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The Most Interesting Food City in the World


docsconz
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In the Spain forum an assertion was made that Barcelona "is the most interesting food city in the world." For a number of reasons including the current level of creative cookery and the quality of available ingredients it may very well be (and currently is IMO as well), although I suspect other cities of the world including possibly other Spanish cities such as San Sebastian may be able to make a claim.

What do you think? I want to know which cities and why you think they have legitimate claims.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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I've never had the pleasure of visiting Barcelona, but I think Kuala Lumpur is a pretty damn interesting city for food. They have great Malay food, great Chinese food, and great Indian food, all the way from fine dining to street stall levels. And the thing about it is, a lot of that food of diverse origins ends up coming together with some pan-Malaysian features. I don't feel up to going into more detail right now, but perhaps some of our KL-area members would like to elaborate.

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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For the same reasons Pan has stated above, I believe Singapore also offers a wealth of distinct, assorted, and merged (fused?) cuisine. Hawker centers to haute cuisine, Singapore, with its culinary and dining scene, is a candidate for most interesting food city in the world

Yetty CintaS

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I like Hong Kong for just that reason. It also has the lingering colonial atmosphere, which offers wonderful Continental cuisine as well.

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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I like Hong Kong for just that reason.  It also has the lingering colonial atmosphere, which offers wonderful Continental cuisine as well.

I have to agree with Jaymes - even though I haven't been in 10 years. Ate at beautiful, upscale western restaurants, very reasonable, traditional Chinese places, and periwinkles served in the shell on the street - eaten with toothpicks and bottles of beer from the store across the street.

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For the same reasons Pan has stated above, I believe Singapore also offers a wealth of distinct, assorted, and merged (fused?) cuisine.  Hawker centers to haute cuisine, Singapore, with its culinary and dining scene, is a  candidate for  most interesting food  city in the world

I agree! Singapore is one of the most interesting food cities in the world. Johor Bahru a little north of Singapore is excellent too. The main problem with Singapore is that the excessive hygiene standards have sorta washed out the true flavour of the food.

Do not expect INTJs to actually care about how you view them. They already know that they are arrogant bastards with a morbid sense of humor. Telling them the obvious accomplishes nothing.

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i think it would have to be hong kong or singapore. los angeles is the one american city that can compare--with its wealth of mexican, central american, chinese and east asian restaurants alongside california cuisine.

I would place at least NYC and Chicago amongst American cities ahead of LA. LA may be excellent for what you mentioned, but lags in othe areas especially European haute cuisine. NYC is strong in most areas and Chicago may be the most interesting city in North America (and possibly the world) today vis a vis "creative" cuisine. Two immediate examples are the eGullet-associated restaurants Moto and Alinea.

Although I've never been fortunate enough to experience Hong Kong for myself, it appears to have top quality interesting food in a truly cosmopolitan variety. Singapore sounds great, but is it so interesting because of its novelty to the non-Singaporean?

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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I would place at least NYC and Chicago amongst American cities ahead of LA. LA may be excellent for what you mentioned, but lags in othe areas especially European haute cuisine. NYC is strong in most areas and Chicago may be the most interesting city in North America (and possibly the world) today vis a vis "creative" cuisine. Two immediate examples are the eGullet-associated restaurants Moto and Alinea.

Although I've never been fortunate enough to experience Hong Kong for myself, it appears to have top quality interesting food in a truly cosmopolitan variety. Singapore sounds great, but is it so interesting because of its novelty to the non-Singaporean?

I'll go a step further. I haven't had anything memorable in any high end Los Angeles restaurants my last 2 trips. Last fond memory I have is of Chinois on Main (which I don't think is super-high-end) 3 trips ago (and maybe close to 10 years). I will also add that Chicago has better high end restaurants which are more traditional than those you mentioned. We love going there. I especially recommend going during the Navy Pier Art Show or during Architecture Week (if you like art and/or architecture). Robyn

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Depends a great deal on what one finds "interesting" of course. Barcelona is a fabulous food city, as is New York, as is HK, etc. I'd cast my vote with Kristin, however, since I find Japanese food the most interesting and for that, Tokyo is hard to beat. On a recent trip to the US, we ate at Matsuhisa and Urasawa in LA, then Yasuda and Jewel Bako in NY; all the Tokyo-ites in our group agreed that the food was uniformly excellent (most of us felt that Matsuhisa had slipped a bit and really wasn't Japanese in any event), but we all felt that we'd been to better places in Tokyo.

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Given my world travels include France (Paris and several towns in Provence), Mexico (nasty border towns and Isla Mujeres), Costa Rica, and most states within the US, my vote goes to New Orleans.

Represented cuisines I've sampled there include Cajun, Creole, French, Cuban, German, Italian, Spanish, and Carribean. And this was all while I was a poor college student.

But beyond the fact that it is so cosmopolitan, New Orleans is a city that worships food (and drink). It truly is difficult to find a bad meal there.

And what is so interesting to me is the local twist on an original cuisine. For example, Central Grocery on Decatur Street, or better yet, Mandina's in Mid-City -- both serve "Italian" fare, but those muffalettas and turtle soup with a wop salad (though I think they've changed the name for pc reasons) arent' what you're likely to find on Italian menus elsewhere. Perhaps this stamping of local flavor is common for cities with large immigrant populations in general.

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Given my world travels include France (Paris and several towns in Provence), Mexico (nasty border towns and Isla Mujeres), Costa Rica, and most states within the US, my vote goes to New Orleans.

Represented cuisines I've sampled there include Cajun, Creole, French, Cuban, German, Italian, Spanish, and Carribean.  And this was all while I was a poor college student.

But beyond the fact that it is so cosmopolitan, New Orleans is a city that worships food (and drink).  It truly is difficult to find a bad meal there. 

And what is so interesting to me is the local twist on an original cuisine.  For example, Central Grocery on Decatur Street, or better yet, Mandina's in Mid-City -- both serve "Italian" fare, but those muffalettas and turtle soup with a wop salad (though I think they've changed the name for pc reasons) arent' what you're likely to find on Italian menus elsewhere.  Perhaps this stamping of local flavor is common for cities with large immigrant populations in general.

New Orleans, but I've not had the others...but in America...New Orleans.

good people, good food, good fresh food, and lots of fun. We arn't ignorant of good wines or truffles etc., we just have the flavor of so many cultures that we can't ignore : and talk about fusion...we were the first.

Edited by highchef (log)
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New Orleans, but I've not had the others...but in America...New Orleans.

good people, good food, good fresh food, and lots of fun. We arn't ignorant of good wines or truffles etc., we just have the flavor of so many cultures that we can't ignore : and talk about fusion...we were the first.

I certainly cannot dispute New Orleans as a great food city and a worthy candidate for discussion here, but I can dispute the statement of New Orleans as the first fusion cuisine. I'm sure that distinction goes back well before the City of New Orleans was a pipe dream in anyone's mind. While I doubt even Sicilian food was the "original" fusion food, it already had a multitude of influences by the twelfth century and hasn't stopped "fusing" since.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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I would place at least NYC and Chicago amongst American cities ahead of LA. LA may be excellent for what you mentioned, but lags in othe areas especially European haute cuisine. NYC is strong in most areas and Chicago may be the most interesting city in North America (and possibly the world) today vis a vis "creative" cuisine. Two immediate examples are the eGullet-associated restaurants Moto and Alinea.

Although I've never been fortunate enough to experience Hong Kong for myself, it appears to have top quality interesting food in a truly cosmopolitan variety. Singapore sounds great, but is it so interesting because of its novelty to the non-Singaporean?

I'll go a step further. I haven't had anything memorable in any high end Los Angeles restaurants my last 2 trips. Last fond memory I have is of Chinois on Main (which I don't think is super-high-end) 3 trips ago (and maybe close to 10 years). I will also add that Chicago has better high end restaurants which are more traditional than those you mentioned. We love going there. I especially recommend going during the Navy Pier Art Show or during Architecture Week (if you like art and/or architecture). Robyn

"high-end" los angeles isn't what i had in mind--though the best restaurants in that category are good enough to not drag down the overall index. i know many new yorkers think they have the best chinese in the u.s--this is an understandable delusion i suppose. however, when you factor in all the mexican, the various central-american, the korean, the vietnamese (a little to the south but within reach of l.a for sure), the japanese, the thai etc. los angeles just has a much greater depth of range. if you're weighting high-end european/french/new american in this discussion then that's a different matter.

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I would place at least NYC and Chicago amongst American cities ahead of LA. LA may be excellent for what you mentioned, but lags in othe areas especially European haute cuisine. NYC is strong in most areas and Chicago may be the most interesting city in North America (and possibly the world) today vis a vis "creative" cuisine. Two immediate examples are the eGullet-associated restaurants Moto and Alinea.

Although I've never been fortunate enough to experience Hong Kong for myself, it appears to have top quality interesting food in a truly cosmopolitan variety. Singapore sounds great, but is it so interesting because of its novelty to the non-Singaporean?

I'll go a step further. I haven't had anything memorable in any high end Los Angeles restaurants my last 2 trips. Last fond memory I have is of Chinois on Main (which I don't think is super-high-end) 3 trips ago (and maybe close to 10 years). I will also add that Chicago has better high end restaurants which are more traditional than those you mentioned. We love going there. I especially recommend going during the Navy Pier Art Show or during Architecture Week (if you like art and/or architecture). Robyn

"high-end" los angeles isn't what i had in mind--though the best restaurants in that category are good enough to not drag down the overall index. i know many new yorkers think they have the best chinese in the u.s--this is an understandable delusion i suppose. however, when you factor in all the mexican, the various central-american, the korean, the vietnamese (a little to the south but within reach of l.a for sure), the japanese, the thai etc. los angeles just has a much greater depth of range. if you're weighting high-end european/french/new american in this discussion then that's a different matter.

There obviously is no one "right" answer to this question. It is whatever floats one's individual boat. For me it consists mostly of the diversity of cuisine, excellence and variety of produce and other raw ingredients and the level of culinary creativity. The last part is probably the single greatest element for me. I am curious though as to what makes cities particularly "interesting" to my fellow eGulleteers and why.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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There obviously is no one "right" answer to this question. It is whatever floats one's individual boat.

Hear, hear. Personally I find Japanese to be the least interesting of the major Asian cuisines, so Tokyo would be out for me.

As a travel-envious forty-year-old who's not been out of Canada, I find all the arguments interesting if distinctly hypothetical.

“Who loves a garden, loves a greenhouse too.” - William Cowper, The Task, Book Three

 

"Not knowing the scope of your own ignorance is part of the human condition...The first rule of the Dunning-Kruger club is you don’t know you’re a member of the Dunning-Kruger club.” - psychologist David Dunning

 

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I have lived in New York and Singapore, and I would reluctantly rate New York ahead of Singapore (this despite having grown up in Singapore!).

As a qualification, when I think of New York City, I think of the whole of New York City, and not just Manhattan; this includes the whole swathe of Brooklyn, Queens the Bronx and Staten Island.

The breadth and depth of cuisine in New York City, both in terms of geographical reach and socio-economic range, is breathtaking. The foods of Asia, Central America, South America, Africa, Europe (and American, of course) are amply represented in all their variety. There are so many ethnic communities in New York City that have contributed their culinary heritage to our dining delight. Many of these can be found outside of Manhattan, but still within New York City. Excellent eating can be quite easily found at every level, from street food to haute cuisine.

The dining scene is simply vibrant.

Okay, I will admit that the Chinese dining scene is not as refined or sophisticated as that in Hong Kong or even Singapore, but it is still bustling with good food and good variety (after all, there is a Chinatown in each of Manhattan, Queens and Brooklyn). We still talking about one out of dozens (maybe hundreds) of other cuisines available in New York City.

I love eating in Singapore, and wonderful eats are abundantly available. But Singapore simply does not have the breadth and depth of New York. The range of cuisines in Singapore is definitely more limited, for one thing. You would be hard pressed to find any South American restaurants, except for the Brazilian churascaria that is now almost ubiquitous in any big city, for example. Greek, Ukranian, Afghan and Spanish restaurants are not easy to come by. And given it's location, there isn't even a comprehensive representation of South East Asian or regional Chinese cuisines in Singapore (I had better Vietnamese food in New York, for example, and I don't know if there is any Burmese restaurants in Singapore). There isn't a good range of regional Chinese cuisines in Singapore either. There isn't a Xinjiang or Uighur restaurant in Singapore to my knowledge, nor are there many (if any) good Sichuan, Hebei or Dongbei restuarants.

There are also not many good high-end restaurants in Singapore. Most of the new aspirants all lack something, whether it is in terms of food quality, service or ambience. And they are not cheap either. There just aren't the various levels of dining experiences available in Singapore as there are in New York.

The best eating in Singapore, for me, is mostly found in the humble hawker centres and coffee shops. At this level of dining, I think that Singapore is almost impossible to beat. The sheer variety of cheap, freshly prepared, tasty dishes available in these eating places is astonishing and I have many favorites - laksa, chinese rice, fried guotiao, roasted pork rice, fishball noodles, nasi lemak, hokkien prawn noodles, popiah, pork rib soup, barbequed seafood, etc etc. And I adore peranakan cuisine, which is a fusion of chinese and malay cuisines.

So I think Singapore and New York are both great world food cities, but I will have to give the nod to New York on balance.

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Makan King, With such thoughtful, detailed and well-balanced post, I very much look forward to reading many more from you. Welcome to eGullet!

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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Makan King, thanks for an interesting post!

I have to say, though, that some of the things you say Singapore lacks are also lacking in New York. I don't know of a good Burmese restaurant here, and I have no idea where I could find a Xinjiang, Hebei, or Dongbei restaurant anywhere within the city limits. There's a guy with a cart near the Queens Borough Public Library branch at Kissena Blvd. who sells Xinjiang-style barbecued meat on skewers, and it's just OK (nowhere near as good as what you get in Beijing). I frankly have no idea what dishes are typical of Hebei (as much of a geography buff as I am, I'd have to check a map to or Google to find out what the capital of that province is - Wuhan, maybe?), and I don't remember a Dongbei place since the early 70s, when my father and I used to go for Manchurian Hot Pot at a place on Chatham Square (where Goody's is now, I think) on 20-degree days.

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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It seems to me that this thread shows two very different schools of thought as to what is interesting. High end vs. affordable variety (basic description, clearly it is a bit more complicated than that).

I kind of fall into the "affordable variety with an interesting high end factor" school of thought.

Using that as the criteria, in North America, I would probably vote for New Orleans. Native cuisine (Creole, Cajun, Creole Italian, etc.) is available along all ends of the service spectrum, and New Orleans has ethnic dining that takes a backseat to no one in terms of variety or quality. People here don't put up with bad food. Whether it be tacos al carbon, pho, gumbo, or an oyster po boy.

I am also taking into account that the average guy working in a shipyard here knows more about cooking, dining, and good food than the average middle class guy anywhere in the world. We just eat. To paraphrase Louis Armstrong (a native and a good eater :wink: ), most people here don't care where it came from originally because, "if it tastes good, it is good".

As a close second I would pick Los Angeles and New York, although once again, in terms of informed diners across the whole socioeconomic spectrum, New Orleans still wins out. New York sure enough has a much broader (both in terms of numbers and ethnic groups) spectrum of restaurants and cultural dining experiences-BUT I don't believe that the crossing of lines is as common as it is in New Orleans.

Worldwide, I haven't been everywhere, but I did spend some time in Southeast Aisa when I was still building breweries, and Hong Kong gets my vote. I was blown away by the variety all up and down the line.

Brooks Hamaker, aka "Mayhaw Man"

There's a train everyday, leaving either way...

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Of the cities I've visited and lived in or near, I'd have to say Tokyo has the most interesting food offerings. I lived in Japan after college, working as an English teacher for a year, and Tokyo was absolute food heaven for me. From the enormous food markets in the lower levels of the department stores, to the cheap noodle and tempura cafes at the train stations, to the great variety of cuisines available (I had some of the best Cajun, Italian and Indian meals of my life there), to the expensive and exotic high-end restaurants I could barely afford to sneak a glance of through a window, Tokyo seemed to have the best of everything. Of course, I was young then (19-20 during the year I was there), and hadn't had a chance to experience much high-end dining in my life, so perhaps I'd feel differently now. I just can't think of any other place I've visited that has such a variety of excellent food options.

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I would give strong consideration to Chicago when speaking of North American cities. Similar to what people have said above in reference to the breadth of cuisines represented at all service range can be said of Chicago.

In addition to the food prepared in Chicago, there is still a very neighborhood feel to 'ethnicity' that is fun for an outsider with an interest in food to explore on the street level. Though the neighborhoods are more of a melting pot than they once were, you can still find true-to-life Italian, German, Polish, Mexican, Chinese, African American, Pakistani, etc neighborhoods with small groceries, hole-in-the-wall restaurants, coffee shops, and bakeries. And they are all reasonably accessible.

One of the best Mexican, Central, South American open air markets in the US (or maybe the world?) is in Chicago every Sunday. Prepared foods, spices, groceries, market goods, and even power tools of questionable provenance. The place is teeming with people looking for bargains and looking to eat well. That plus the fantastic taco vans that you see around at lunch time make it a great city for 'south of the border' foodstuffs.

In Chicago there are still very fine examples of the Old World European cuisine that has fallen out of favor in many American cities. Outstanding old-school German and Polish and Czech places that are still popular.

Another strength is the 'soul food' cooking of African Americans who settled in Chicago's south side. The same folks who gave us Chicago blues still serve honest interpretations of the recipes they brought with them when they moved north.

With its rich history as a port to transfer grains and meat and cheese from the center of the country to the rest of the world, Chicago has had the benefit of fantastic raw materials for being a food powerhouse. As a well-developed industrial city it now continues to get fresh immigrants from all parts of the world to help turn those raw materials into representations of the food from their homeland. It is a combination that seems to be working.

So, though I adore New Orleans, have never been to San Sabastien (or Barcelona, Singapore, KL, et al), and need to spend more time in New York and LA, I would say that Chicago is worthy of consideration.

Stephen Bunge

St Paul, MN

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