For Spirited Singapore’s first travel guide of the year, our editor Daniel Goh compiles a list of restaurants he’d love to visit around the world in 2023.
It is said that an army travels on its stomach. So too, for those who love good food! If you’re a gastrophile like I am, chances are you probably plan your travel itineraries around meals whenever you visit a new city.
And with borders now largely opened up with the coronavirus pandemic is largely behind us, revenge travel – and revenge eating! – is high on many a person’s list. I’ve put together a (by no means comprehensive) list of restaurants I’d love to visit if I ever drop into those countries as part of my 2023 travel plans, and I’m sharing them with you here.
- Jōji :: New York City, New York
- Meliora :: Sarasota, Florida
- Hiakai :: Wellington, New Zealand
- Fallow :: London, United Kingdom
- Sea Underwater Restaurant :: Baa Atoll, Maldives
- The Japanese :: Andermatt, Switzerland
- Signature Bangkok :: Bangkok, Thailand
- Oku :: Phu Quoc, Vietnam
Jōji :: New York City, New York
Opened September last year by serial restaurateur and celebrity chef Daniel Boulud along with former Masa chef George Ruan, Jōji is an intimate 18-seat Japanese omakase restaurant hidden in an alcove below Grand Central Terminal in New York City’s iconic One Vanderbilt. Created as a quiet sanctuary for sushi lovers, Jōji offers authentic multi-course omakase dining in a tranquil Zen minimalist space showcasing diverse seasonal Japanese ingredients presented in traditional yet unexpected ways, with sake and wine pairings to complete the experience.
Unable to land a reservation? Its separate to-go sushi counter Jōji Box allows you to pick up selected sushi bento boxes – packed with nigiri, maki, and sushi rolls – for as little as US$23.
Meliora :: Sarasota, Florida
Chances are Sarasota, Florida isn’t high on your travel priorities. But if you’re headed that way, mark modern American restaurant Meliora down.
Latin for ‘in pursuit of better’, Meliora shook up Sarasota’s dining scene with its unique take on New American cuisine when it opened in March last year. Here chef-owner Drew Adams celebrates the different cultures and communities across America with his creative tapas-style fine dining small plates, leaning on produce sourced from local farmers’ markets. Think grilled carrots with cotija cheese and grapefruit, spaghetti with bagna cauda, maitake mushroom with cauliflower mousseline, and even a Vietnamese crispy rice salad with nước chấm.
Along with an ever-evolving menu of wines, spirits, and cocktails, Meliora gives you an idea of the diverse culinary diversity and influences of continental United States.
Meliora | 1920 Hillview St, Sarasota, FL 34239, United States (Google Maps link) | May – November: 5pm to 9pm Tuesdays to Saturdays; closed on Sundays and Mondays / December – April: 5pm to 9pm Wednesdays to Saturdays; closed on Sunday to Tuesday | www.meliorarestaurant.com | +1 941 444 7692
Hiakai :: Wellington, New Zealand
You may have caught Chef Monique Fiso on Netflix’s reality TV cooking series The Final Table. The chef of Māori and Samoan descent made her name working across Michelin-starred restaurants in New York, but returned home to New Zealand in 2015 to explore the cuisines of her heritage. Hiakai was the result.
Hiakai – which in Māori means ‘hungry’ or ‘craving for food’ – started as a series of culinary pop-ups, but in 2018 coalesced into a fully-fledged fine-dining restaurant in Wellington that has since put Māori cuisine on the world gastronomic map. Think locally-grown produce and indigenous ingredients that have graced Māori and Polynesian diets for generations – kōkihi (NZ spinach), horopito, pikopiko fern, and muttonbird, for example – but inventively modernised for the discerning fine dining palate. A slew of awards, including a World’s 50 Best Restaurants Discovery listing, is testament to Fiso’s dedication to her Māori roots and makes Hiakai a dining must-visit when dropping into Wellington.
Fallow :: London, United Kingdom
London’s dining scene is experiencing a revival of sorts, with new restaurants opening ever so often that challenge ideas about British cuisine. Among them is contemporary British restaurant Fallow, which opened late 2021 with a focus on sustainable and conscious dining.
Founded by Dinner by Heston Blumenthal alumni Jack Croft and Will Murray, the stylish leather- and green marble-clad restaurant boasts an open kitchen from which issues nose-to-tail dishes like its signature smoked cod’s head with sriracha butter sauce, house-made charcuterie, venison tartare, and specials such as a confit pig’s head. For those who are more squeamish? Pop into the World’s 50 Best Discovery and MICHELIN Guide-listed eatery instead on a Sunday for its more conventional Sunday roast made from the rump of retired dairy cows.
Fallow | 52 Haymarket, St. James’s, London SW1Y 4RP, United Kingdom (Google Maps link) | 12pm to 3pm on Mondays; 12pm to 11pm Tuesdays to Fridays; 10am to 11pm on Saturdays; 12pm to 10pm on Sundays | fallowrestaurant.com | +44 20 8017 1788
Sea Underwater Restaurant :: Baa Atoll, Maldives
There’s dining with a waterfront view, and then there’s Sea Underwater Restaurant off Anantara Kihavah Maldives Villas on the Baa Atoll of Maldives which literally has you dining underwater amidst the archipelago’s famed ocean reefs.
Couples staying at the luxury Maldives resort can sign up for a strictly-limited one-of-a-kind fine dining experience in this award-winning underwater restaurant, where they’ll be pampered with an indulgent and immersive seven-course meal that paired with wines from the world’s first underwater 450-label wine cellar. Seafood-centric dishes include lobster ceviche, roasted scampi, and grilled monkfish, which may niggle at your conscience just a little as you observe the ocean denizens swimming by.
Sea Underwater Restaurant | Kihavah Huravalhi Island Baa Atoll, Maldives (Google Maps link) | 8.30am to 10.30am, 12pm to 2pm and 6.30pm to 10pm Mondays to Saturdays; closed on Sundays | www.anantara.com/en/kihavah-maldives/restaurants/sea | +960 660 1020
The Japanese :: Andermatt, Switzerland
The Japanese is, well, a fine-dining Japanese restaurant tucked within The Chedi Andermatt, a popular luxury hotel and ski resort tucked within the Swiss Alps. Stunned to learn that there’s a seafood-focused Japanese eatery located on a mountain in the heart of landlocked Switzerland? So are we.
Helmed by award-winning Chef Dietmar Sawyere – he’s worked at some of the world’s most exclusive hotels and restaurants – the Michelin-starred and Gault Millau-rated restaurant rolls everything so coveted about Japanese cuisine into one. You’re looking at an open sushi and sashimi bar counter, tempura and teppanyaki sections, as well as multi-course kaiseki menus always showcasing the freshest in-season produce.
The Japanese Restaurant (The Chedi Andermatt) | Gotthardstrasse 4, 6490 Andermatt, Switzerland (Google Maps link) | 6pm to 10pm Wednesdays to Sundays; closed Mondays and Tuesdays | www.thechediandermatt.com/de/dining/the-japanese-restaurant | +41 41 888 74 66
Signature Bangkok :: Bangkok, Thailand
Signature Bangkok is awarded 1-Michelin Star, taking Chef Thierry Drapeau’s modern French & floral gastronomy and his signature “cuisine of the soil” philosophy to new heights
Singaporeans love Bangkok. Thailand’s capital city is, after all, one of the top cultural spots in the world, as well as one of the most searched destinations, at least according to travel service provider Expedia. One of the reasons for travelling there? Its glorious food scene.
And not just its street food. Bangkok is home to a thriving fine dining scene. An example? Newly-minted Michelin-starred contemporary French restaurant Signature Bangkok, located within cosmopolitan 5-star luxury hotel VIE Hotel Bangkok – MGallery in the heart of the city. Here award-winning Chef Thierry Drapeau drives its “floral cuisine” approach, drawing on native Thai flowers and herbs – along with exceptionally fresh, seasonal ingredients – to create terroir-driven dishes built around a five- or eight-course chef’s menu. Consider dishes like en-papillote fresh Loire river fish, roasted young squab, and an array of French AOC goat cheeses.
Signature Bangkok | MGallery Hotel Collection, 11th floor, Vie Hotel Bangkok, 117/39-40 Phaya Thai Rd, Bangkok 10400, Thailand (Google Maps link) | 6pm to 10pm Tuesdays to Sundays; closed on Mondays | signaturebangkok.com | +66 2 309 3939
Oku :: Phu Quoc, Vietnam
Vietnam’s island of Phu Quoc off its western coasts in the Gulf of Thailand is largely known for a few things: its near endless white sandy beaches, beautiful nature, as well as Epizode Festival, a music and arts fest that attracts some of the world’s high profile DJs and artists. Here may be another if you love food – Oku, a contemporary Japanese-French restaurant tucked within Regent Phu Quoc.
One of the six dining concepts within the ultra-luxury island resort, enchanting Oku is an updated take on the French brasserie combines two timeless cuisines into one singular elevated gastronomic. Here Chef de Cuisine Andy Huynh leads a team that leans on classic French techniques and Japanese tradition to create seasonal multi-course omakase-style dining experiences with inventive takes on foie gras chawanmushi, salad niçoise, wagyu beef tartare, for example.
Oku (Regent Phu Quoc) | Bãi Trường, Dương Tơ, Phú Quốc, Kiên Giang 92509, Vietnam (Google Maps link) | 6pm to 10pm Wednesdays to Sundays; closed on Mondays and Tuesdays | phuquoc.regenthotels.com/dining/oku | +84 297 3880 000
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