If you have been sticking around for a while, you know I´m a street-food kind of woman. When I´m traveling, I love to get to know the people, the local culture, the history of the place I´m visiting….and, oh my, you can learn so much by what people put on a plate! So, indeed, I would choose a local shack over a fancy restaurant anytime, anywhere.
Still, it doesn´t hurt to get a little extravagant from time to time, does it? Unforgettable traveling stories are made of that time when you met a crazy crowd at a burger joint in Argentina, as well as that time when you had no idea how to start cracking into those escargots you got served at a Michelin star restaurant in France. In the end, if the experience was fun, and the food was memorable, that´s what counts.
Today, we will concentrate on the lavish side though! Get your Dior suit ready, your Rolex on the wrist, your Hermès scarf, cause we are going to my top 5 classy restaurants around the world! (just kidding, the first restaurant on the list actually let me in wearing shorts and slippers lol)
1. BLANCO par Mandif (Bali, Indonesia)
This restaurant was a happy detour for us. After walking for a few hours around the beautiful fields of Ubud, we were hungry. We were very hungry. A quick search online led us to a restaurant that, in the end, would still remain closed for another hour and a half. There was no way we could wait that much… We turned our heads to look around for a salvation, when we saw a
light sign in the end of the tunnel a small hillside: Blanco par Mandif.
We walked up to the restaurant, which is actually reached by going a floor down through some fancy wooden stairs. Our first look at the restaurant gave us the impression we couldn´t even afford a glass of water there, lol. Besides, coming from a walk in the woods, we were definitely not dressed for the occasion (slippers, man, I was wearing freaking slippers…).
Here´s where the staff absolutely blew us away. They assured us our dress “situation” was not a problem at all and they would be happy to accommodate us. Wow. And to think I was once turned down at a seafood restaurant in Rio for wearing a T-shirt and jeans…Suck on that, seafood restaurant!
The food was outstanding (I feel like such a New York times food critic using this word to describe food!). To this day, I still believe that, there, we were served the most original delicious fancy local meal of our lives. The restaurant is all about contemporary Indonesian food made with the freshest local ingredients. Oh and the dishes are dressed up pretty well too!
In terms of price, though it was still up there, we thought we could spend a little more this once – it was our honeymoon after all! At that time (2017), it came down to $100/pp, for a 10-course menu and a bottle of wine. We actually thought it was pretty ok comparing to European prices!
My advice? Get a seat at the tasting bar, where you can actually see the cooks making poetry with their hands.
For up-to-date menus and prices, check out their official page here.
2. The SAKAI (Frankfurt, Germany)
Funny enough, we got to know this restaurant in a very pedestrian way: at a Japanese street fair being held at the heart of Frankfurt. There we were, in between food booths, trying Matcha ice teas, ramens and Okonomiyakis (a traditional savory pancake), when we laid eyes at gorgeous looking Sushis being served by a very composed chef.
We regretted being too full to give those sushi pieces the fair bite they deserved, so we just grabbed a restaurant pamphlet. The woman that was helping the Japanese chef explained that they were there promoting a new restaurant in town, which was conceptualized by the cook Hiroshi Sakai.
We kept the pamphlet and decided to finally give it a try at a special occasion. Though we had done our research and we knew the restaurant was as chic as it could get, it definitely exceeded our expectations: food and experience wise.
The Sakai manages to be that kind of fancy restaurant that is, at the same time, elegant and cozy. By that I mean that you feel invited and not necessarily afraid if you are fitting in or if you are breaking any etiquette rules – it´s all about enjoying.
The journey starts by being welcomed by a very friendly and accommodating staff, followed by leaving your shoes at the door. The restaurant is small, which gives an idea of how exclusive it is, since only a few people are served per night. They only offer tasting menus divided into 2 categories: 5 course-menu for €75 or a 7 course-menu for €95, no drinks included. The menu changes seasonally based on the availability of fresh ingredients. And no, you can´t choose the dishes. Don´t worry though, once you state your preferences and your dislikes (if any), just trust the amazing hands of the sushi chef.
We basically left the restaurant in awe for its beautifully presented and creative food, for the kindness and excitement of the staff to explain every single part of the dishes, and for the tea ceremony, which everybody is invited to at the end of their meal. This is when Mr. Sakai comes to your table himself, and prepares a traditional hot Matcha tea to finish the whole experience on a (very) high note. I can´t wait to go back.
My advices: if you aren´t here for a romantic dinner, try to get a seat at the counter to have a one on one experience with the chef. Also, ask your waiter for a sake recommendation!
To check the Sakai´s official page, click here.
3. ORO Restaurant (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil)
This is a two-star Michelin restaurant that is everything I expected a Michelin-star restaurant to be: different. I mean, of course you know you will be served amazing food, the service will be impeccable, the wine will be premium….but, I always asked myself: what makes these rewarded restaurants we hear so much about really stand out? What makes this one fancy restaurant deserve an award, and that other one, equally fancy, not?
If you go to Oro, you will find out. Sure the decoration is beautiful. Of course you cannot fault the service. No doubt the food is exquisite. But, beyond that, this restaurant gives you a new take in a cuisine I thought I knew from head to toe: Brazilian food. But Oro wraps it up in a completely new package – one you can only unwrap and unveil once it hits your mouth. What caused estrangement to my eyes, my mouth recognized immediately.
Even if you are not Brazilian, you will definitely enjoy this experience. The renowned chef, Felipe Bronze, emphasizes many local ingredients that you probably will only get a chance to taste together here. For example, you can get served crayfish with pumpkin and tapioca sago, or oyster ceviche with cashew nuts. They have, by far, the most creative menu I have ever read (menus are my favorite kind of Literature!). Additionally, I can definitely say that this is the food that taught me what “fireworks in your mouth” really mean. You can basically taste those Michelin stars.
Here you will also have a tasting menu, but differently than Sakai, you can choose your dishes. The tasting menu options vary from R$445 (14 courses without drinks) to R$735 (16 courses including drinks).
My advice: Since I´m not a big drinker, I would easily say “save it on the wine harmonization, and spend your bucks on the 16-course menu without drinks (R$ 555)”. You will not regret.
To take a look at Oro´s official website, click here.
4. Philipps Restaurant (Hamburg, Germany)
My husband invited me to this great restaurant to celebrate a special occasion in Hamburg, so I had no idea what I was in for. From the outside, it´s a totally ordinary modern restaurant. The inside has an elegant cozy rustic feel, that basically whispers that your tummy will be well taken care of. Still, to be honest, I wasn´t expecting anything extraordinary.
The difference of Philipps to the other restaurants in this list, is that it is extraordinary without the pretention to be. Having said this, your first course will not be a deconstructed soup or anything that looks like it should be hanging on the walls of a museum. Instead, you will be served…bread. Yes, dear, good old bread.
Not ANY bread, though. THE bread. This is seriously the best mix of bread I have ever had. No wonder: the waiter told us it is freshly baked everyday on spot with local ingredients. I don´t doubt him even for a bit: you can definitely smell and taste regional. The best bread in the world is accompanied by the world´s best homemade herb butter, sea salt and a fragrant olive oil. I was ready to eat that whole basket and go home with a full tummy.
Joking, I was ready to see what would come next, this tummy has no limits! Maybe because I wasn´t expecting much, I was completely blown away by the food. Their cuisine is an international one, but that doesn´t mean they are all over the place. They offer a small selection of dishes, managing to bring the “homey” atmosphere of the restaurant into the plate. The dishes are delicious, colorful and well balanced. You can definitely tell there´s a lot of thought that goes into the conception of that food.
When it comes to price, it´s probably the cheapest in this bunch and, consequently, the best value for money. You can have a pretty amazing meal here with an Angus beef fillet as a starter, a grilled trout as a main, and crème brulée as dessert for about 50€/pp, without drinks.
My advice: Do ask for a pairing of wine at least with the main dish! Their selection of German wines is excellent.
To check out their seasonal menu, click here.
5. The Regent of Rotorua (Rotorua, New Zealand)
Now this is a restaurant that is pretentious and it´s definitely not shy about it. I mean, when you have white porcelain rhino heads hanging on walls, black wallpaper and huge vintage black chandeliers hanging above your head, you are not shy about much anyways. Good thing that they put on a promising face, but also deliver upscale food to match their posh decoration standards.
The Regent of Rotorua is actually a hotel´s restaurant. We ended up there after seeking for something fancier online and checking their ratings on Trip Advisor. For something not that much planned (we went without a reservation), we had such a great experience with fine food and outstanding service! I unfortunately cannot remember the name of the lady that waited our table (could be Gretchen…), but she was the friendliest without crossing any barriers. We felt so comfortable with her. By the way, her recommendations were also on point.
I had the best potato gnocchi, while Mathias was all compliments for his surf n´turf dish, with scallops and beef medallions. I mean, I couldn´t expect any less of an awarded restaurant inside one of the best boutique hotels of that area.
When it comes to price, I considered it a good deal taking into account this is a fine dining experience. You can have a pretty amazing meal for around NZ$60, not including wine. The wine list is definitely on the pricey side, but they have excellent regional options.
My advice: try the Eye Fillet and Pork belly, and don´t miss the chance of pairing it with a local red wine!
Check out their official website here!