I was just reading the corriere della sera and they were reporting that Forbes published the list of the top 12 most expensive restaurants in the world.

The list looks very impressing and unfortunately I have not been to any of them :(.  So, I added them to my wishpot wishlist!

  • La Pergola – This is an Italian joint in Rome
  • Tetsuya – a Japanese restaurant in Sydney
  • The French Laundry – The Napa Valley Destination (note the capital N!).  I tried to go to this one, but we could not get a table
  • Masa – THE sushi place in NYC
  • Joel Robuchon – In Vegas.  I actually went to the “cafe” version.  That was one of the the most “upscale” cafe I have been, so the real thing must be really good.
  • Alinea – in Chicago.  I’d never heard of it.  I guess it’s in my todo list for when I go to Chicago.
  • Toque – in Montreal
  • El Bulli – I really want to go to this place.  It’s a the top of my restaurant wishlist! Ferran Adrià has achieved a god-status chef level and I really want to check it out.  Hope that it’s worth the $300/person (without wine!).
  • l’Arpege – in Paris
  • Restaurant Gordon Ramsay – In London.  After seeing Gordon Ramsey on kitchen nightmare (not the Fox version…the BBC one is much better) he has really become one of my favorite chefs.  Too bad it’s almost impossible to get a reservation.
  • Aragawa – In Tokyo.  The rumor has it that they have one of those nice $400 steaks.
  • Bukhara – in Delhi.

The one thing that seems to be clear is that (1) wine is not included in any of the prices mentioned in the Forbes article.  Anyone should know that makes or break both the meal and the bank! (2) It seems that the rank is based solely on the “standard preset meal” – of course you could spend lots more if you ordered off the menu or you went for special menu.    There was also a good post about this sometime ago on thevinography blog and they recommended to triple the prices.

Anyway…it seems there is some good place to go, regardless from where you are.

I dined at the 3rd Floor Third Cafe many times for business. It’s a great place to take partners that are visiting us for a few days.

Last night we went for the 25 for $25 dinner with friends.

Bottom line: the Fish Cafe has a “special” 30$ menu most of the year. I would highly recommend to go for that one and not the 25$ one. Don’t get me wrong, the 25$ is still pretty good…it’s just not as good as the other one. The major difference is that the 30$ menu is a subset of the regular menu and the 25$ has different dishes (and no…that’s not a good thing).

One thing I really liked is that the special menu is easy to “discover”. The Fish Cafe gives you the 25$ menu along with the regular menu. That’s very good.

Appetizers – I would give it a 6/10. There’s really nothing special (shrimp cocktail, gyoza or a salad). Yeah…they are good, but I could just have it at home!

Main – I would give it a 7/10. The selection is limited to pasta with seafood creme sauce, lamb shank and something else. We had the lamb and the pasta. The lamb was tasty and tender. My friends me told me that the pasta was good (I am anti-seafood-with-creme so I could not taste it).

Dessert – 8.5/10. I would highly recommend the creme brulee. It’s actually really good. The other desserts are good as well.

Overall it’s an ok deal. At the very end we ended up spending 45$/person (we had wine and coffee). If you have never been there and you want to check out the place then this is a good opportunity. But I would rather wait for the 30$ menu to be abck. The food is much better and definity worth the money.

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I had never been to Oceanaire and it was not in my list of “to go places”. But, last night a friend of mine reserved a table and I had the chance to go. I had actually heard good things about this restaurant, so I was looking forward to try it.

Let’s put it this way. I strongly discourage anyone from going there for the 25 for $25 and based on what I saw last night I will definitely not go back anytime soon.

You would expect that these special deals are to get you to try something nice that would make you go back for more. This was not the case.

For 25$ (+ tip + tax + plus glass of wine = 40$) this is what I got:

Appetizer – three mini oysters with corn and a sauce. The sauce was overpowering and you could not taste the oysters much.
Main – sole cooked in butter with capers. Come on…I can make this at home and it does have some taste! The alternative was a gnocchi with crab meat and broccolini. Two of my friend tried it and they thought it was an “interesting” dish.
Dessert – a small very blend keylime pie.
Couple of other considerations:

25$ menu is visible right away. Although in a little corner of the main menu.
Plating was very underwhelming. I felt there was no love put there.
At the end of the meal we agreed that the overall dinner was at most a 4 out 10. Not recommended.

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If you like food and you are in my region (Abruzzo) then there is one restaurant you MUST visit: L’Angolo da Filippo (also known as “Angolino” – “the little corner”).

The restaurant is one of my town institutions. It was founded in 1891 and it’s rocks! Wow!

Over the course of the years the menu has changed, the restaurant was extensively remodelled, but it always carries a great of “tradition” forward.

I went there with friends a few days before I left and I took pix of what we ate.

We started off with a round of cold appetizers (mostly carpaccios):

followed by a round of warm appetizer:

It’s easy to spot the prawns and clams in the pix. The middle one is a lot more interesting, aside from the prawn there is a fantastic fried zucchini with shrimp paste, baccala’ with bell peppersonions and one of my favorites – cuttlefish with potatoes.

We moved to the pastas:

The first pasta is “spaghettoni with bottarga e pannocchie” (pannocchie is typical in my region and close to prawns). It was just amazing… but the next pasta was even better “gnocchetti with pesto and shrimp”… holy $%$% it was soo good! The pesto was very light, the gnocchetti would just melt in your mounth. Wow…

After the pasta we decided to also order the “secondi” (second dish). The good news is that since we ordered late we got about 20-30mins to rest :). We were ready for what was coming next:

Some of us ordered the “arrosto misto” (left). I was one of the lucky ones to go for the “dentice in crosta di pistacchio”. The dentice (still trying to find the english name) was just amazing. I was extremelly impressed.

We closed the meal with a mix of “semifreddi” and coffee.

Overall the meal was impeccable. Loved it. Service was also great. If you ever go there tell Carlo that Max sent you!

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We are here in New York for a long weekend. Last night we got lucky and were able to get a table at Mario Batali’s Babbo. WOW! What a fantastic experience! I would recommend any restaurateur to go for a visit and take lots of notes!

Here’s my short scorecard:

– Service: 9.9
– Food: 9.5
– Ambiance: 10
– Value: 10
Service was extremely good. I am taking .1 off because they did not clean the bread crumbs from the table after the appetizer. it’s, of course, a very minor point. From when you step in the door until you get out everything is run perfectly. Perfectly meaning that any time you are about to need something a waiter is there they leave you alone otherwise.

We shared one appetizer: grilled octopus. Tender but with a bit of a crunch…wow. Hellai got the “spaghettini with Lobster” and I got the “Pappardelle with Wild Boar”. She loved the spaghettini. The wild boar sauce was very good…but I would have let it cook for a few extra mins (that’s the .5 points off the 10). The dishes were very fresh and the quantity not stingy…there was 1/2 pound of lobster and I had lots of wild boar. That’s the way should be done!

Not too much to say here…it’s a great place. It is a fine dining experience, yet it is fairly relaxed and informal. Plus…you can’t beat a place that has Bono dining there (yes, he was seating at the table across from ours) and Mario Batali walking around.

The final bill was around 110USD. We had one appetizer, two main entrees, 1/2 bottle of wine (two quartini) and the “amari sampling” (15usd). OK…it’s not a “cheap” place, but it is definitely worth it.

Bottom line… if you are headed to NYC make sure that you make a reservation. You need to book more than a month in advance. they do leave a few tables to walkin, but if you decide to go down this path you need to go either very early or very late.

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Last week I was in Vegas for a conference.  One of the perks of going down there is that you get the chance to hit some good restaurants.  This time around I visited couple of staple restaurants in the Venetian:  Zeffirino and Valentino.  Both Italian!!!

Let's start from Zeffirino.  I was lucky enough that I lunch and dinner there!   They have a 22USD lunch special.  You get an appetizer, main dish, dessert and coffee.  The portions are good and the quality is good as well.  Believe me that's a good deal, when you go for dinner you can barely get an appetizer for the same price! 

Dinner was more interesting.  The menu is a decent size and the wine menu is fairly large.  Let the servers reccomend wine, it makes the all thing smoother.  They were good at accomodating our price range.

This is what we had:

  • Appetizers
    • Carpaccio d'Orata con misticanza all'extra vergine agrumato
    • Filetto con patate tartufate all'emulsione di tartufo nero
  • Pasta
    • Fettuccine al granchio, astice e gamberi
  • Dessert
    • None…we skipped it, but we got a Lemoncello and a coffee
  • Wine
    • This sounds bad…but I forgot the actual brand.  It was a dry white wine.  Good "value".

The appetizers were a little of a disappointment.  I have to admit, we got fooled by the fancy names (they are fancy also in Italian).  You would expect that being Italian I would catch it right away, but not…I was a little naive.  Think about it "misticanza all'extra vergine agrumato" simply means "olive oil with lemon".  Duh!!! What I was thinking? 

They were literally couple of bites each.  OK, I am cheap…but if I pay 20USD for an appetizer I do want a little more than that!

The pasta was much better.  The pasta they use at the restaurant is homemade.  The sauce (crab meat, lobster and big shrimp in a light tomato sauce) was well balanced.  The quantity was generous. But, hey…at 40USD that's the minimum I would expect. 

We ended up paying about 100USD (and the 2 appetizers were split among the three of us).  This is my quick take on Zeffirino:

  • Go there for lunch.  Great deal.
  • Dinner is overpriced…for a pasta to be 40USD must be EXCEPTIONAL.
  • If you go for dinner skip the appetizers!
  • If your company is paying for it…enjoy the meal! 🙂

Couple of days after the Zeffirino dining experience we had a customer dinner at Valentino.   According to the site and the many reviews this restaurant is supposed to be outstanding.  I found it not be such.  The atmosphere is not too good…the decor does not have any character, very blend and simple (not a "good" simple).  Even worse the food was very generic and without character (it actually matched the place well).   This is what we had:

  • Insalata amara
  • Garganelli with a dried tomato and light cream sauce
  • Branzino with light orange cream

True.  We did not have a full selection and menu was constrained (there were about 30 folks in our group), but that does not justify the actual quality.  Very blend and NOT very Italian…

My quick vote…skip it!  I didn't like it and I did not have to pay for it!

This weekend I am heading to Napa Valley for a long weekend.  Report to come next week!