Restaurants Worth Traveling For
Worth traveling for
There are great, even stellar, restaurants…and then there are restaurants worth traveling for.
Restaurants that linger forever in memory because they deliver the triumvirate of memorable food, locations of exceptional ambience and that X-factor that cannot be experienced anywhere else. In my travels I have crossed all 7 continents, visited almost 100 countries and I am fortunate to have a few of these restaurants in my back pocket. Here, in no particular order, are a handful of them:
The Kelpshack, Cape Town Peninsula South Africa
Hidden away on a secret stretch of beach this is the ultimate insider’s dining spot. Phil, the chef-owner and a true son of the sea, starts each day in enviable fashion: surfing early, followed by a dive through the offshore kelp forests (yes the same ones made famous in the Netflix documentary ‘My Octopus Teacher’) and then heads up to the shack to create culinary wonderment. Think ultra local foraged specialties, artisanal breads and vegetables and kelp cannelloni…all washed down with exceptional organic wines.
El Obrero, Buenos Aires Argentina
The La Boca neighborhood is edgy, to say the least. It’s just the way I like it – little, if any, English is spoken, soccer is religion and my favorite restaurant is in the shadows of Boca Juniors mammoth soccer stadium. Atmospheric is an understatement. The food is hearty, rich and evocative. The wines are all small production, family owned local offerings. Let this third generation Italian immigrant family embrace you, there is no better introduction to Argentina.
Restaurant Garzón by Francis Mallmann, Garzón Uruguay
Blink and you miss the ‘town’ of Garzón. What you don’t want to miss is Mallmann’s restaurant. The chef is well known, a true man of the millennium, and his culinary offerings seem to embody all that he espouses – joyous and playful one moment, philosophical and subtle the next. And the wines…Uruguay is in the shadow of better known neighbors but it need not be. Tannat offerings pair especially well with ethereal Uruguayan meat dishes.
The Shamba, Maasai Mara, Kenya
Set on the edge of the escarpment overlooking the Great African Rift Valley is an organic garden of Eden. The Shamba, set in the Angama Mara Safari lodge is a one acre footprint of culinary paradise – vegetables, deciduous fruit, edible flowers, herbs (medicinal & ingredient) flourish here and diners (only ever one table at a time) meander through the garden picking their meal contents. The garden to fork journey is all of 10 yards to a picnic deck overlooking the entirety of the Maasai Mara. I swear I heard the theme song to ‘Out of Africa’.
The village Store, Kalithies, Rhodes, Greek Isles
Not technically a restaurant, but as good as. This is the Greece of my ’traveling 20’s’. Upon entry to the tiny, dimly lit store the elderly owner would take me to the rear, reach into a deep vat and take out a block of fresh feta cheese from the brine before wrapping it in newspaper. Next stop was to reach into her garden and pick ripe red tomatoes from the vine. She rounded this out with an unlabeled bottle of unfiltered olive oil, a jar of olives and a crusty still-steaming loaf from the baker next door. I’d take my lunch to her patio table and watch the retires playing chess. Sometimes simple is the best.
There is no better way to experience a destination than to experience its food culture – how locals eat and the provenance of their ingredients. Mix in a few local characters , God given locations and ambience and NOW you have a reason to travel!