Archive for the 'Fine Dining' Category

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Alma – Los Angeles (Downtown)

Alma Restaurant - Downtown - Los Angeles

My girl Minh‘s been dying to try Alma, so we booked a table in celebration of her recent birthday. Situated on an unexpected stretch of Broadway, Alma can be difficult to spot. If it weren’t for the fanciful script scrolled across the door, nothing would let on that there’s something good to eat this way.

Alma Restaurant - Downtown - Los Angeles

Chef Ari Taymor (dark haired and bearded fella above) opened Alma last March after running a successful pop-up of the same name. Here in this minimally appointed dining room with a tremendous open kitchen, the young chef and his team are creating ambitious and beautiful food that’s globally influenced. The restaurant’s format and style reminded me a bit of Le Chateaubriand in Paris.

Alma Restaurant - Downtown - Los Angeles

Alma offers both an a la carte menu and a formal tasting menu. Minh’s birthday fortunately fell on a Tuesday, so we took advantage of the abbreviated four-course “Tuesday Tasting” for $45. We also ordered one of every “snack” on the menu to supplement our dinner. The price for the regular tasting menu is $90 for nine courses plus “snacks.”

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The NoMad Restaurant – New York City

The NoMad Restaurant - New York City

As delighted as The Astronomer and I were with our dinner at Eleven Madison Park on a previous trip to New York, a repeat visit wasn’t in the cards this time around because much to our dismay, the restaurant had changed its winning formula.

In place of the elegant and beloved grid menu filled with whimsical and seasonal bites is a $195 tasting menu paying tribute to the history and spirit of New York City. While the idea of a “Hudson Valley carrot tartar” and a “Central Park picnic” sounded neat, the changes reeked of pandering to “The World’s 50 Best Restaurants” list, which made me feel inexplicably sad and not the least bit hungry.

The NoMad Restaurant - New York City

To get our fill of Chef Daniel Humm’s cooking and General Manager Will Guidara’s hospitality, we headed instead to their latest venture inside The NoMad Hotel. The NoMad Restaurant is slightly less formal than Eleven Madison Park, with dark and moody dining rooms furnished with banquettes so plush that I had to sit on a pillow to see over the table.

The a la carte menu here was “inspired by Chef Daniel’s time spent throughout Switzerland, California, and New York City,” according to the restaurant’s website.

The NoMad Restaurant - New York City

To start was a fantastic loaf of charred onion focaccia with sweet potato, rosemary, and sage served warm from the oven. The bread’s intriguingly dark tone was accomplished using bamboo ash.

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Restaurant Pierre Gagnaire – Paris

Pierre Gagnaire - Paris

Restaurant Pierre Gagnaire is a Parisian institution famous for its jarring juxtaposition of flavors and textures, as well as its dizzying presentation of small dishes. Chef Pierre Gagnaire opened his eponymous restaurant in 1996 on the ground floor of the Hotel Balzac, a short walk from the Champs-Élysées. It is the recipient of three Michelin stars and other prestigious accolades.

Pierre Gagnaire - Paris

Prior to dining at Pierre Gagnaire, I had read that one either loves or loathes the dining experience here because of its unorthodox flow and composition. I was pretty sure that I’d fall into the former camp because I appreciate modern, unexpected, and inventive flourishes when it comes to fine dining.

While I was curious to try Pierre Gagnaire’s unique style of cooking, the 265€ price tag for dinner seemed like too much to gamble. We came in for lunch instead, which was priced at a more palatable 105€.

Pierre Gagnaire - Paris

To start, we were treated to lots of little bites whimsically scattered around the table.

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Château d’Audrieu – Audrieu

Chateau d'Audrieu - Audrieu, France

The medieval city of Bayeux is crawling with Americans due to its proximity to Normandy’s  historic D-Day sites, which meant that the restaurants within walking distance of our hotel catered to Yankee tastes. Rather than endure anything less than a stellar meal, we hailed a cab to Château d’Audrieu. I counted far more cows than people on the 14 kilometer countryside ride. The grounds leading up to the château were immaculate.

Chateau d'Audrieu - Audrieu, France

Château d’Audrieu, which boasts a Michelin star and is tucked inside a swanky Relais & Châteaux property, was quite a departure from the homey, family-run establishments that we visited in Burgundy and outside Normandy. We hadn’t been served by suited gents since we departed from Paris.

Chef Olivier Barbarin, who has been leading the brigade here since 2009, combines local ingredients with modern flare.  It was interesting to compare his fine dining point of view with our more rustic dinner from the night before at Manoir de l’Acherie in Sainte-Cécile.

Chateau d'Audrieu - Audrieu, France

Our table was set with fresh flowers and a single candle. The large windows opening into the courtyard made for an idyllic view.

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