To be listed amongst the world’s top restaurants and/or presented with a Michelin star can be both a gift and a curse for those who work there and those who visit. When a chef’s talents are recognised on a global scale, landlords can view your success as permission to hike rents astronomically, menus can become rigid with expectations, and the pressure of maintaining your status can become too much for some (2003 saw 3-star chef Bernard Loiseau’s suicide be largely attributed to the pressure of losing his third Michelin star). There is no doubt that some chefs are more than happy to cruise under the radar, and the paying customer is more than happy to oblige.
Whilst there is no doubt that the world’s best restaurants belong on their lists, it is a beautiful thing to know that some of the best meals you’re yet to taste are from undiscovered gems.
Lucky for us, CNN has gone and done the people of the world a solid by interviewing a bunch of top food writers and World’s 50 Best Restaurants panelist experts, and got their recommendations for 20 of the world’s most underrated restaurants.
Proudly Michelin-free (for now) and not listed on any notable ‘World’s Best’ lists (for now), take a look at these up and comers to try before the word really gets out, or check out the full write-up here.
1. Bread & Wines Vineyard Restaurant – Cape Town, South Africa
A husband and wife team running front and back of house respectively, Executive Chef Neil Jewell is known as the charcuterie king of the country for a reason.
2. Neighbourhood – Central District, Hong Kong
Casual French dining isn’t found in abundance in Hong Kong, and it may remain that way if Neighbourhood is the competition. A limited menu of 20 items with some of the freshest ingredients Hong Kong has to offer.
3. Al Toke Pez, Lima, Peru
An eight-seat cevicheria serving six types of offbeat fish and seafood, plus a range of off-menu items
4. Atoboy – New York, USA
“Modern Korean with premium ingredients and exquisite presentation.” A huge success story waiting to happen.
5. Bunker – Bangkok, Thailand
Open for just over a year, Bunker serves up “straightforward and scrumptious New American with a serious emphasis on local organic produce.”
6. Burgundy – Beirut, Lebanon
In a region not particularly known for ‘fine dining’, Burgundy excels at providing contemporary French, the Lebanese way.
7. Crizia – Buenos Aires, Argentina
Though surf is often favoured by turf in Argentina, its extensive coast produces some astonishing seafood. Oggero is here to wow you with the fruits of the sea.
8. Döllerer – Salzburg, Austria
A restaurant that works exclusively with ingredients from suppliers in the Salzburg Alps, the exquisite alpine cuisine that has become its trademark has put this restaurant on the map as one of Austria’s best.
9. Enigma – Barcelona, Spain
Just four months old, Enigma stands out from the thousands of tapas bars in Barcelona and focuses on a multitude of styles of cooking, “with its full potential unfolding over time”.
10. Igni – Geelong, Australia
A special shout out has to go to Geelong’s own Igni on this list. It may be located in the back streets of G-town *(two blocks from the local rippers), but the food, wine and service will transport you to another world of paddock to plate authentic cooking.
11. Jiquitaia – Sao Paolo, Brazil
Classic Brazilian cuisine with delicate flavours arepaired with ovation-worthy caipirinhas. The setting is simple, the food is elaborate, the experience is outstanding.
12. Lula Café – Chicago, USA
‘Upscale Midwestern fare’ may not be a term you’d hear often, but at Lula Café that is exactly what’s being dished up, in a kitchen that understands seasonality better than most.
13. Moregrill – Moscow, Russia
Headlined by ‘raw’ and ‘grilled’, the seafood and meats at moregrill are seeking to elevate Moscow’s dining experience. Expect dishes to range from red algae to a flank steak.
14. Pelikan – Shanghai, China
You wouldn’t expect top quality Nordic dining to be found in the heart of China, but young-gun Kasper Elmholdt Pedersen has brought his freshly cut Michelin teeth to the table and they mean business.
15. Råkultur – Stockholm, Sweden
– Combining the best of Nordic and Japanese cuisines, Råkultur seeks to redefine what sushi and sashimi can be all about – think pike-perch nigiri with lardo and confit pork or teriyaki of grilled duck hearts.
16. Ristorante Giglio, Tuscany, Italy
– A young trio of head chefs has created this ‘historic temple of Tuscan tradition… that has evolved into an innovative gastronomic sum greater than its parts”. And that’s just one review.
17. Terakoya – Tokyo, Japan
Founded by the current chef-owner’s grandfather over 60 years ago, Terakoya is not new, but it’s astonishingly good smoked salmon, and official Krug Champagne room and wine cellar make it an off-the-beaten-track journey worth taking.
18. Virtus, Paris, France
An Italian chef and a Japanese chef walk into a restaurant. They buy it, and start churning out some of the best contemporary French cooking this side of the Left-Bank. No Joke.
19. WeinAmRhein. Cologne, Germany
Over 900 wines in their cellar and each dish on the menu has been developed by both the chef and sommelier to create the perfect pairing. A flavour sensation that is (thankfully) cool and un-kitschy.
20. Wilsons, Bristol, UK
Visit Wilsons on the reg and you’ll be continuously surprised and delighted. A weekly changing menu of three starters, three mains, and two puddings plus cheese. Chef Jan Ostle ignores the fashionable and focuses on the timeless.