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Single best restaurant meal


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Fat Guy's NY board question on "must go to" restaurants in NYC prompted me to think of the best restaurant meals I've had. I tried to come up with a single best and had a tough time. Focussing on the food (assume the wines were good to great) I came up with six (in order of memory, not ranking):

1. Dinner at Restaurant Greuze in Tournous (1999). The garlic roast chicken was so good you could cry.

2. The degustasion menu at Lammelois in 1975. The magret de canard set a standard that still hasn't been beaten.

3. My first meal at Bouley's original restaurant (1995?). Everything was best in class.

4. Dinner at Troisgros when the brothers were in their prime (1983?). The seared whole fois gras was a revelation.

5. Degustasion at Pic in Valence (1978?) when Jacques Pic was in his prime. A casserole of pike in a sorrel sauce topped with caviar pops to mind.

6. Dinner at Hosteau Beaumanier in Les Baux when Thulier was still overseeing the kitchen (1980). The lamb was the best I've ever had. A 1/2 bottle of Y'quem with dessert also stands out in my memory. The setting is spectacular.

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I will never forget the first time I ate at Chanterelle - it was years and years ago. That cheese course (and the 10 minute presentation/lecture which preceded it) was an extraordinary experience. I had never experienced such magnificent service on every level. I'm not sure I have since.

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The meals I have enjoyed most have not been in well-known restaurants. One was taken in a restaurant which may not, even, have had a name. Which makes me reflect that "best" is a different measure from "most pleasurable".

I think the best restaurant meal I have had on the American continent was a tasting menu at Emeril's (the N.O. flagship). Diversity, imagination and precision of execution. Sorry, but it's true.

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I think the best restaurant meal I have had on the American continent was a tasting menu at Emeril's (the N.O. flagship).  Diversity, imagination and precision of execution.  Sorry, but it's true.

Wilfrid -- Emeril's. :shock: When you have a chance, could you consider discussing what made the meal so special?

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I think the best restaurant meal I have had on the American continent was a tasting menu at Emeril's (the N.O. flagship). Diversity, imagination and precision of execution. Sorry, but it's true.
Wilfrid -- Emeril's.  When you have a chance, could you consider discussing what made the meal so special?

Knowing Wilfrid, the meal must have been truly offal....

ta...dum

But seriously, I am after "best" not "most pleasurable." I've gotten much pleasure from incredible hamburgers, but the issue of this thread is culinary "best" with the assumption that pleasure was the handmaiden of the meal, else why would it be "best?"

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Osterreichischer Hof, in Salzburg, Austria. Summer, 1974.

We were there to go to concerts at the Festival. Clifford Curzon had to cancel, so we had a free night. I had salmis of pheasant. It was probably the most elegant restaurant I'd ever been to (I was 25 at the time). And I had never before had food that so overwhelmed my senses with its flavor. Probably the first time that eating really thrilled me. And the Salzburger Nockerl for dessert was unlike anything I'd ever had.

It might not have been the absolute best, but it was the most memorable.

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Eggs Benedict at Cricketwood B&B in Bend, OR. I know, I know, it's not a restaurant, but it's one of the few times I've ever eaten out and thought about the food months later. The hosts there are *incredible* home cooks (and they cook a mean Thai-themed dinner too -- yes, they cook dinner for you as well).

When in Bend, GO THERE! You can help them feed their chickens too.

http://www.cricketwood.com

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These are the kinds of choices that might have you all shouting "turn in your James Beard secret decoder ring, you are not one of us." But here goes. In no particular order, the four best restaurant meals I've ever had were in:

1) Baricelli Inn, Cleveland, OH -- Sweetbreads with a sauternes glaze. With it, pastry stacked in the shape of a square high enough to form a little fort, with fresh asparagus stacked inside like pencils in a pencil holder. Great presentation. Nice view.

2) Highlands Bar & Grill, Birmingham, AL -- Beef carpaccio, with the slices each about the size of a half-dollar, arranged on the plate like the petals of a chrysanthemum. Outstanding presentation.

3) Z'Tejas Grill, Arboretum Blvd., Austin, TX -- Exposed stonework and surprisingly little Texas kitsch for decoration. They brought cornbread, not too crumbly, slightly sweet, in its own little skillet. Everything was good, although I have a bias in favor of Southwestern food. This is the only place in my life where I've ever walked out to the car saying "this is what food in heaven must taste like."

4) James at the Mill, Johnson, AR (near Fayetteville) -- Minimalist, all-white decor, knowledgeable and polite staff, great wines. You could literally pluck the whole restaurant up, set it down in New York City, and it could COMPETE with the best of them. I'm not saying it would WIN, but it could compete.

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Hello all: there are a few:

Pacifice Dining Car (L.A.): Best Cowboy Steak I have ever had

Mason Akira (Pasadena): Sea Bass in Miso broth (wow)

Spago (Bev. Hills): everything!!! Rissotto w/blk truffles

All winners

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I think this question is one where the more you think about it, the more difficult it gets. So I'll go with my instant response, the two meals that came into my mind as soon as I read the question.

The first was in about 1982 at Die Boerderij in Amsterdam. My special recollection was the rack of hare, shared by two of us, which was an extraordinary dish. The service and setting were magnificent, and I remember the conscious enjoyment of every mouthful of food that I ate.

The second was last year, my first meal at Babbo. As I have said often since, the signature dish of lamb chops was the most perfect single dish I can recall ever eating. The rest of the meal and the service were terrific, but that one dish.....

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QUOTE

NW-That sheep's head and eyeball meal was pretty unbelievable, too, I must say.

JB-Are you hurrying back for more?

NW-As a matter of fact, yes.

You're a better man than I Gunga Din! :biggrin:

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I think this question is one where the more you think about it, the more difficult it gets.

Yes, I made that mistake and am now struck dumb. Maybe I have never eaten a good meal :sad:

I also thought too much about Cabby's request for elaboration on my Emeril's comment. I can't think of any sensible response except to go through the dishes one by one, and my tasting notes would first need to be retrieved. One thing sticks in my mind: an edible wild thistle and caviar in mussel shells, garnishing a chilled mussel soup - unexpected, remarkable but harmonious - it was all a bit like that, and much more delicate in preparation and presentation than the hearty dishes on the carte.

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This is a _tough_ topic -- I'm finding it difficult to nail down a couple specifics. However, the first that came to mind was an incredible dinner at "Alice's" on the end of the wharf at Old Orchard Beach, Maine. This was a lotta years ago -- in '83 or thereabouts -- but they did serve a to-die-for lobster feast. The lobster bisque was served with pieces of lobster hanging over the rim of the bowl, and the lobster main course was presented beautifully and was the freshest, most delectible I've had, before or since. I've no idea if Alice's is still there, as the visit took place while on vacation.

While traveling in Arizona and New Mexico in 1979 I determined I needed to find the best chiles relenos and ate them for dinner each night. (Whew, I'm not too boring, eh?) While I enjoyed some wonderful versions of this Mexican classic, most notably in Old Town, Albuquerque, I don't believe I ever had them better than I did at a place called Guadalajara's in Roch., NY -- a place that has since gone out of business.

Unfortunately, I've never had the opportunity to visit some of the highly-reputed and well-known restaurants in cities such as New York, Paris, etc.

:unsure:

Starwind . Fort Lauderdale

--

There are moments when one feels free from one's own identification with human limitations and inadequacies. At such moments one imagines that one stands on some spot of a small planet, gazing in amazement at the cold yet profoundly moving beauty of the eternal, the unfathomable; life and death flow into one, and there is neither evolution nor destiny; only Being.

-- Albert Einstein

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Bayona in NO several years ago. A Thai pork and crispy noodle salad appetizer and a seared steak of elk with a fabulous reduction. Plus Chef Susan Spicer signed my menu...

=Mark

Give a man a fish, he eats for a Day.

Teach a man to fish, he eats for Life.

Teach a man to sell fish, he eats Steak

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I thought I would not be able to answer this question, but I've given it a lot of thought and I am now going to disappoint some of you and not mention the restaurant out of respect for the chef.

The best restaurant experience I ever had was eating one of the most beautifully prepared and exquisitively served meals. It was an incredible meal that he created at the moment. The chef, after dinner, sat at our table and we talked food and wine for quite a while. The restaurant was closing up and we were still talking and he said,"Come to my house." Of course, we went and after a couple more hours of talk, we all got hungry. We ran to the 24 hour market, he picked up tomatoes, cream and eggs and "scrambled" them - a dish that he often had had in Paris after a night of working. More talk, more experiences, an incredible friendship. It just doesn't get better than that for me.

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The best meal I can remember, although I can hardly recall what we ate was my second meal at Robuchon. I can't tell you the year but it was probably two years before he retired. The intermezzo of jellied chicken soup they served, which we all thought was foie gras, was the single greatest thing ever served to me in a restaurant. But among my more memorable meals are two diferent meals I ate at Chantecler in the 80's. One an all lobster menu and one an entire duck menu. And the most fun meal we ever had was at Taillevent. It must have been 1984. My wife and I went for lunch and they treated us like royalty. They gave us something like four desserts. Ah those were the days.

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I think the best restaurant meal I have had on the American continent was a tasting menu at Emeril's (the N.O. flagship).  Diversity, imagination and precision of execution.  Sorry, but it's true.

I second that. I was on a business trip to NO in 1998 and went out with clients to a 6-course tasting meal at Emeril's with 4 matching wines (7 courses if you count the bonbons and extra bottle of Sauterne we had at the end). Everything was top-notch, the wines matched perfectly, and the presentation was nothing short of military-sharp. And best of all, it cost me not a cent.

I also ate at Brennan's on that trip--good old-fashioned NO Creole food. I disliked most of NO but I didn't have a single bad meal.

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Gaddi's. The Peninsula Hotel in Hong Kong. In the golden days when the station for the train to China was just across the street. When everyone who was anyone crossed the grand lobby of the Peninsula, at least once in their lives and, it was said, if you sat there long enough, you would see them. The grand lobby of the Peninsula, where ceiling fans rotated lazily high above and Sydney Greenstreet surely lived just around the corner. And Cat Street vendors sold antiques and mysterious potions and, down in Wanchai, Susie Wong was on the prowl for sailors from ships named the Oriental Maru, or the Tokyo Maru, or the something Maru. And if you missed the last ferry back to the other side, you had to take a walla-walla boat.

And at Gaddi's, the indomitable and legendary Rolf was the Maitre d'.

He bowed slightly in his courtly Continental manner, "May I suggest the Holland Beans tonight? They're in season."

And we had them and they were.

We started with the Prawns au Sherry flamed tableside by Rolf himself. Then the Pink Champagne Sorbet. Then Steak Diane (wafer-thin, but medium rare all the same), Holland Beans (they were in season) and Potatoes Anna.

And finally, an enormous white basket of truffles to finish.

There was an intimate dance floor surrounded by tables of chicly-dressed diners. And a small, tuxedoed orchestra played soft romantic standards, "Begin the Begine," "Stardust," "Deep Purple." It was then, and remains today, the single most elegant place I have ever been.

We lingered over our coffee, and then our wine, and we danced.

Where has the time got to?

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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Jaymes, thank you for your beautiful memory. The world really isn't like that anymore, is it. I, for one, am burnt out on dining out -- my last restaurant meal involved a psychotic waiter who tried to open my birthday gift, forgot to bring me cream for my coffee several times (I ended up putting in the whipped cream from my dessert into the coffee) and then, when he finally did bring me cream with a new cup of coffee, advised me not to be alarmed by the globules of fat that might appear at the top of the coffee. I'd just as soon have dinner parties at home where we can sit for hours and eat course after course and drink wine without paying double.

However, I can think of 3 excellent restaurant meals -- one at Bouchon in Yountville, CA 2 winters ago. We went for lunch on a Saturday, sat for over 3 hours and had: French onion soup, charcuterie plate, oysters, watercress and endive salad with blue cheese, quiche du jour, and the single best dish I've ever eaten, a cauliflower gratin with gruyere and a little horseradish. I was amazed at how delicious it was -- the cauliflower taste was so pure. We had the cheese plate with honeycomb, and for dessert I had tarte tatin. There was nothing spectacular about the meal, but everything was made with wonderful ingredients and cooked perfectly. The service was great -- they bought our food and left us alone. Oh, and we had lillet blanc to start, and then a bottle of Blockheadia Ringnosii Sauvignon Blanc and then a glass of Joseph Phelps Delice du Semillon with dessert.

In New York, I've had 2 meals at The Tasting Room, which while a little uneven, were the most interesting I've eaten in NY. We had scallops from the farmers' market and squab and rabbit with hominy and bacon and a nice little plate of early spring vegetables from the market in a small amount of very buttery broth, and then we had some duck, and for dessert roasted rhubarb with strawberries and whipped cream with toasted black sesame seeds ground up in it and a lot of California wine.

Oh yeah, I had a superb meal at Blue Hill -- shot of mushroom soup with parmesan foam, arugula and iceberg lettuce salad with parmesan, monkfish cheeks with creme fraiche and herring roe with microgreen garnish, lobster, poached salmon in green sauce with fava beans, string beans, duck with swiss chard and also some incredible steamed or poached chicken, and rice pudding with passion fruit foam.

But still, the best meals I've ever had have been home-cooked.

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It's not necessarily a function of money spent, either. I've eaten at far more expensive places than the four I mentioned above, but for some reason, the above four places are the meals I remember. Perhaps it's more subjective a thing than we usually admit, since a good mood will make a meal taste better, being stood up or having to wait will make it taste worse, etc.

My only caveats are that although I've been in Los Angeles, New York City, San Francisco, and Chicago, I've never eaten seriously in any of these cities. My travels just haven't taken me there since I started eating as a hobby, so I freely admit that my list is provisional and that my frame-of-reference is limited.

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My last restaurant meal involved a psychotic waiter who tried to open my birthday gift, forgot to bring me cream for my coffee several times (I ended up putting in the whipped cream from my dessert into the coffee) and then, when he finally did bring me cream with a new cup of coffee, advised me not to be alarmed by the globules of fat that might appear at the top of the coffee.

:biggrin::biggrin::biggrin:

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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Gaddi's. The Peninsula Hotel in Hong Kong. In the golden days when the station for the train to China was just across the street. When everyone who was anyone crossed the grand lobby of the Peninsula, at least once in their lives and, it was said, if you sat there long enough, you would see them. The grand lobby of the Peninsula, where ceiling fans rotated lazily high above and Sidney Greenstreet surely lived just around the corner. And Cat Street vendors sold antiques and mysterious potions and, down in Wanchi, Susie Wong was on the prowl for sailors from ships named the Oriental Maru, or the Tokyo Maru, or the something Maru. And if you missed the last ferry back to the other side, you had to take a walla-walla boat.

Jaymes, I could get you an introduction to John Peterman. maybe you want to write for his catalog? I was in Gaddi's and didn't want to leave. It was like living a movie, a time warp. I remember when the small uniformed "call boy" walked throught the lobby with his belled blackboard, singing "Call for Mr. Sydney. Mr. Hugh Sydney!" We drank martinis in the lounge of the Regent and ate downstairs there. I regret not having eaten at Gaddi's.

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