If you’re short on time and want to get to know a city, food is the ultimate passport. Slow-braised vegetables in Berlin or moreish tostadas in Mexico City will tell you more about a place, its history and culture than a whole afternoon on an open top-tourist bus.
For the ultimate inside scoop, top chefs in six international cities have shared what they like to eat once they’ve hung up their whites for the night.
On a desolate street, just minutes from the former Check Point Charlie site, isn’t where you’d expect to find one of Germany’s best restaurants – but that’s where Nobelhart and Schmutzig sits with its Michelin star and innovative menu that’s redefining German cuisine. Owner and sommelier Billy Wagner is usually behind the restaurant’s distinctive counter pouring fine German wines alongside the 10-course tasting menu, but if you turned up at his house after a busy weekend shift, you’d likely be served vegetables picked up at Markthalle Neun market.
Nobelhart and Schmutzig is redefining German cuisine (Nobelhart and Schmutzig) “I’ll roast, braise or boil it using butter and oil, then add acidity like apples, vinegar or grape verjus. If the ingredient is really good you don’t have to do too much. As I like to have time with guests, I try not to make it too complicated.”
Between Victorian townhouses and St Peter’s Church in the leafy streets of Notting Hill, Clare Smyth’s Core restaurant has won her two Michelin stars and the honour of catering Harry and Meghan’s wedding. A classically trained Northern Irish chef, Clare turns out artisanal British dishes like jellied eel with malt vinegar, Isle of Mull scallop tartare and her signature confit potato with fish roe. But at home, Clare is all about the traditional Sunday roast: “Roast chicken is a special meal for me. It was something we looked forward to as a family and never missed. With a busy lifestyle, I rarely have time these days, so it’s even more special now and a great way of bringing people together. My favourite part is the roast potatoes cooked in duck fat, and I like stealing all the little nuggets of meat on the back of the bird, including the oysters.”
Daniel Humm’s Eleven Madison Park restaurant might be a hop across the Atlantic, but he’s a big fan of roast chicken too. “It’s my go-to dish. It’s an easy-to-prepare crowd pleaser, and it’s a great centrepiece to build a meal around, with salads, sides, some French bread and a nice bottle of wine. My mother made roast chicken when I was growing up, and I’ve found it an important to dish in my culinary career. It’s comforting, familiar, and you can make it simple or use it as a canvas for diverse flavours.”
Tasting menus are served in Eleven Madison Park's art deco dining room (Eleven Madison Park) Eleven Madison Park is one of the city’s most prestigious dinner spots,overlooking New York’s iconic Madison Square Park. An eight to 10-course menu is served in the impressive art deco dining room, and while roast chicken doesn’t make a regular appearance, the restaurant is famous for serving possibly the oldest steak in New York, with its 140-day dry-aged beef.
Chicago’s food scene has the buzz of New York without the Big Apple attitude. Everest is one of the city’s oldest fine dining institutions, rising above the South Loop like its mountainous namesake on the 40th floor of the Chicago Stock Exchange building. With one Michelin star, chef J Joho’s menu is firmly rooted in Alsatian cuisine, including his renowned Maine lobster with Gewürztraminer butter. Chef J Joho’s favourite family meal is another Alsatian classic: “Baeckeoffe or ‘baker’s oven’ is a traditional casserole I remember fondly from my childhood. It’s a hearty dish that’s meant to be shared with friends and family. It’s cooked slowly and the aroma of meat, simmering with potatoes, leeks and Alsace Riesling wafts through the room. It’s perfect for a winter evening in Alsace, or in Chicago, where I live now.”
Pujol restaurant is in the affluent Polanco district of Mexico City, just a few blocks from the largest and most iconic park, El Bosque de Chapultepec. Enrique Olvera’s restaurant playfully elevates Mexican street food to haute cuisine, serving aged moles or smoked baby corn with chicatana ant dust. But his favourite dish is pulpos en su tinta, or stewed octopus. “My mother always made it for my birthday,” he says. “I love it with white rice. It’s a very simple dish.”
In the buzz of Chiyoda in central Tokyo, opposite the immaculate Hibiya Park and Imperial Palace, you’ll find Chef Seiji Yamamoto’s three-Michelin starred Nihonryori RyuGin restaurant. Yamamoto is credited as the first chef to bring modern techniques to the ancient multi-course tradition of kaiseki cuisine, which showcases hyper-seasonal ingredients in a dazzling 12-course menu. At home, his food is pared back: “I love cooking yosenabe Japanese hot pot with crab, prawns, meat, and vegetables. The yuzu, kombu kelp and bonito flakes are my favourite flavours, and I prepare many kinds of sauces and condiments. I’ll share one hot pot with all my friends; each person makes their own dipping sauce and with a beer and some Japanese sake we always have a lively conversation.”
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