Wednesday December 22, 2010
By Alan Richman, GQ: America's food renaissance keeps expanding, in all kinds of creative directions—not all of them fancy. From a $20 million gamble in Manhattan to a desolate block in Oakland, our tireless food correspondent, Alan Richman, crisscrossed the country in search of the best and tastiest this land has to offer. Start booking those tables now.
New York, NY
Almost Instantly, America's Most Intelligent Italian Restaurant
Jonathan Benno has emerged from behind the Iron Curtain—the mercilessly precise kitchen of Thomas Keller's Per Se, where he labored brilliantly as chef de cuisine. The word around town was that he was ready to slow down and cook simple Italian food. Not him. He remains uncompromising
2. Flour + Water
San Francisco, CA
The Neighborhood Restaurant You Want in Your Neighborhood
Reservations are tough. Lines are long—half the tables are saved for walk-ins. The music is too loud; techno the night I ate there. The servers look as though they're ready to toss aside their order pads and dance. The design appears to be a mélange of Wild West and Arts and Crafts.
3. The Kitchen at Brooklyn Fare
All of a Sudden, the Toughest Table in New York
Five nights a week, chef César Ramirez offers the most outrageously fabulous meals in New York, prepared and served in a space that also acts as the prep kitchen of a grocery store on the same block. When I went early last year, the total number of seats was twelve.
4. The Tasting Kitchen
Free-Form French, with Italian Variants and a Sushi-Style Sensibility
I wasn't impressed, not at first. Certainly not by the menu. "Very confusing. I apologize," the waiter admitted. To be honest, he didn't seem all that coherent, either. When I told him I had no idea what to order, he suggested I trust the chef, Casey Lane. You hear that in sushi bars, where it's generally not about trust.
What's a Restaurant Like This Doing in a Place Like Portland
Out of the chaos of modern West Coast dining comes an establishment in touch with Germanic and Alsatian gastronomy. You don't see that in Oregon. It's incongruous, almost inconceivable. The room doesn't look Central European—it's austere, with plenty of blond wood, steel, and glass. The food is all about comfort, the old-world way.
6. The Walrus and the Carpenter
See What the Boys (and Girls) in the Back Room Will Have
A pitch-perfect oyster bar, and more. You walk down a long hallway to a half-hidden door where a cheerful young maître d' seats you in a room that's joyous, lively, and oh so cramped. It's filled with the same diners who eat pork belly in New York City, except they're slurping oysters here.
Fruit 'n' Fish, the New Fun Flavor Combination
The Americanization of Japanese food has rarely been so appealing. (Nobu Matsuhisa invented the concept more than twenty years ago, though his unsurpassed style was more traditional and somewhat South American.) The sushi chefs standing before me spoke English to one another, maybe because one was Thai, the other Vietnamese.
A Chef from the Projects Gets Posh
Long ago, when Barbara Lynch got her first important job, cooking for Todd English in Cambridge, she couldn't find her way to work and said to him, "Who puts a restaurant in this fucking place?" She's changed since growing up in the Southie projects.
Neighborhood Haute Cuisine on a Most Improbable Block
Across the street from Commis is Anatoly's Men's Clothing, new suits for $99. (Not cheap enough? Take advantage of the liquidation sale.) An unlikely locale for a restaurant with SoHo savoir faire: stark and simple, with opaque glass and no name on the door.
10. Longman & Eagle
A First: Fine Dining Goes Neo-Flophouse
The way I heard it from my waiter, Longman & Eagle—the name pays tribute to a statue in nearby Logan Square—aspires to become a flophouse. You've got to admit, that's an uncommon ambition.