Only the finest, most innovative dining experiences, those that merge incredible service with satiating the palate, qualify for the annual World’s 50 Best Restaurants list. Announced on Thursday, the list adorned New York’s Eleven Madison Park with the top honor of World’s Best, making the Flatiron eatery the first American restaurant to earn the spot in 13 years. It rose two rankings since last year, overcoming Chef Massimo Bottura’s Osteria Francescana and Joan Roca’s El Celler de Can Roca, both now ranked second and third, respectively. While the three shuffle across the top, Spain and Peru speckle the rest of the list and continue to be gastronomy strongholds. Take a look at the top ten and some of their transformative approaches to fine dining below:
No. 1 Eleven Madison Park New York, USA
The art deco interior heralds thoughts of Old New York, while the European fusion food epitomizes modern fine dining. High ceilings with chevron hanging pendants overlook diners in leather-bound booths and wooden-framed armchairs enjoying one of typically 8-10 courses. The honey lavender roasted duck, Chef Daniel Humm’s signature dish, is always architectural and artistic in presentation, but with different seasonal garnishes. Starting April 11 until June, the restaurant will serve an exclusive 11-course retrospective menu showcasing some of the most significant dishes since Humm became executive chef. The restaurant will close June to September for renovations, but Humm and co-owner Will Guidara will run a pop-up restaurant in the Hamptons in the meantime.
No. 2 Osteria Francescana Modena, Italy
Voted best in Europe, the Modena restaurant offers diners a storytelling experience, with narratives on traditional Italian cooking methods, tastes, and textures retold with modern techniques. Updates on classic dishes are served in a dining room adorned in contemporary art. The minimal interior acts as a blank slate for diners to experience Bottura’s “stories”, including the Five Ages of Parmigiano Reggiano and The Crunchy Part of the Lasagna.
No. 3 El Celler de Can Roca Girona, Spain
Run by a trio of brothers, Joan as head chef, Jordi as a patissier, and Josep Roca as a sommelier, El Celler de Can Roca’s appeal comes in the mix of their talents and how it appears on the plate. Twice ranked No. 1 in the world, the Catalunya eatery offers two menus, one an 11-course meal of Classics with a sensory experience for dessert, the other a veritable Feast at 14-plus courses. While the food is typically cutting edge and stylized with tastes and textures meant to evoke memories or emotions, no meal at El Celler is complete without a wine pairing expertly plucked by Josep from the restaurant's fabled wine cellar.
No. 4 Mirazur Menton, France
Mere steps from the Italian border of the French Riviera, Mirazur sits adjacent to the sea, offering diners hillside and horizon views as well as chef Mauro Colagreco’s Mediterranean cuisine. Pulling inspiration from his Argentine-Italian roots, as well as the flavours of the local landscape, Colagreco uses ingredients plucked from his own backyard farm and reinterprets them, often plating flora and fauna with plays on color, flavor, and contrast. Combinations from beetroot and caviar to Colagreco’s signature oyster with tapioca pair well with the 1930’s rotunda and consistently offer the palate the fresh, yet unexpected.
No. 5 Central Lima, Peru
Latin America’s No. 1 restaurant, Central celebrates contemporary Peruvian cuisine. A journey from Peru’s lowest point below sea to its highest peak in the Andes, the 17+ course tasting menu explores the region’s biodiversity, mixing classics like ceviche with exotic garnishes grown in the surrounding terrain. Architecturally modern with glass walls and exposed stonework, Central sits in the Lima district of Miraflora, but its menu brings the rural to the urban, the experimental to the traditional.
No.6 Asador Etxebarri Axpe, Spain
A cobblestone stacked enclave in rural Spain, Asador Extebarri is a world-renowned destination for simple, and simply spectacular, Spanish dishes. Caught in a bright green valley below a mountainside, Etxebarri is not the lap of luxury in looks, but the center of a village. Downstairs, below diners enjoying chef Victor Arguinzoniz’ expertly smoked chorizo and salted anchovy toast in high-beamed alcoves, is a bar that doubles as the local pub. The service is relaxed, yet charming, and overseen by a sommelier, but it should be noted that aside from Saturdays, this global mainstay for expertly wood-fired barbecue is only open for lunch.
No. 7 Gaggan Bangkok, Thailand
The best restaurant in Asia, Gaggan and its wood and white interiors take a backseat to chef-owner Gaggan Anand’s progressive Indian cuisine. While renowned for exemplary Thai hospitality, the Bangkok-based restaurant is loved for its innovative take on the element of surprise: each guest is given a list of 25 emojis as a menu, all invoking a different bite. Only at the end do they receive a list of each taste they’ve tried – from spindly sea urchins to spongy Jasmine-rice ice cream – over the course of the last two to three hours. While Gaggan is slated to close in 2020, Anand is shifting his focus to Japan and planning to open a small restaurant in Fukuoka that will be no less appetizingly enigmatic.
No. 8 Maido Lima, Peru
Nikkei, the current sensation in cultural fusion, melds Peruvian and Japanese cuisine and is perhaps no better executed than at chef Misuharu ‘Micha’ Tsumara’s Maido. Guests can enjoy bites of Peruvian classics and freshly made sushi under a ceiling of dangling rope that, depending on one’s perspective, reflects to form the Peruvian and Japanese flags. With a tasting menu jumping from dim sum to nigari made with the catch of the day, Maido’s Nikkei is a celebration of both the history of the two cultures and the flavor combinations that follow when they collide.
No. 9 Mugaritz San Sebastian, Spain
With meals over 20-plus courses, Chef Andoni likens eating to a sensory experience drawn out with each crunch, chew, and sip. Basking in the intersection of forests, fields, and mountainsides, Mugaritz’ minimal interior and “techno-emotional” offering, a contemporary take on traditional Basque cuisine, contrasts the pastoral landscape. Dishes such as dried hydrangea of cocoa and playful petit fours telling the story of the seven deadly sins are eccentric in idea, but exquisite in taste, hinting at Andoni’s creativity and his growing reputation as Spain’s most inventive chef after Ferran Adrià.
No. 10 Steirereck Vienna, Austria
Housed in a reflective glass cube, Steirereck may have all the makings of a contemporary fine dining destination, but it still clings to tradition. Family owned for generations, Steirereck prides itself on modern Austrian food, with favorites from the unconventional char cooked over beeswax with yellow carrot, pollen & sour-cream to the customary Weiner Schnitzel. Chef Heinz Reitbauer’s cooking is cutting edge, but the flavors are classic, making it as popular with casual lunch crowds as it is with epicurists.