Top Food Critics Say These Are The 20 Best Restaurants In America

Francesco Tonelli for Chronicle BooksThe dining room at Jean-Georges in New York City

Most lists of top restaurants are crowd-sourced from diner reviews or compiled by anonymous editors. Samir Arora, a former Apple employee and the founder of Glam Media, decided to go a different route with his new global restaurant guide: “Foodie Top 100 Restaurants Worldwide.”
Click here to jump right to the restaurants >>

He asked a handful of notable food critics, including former New York Times food writer Patricia Wells, former New York Magazine food critic Gael Greene, former Gourmet editor-in-chief Ruth Reichl, and top critics from France, Japan, and India to share their picks for the world’s best restaurants.

The guide focuses foremost on food, looking at factors like service and decor as complementary. As Arora writes in the introduction, “The food must be spectacular; everything else is secondary.”

France and Japan are the big winners in the Foodie guide, each with 29 restaurants selected by the critics and Foodie’s editors. We’re taking a closer look at the 20 U.S. restaurants picked by critics (presented here in alphabetical order); the full list is available on Glam Media’s website. Click here to buy the guide.

Alinea, Chicago

Chef Grant Achatz of Alinea is known for his creative modern cuisine and artistic presentations, with dishes like squab inspired by Miró.

Critic's tip: 'If it's on the menu, try the Lamb 86, an 86-ingredient dish served with 64 composed garnishes -- all colourful, all fantastically delicious, and served in little dots like old-fashioned ribbon candy.'

Benu, San Francisco

Korean-born Chef Corey Lee serves inventive contemporary American cuisine in his restaurant in San Francisco's South of Market district.

Critic's tip: 'Even if you don't order wine pairings, ask Yoon Ha for drink recommendations. You won't regret it.'

Blanca, Brooklyn

Blanca is technically a 12-seat 'tasting room' tucked behind Brooklyn's famed pizzeria Roberta's. Chef Carlo Mirachi serves a parade of innovative, Italian-inspired dishes throughout the meal.

Critic's tip: 'With few seats, the restaurant books well in advance and reserves only one month out. For the best shot at securing a seat, call the first day of the month.'

Blue Hill at Stone Barns, Pocantico Hills, NY

Dan Barber's Blue Hill at Stone Barns is located on a working farm, and everything is sourced from the property itself or from nearby farms in upstate New York's Hudson Valley.

There are no formal menus here. Instead, guests are presented with dishes made from whatever ingredients are fresh that day.

Critic's tip: 'Visit during the fall when the harvest is at its best, or in the summer when the extended warm evening light spills over the surrounding fields.'

Chef's Table at Brooklyn Fare, Brooklyn

It's tough to book one of the 18 seats at Chef Cesar Ramirez's tasting table. But those who are lucky enough to nab a spot can expect to feast on a tasting menu of Japanese cuisine with French influences.

Critic's tip: 'Don't be late for your reservation. With very limited seating, food service starts promptly for each sitting.'

Chez Panisse, Berkeley, CA

Chef Alice Waters essentially gave birth to the slow food movement, using fresh local, organic ingredients in her high-end American cuisine. Her California restaurant originally opened in 1980.

Critic's tip: 'Reserve wisely; early in the week the meals are less expensive, more rustic, and usually more interesting. On weekends the price goes up and menus become more staid.'

Daniel, New York

Chef Daniel Boulud's Upper East Side restaurant serves upscale French cuisine that's inspired by the seasons. A 3-course price-fixed tasting menu for dinner costs $US116.

Critic's tip: For a prime location, request the corner banquette in the central area down two steps -- or a balcony table for more privacy.'

Degustation, New York

This East Village restaurant may look like a Spanish tapas bar, but the food it serves is international in influence. Chef Nicholas Licata's dishes are inspired by Spain, France, Japan, and modernist cuisine.

Critic's tip: 'Don't book a table if you're looking for a romantic evening. A meal here is entirely about the making and enjoyment of food.'

Jean-Georges, New York

The always-elegant Jean-Georges, named after chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten and located on Central Park West, has a menu that blends French, American, and Asian cuisine.

Critic's tip: 'If you can't get reservations in advance, drop in at 2 p.m. and see if there's a table available.'

Kurumazushi, New York

Kurumazushi, in a Midtown Manhattan office building, has been serving top-notch sushi since 1977. The restaurant is plain in appearance, but the array of fresh sushi, prepared by Chef Toshihiro Uezu, is stunning.

Critic's tip: 'Don't let the downmarket environs confuse you. Prices are high and on par with quality sushi in Tokyo.'

L2O, Chicago

L2O is the ultimate seafood mecca in Chicago. Chef Matthew Kirkley serves two different tasting menus every night, focusing heavily on fresh seafood with lots of creative variation.

Critic's tip: 'Ask for a peek inside the kitchen so you can view the massive seafood tanks firsthand.'

Masa, New York

It may have just 26 seats, but Chef Masa Takayama's Masa is considered one of the best Japanese restaurants in New York City.

It's renowned for its high-quality sushi and its simple fresh cuisine served in an elegant Zen-like setting.

Critic's tip: 'Go in early winter, when blowfish is in season, for a special treat.'

Momofuku Ko, New York

It's almost impossible to book a seat in David Chang's tiny modern American tasting table, Momofuku Ko. But those who do are treated to a 10-course menu of unexpected and amusing dishes, served right over the counter.

Critic's tip: 'Consider coming for lunch, when the longer and more expensive 16-course menu is offered -- and expect it to take at least three hours.'

Soto, New York

Soto is a hidden gem in New York's West Village. Chef Sotohiro Kosugi serves inventive sushi and an impressive omakase menu in a simple setting.

Critic's tip: 'Whatever else you order, make a point of trying Kosugi's brilliant sushi. It's a benchmark all others should be held up to.'

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