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docsconz

The Most Interesting Food City in the World

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A couple more plugs for Melbourne:

- Probably the best Cantonese restaurants outside of Hongkong. The Flower Drum is a high-end, multi award winning, and deservedly so, example of the genre.

- Probably the best sushi/sashimi outside of Japan. Big call, rivalled perhaps by San Fran, and oh yes, Sydney. We look after our oceans, and the best farmed tuna and salmon around.

- We even have an Armenian cafe.

Beat that.

On other cities, the ones I feel a lot for are (in no particular order):

1. Paris - purely sentimental on one level, yet amazed at the culinary descendents of the classics.

2. San Sebastian - pure fun.

3. KL - honest street food I grew up with

4. Hongkong - sheer variety, one stop shop factor, and Cantonese style seafood, endangered species and all.

5. Tuscany - another sentimental choice. emotional for me, it's bistecca when inland, scampi and branzini on the coast, and cannelini everywhere else. E gli vini non fa male anche.


"Coffee and cigarettes... the breakfast of champions!"

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I suppose it greatly depends on the kind of food you like.

Montreal

San Francisco

New York

Turin Italy

London -- A very welcome site after a month in India :laugh:

All for different reasons.


Never trust a skinny chef

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I love Montreal as a food city, but there is no question in my mind that while it has great food, for what I have previously defined as my personal criteria it doesn't compete with most of the cities most frequently mentioned here. The French and Quebec foods are truly wonderful. The city has good ethnic cuisine, but I've never been overwhelmed by either the variety or general quality in that regard. I find the city interesting because of restaurants like Toque, Les Chevres and Rosalie as well as markets like Jean Talon - a wonderful market, but it really doesn't hold a candle to the Boqueria of Barcelona.


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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Seoul- It's hard to find bad Korean food here. It's a non-stop city. Hard to imagine that when I first went back to visit in 1977 (or was it 1978?) my cousins took me a street where they were building some of the first high rise buildings. :laugh: The street food, the "tent restaurants" (pojang machu), the restaurants that specialize in specific dishes, the somber, grim faced middle age Korean waitresses (this is the secret to aging without wrinkles), live duck killed to order, real charcoal barbeque, kalbi tang at 2:00 AM, donuts made from rice flour, sea squirt as street food...

Paris- My heart beats a little faster, my step quickens, my appetite opens up, I want to eat and eat. Again, pretty hard to find bad French food in France. Even the chain bistros serve pretty tastey stuff (except for onion soup). My husband and I had Cote du Boeuf at 3:30 AM. We like to have morning coffee in a Brasserie, next to a Frenchman who is starting his day with a glass of wine! :cool:

Lyon- for the best cuisine du terroir. The nearby farmer's market. Ummm... the quality of the produce here is phenomenol. We stopped at road stop cafeteria on the way to Paris and I was like, "This is French cafeteria food. Wow!"

London- I've only been once. I just don't know about this place for food. It's the most internationally commercial city I have been in. Not so much for depth but range. I think I saw at least one restaurant representing every country in the world (exageration here). I mostly opted for pub meals since I was only there for a week (on my way to Paris, so I wanted save my money for food I know is great). Also, for a big city it shuts down pretty early.

Los Angeles- For the reasons Mongo has already stated.

SF- for pure fun. I love the city.

New York- I've been many times. It just doesn't excite me as a food city. I like the bars better. For ethnic I prefer Los Angeles. For "European style Haute Cuisine" well I prefer Europe.

I don't think that I've ever had a bad meal in France or Korea. That's not to say it was all terrific. But my experiences in the other cities I've mentioned were more hit and miss. Some were just outright awfull in a way that I haven't experienced in France or Korea.

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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.

I'd also have to go with New York as the most interesting food city... to me... on the basis of the immense variety of ethnic cuisines available, especially at the lower- mid-price range. Looking for Afghani? Argentinian? You can find it. Peruvian? Polish? Here. Tibetan? Turkish? No problem. Same goes for ethnic markets, if you know where to look (and this includes the boroughs outside Manhattan).

The Asia Society's website, BTW, lists a whole slew of Burmese restaurants in NYC. How good any of them are, I don't know from personal experience. http://www.asiafood.org/restaurants/burmese.cfm


SuzySushi

"She sells shiso by the seashore."

My eGullet Foodblog: A Tropical Christmas in the Suburbs

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I note that when it comes to "interesting," many folks automatically think "variety."  I know I do...

I am curious though as to what makes cities particularly "interesting" to my fellow eGulleteers and why.

I also think that variety is important; it certainly would be of the utmost importance if I had to choose one place in which to live.

But as variety has been the focus of most of the replies, I'd like to mention a city that, while I wouldn't nominate as the "most interesting" food city (I might nominate it as one of the best, though), is an utterly fascinating place because, while it has probably more high-end, and specialty food stores both per-capita and per-sqaure-mile than any other city I've ever seen, it has no variety whatsoever: Strasbourg, France!

I've never seen a city more obsessed with food stores, or more of them. And it's all the local cuisine. It truly seems that as you stroll the city, every store you pass is either a very fancy "Foie-Gras" boutique, or a pastry shop whose window displays look like the entries in a high-end pastry competition, or a luxury butcher shop with fancy, manicured barded roasts and game birds of every kind in the window, or an incredibly elaborate cheese shop, or an artisanal bread bakery, and then as you keep walking, this order of shops just repeats, and repeats, throughout the city. And these are all small jewel-box types of shops. Just as when you stroll the most exclusive neighborhoods in most other cities and see high-end jewelry and designer clothes boutiques, in Strasbourg you see dozens of Foie Gras shops - off the top of my head I can name Lutz, Frick, Bruck, and Artzner, and there are plenty more, and each one looks like Bulgari or Fendi, only all they sell are cans and jars of Foie Gras and truffles. And next door is the fancy butcher, or the pastry shop, or the bread bakery.

And then when you get to the hypermarkets, they're all incredibly upscale, with food departments the size of a football stadium, and high end aisles that have foie-gras in one, smoked duck and goose products in another, and always a display of foods just baked in puff-pastry larger than the average American deli counter alone.

And yet as you wander the tiny city, tucked in the middle of nowhere in the northeast corner of France, you realize that there are simply not a lot of tourists, and what tourists there are are certainly not taking most of these foodstuffs back to their hotel rooms. The local consumption of these things, based on number of stores they support, is obviously staggering. This dawned on me after I had spent some time there. It's a city obsessed with food, and none of the "variety" of cuisines or ingredients that other cities seem to care so much about.

Anyway, it's clearly not the most interesting food city in the world, but it is a fascinating one.


Overheard at the Zabar’s prepared food counter in the 1970’s:

Woman (noticing a large bowl of cut fruit): “How much is the fruit salad?”

Counterman: “Three-ninety-eight a pound.”

Woman (incredulous, and loud): “THREE-NINETY EIGHT A POUND ????”

Counterman: “Who’s going to sit and cut fruit all day, lady… YOU?”

Newly updated: my online food photo extravaganza; cook-in/eat-out and photos from the 70's

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After reading Mark's post I reconsidered my list with variety in mind. By the way variety isn't so important to me, that's what traveling is for.

Seoul- No variety. The closest thing is Chinese or Japanese. The rest is mostly awful with very, very few exceptions. I was born there and I've visited over a hundred times during the last 30 years.

Paris- Not much variety. It's possible to find great North African food here, Vietnamese can also be exciting and some decent Italian. Overall, for good food it's almost entirely French. I've been about a dozen times.

Lyon- Less variety than Paris for obvious reasons. But the produce, oh the produce anyone interested in cuisine du terroir and fresh, local produce should visit this beautiful region of France where the Rhone and Burgundy meet. Do a circle around it, the wines, meats, cheeses, etc... :wub: I've been about a dozen times.

SF- I don't know. The variety here doesn't seem to compare to NYC or LA. I've been to SF about 6 times.

NYC- On terms of pure variety ok, it tops my list. Still doesn't stir my loins much though. I've had plenty of mediocre meals in this town to not walk into a place casually anymore. But I've also had great meals here. I've visited the city about 12-15 times.

Los Angeles- same answer as above. Lived here for over 30 years.

London- Rivals New York in variety, if not depth. But an exciting food city? Not for me at all. Been once, 2-3 years ago.

I've traveled more than this list here, but the other places I've been aren't noteworthy for food. After seeing the places mentioned here though I know where I'll be going for my food vacations. :smile:

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I've not done enough traveling to feel like I can say anything definitive about *most interesting* food city, but of the places I have been I can offer some opinions...

New York's food virtues have already been amply argued, and of those places I've been I'd have to say it's tops in sheer variety by me too, by most every yardstick I can think of. Now for some honorable mentions. Vancouver and Seattle have already been invoked, I see, so let me throw in a good word for the Boston Metro area, where I lived for some 15 years. Simply because of the dozens of colleges, and thus the bazillions of students from all over the world, Boston IMO has a distinct lead in the kind of foods that would appeal to that customer base--cheap/reasonably priced eateries of many different ethnic groups. Add to that the Italian-American influence of the North End, the terrific seafood, the old-timey New England-y places like Durgin Park, the respectable group of upscale/trendy dining spots--and last but not least (even though it's now only a shadow of its former glory), the wonderful Haymarket, and I'd say Boston definitely belongs on a list of major interesting-food cities.

Nobody's mentioned Portland OR yet either, but while I have friends who sing the praises of that city's foodie scene, I don't have enough personal experience with it to speak authoritatively.

Meanwhile, looping back to Seattle--not only does it have the Pacific Rim thing goin' on, but it also has a fabulous food market, Pike Place Market, supplied by a bunch of local farmers who bring in some really nice produce. There's also local wineries; a whole lotta microbreweries small and large; the ubiquitous coffee presence (much more than just Starbucks, and even they once upon a time were just another little coffee emporium too); a pretty strong Chinatown/International District (also featuring Vietnamese and Japanese places), and some really excellent exemplars of other Asian-ethnic cuisines too (Thai, Indian, etc.).

(While my current city of residence, San Diego, has got some great food-things of its own going on, I don't really feel its dining scene has quite the depth of other places I've been so far.)


Edited by mizducky (log)

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Size and money matter, which is to say nothing of cultural and ethnic diversity, so Paris, Tokyo, Hong Kong, and London all trail New York. Amerocentric, yes, but had the course of history flowed another way, then maybe the Big Apple would be at the bottom of the totem.

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If size and money matter, it's LA. Stupid amounts of money here spread against a huge sprawl of land, money often times stupidly spent :laugh: . Seoul too, huge city, tons of cash, they wouldn't blink at spending $500 at a restaurant like Masa.

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[...]

Paris- My heart beats a little faster, my step quickens, my appetite opens up, I want to eat and eat. Again, pretty hard to find bad French food in France. Even the chain bistros serve pretty tastey stuff (except for onion soup).[...]

I love France, and I love Paris, but I wouldn't agree that it's hard to find bad French food in Paris. Actually, I found it a lot harder to find bad food in Nice than Paris, unless you went to the Flunch [sic] at the train station. My fellow students were so strapped they went there for the 18-franc sandwiches (this was in 1992-3). I had one once and it upset my stomach. I went for 40-to-45-franc lunches instead, such as plates of pasta, which I'm convinced is a local food in a city that but for somewhat of an accident of history could be part of Italy today.


Michael aka "Pan

 

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[...]

Paris- My heart beats a little faster, my step quickens, my appetite opens up, I want to eat and eat. Again, pretty hard to find bad French food in France. Even the chain bistros serve pretty tastey stuff (except for onion soup).[...]

I love France, and I love Paris, but I wouldn't agree that it's hard to find bad French food in Paris. Actually, I found it a lot harder to find bad food in Nice than Paris, unless you went to the Flunch [sic] at the train station. My fellow students were so strapped they went there for the 18-franc sandwiches (this was in 1992-3). I had one once and it upset my stomach. I went for 40-to-45-franc lunches instead, such as plates of pasta, which I'm convinced is a local food in a city that but for somewhat of an accident of history could be part of Italy today.

Fair enough. I do know what to look for when "sniffing" out good restaurants in France, of course that helps alot.

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Having lived in New York City for many moons, traveled throughout the US and visited various countries in Europe, I can't vouch for cities in Asia, South America, et al, but from my limited experience, I wholeheartedly agree with the people who voted for New Orleans. Even the street vendor food and sandwich shop offerings were fabulous when I was there. Yum.

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I have not read all the post but what about Montréal?

It is that kind of subjective analysis that sometimes boggles my mind.

I mean judging anything is subjective, do we really know everything about food??

On this site are so many people that are knowledgeable but have not been everywhere.

Open a restaurant and deal with people and you still don't know everything?

You realize how little you know.

Reality is where you are!

steve


Cook To Live; Live To Cook

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...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...

With that it mind, I would have to vote for New York as the most interesting also. It is enchanting to be able to simply travel to another borough and experience different cultures and cuisines that are underepresented in Manhattan.

I have travelled around and I've found great food everywhere, Canada, France, Italy (to me perhaps the best cuisine), Belgium, and Germany but the best of the cuisines are often limited to the culture of the host country. The Netherlands may be an exception to this, although I am only considering Amsterdam. It makes sense. I don't believe this to be the case in NYC. The Australians also have great varied cuisine and the Asian cuisines represented there are phenomenal. Sydney and Melbourne are exceptional places to dine. And I've never had fresher seafood anywhere, including the Caribbean and New York.


Emma Peel

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When I lived in Ucluelet, vancouver Island, canada the spot prawns were still alive when they arived at my door, how much fresher can you get, maybe on the boat.

steve


Cook To Live; Live To Cook

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Tel Aviv! You can get Romanian, Libyan, Turkish, Italian, Polish, Bukharan, Bulgarian, Moroccan, Japanese, Chinese, Thai, Mongolian, Mexican, Brazilian, French, Middle Eastern Fusion, South African, Georgian, Russian, Indian, Hungarian, Lebanese.....and more

A tiny city, packed with a lot of punch!!!

BTW - Singapore has some amazing food. Don't knock it.

I don't think an interesting food city should have a price on its head. I have had great food in restaurants where I have paid $20USD and sometimes less and I have been to restaurants where I have paid $100USD and it was so, so.


Edited by Swisskaese (log)

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The most interesting food city in the world... hmmm. I wonder if the way we're asking the question isn't dictating the answer we're getting.

Discussing how 'interesting' a city's food is seems to put the emphasis on culinary variety and diversity rather than on focused quality and entrenched foodways.

This probably works in the favour of places like New York and Singapore, and to the detriment of Paris and Italian cities, where 'interestingness' may not be the first thing people look for in good food.

Having said that, for 'interesting', I'd pick NYC.


Edited by Stigand (log)

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London, now that you can get the quality, variety and freshness of ingredients matched nowhere else. Nowhere in the US has such good materials or such a cosmopolitan culture. Even Paris tends to be more parochial - for example its hard to get wine other than from France there.

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The most interesting food city in the world... hmmm.  I wonder if the way we're asking the question isn't dictating the answer we're getting.

Discussing how 'interesting' a city's food is seems to put the emphasis on culinary variety and diversity rather than on focused quality and entrenched foodways.

This probably works in the favour of places like New York and Singapore, and to the detriment of Paris and Italian cities, where 'interestingness' may not be the first thing people look for in good food.

Having said that, for 'interesting', I'd pick NYC.

Fair enough, but one thing can be said about Israel. We have amazing fresh produce to work with and all of the diverse restaurants have the advantage of being able to use them.

I forgot to add Yemenite food to my list.


Edited by Swisskaese (log)

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The most interesting food city in the world... hmmm.  I wonder if the way we're asking the question isn't dictating the answer we're getting.

Discussing how 'interesting' a city's food is seems to put the emphasis on culinary variety and diversity rather than on focused quality and entrenched foodways.

This probably works in the favour of places like New York and Singapore, and to the detriment of Paris and Italian cities, where 'interestingness' may not be the first thing people look for in good food.

Having said that, for 'interesting', I'd pick NYC.

This is why I offered two sets of answers. Interesting for me doesn't neccessarily equate with variety. Someone else here mentioned that our answers were too subjective. Well, how could they not be? I haven't been everywhere so my list is based on where I've been and I tried to communicate that.

Lyon and the Beaujolais region were quite interesting to me, very "exotic" from my point of view. The farmer's markets in the Beaujolais, unfucking believable! I had never seen anything like it in my life. Totally blew me away. It was tiny, not much variety but just the way everything was presented was beautifully traditional. Artisanal everything. I haven't been to a farmer's market in California that can even begin to compare on terms of quality. Of course that is just my opinion. :rolleyes::smile:

I also don't see interesting in terms of just food. I know that is what we are talking about here. But there are certain places that make me feel good overall and that affects my perception of the food. Given my list what makes me feel good overall is pretty varied.

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"the most interesting food city?"

Interesting because of price, atmosphere, cosmopolitanism, price, exoticism, food quality, freshness, ease of access (including language), ethnic variety, price, hygiene, public safety(comfort level) and price????? Hhhhmmmm?!

Toronto

Hong Kong

Singapore

K.L. Malaysia

Vancouver

San Francisco

Other cities have individual restaurants or ethnic styles that may shine. New York is absolutely great, but who the hell can afford it? Same as Tokyo. Boston has great New England style seafood and good Italian. Seoul can produce good Korean food, as for other fine cuisines, they just don't get it.

Quebec City is the best kept food city in the world :smile:. Paris in microcosm, heavily sauced by the elan and joie de vivre of the Quebecois and Quebecoise. Oh yeah, the food, yes the food :wub::wub:

Don't have the depth of experience to comment on Europe, sorry.

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The emphasis here on variety is something that I'm not quite understanding. I go to France to eat French food, not to search out Chinese places. I go to Seoul to enjoy Korean food, not to complain that the Japanese food is bad over there. When I went to London, well I had more pub meals then anything else during the short time I was there. The prices for other meals just stunned me and I've been to some pretty expensive cities and spent my share of money in them. Given that I've seen the same variety in other cities, well I just couldn't justify spending more money in London to eat Indian food or Thai food then I would back home in Los Angeles. Manhatten is dense with variety, but the overall quality of the food doesn't strike me as being significantly greater than other cities with perhaps more sprawled out variety. Sure I wouldn't argue that NYC leads in fine dining in the States. But fine dining in the Western context has become so internationalized (with heavy doses of French influence) that there is nothing particularly New York about it. Chefs can snoop on eachother's menus at the speed of the internet. A highly trained chef wouldn't even have to taste another chef's dish do his own version of it. Fine dining in Manhatten, not for me so much I can find it in other cities at better prices with equal or superior quality. Those mostly Korean owned places in the city, I don't even know how to classify them, sort of like a convenience store with a buffet in the center. Totally gross, I can't even believe people actually eat that stuff. Why do they? Cause it's so cheap. For overall value of money for quality Manhatten wouldn't be one my list at all at the high end or the low end.

Variety may be the spice of life, but in my book it doesn't make a city more interesting than one that is more provincial. I suppose this comes from my being a big city girl all of my life. So when I leave the big city to travel somewhere, I don't really dig on seeing the same types of restaurants (forget about those stupid chains allover the world now :angry: KFC in Paris, London, Seoul) everywhere I go. I'm in search of something different from repetitive variety.

With that said, given Ben''s conditions for what makes a city "interesting" than I would pick SF. :smile:

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The emphasis here on variety is something that I'm not quite understanding. I go to France to eat French food, not to search out Chinese places. I go to Seoul to enjoy Korean food, ...Manhatten is dense with variety, but the overall quality of the food doesn't strike me as being significantly greater than other cities with perhaps more sprawled out variety. ...Manhatten wouldn't be one my list at all at the high end or the low end.

With that said, given Ben''s conditions for what makes a city "interesting" than I would pick SF.  :smile:

I couldn't have said this better. I still vote for NYC, but I agree with Ben and you for the reason that Manhattan does not rule with the "best food." Yes, I think it is varied and because of the diversity, we enjoy many authentic types of cuisine (especially outside of Manhattan), but the quality of the food here is hit or miss. Not to go off topic too much, I feel that if the question were "what is the 'best' food city in the world, we would have a much different dialogue.

Since we go to a different country to explore their cuisine, what do we explore in America? Southern? BBQ? The undefined issue of what cuisine this country hosts leads to NYC being the most interesting, and even the Diner on the corner menu is influenced by culture, i.e. italian and greek, but I have had far better meals in other cities. Often, I find myself wondering "why is the quality of food outside of NY so much better"?


Emma Peel

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