Most of us only dream of dining at the French Laundrys of the world, but if you plan (and save) ahead of time, enjoying a meal at one of the world’s fanciest restaurants is eminently possible. First, though, you need to pick your destination eateries. Need something to whet your appetite? We’ve picked 7 crazy-fancy restaurants anyone would enjoy — and are definitely worth a bucket-list meal. Be inspired, get hungry, and dig in:
1: Eleven Madison Park (New York City)
A veritable cornerstone of modern New York, Eleven Madison Park opened in 1998 but has operated under Chef Daniel Humm since 2011. The design here is simple — almost austere — with soaring ceilings, crisp white tablecloths, and a hint of Art Deco. The menu, however, is anything but austere; the main dining room serves guests 10 luscious courses envisioned by Humm himself. What you pay for (to the tune of $1,100 for two) is a re-envisioning of the tried-and-true that meets the needs, tastes, and cravings of each diner. For example: A diner at the restaurant once lamented, while in the dining room, that he hadn’t tried a New York hot dog. The kitchen took his cue and ran with it, sourcing a genuine NYC dog and presenting it with a touch more panache than your typical street vendor. Are you paying $1,100 for a hot dog? Not really — you’re paying for the keen attention to detail and nimble kitchen staff who can pivot on a dime to deliver exactly what you want.
2: Narisawa (Tokyo, Japan)
With a passionate focus on nature, Narisawa “creates gastronomy beneficial to both body and spirit and a continuously sustainable environment.” Chef Narisawa himself is the driving force behind this philosophy and the culinary visionary who composes much of the menu. Omakase (chef’s tasting menu) is the name of the game here, so be prepared to let the master do his work, delivering seasonally appropriate cuisine that changes daily. So what does a $350 meal at Narisawa get you? Delicious art and unimaginable, dynamic treats, including Self-Raising Bread, Sea Snake, and Shrimp Sashimi. Perhaps the most impressive part of the meal is the presentation: Each dish is composed in a way that reflects the natural environment, like a salad with mushrooms assembled like leaves and fungi on a forest floor.
3: Noma (Copenhagen, Denmark)
A two Michelin star-winner, Noma is undoubtedly cream of the culinary crop. And while many starred restaurants are European, this one is (mostly) Nordic; seasonal menus based on seafood, game meats, and vegetables reflect the bounty of the region and Chef René Redzepi’s Nordic whims. Whatever you expect of a Nordic institution — elevated meatballs, pickled fish, and flatbread, perhaps — you’d best be prepared for something off the beaten path. Celeriac Shawarma, Shrimp Ravioli, Cured Turbot, and Cod Tongue Schnitzel have all made an appearance on the prix-fixe menu. It just goes to show that Nordic cuisine is as open to fusion as any other. With a $385 price tag per person, a meal at Noma is absolutely a rarity — but an experience very much worth having.
4: Restaurant de l’Hôtel de Ville (Crissier, Switzerland)
Cozying up to a fire in a chalet tucked in the Swiss Alps is a dream, right? Imagine that fantasy times 20 at Restaurant de l’Hôtel de Ville, where Chef Franck Giovanni leads the kitchen to culinary crescendo in a quaint, 18th-century maison. For a cool $400, you can enjoy a 10-course, prix-fixe feast that’s a masterful showcase of continental European fare; Chilled Clams with Osetra caviar, Cardoons with black truffle, and Suckling Lamb rubbed with whole grain mustard have wowed on the ever-changing menu. Chef Giovanni will even put together a “Discovery” menu for you that’s a total surprise — if you like living on the wild side and have a few Benjamins to spare. (We should mention that the price tag quote above does not include wine.)
5: Ithaa Undersea Restaurant (Maldives)
Perhaps more quirk that craft, Ithaa is the on-property restaurant for the Conrad Hotel on Rangali Island in the Maldives. Located 16 feet below the surface of the ocean, this fusion restaurant is equally about the experience of dining surrounded by ocean water and aquatic life as it is about the prix-fixe creations. Innovation and outside-the-pan thinking are what anchor the kitchen here, producing the likes of Strawberry Gazpacho, Lobster Adobo, and Wagyu Three Ways for the cozy, eight-table dining room. The sticker price won’t shock you at this point (dinner runs $390 for one), and might be worth it for a chance to dine with the fishes.
6: Central (Lima, Peru)
If you’ve never been to Peru, you’re missing out on its diverse landscape, colorful culinary tapestry, and vibrant culture. Most astounding to us was the climatic and topographic diversity of the country, stretching from the Pacific Ocean in the west to the towering mountains and lush forests in the east. Naturally, this diversity produces countless ingredients of every shape, size, color, and flavor. Chef Virgilio Martínez Véliz makes expert use of these ingredients, letting them shine instead of opting to manipulate them. Cases in point: Sea Urchin with melon, Avocado with minty huacatay, and Goat roasted in clay. Each dish on the 17-course tasting menu is arranged by elevation — that is, by the elevation of the dish’s primary ingredient(s). Fortunately, this elaborate menu is more affordable than its starred peers; dinner costs around $150 per person.
7: De Librije (Zwolle, Netherlands)
De Librije serves as both hotel and restaurant, though the restaurant arguably has more acclaim that its neighboring accommodations. Unapologetically, the menu is unique to the talents in the kitchen, calling on local ingredients and the latest cooking techniques to produce something you won’t experience anywhere else. To wit, the 10-course, seafood-forward menu ($270) featuring the likes of Oysters with goat cheese and seaweed, Monkfish with cherries, and Roe Deer with cabbage and ginger. For a richer affair, consider booking the Chef’s Table and letting the kitchen go wild. Whatever you order, take in the historic setting; the restaurant is housed in a 15th-century Dominican Abbey.
What are the fanciest restaurants you’ve enjoyed on your travels? Let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.