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Food Experiences Worth the Trip from Five Well-Traveled Chefs

For our “Eat, Drink, Travel” section in the October 2012 issue, we asked some of our favorite chefs to tell us about their stand-out food and travel memories. And when these chefs talk about food experiences, we listen. 

Chef-owner of Momofuku Restaurant Group on a dish he’d hop on a plane for:
“A few years ago I had an eggplant dish at Dainty Sichuan in Melbourne [176Toorak Rd., 61/(3) 9078-1686] that I still remember to this day. The eggplant was fried, rolled in sugar, fried again, and then tossed with a delicious chili sauce.”

…on a Japanese bar worth seeking out:
“I learned about Bar High Five in Tokyo Jim Meehan, the mixologist-owner of New York City’s PDT. This bar is hidden in an unremarkable office building. Its bartender, Hidetsugu Ueno, is a master. He does classic cocktails perfectly, but also has his own take on things. And he cures his own Spanish-style ham. This place is a must-visit.” No. 26 Polestar Building, 4th floor, 7-2-14 Ginza, Chuo-ku, 81/(3) 3571-5815

…On Sydney’s best Thai food:
“When I’m in Sydney, I end up at Chat Thai once a week. The food here is so well made. I tell everyone to try the bamboo shoot salad.” Five locations in Sydney. chatthai.com.au 

Author of Garlic and Sapphires on the cheap eats she travels for:
“I go out to Flushing, New York, just to get the Peking duck buns at Corner 28 [40-28 Main St.]. Hand over a dollar and a woman paints a little bun with hoisin sauce, adds scallion, and then expertly carves the skin off of a beautifully burnished duck.” 

…on a classic Paris bistro:
The first time I ate at Chez Robert et Louise, actress Jeanne Moreau had just made Jules and Jim and I was thrilled to find her sitting at the next table. The restaurant hasn’t changed since then, and if you’re looking for a glimpse of the way Paris used to be, this is one place you’ll find it. (You have to go outside to get to the bathroom.)  The original owner, Robert, was a butcher, and he cooked all his meat right in the fireplace; his daughter runs the place now, and she still cooks in the open hearth.  The food is rustic, delicious and very inexpensive.” Chez Robert et Louise, 62 rue Vieille du Temple, Marais, Paris,  33/(1) 42-78-55-89

…on an east London café worth seeking out:
“On a path—but an off-the-beaten one—an adorable little place called Towpath Café hugs the edge of a charming canal hidden behind a warehouse. The casual little outdoor place has a vibe more like one you’d find at a café in Spain or Italy than England. Run by American food writer Lori de Mori, the menu changes daily, depending on the market.  But you can depend on everything being fresh, local and completely delicious. You may find yourself sitting here for hours, eating grilled cheese sandwiches as you watch the ducks go paddling by.” 36 De Beauvoir Crescent, Hackney, Greater London N1 5, 44/(0) 20-7254-7606

…on a classic Roman trattoria:
“There’s no sign, so it would be easy pass Trattoria di Antonio Bassetti. The nondescript little restaurant offers the opportunity to have a true old-fashioned Roman meal for a ridiculously cheap price.  The kitchen is the size of a closet, but it turns out terrific pasta alla carbonara, great Roman artichokes, and wonderful roast veal with potatoes. You owe it to yourself to peek into the kitchen and watch the extremely efficient action.” Via del Governo Vecchio 18, Rome 39/333-587-0779 

Chef-owner of Harlem’s Red Rooster on a chef to watch:
“Chef Alex Atala scours the Amazon to find indigenous ingredients such as pupunha heart of palm (right) and pirarucu fish to create his menu at D.O.M. in São Paulo.” Rua Barão de Capanema 549, 55/11-3088-0761

…on an out-of-the-way restaurant in Sweden:
“Magnus Nilsson is creating really exciting food right now. The head chef at Fäviken Magasinet, a remote estate in northwestern Sweden, he takes inspiration from the natural surroundings and relies on the changing seasons and available outdoor ingredients to determine the menu’s trajectory.” 830 05 Järpen, Sweden, 46/647-400-37

…on where to enjoy music and food in Joburg:
“Robby and his wife Mapule run Robby’s Place Bed and Breakfast in Soweto, South Africa. This restaurant and tavern offers musical entertainment like African jazz and a range of African cuisine to enjoy.” Mokoka St. 5634, Zone 5, Pimville, Soweto, Johannesburg, 011-933-7965

…on the best ramen, tempura, and tofu in Tokyo:
“In Tokyo the restaurants specialize in singular foods. I go to Menya Shichisai (BF1 Tokyo Ichiban Gai, 1-9-1 Marunouchi, Chiyoda-ku, 81/(3)3211-8330) and Menya Musashi (K-1 Build. 1F, 7-2-6 Nishishinjuku, Shinjuku-ku, 81/(3)3363-4634) for the best ramen. Chef Kondo Fumio of Kondo is a tempura expert (5-5-13 Sakaguchi Bldg. 9th fl., Ginza, 81/ (3)5568-0923). For the most delicious tofu, head to Tofuya-Ukai (4-4-13 Shiba Koen, 81/(3) 3436-1028)”

Chef at Manresa in Los Gatos, California on the French chefs to watch:
“I think France is a hot spot of food innovation at the moment. In the past 10 to 15 years the food cognoscenti were dissing France and I think French cuisine was pushed to the wayside and became overlooked while people turned to Scandinavia, Spain, and the U.S. But I think we’re seeing a French renaissance from a group of young chefs. They are a new breed of 30-somethings who have traveled the world and their food is unmistakably French, but they are incorporating what they have seen in their travels in a very modern, effortless, seamless French cuisine that once seemed impossible. Taste the new French movement from these mavericks:
Alexandre Gautier, La Grenouilliere, La Madelaine sous Montreuil
Alexandre Bourdas, Sa.Qua.Na, Honfleur  
Mauro Colagreco, Mirazur, French Riviera
Inaki Izaparte, Le Chateaubriande, Paris
Bertrand Grebault, Septime, Paris

Chef of New York City’s Le Bernardin on the world’s best ceviche:
“Chez Wong in Lima, Peru, is a hidden gem. Chef Javier Wong prepares his ceviche right in front of you in his own home. I especially love the fluke. He only serves lunch, so reserve ahead.” Enrique León García 114, 51/(0), 1470-6217