration was a remarkable blend of original elements (such as the heart-of-pine floors and stable doors) and seamlessly integrated reconstruction features like elegant vaulted booths, boxed ceilings and flattering lighting. The timeless elegance of the décor was an appropriate metaphor for Chef Collins’ style as he wove together elements of traditional southern cuisine and modern French gastronomy to create an imaginative menu of understated sophistication.
Ten Bompas, a remarkable boutique hotel near Sandton, is now one of our favorite small hotels. When we first heard about it, we were hesitant. We had planned to stay at one of Johannesburg’s larger and more opulent properties, which offered all the usual bells and whistles. The more we learned about Ten Bompas, the more we wanted to stay there. From the moment we arrived, we felt genuinely welcome by the hotel staff. Conveniently situated in an attractive Johannesburg neighborhood, it offered a wonderful haven of quiet African elegance with accommodating service, delicious food, a selection of fine wines and a guest-centered emphasis on comfort.
After a couple of weeks in the bush, a much delayed flight and airport delays, we could hardly wait to arrive at our warm and cozy Ten Bompas rooms. In spite of a late arrival, our rooms were waiting. A home-style meal at Sides Restaurant brought us back to life. We liked it so much, we wish there were Ten Bompas hotels in other cities.
“You are in for a great dining experience” opined the passenger next to me on the shuttle from the airport to Santa Fe when I mentioned I had a reservation at the Anasazi Restaurant. He was right.
We were delighted to discover lunch at Restaurant Alain Ducasse au Plaza Athénée at the prestigious Plaza Athénée Hotel was better than we recalled from past visits. Over the years I’ve dined at several of the Alain Ducasse restaurants. First, at the Rue Raymond Poincaré restaurant, and later at the Plaza Athenée and New York restaurants. This has afforded me an opportunity to experience first hand the evolution of this world famous executive chef and his top restaurants. Our recent meal at the Plaza Athénée in Paris was by far the most noteworthy.
We thoroughly enjoyed our most recent meal at Le Cinq in December 2007. Every one of the chef’s creations that day was outstanding and the service was efficient, warm, and accommodating, the way we remembered it from our first visit to the famous Parisian restaurant.
Just steps from the Petit Palais and the Champs Elysees Ledoyen was a world away from the everyday. After we surrendered our winter coats with the reception staff we were escorted up one flight of stairs to the restaurant’s spacious dining room. A few moments later we were comfortably seated at a corner table and gazing at the Champs through one of the many windows of the handsome salon.
This is one of our favorite top tier gourmet restaurants anywhere, offering an excellent balance of charming historic ambiance, warm and attentive service, broad wine list options and delectable French world class food.
For years Alain Passard has been recognized for his vision and culinary wizardry, especially with vegetables. Our last visit revealed a chef at the top of his game reveling in his ability to surprise and delight diners with amazing dishes that emphasize the essential flavors of the ingredients.
We arrived at The Tasting Room in the early evening courtesy of our hotel’s private transport following a pleasurable day exploring the village of Franschhoek. At our request, one of the staff escorted us on a brief walk around the pretty hotel grounds. Knowing we wouldn’t have to drive or find the way back to our hotel in the evening dark through the village’s unfamiliar streets should we choose to partake in the copious quantities of scrumptious sounding food and tempting local wines listed on the menu allowed us to relax and savor the meal.
On a sunny and breezy November afternoon we drove placidly through the vineyards of the Grande Provence Estate until we found the wine tasting area, restaurant and nearby gravel parking lot. Perhaps because it was our first impression of Franschhoek, when I think of that Cape Wineland village I immediately think of the delicious meal and striking setting we had at the Grande Provence Restaurant.
We found Pierre Gagnaire’s signature restaurant tucked in a corner of the empty Belle Époque Hotel Balzac, on a quiet side street a stone’s throw from the Champs Elysees. Although there was no sign or number to indicate we had the correct address and from the outside the building looked empty, on closer inspection we discovered a promotional flyer for the restaurant in a display case.
Every time we dine at Helene Darroze we leave satisfied and looking forward to a prompt return. On our most recent visit to Paris, hers was the only restaurant we visited three times; three times, the meal was fantastic. Her dishes were bold, playful and full of surprises. We found the usual items available at other top tier French restaurants like truffles, scallops, duck and goose foie gras paired or prepared in unexpected ways or with exotic ingredients. Combinations that in a less experienced and gifted chef might annoy or clash, were vibrant, memorable, and perhaps most important worth repeating. Her style, though elegant and thoroughly French, is novel and packs a culinary punch. We hope it has staying power.
On our last visit to Le Cinq, we ordered the tasting menu that showcased the chef’s specialties. Although the five-course tasting menu was in some respects better than the previous time we visited the restaurant, the main course was less than stellar and the service was uneven. When we first arrived, early, the service, was as we remembered. We received a warm reception and were looked after rather well. Once the dining room began to fill, there was a frenzy of activity and the service declined noticeably. At one point our glasses were left unfilled for a long stretch of time. Because the staff were busy with other guests, we had to wait for our second bottle of wine to chill while commencing our next course.
A precursor of many of today’s French cuisine luminaries, Lasserre was established by entrepreneur Rene Lasserre in 1947 in a derelict warehouse. Today it is situated in the moneyed and desirable 8 arrondissement. A simple sign on the front of the building confirmed we had arrived. Inside, attentive staff members appeared as soon as we passed the threshold of the automatic doors. They took our coats and whisked us to the upstairs dining room.
: Baia was near full when we arrived for dinner around 8 p.m. We had discovered the restaurant, tucked inside the large mall, on a previous visit and wondered how it faired in our absence. We sat at a comfortable table in the outer deck facing the waterfront with a sigh of relief (glad we had thought to make reservations in advance). Having spent the day driving to Cape Town and running errands in preparation for our departure on safari we had no time for lunch. Dinner, when it arrived, was most welcome – and delicious.
We found Tokara 60 kilometers from central Cape Town, high atop a mountain pass known as the Heights of Hell (Helshoogte in Afrikaans) named perhaps because of how tough it was to get an ox-wagon up over the pass in the old days. It was one of those strikingly beautiful, sunny and hot Cape Town days.
Most people don’t ordinarily think of a shopping arcade as a location for a gourmet dinner. And yet, one of the better gourmet meals I have enjoyed in California was at The Dining Room at Jack’s in a shopping arcade in tony La Jolla. Once inside, I forgot I was in a mall and focused on the menu, modern décor, and lively ambiance with subdued light. Although there was a constant flow of happy hour guests at the bar adjacent to the dining area where I was seated, the noise level was loud enough to be interesting without being bothersome.
Azul offered fine dining with a magnificent ocean view. Because I arrived extra early I was able to take my pick of seats next to the floor to ceiling windows that draw the eyes of everyone in the dining room. I chose a front row seat to the Pacific Ocean. From there I could see the dark ocean waters and the beautiful landscapes of the La Jolla Cove to the south and La Jolla Shores to the north. Although the sun had been brilliant a few hours earlier, by the time I arrived at Azul mounds of clouds had rolled in and the colors were gray and muted. Even so the vista was inspiring.
Tucked away in a residential golf neighborhood in northeastern San Diego is an outstanding restaurant led by a dynamic, exacting and talented young chef with immense culinary promise.
A large rectangular sign on the street corner in front of a Scarborough house confirmed we had found the Blue Crab Restaurant. Although first time guests might be fooled by the simple table settings and minimum fanfare, we soon discovered that inside a world of flavorful and perfectly prepared island treats awaited us. From the curry flying fish appetizer to the passion fruit ice cream we enjoyed every morsel.
I arrived with hand luggage in tow directly from the airport at the famous Parisian restaurant looking forward to lunch. The sole guest at my table and a woman I half expected to be treated with disdain, a not unfamiliar experience at other temples of French cuisine. To make matters worse I had requested the special online menu. My table near the entrance had an excellent view of the dining room but I feared the staff would forget me. To my delight, they regaled me with abundant attention and extraordinary service.
For years Lucas Carton had found the formula to accommodate diner’s varying wants and needs consistently serving delectable dishes with extraordinary service. Its lunch menu was a great buy. On and off the menu we always found dining there an enjoyable affair. In 2005, the owner and chef decided to shake things up a bit by closing Lucas Carton and opening a new, more informal restaurant, Senderens. We were a little anxious as made our way to the reincarnation of Chef Alain Senderens old culinary home, Lucas Carton, on a snowy day soon after it opened.
We decided to try L’Astrance, named for a wildflower, after an acquaintance from a top Parisian restaurant recommended it as an up-and-coming gourmet hot spot. Although we heard from friends it was nearly impossible to book on short notice, we only had a few days left in Paris and nothing to lose so we called. Lady luck smiled in our direction, allowing us to book a table for that same night. Before finalizing our reservations, the polite gentleman explained all meals at L’Astrance were “surprise” menus.
We wound our way on foot from our nearby Latin Quarter rental apartment through the cobblestone street of one of the oldest parts of the city to meet friends for lunch at a neighborhood restaurant, Jacques Cagna. Although it was a short walk and we found the restaurant easily, it was cold and by the time we reached Jacques Cagna we were ready to be in doors. Walking in from the freezing cold on a gray Parisian winter day we were thankful for the warm welcome and English friendly attitude.
In spite of the snowy weather we found the entrance to Ledoyen easily. The restaurant faces the Petit Palais and sits back a short distance from the famed Champs Elysees. Although in the absence of a doorman or host, we were a bit reluctant to pass through the vacant hall; our courage was rewarded when we discovered a polite hostess sitting at a table under an imposing grand staircase. After confirming we had reservations and turning away would be diners without any, she led us upstairs.
We rode the train from Paris to Reims on a cold winter Monday, found a taxi easily and dashed from the train station on a speedy cab to Les Crayeres to make up for the 20 minute delay in the train schedule. This delay caused us to arrive later than we had planned at the restaurant (1:45 p.m.). In spite of our late entrance, the staff were awaiting our arrival and welcomed us warmly.
When was the last time you washed your hands with rosewater and had your face painted at your dining table? For us our visit to Moyo provided the first opportunity and it was lots of fun. Smiling staff, slightly shy, welcomed us to our corner table on the entertainment level, one of five levels at the 500-seat restaurant in the heart of a swanky Johannesburg neighborhood. Scant minutes passed before a pleasant lady in African garb took our drinks order. A server soon followed with a pitcher and bowl in hand. She poured rose water over our hands and provided a towel for us to dry them. A few minutes later she returned and painted our faces (cheeks and foreheads) following a Masaai Mara tradition. She drew small flowers and dots with black and white water soluble paint; another, the more masculine design was made with dots only. Moyo, which means soul or life in Swahili, was one of four such restaurants in South Africa serving African food (ranging from North Africa Tagines to South African Boboties) to one million guests.
Neichel was filled with soft sunlight in the early afternoon when we arrived following a 30-minute drive from our waterfront hotel. The décor was contemporary with woods and Spanish style touches. There were bottles and condiment containers crowding the serving stations, reminding us that this was a working restaurant with a strong emphasis on the pleasures of the palate.
Though we were well fed aboard our luxury yacht while cruising from Italy to Spain, we were celebrating a special occasion and longed to find a memorable setting. We sought to book something in Monaco where our ship was moored but as luck would have it the restaurant of our choice was closed that day. After consulting several sources including the yacht’s resident gourmet (and Maitre d’Hotel ) we decided on the Chateau de la Chevre d’Or (in English, the castle of the golden goat). Thanks to very able last minute maneuvering from Chritine at our ship’s concierge desk, a most accommodating French lady, we found ourselves sipping perfectly chilled champagne on the terrace of the restaurant a scant three hours after requesting the reservations.
Although my hotel had recommended other more trendy restaurants and nearby trattorias I hoped to find a spot in a popular restaurant I had visited years earlier. A pleasant young man, Claudio, answered the phone when I called to make last minute reservations for dinner at La Rosetta, one of Rome’s better known seafood restaurant. It was in a historic Roman neighborhood, a 20-minute cab ride from my centrally located hotel. When I arrived at the restaurant later that night, it was nearly empty. I thought Claudio had pulled my leg but as the night aged the dining room and terrace filled up to capacity.
I arrived at the Royal Plantation after a pleasant two-hour drive from the Montego Bay airport tired and hungry. A short while later I was at the hotel’s beachside restaurant a step from the sand, facing a beautiful inviting beach and munching on a burger while I waited for my room to be ready. All the morning’s frustrations including my long flight routed through Kingston, cancelled airport meeting with fellow travelers whose flights were delayed, and my “international” cell phone not working were slowly forgotten thanks to the hotel’s ambiance and the staff’s friendly can-do attitude.
Dinner at Bartolomeo was good. After a day of rain, multiple failed attempts at beach lounging and room service (the other restaurant at the hotel was holding a private function) we were ready for a treat and Bartolomeo made it possible. It was convenient to walk from our room on the opposite end of the Hotel Guanahani to Bartolomeo, named after Columbus ’ brother. When we walked by earlier that day on our way to the beach, the bright orange sign with an adjacent menu and plain entrance gave no indication of the gourmet promises it held.
On the eve of our departure from St. Barth, we discovered this lovely Caribbean gem on a hill overlooking Anse Toiny. The romantic and elegant Le Gaiac was named after the guaiacum tree which has the heaviest tropical wood with many medicinal purposes and is found in the area where the restaurant is located. Part of Le Gaiac’s appeal was due to its blue and white décor and setting next to the Hotel Le Toiny’s night lit swimming pool. The open air dining room facing Toiny cove was inviting, comfortable, breezy and mosquito free. We greatly enjoyed the relaxed ambiance, live music (performed by Alan Landry) excellent service and innovative cuisine.
We arrived at Navio, named for the Portuguese ships that first sailed to Half Moon Bay in the 1800s, ready for a hearty meal. After a day of traveling and nothing to eat since breakfast we sacrificed a late lunch for a 45-minute massage at the Ritz spa. From the moment we arrived, we felt welcome and anticipated a pleasant dinner. We spent a delightful evening sampling the chef’s specialties, well paired by Michael, a perceptive and patient wine steward, at this beautiful restaurant by the sea. We relaxed watching an artistic sunset from our window facing table which had a memorable view of the hotel ’s golf course and Pacific Ocean .
We were intrigued by the air of reverence and hushed awe the mention of The French Laundry inspired. Before dining there we heard from locals it was nearly impossible to get reservations to this California icon of gourmet food. Those who knew someone who had been there said wistfully that it had been excellent and all agreed it was by far the most notable restaurant in the area. Although our initial attempts to secure a reservation failed, eventually we secured a table thanks to a last minute cancellation. It was worth the effort and one hour drive in the dark and winding wine country roads from our rental villa. Next time we will stay nearby.
Our meal at Michel Rostang, a family business centered on the latest chef in a line of five generations of kitchen professionals, was like having a delicious lunch at an affluent friend’s house. The food was well prepared and beautifully presented, the dining room was cozy and featured a number of noteworthy decorative touches, the wine cellar was ample and diverse, and the staff were friendly, knowledgeable, helpful and client centered.
: We arrived at Aqua, located on the ground floor of a restored post 1906 earthquake building, early on a Sunday night anticipating we would have the restaurant to ourselves. To our surprise, the popular restaurant was buzzing with the sound of diners’ conversations and meals being served. It was already almost full and remained so the whole night. We floated effortlessly through our delicious multiple course meal while other diners completed their evening and new ones arrived. The large high ceiling dining room, was decorated in muted shades of sepia and gray which created an elegant yet casual ambiance. Two larger than life mirrors drew visitors’ eyes to the side wall and enhanced the feeling of spaciousness.
Located in the former café de Chartres , this historic restaurant still maintained much of the original style and famous mirror decorations. It was purported to be one of the “ideological centers” of the French Revolution. It was fun to think we dined where so many famous figures dined before including Napoleon Bonaparte and Josephine, Victor Hugo, Colette (our seat) and Jean Cocteau, Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir . Although we appreciate and enjoy the rarified ambiance, it is the extraordinary food and culinary growth that has attracted us there time and again.
After years of dining at Lucas Carton, it remains one of our favorite restaurants in Paris and for that matter anywhere. Lucas Carton has found the formula to accommodate diner’s varying wants and needs and consistently serve delectable meals under the close supervision of its owner chef who after many years at the top still seems to be passionate about he does best, offering guests extraordinary meals.
Le Bristol’s elegant dining room, well trained staff and delicious dishes made it a natural for a return visit. In addition to Chef Eric Frechon’s creations, the dining room was elegant and inviting, and the wine menu offered many affordable and desirable choices. With 80 staff members in the kitchen and another 13 in the dining room, we wanted for nothing. We appreciated the wine steward’s selections (from wine cellars of more than 30,000 bottles) and the pastry chef’s talents which provided a worthy ending to a well prepared lunch. Favorites included the scrumptious varied pre-appetizers and delicately flavored turbot and oxtail, with steamed fois gras enveloped in cabbage leaves, main courses.
: While in Paris , we decided to pay a visit to famous town of Versailles . During our excursion, we enjoyed a gourmet lunch at Les Trois Marches , which was the high point of our day. Chef Vié, who had lived and worked in Versailles for 30 years when we visited Les Trois Marches , had the rare ability to surprise and delight while maintaining a mostly classic menu.
: At this traditional French restaurant, we heard magic words from the chef. The precious setting, the marvelous location just off the Champs Elysees , the eager and attentive staff, the eminently French clientele, the knowledgeable wine stewards and the succulent dishes made Le Laurent a great find.