The most expensive meal I ever tasted was at the Bellevue Palace Hotel in Berne, Switzerland. The steak was unbelievable, the wine amazing, and the cheeses from Apenzell delightful. Very expensive but worth every franc. Everyone should eat there at least once in their lifetime.
- William Spradley, St. Peters, Missouri
Ciudad del Carmen, Mexico
I have been to a little town in Mexico called Ciudad del Carmen more than a dozen times. In that small (and very hot) town is a restaurant called La Pava. Because the front of it looks like an ordinary house, you would never find it on your own, but every oil executive and engineer in that town has sat in one of La Pava's plastic patio-furniture chairs and enjoyed eating shrimp served by the kilo and prepared either breaded or cooked in oil and garlic. These shrimp look like small lobsters, and when you mix the habanero hot sauce with a little mayo, you're in for a treat like no other.
- Victor Kinson, Davie, Florida
I made a quick trip to Eisenach, Germany, in 1997 and ate at the famous Forest Restaurant, in business since 1867. Inside, the restaurant was very gemütlich, with big fireplaces and antiques. I asked the waiter to recommend a local specialty and a good local wine, and he did his job very well. The local dish was a trio of grilled pork, grilled beef, and grilled veal tenderloins nearly submerged in hollandaise and accompanied by two bundles of bacon-wrapped haricots verts. I had everything my cardiologist had told me not to eat, and then finished with an Austrian brandy and a Cuban Monte Cristo cigar from the humidor.
- John S. Potter, Hopewell Junction, New York
JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA
One of my favorite restaurants is the Grillhouse in Johannesburg, South Africa. They specialize in steaks and are known for the quality of their beef. The wine list is great and the ambience is absolutely fantastic.
- Hossein Parandeh, Vernon Hills, Illinois
La Costa Verde, perched on a promontory jutting out into the ocean along the Green Coast south of Miraflores, is probably as expensive a meal as you'll have in Peru, but it's worth every penny. It boasts the world's largest and freshest seafood buffet. I began the meal with a thirst-quenching Pisco Sour, a Peruvian drink that is a perfect blend of Pisco liqueur, crushed ice, fresh lime juice, sugar, and an egg white, topped off with bitters. The seafood was so incredibly fresh and delicious, I had to indulge in some stone crab legs and grilled jumbo shrimp as well, all prepared right there in front of me. As if this weren't enough, I went over to the parrilla, where the chef grilled a generous portion of Pacific Ocean sea bass. The buffet continued with several traditional Peruvian meat dishes, including lomo saltado and aji de gallina, but by then I was finally full.
- Timothy Baker, Chicago, Illinois
My ultimate meal was the first time I dined at Simpson's-in-the-Strand in London. We had heard about the fabulous beef and the service fit for royalty, but nothing could have prepared us for the experience we had at Simpson's. The service was beyond royal. Anything we wanted was quickly and elegantly served, or changed at the suggestion of the waiter to something more delightful. The wine selection is one of the best in the world. I couldn't have imagined anything better - until the beef cart arrived. Heavily laden with a side of beef, the cart required two people to move it around. The carver asked our preference, and then, using a long, very sharp blade, sliced the thinnest pieces of beef I had ever seen. The aroma was hypnotizing, and the flavor was so delightful that we ate the beef very slowly, savoring every bite.
- Dr. John Schroeder, Albuquerque, New Mexico
For fantastic Indian food, try Benares in Mayfair. The ambience (with a flowing lily pond, white tablecloths, and special lighting) and top-flight service make this an incredible experience. The food is nothing short of perfection, from the mouthwatering chutneys that are served with flatbreads to the main entrées, whether the lamb biryani, grilled prawns, or any of the other amazing items on the menu. This is an excellent place to entertain clients or even to just enjoy a quiet meal by yourself.
- Omar A. Altaji, Miami, Florida
I have found one restaurant in Madrid that's almost as perfect as my wife's Spanish cooking: La Tahona, just two blocks west of La Castillana and one-and-a-half blocks south of Plaza Sor Angela de la Cruz, is a near match. The service is the best in Madrid, and the food makes me feel completely at home. I have been to La Tahona so many times (and I've brought so many clients there), the restaurant staff all know me. Don't miss the roast piglet that they serve every Wednesday!
- Douglas G. Scott, Cumming, Georgia
My family and I lived in Madrid for four months, while I was working for the Sydney Olympics (as strange as that sounds!). As a treat one night, we went to Botín, a restaurant founded in 1725. It's listed in Guinness World Records as the oldest restaurant in the world. We made friends with the people seated next to us, and they introduced us to Botín's famous suckling pig, and we all shared a Spanish wine.
- Tim Speed, Denton, Texas
I've had many excellent meals in Paris, but two stand out. One was at La Galerie. It was small, but the ambience, service, and food were outstanding. The other was at Chez Plumeau, located near Sacre Coeur. We ate outdoors and felt like we were in the backyard of someone's lovely home. A local cellist played beautiful music just outside the patio area. The food, wine, and service were fantastic. Right around the corner there was a beautiful view of Paris at night.
- Sandra Kinkade, Fort Worth, Texas
São Paulo, Brazil
Vicolo Nostro Rua Jataituba is located in a picturesque setting, in an old building with indoor and patio dining. The menu is rich in pasta, risotto, fish, and meat entrées. The food is excellent, with great presentation. The wine list is also excellent, with some great Barolos. The service is friendly and efficient. During a weeklong stay, it is not unusual for me to have a lunch and two dinners at Vicolo Nostro.
- Jerome R. Brown, Plano, Texas
NEW YORK, NEW YORK
My absolute favorite restaurant is Tano Passami l'Olio in Milan. It is tiny, with about eight tables. The owner, maître d', waiter, and sommelier are the same person - Tano.
When you arrive (for the only seating of the night), Tano greets you with a cold glass of Prosecco. He is not shy about directing your choice of meal based on your choice of wine and vice versa; believe me, he is always right, and you should follow his advice. At Tano you can have the best foie gras, risotto, pasta, and rack of lamb you could ever dream of, not to mention that he brings huge truffles to you and shaves them onto your food right at the table. He will also sprinkle your dish with a specially chosen olive oil to match your meal (hence the name, Tano Passami l'Olio, which means "Tano, pass me the oil"). Some of his olive oils are as expensive and as refined as a great vintage wine.
At the other extreme, I love coming home to one of my favorite places: Big Nick's Burger and Pizza Joint in New York City. It's right on Broadway, in the heart of the Upper West Side. It's open 24 hours a day and serves the best and cheapest slices of pizza in the city, as well as huge and delicious burgers.
- Maria S. Levin, New York, New York
BROOKLYN, NEW YORK
Rendezvous Ribs in Memphis has the best, most mouthwatering ribs on the planet. The cooking method allows herbs and spices to adhere to the meat and lets the most grease drip off.
Master Chef Paul Bocuse's restaurant just outside Lyon, France, is as close to perfect as can be, in my experience. The sea bass I had was thinly filleted, with incredible pastry between the layers. Each of the seven courses was better than the last. And finally, Noodle Pudding in Brooklyn, New York, offers extraordinary food with wonderful, friendly service. Anything grilled will be heavenly. Vegetables will all taste like they were just harvested.
- Charles R. Hinkle, Brooklyn, New York
WEST COAST OF THE U.S.A.;
NORTH HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA;
LAS VEGAS, NEVADA;
I've been a road warrior for more than 30 years, and I'm known for my city-by-city restaurant list. Here are a few of my favorites: 1. At the Golden Rule Barbecue in Birmingham, get a half-and-half sandwich half inside meat and half outside meat. The best there is. 2. Along the West Coast, In-N-Out Burger makes the best hamburgers on earth, no matter which type you order. 3. Sushi 101, a gem in North Hollywood, California, has the freshest Japanese food you've ever had. Try the shrimp tempura with homemade lemon mayonnaise. 4. Binion's Ranch Steakhouse, in downtown Las Vegas, above the street, has a great view of the Strip and the best steak in the West. 5. When in Rome, try Taverna Flavia. This crazy little hole-in-the-wall has the best pasta primavera you will ever try. Ask to meet the Egyptian chef who has been cooking Italian for 20 years! 6. Want kosher in Rome? No problem! Try La Taverna Del Ghetto. They have incredible dried meats. You won't believe the flavor.
- John Zamoiski, Woodbury, New York