Sometimes it's not enough to simply satisfy one's appetite with tried and tested foods. The following restaurants provide new and exciting experiences for the tastebuds.
L'Art du Fromage
1a Langton Street, London SW10 0JL, UK
44 207 352 2759 www.artdufromage.co.uk
If you're not a cheese lover, don't bother setting foot inside this French restaurant in the heart of Chelsea. If on the other hand you're a fan, this may well be your heaven.
The décor is slightly reminiscent of a cabin in the Alps, perfectly suited to the wintry menu of fondues and cheeses from the mountainous regions of south eastern France. While the menu does have the odd dish without cheese (snails, foie gras, tuna steak with mango carpaccio), it's featured heavily, even in the desserts.
Smoked salmon roulade with goat cheese and tartiflette (a French dish made with potato, Reblochon cheese, lardons and cream) are amongst the whiffy offerings, but many go for the raclette or the fondue. If you're brave, try the goat cheese ice cream which accompanies the poached pear dessert.
1429 Abbot Kinney Boulevard, Venice, Los Angeles, CA 90291, US
1 310 450 1429 www.gjelina.com
On the surface GJelina appears to be a trendy restaurant beloved of health-obsessed Californians and media types, but closer inspection reveals a menu of unexpected twists that work surprisingly well.
Adventurous palates will like the grilled Monterey Bay squid with white beans and sorrel or the pizza with nettles, chilli and ricotta cheese. Experimentation continues with the desserts, olive oil ice cream sounds wrong, but is actually exquisitely creamy.
Even the drinks come with a twist - a Bloody Mary becomes a Bloody Beer where vodka is replaced by the Mexican beer Tecate. Who would have thought that fizzy beer, tomato juice and Tabasco would go down so well?
Grilled Monterey Bay squid with white beans and sorrel at GJelina
312-314 King's Road, London SW3 5UH, UK
44 207 349 7496 www.sushinho.com
Unknown to many, Brazil has the largest expat population of Japanese people outside of Japan. Hence the concept of Sushinho, which is to fuse the two cuisines together.
This high-end restaurant serves a lemony seafood ceviche in a martini glass, red snapper accompanied by gnocchi cooked in squid ink, kingfish carpaccio with a vanilla and pineapple glaze, and chicken marinated in the famous cachaça spirit with coconut cream on a leek and lotus leaf cake.
The cocktail list is similarly adventurous. Try the Muay Thai Ini made with coconut cream, Drambuie whisky, lemongrass, chilli, ginger and lime. Or one of the recently added low calorie cocktails such as the Cherry Tea Martini a blend of cherry vodka, green tea and Campari.
Friends The Restaurant
215, Street 13 Ang Eng, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
(between Streets 172 Ly Yoak Lay & 178 Ang Makhak Vann, north of National Museum)
+855 12 802 072 www.friends-international.org/shop/restaurants.asp
Cambodian cuisine may not have the fame of neighbouring Thailand, but it's about time it did. Combining the spices of Southeast Asian cookery with the presentation of the French, being a former French colony, the food of this nation has much to offer the gourmet palate.
Friends is a non-profit organisation that attempts to get children off the streets and into homes and education. All the staff are former street kids receiving training in hospitality thanks to the money earned by the restaurant.
The menu provides a delightful introduction to the national dishes, like amok where fish is wrapped in banana leaves and steamed in coconut milk, and noodle dishes are favourites. The young staff are wonderfully friendly, and it's a satisfying experience to sample delicious meals while knowing one is doing a good deed.
529 Kent Street, Sydney NSW 2000, Australia
+61 2 9267 2900 www.tetsuyas.com
Chef owner Tetsuya Wakuda's self-named restaurant is world-renowned and one of Sydney's favourite dining spots for a unique degustation that combines Japanese seasoning and French technique. Our Jacqui tells her Tetsuya's tale - brought to you by the letter " S ".
Sharing is caring: Über-excited from booking four months ahead for Dave's surprise birthday. The secret was going well until one month before dining day, my cousin asked me to book Tetsuya's for his wife's 40th which was close to my booking. So table extended, a forever grateful cousin out of the doghouse and Dave's reaction to the dining-crashers, he replied "of course ok, sharing is caring".
Start the magic: I was enchanted by the secluded restaurant, tranquil surrounds and the view of the gorgeous Japanese garden from the table on an autumn Saturday lunch. The attentive and knowledgeable waitstaff helped us navigate the menu - we added oysters for a total 14-course degustation and opted to share a bottle of wine (instead of the matching wine course) for more stomach room to perform a disappearing act on one vegetable, six seafood, two meats and five desserts.
Sensational: Wow after wow, each dish was immaculately presented and gave my tastebuds a tune-up. Here are my five favourites in dining order:
- Course 1: Chilled avocado soup with potato ice cream was smooth and creamy with refined avocado and potato flavours.
- Course 2: Glad we ordered the pacific oysters, each perfectly anointed with rice vinegar and ginger dressing, and tasted as though harvested seconds before.
- Course 5: Tetsuya's signature dish of confit Petuna ocean trout with konbu, celery and apple (below) is my favourite. The confit cooking method is amazing because the trout was a lovely orange and intact as though freshly-cut and untouched, but the texture was soft and succulent. The crunch of konbu and popping of caviar gave this dish another dimension. Petuna is a seafood company in Tasmania.
- Course 6: The white-as-white squid masterfully formed into tagliatelle-like ribbons, a colour contrast with the black ink.
- Course 12: I was mesmerised by the light and airy poached meringue floating island on a double anglaise of vanilla bean and praline. Loved the hidden chocolate sauce and raspberry coulis.
Tetsuya's signature dish of confit Petuna ocean trout with konbu, celery and apple, image source www.tetsuyas.com
Surprises: I couldn't believe the meal took five hours and somehow I Ate My Way Through 14 courses without stretching seams - an indication of the waitstaff's watchful eye and well-timing. The best surprise was when the two birthday people received a special dessert of chocolate fondant with hazelnut and praline with a candle, and a happy birthday menu souvenir.
Still talking about it: Everytime I catchup with my cousin and his wife, we reminisce about the signature dish confit Petuna ocean trout. We ponder whether we should attempt to make this succulent dish or buy the prepared packs from David Jones foodhall but always conclude to save up and return because nothing beats Tetsuya's total dining experience.
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