What would be the ultimate restaurant meal? Normally you would be limited to the offerings of a single establishment, but as a flight of fancy let’s imagine that you could magically transport dishes from any restaurant in the world directly to your dining table.
What follows is an imaginary tasting menu composed of individual courses with which I have been particularly impressed as I have dined around the world; all come from three Michelin star restaurants. Naturally this would be quite a large meal, but in this case imagination is the only limit to appetite. These are some of the finest dishes that I have ever tasted.
We start with nibbles from Mizai in Kyoto. This restaurant serves kaiseki cuisine, the ultimate in Japanese fine dining. This pretty dish comprises caviar, a roll of cooked beef and superb pieces of raw octopus with pickled cucumber served in a hollowed out vegetable casing. Best of all is a sardine in a mirin-based sauce with magnificent flavour.
We stay in Japan for the next course, cep tart at Michel Bras in its spectacular setting on the rim of a volcanic crater in Lake Toya. This dish, a copy of that at its sister restaurant Michel Bras in Laguiole, features ultra-delicate pastry and stunning cep mushrooms, a simple but dazzling dish.
The next course is from Pergola, a restaurant set on one of the hills of Rome, looking down over St Peter’s Basilica. Deep-fried courgette flower with caviar on shellfish and saffron sauce is a pretty dish, the courgette flower arranged in a star with very light batter, the sauce having very clean flavour.
From Alain Passard’s Paris restaurant Arpege we next indulge in carpaccio of scallops with black truffles, pretty presented as alternating discs, garnished with rocket leaves and drizzled with olive oil. The scallops are of dazzling quality, their superb sweet flavour pairing well with the earthiness of the truffles.
A modern fish course
From Alinea in Chicago, we move on to steelhead trout roe, sauce of cured grapefruit and spices, Dijon mustard, swede, slices of radish and black liquorice, the dish decorated with nasturtium flowers. The acidity from the grapefruit balances the richness of the roe, the spices carefully controlled; the overall balance of flavours in this dish is very precise.
From Le Calandre in Rubano we have the ultimate risotto, its grains of carnaroli rice glistening with the deep yellow/red of saffron. Every grain of rice has perfect texture, having absorbed dazzlingly rich, reduced chicken stock. High-quality Parmesan adds a delightful richness, with just a touch of lemon to balance this.
We now head to the forest setting of Sonnora in Germany. Saddle of venison has terrific flavour, with a crust of raisin and almond and a rich game sauce with cranberries and green peppers, garnished with chanterelle mushrooms and a celeriac purée. On the side is perfectly cooked green cabbage.
For our pre-dessert we head to the leafy setting of Ledoyen in Paris. Millefeuille of grapefruit consists of layers of confit grapefruit, grapefruit infused with vanilla and lime, then a grapefruit sorbet, with a layer of sugar and just a little basil. A refreshing and beautiful dessert.
We finish in the Mediterranean, with the famous chocolate croustillant of Louis XV in Monaco. It has a smooth yet almost liquid surface of dark chocolate, crisp thin layer of hazelnuts and pastry dough, and an embellishment of gold leaf, the recipe subtly refined over the years. It is the ultimate chocolate dessert.