Think you’ve tried the best meal in town? Whether you’re dining in Copenhagen or Los Angeles, the answer might just be, “Not quite yet…” this list of chart-topping, mouth-watering newcomers and you may find it necessary to book a flight to one of the world’s newly emerging culinary capitals. From the ritziest restaurants in world-class cities to easy-to-miss eateries at unsuspecting addresses, 2015 brings with it a new tide of chefs, testing the limits of their creativity. While it would be impossible to generalise about what makes this batch of new upstarts so notable, many of the most attention-getting menus are decidedly uninterested in pizazz or showmanship. Instead of catchy, trend-chasing presentation, these kitchens focus squarely on flavor.
Within the narrow lair that is Dandylion, Jay Carter creates Nordic and Canadian-inspired dishes from an open kitchen. The upstart in Toronto’s trendy Queen West area comes with good parentage: Carter’s training includes time in the kitchens of local legend Susur Lee and Centro. Warm and earthy flavors are balanced with bright and surprising pairings, like a broth with slightly sweet Jerusalem artichoke, offset by tangy, pickled cabbage. While the cookery itself is creative, the menu, dish presentation and overall surroundings are unpretentious, keeping all of the cutting-edge intensity focused on the dishes, themselves.
Toronto, ON M6J 1J6, Canada
An Italian restaurant without pasta? chi SPACCA translates as “he who cleaves” and, from its sunny LA location, the trend-setting restaurant is solely focused on Italian salumi and charcuterie. Chef Chad Colby designed and now oversees his own dry curing workshop right in Los Angeles, where he experiments with traditional Italian salumi methods. While the menu’s focus is decidedly carnivorous, equal attention is given to pairing all the smoked and cured offerings with wines, olives, cheeses, salads and other sides. Although a vegetarian would likely feel rather out-of-place, the expertly turned vegetable sides and small plates would be unlikely to disappoint. In addition to the salumeria itself, main dishes include aged steaks and chops as well as a few seafood offerings. The focus is on expertly cured or aged meats, with traditionally Mediterranean seasonings brightening each dish, from fennel pollen to mint-laced yogurt sauces.
Los Angeles, CA 90038, USA
At Chippendale’s newest institution, the menu is as stripped-down as an e.e. cummings poem. You might order the “bone marrow / chili paste” or the “raw fish / charcoal / daikon”. In fact, the menu is refreshingly bereft of paragraph-sized descriptors like “draped”, “infused” or “smothered”. While the unusual presentation might raise an eyebrow, the flavor pairings help you get at the heart of each dish. Order snacks or small plates to accompany a glass of wine or opt for a “wood fired” main. Whatever you choose, sharing is encouraged. While the restaurant has been snapping up rave reviews from local and international papers, the locale has a decidedly laid-back vibe, befitting the neighbourhood’s overall feel of college town cool.
Chippendale NSW 2008, Australia
A newcomer in a city that knows how to eat, Lyle’s makes its entrance to the London dining scene with aplomb. The restrained menu offers a list of mouthwatering dishes that changes daily. Order a la carte at midday or opt for the set dinner in the evening. A focus on fresh market ingredients doesn’t hesitate to look to far-flung cuisines. You may find Catalan calcots, paired with buckwheat. On the other hand, tried-and-true classics of the English kitchen come back to life, from treacle tart with milk ice cream to lamb’s sweetbreads with ramson. Finish off the meal with a comforting pudding or a plate of fine local cheeses.
London, E1 6JJ, UK
Spoon and Stable
In a Midwestern metropolis unknown for its dining, the Spoon and Stable is prompting visitors and locals to re-think their culinary geography. At this newcomer to downtown Minneapolis, the seasonal menu showcases local flavors as well as fresh seafood and European influences from far outside Minnesota’s borders. The entrée list includes a section of “chilled” delicacies; dill cured salmon harks back to the area’s Scandinavian heritage, while chilled Maine lobster receives a brightly tropical treatment, paired with avocado, tangelo and hearts of palm. For more meat-and-potatoes diners, the Midwestern sensibility isn’t lost, but elevated. Premium steaks are paired with delicate polenta, sprouted buckwheat or a cassis-spiked glaze. Pastry chef Diane Yang ensures that the dessert list is just as well-represented as the savoury dishes. From olive oil cake paired with caramel and buttermilk sherbet to the pistachio cake with meyer lemon panna cotta, it’s a marriage on equal footing of brilliantly rich flavors and understatement. For a classic cocktail before your meal, the lounge also serves small plates that constitute show-stoppers in themselves, from grilled oysters to truffle-laced arancini to Spanish-style octopus.
Minneapolis, MN 55401, USA
Popular Little Bao doesn’t take reservations, a policy that means you may just snag a table during your next spell in Hong Kong. On the other hand, be prepared to wait or jostle your way to one of the restaurant’s tables: they are premium spots of real estate. The menu includes heaping orders “for sharing”, with everything from French fries with sambal and cilantro to thick-cut, tea-smoked bacon. The fusion of flavors really shines in the baos or “baozi”, a type of filled, steamed bun. The fillings of the yeast buns is, naturally, where Little Bao really stands out from the numerous Hong Kong hawkers and shops offering up their own baozi. Here, diners can try fish tempura buns, Szechuan fried chicken or the classic beef with not-so-classic ingredients including cheddar cheese and other choice bits that you’d more anticipate atop a burger. Finish up with green tea ice cream – also tucked into a bao, of course. Or, if you’re feeling more adventurous, give your taste buds the unusual treat of salt ice cream, paired with caramel, and wrapped in the soft bao dough.
Danish chefs are increasingly getting worldwide attention with Noma claiming its throne among European restaurants. Amid the flurry of interest in Copenhagen’s cuisine, Uformel sticks to one maxim: creativity. If there’s one guiding principle in play, it’s “No dogmas!”, as their website proudly proclaims. The menu makes the most of Nordic cuisine, but doesn’t limit itself to northern European flavors. Local Danish farmers provide whole animals, letting the Uformel kitchen make the most of humanely farm-raised ingredients. For lunch, they recommend two to three courses and for dinner, four to six. While you may order each course a la carte, groups of eight or more are kindly asked to stick to the same menu for the group. Wine pairings are available for each course, while beer lovers can make the most of draughts from the local Mikkeller micro-brewery. Flavor pairings are dynamic, from turbot with strawberries to grilled cucumber with horseradish. For dessert, Jerusalem artichokes add surprising depth when paired with chocolate and hazelnuts.
1554 København V, Denmark
Few U.S. cities boast the same concentration of local culinary heritage as New Orleans. In 2015, the Big Easy can claim one more star in its crown in Brown Butter Southern Kitchen & Bar. Unlike the obscure names that many top-tier restaurants choose, in this case you get just what the lengthy appellation brings to mind – and then some. For down-home cooking with some extra flair, try out the truffled egg salad sandwich. The hearty menu is well-rounded, with boards of house-made charcuterie or fried oyster and heirloom tomato spreads fit for sharing. For upmarket comfort food, try rabbit with dumplings, served with deeply rich cornbread gnocchi. Daily specials showcase local produce and more creative flavor combinations.
New Orleans, LA 70119, USA
What city could claim more culinary capital than the French grand dame herself? It doesn’t matter how long you stay in Paris. It goes without saying that you’ll ultimately leave without having sampled even a tiny fraction of the numberless bistros and cafes that would, in themselves, merit a visit to the city. For locals, sampling the newest offerings is a year-round sport of pure pleasure. Adding to the city’s brightest stars, 2015 brings the opening of Heimat, the latest restaurant to star Pierre Jancou at its helm, the celebrity chef who is behind Bocca and Racines among other successes. The lunch menu features two to three courses and the dinner menu have four to five. For an alternative to multi-course meals, diners can head to the bar, where lighter but no less impressive charcuterie and pasta dishes are served. As the German name suggests, the menu makes the most of Swiss-German roots, though inspiration can also be traced throughout Europe and with a few incursions beyond.
75001 Paris, France