Luxist Awards' Winners for the Best in Fine Dining
Luxist readers nominated and voted for the restaurants that they believe are the best of breed. Below, are their favorite places to wine and dine within such categories as Best Steakhouse, Best Seafood, Best Romantic, Best Domestic and Best International restaurant.
Best Romantic Restaurant: Auberge du Soleil (Rutherford, Ca.)
Enjoying a glass of wine at sunset in California's Napa Valley is one of the best ways to start an intimate evening, and the restaurant at Auberge du Soleil offers a chance to do just that.
Founded in 1981 by San Francisco restaurateur Claude Rouas, the eatery helped spawn the wave of popularity currently enjoyed by the entire Napa area. In 1985, Rouas and business partner Robert Harmon opened the inn---in French, auberge---to host visitors to the California wine country. He envisioned both the restaurant and the inn as a tribute to his beloved Provence, and, true to form, both continue to be exactly that.
Guided by executive chef Robert Curry, the restaurant remains one of America's most delicious---and most romantic. The best way for lovebirds to enjoy the seasonally-changing menu is at La Pagode, the restaurant's private dining area for two. Here, the evening begins with a bottle of champagne, followed by a dozen oysters and a four course dinner, with wine pairings included. This type of romance comes with a $1,495 per couple price tag, plus an optional $550 for two hours of solo guitar accompaniment.
For those looking for something less extravagant, the restaurant offers a number of different prix fix meals: three courses for $98, four courses for $115, and a tasting menu for $140. Paired with wine, the latter costs $227, and it's still plenty romantic. Reservations can be made by calling (800) 348-5406.
Gallery: Auberge du Soleil
Best International Restaurant: Restaurant Guy Savoy (Paris)
Fewer than 100 restaurants in the entire world have received Michelin's coveted three-star rating, and even fewer enjoy the renown of Restaurant Guy Savoy.
Guy Savoy opened his first Paris restaurant in 1980 at the age of 27. Within five years, Savoy had earned two Michelin stars and Savoy was well on his way to becoming one of the world's most celebrated chefs. In 1987, he moved into the current Restaurant Guy Savoy location on Rue Troyon-all the while helping to establish Nouvelle Cuisine, a lighter approach to French cooking. Savoy earned a third Michelin star in 2002 and soon expanded internationally, opening a Las Vegas location in 2006 (a Luxist Awards nominee in the Best Domestic category).
The menu at Guy Savoy shifts along with the seasons, but there a plenty of enduring classic dishes: artichoke and black truffle soup, oysters in ice gelée, and a vegetable dish that seems to float amid a cloud of water vapor. Make sure to save room for desserts including grapefruit terrine, fresh rhubarb delicately garnished with begonia blossoms, and "Boule Noire," a chocolatey delicacy that looks more like a Christmas ornament than a dessert.
Bring your appetite, and bring your credit card-the average à la carte meal costs 200 Euros per person, before drinks. If you chose one of Guy Savoy's vaunted tasting menus, be prepared to pay nearly twice as much. No doubt you'll remember the meal long after those Euros are gone.
Gallery: Guy Savoy in Paris
Best Steakhouse: Strip House (New York)
Strip House, the famed New York steakhouse that opened in 2000 offers steaks that are as delicious as its rich atmosphere.
The restaurant's name is a double entendre that relates to both the delectable strip steaks as well as its seductive, yet sophisticated decor. The interior was designed by David Rockwell and offers a clubby yet striking atmosphere with deep red leather booths. The walls are adorned with black and white images of women that pays homage to the female form. The collection was photographed by Studio Manasse in Vienna in the early 1900's.
Executive Chef John Schenk is renowned for his culinary skills and is often seen on The Today Show among other national news programs. The menu, which Schenk keeps fresh, features select cuts of beef that are charred to perfection accompanied by decadent sides, an extensive wine list and delectable desserts. Be sure to try Strip House's signature New York Strip Steak accompanied by the delicious creamed spinach with black truffles followed up by its famous 24-layer chocolate cake.
Strip House, which is located on East 12th Street just off of Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, is part of The Glazier Group restaurant empire. There are five additional Strip House locations in Livingston, N.J., Las Vegas, Nev., Key West, Fla., Naples, Fla. and Houston, Tex. Reservations for the New York location can be made by calling (212) 328-0000. Reservations for each of the Strip House locations can also be made online at OpenTable.com.
Gallery: Strip House in New York
Best Seafood: Le Bernardin (New York)
A world-renowned New York restaurant that has received numerous awards, Le Bernardin, is a seafood restaurant with French roots.
Known for its understated elegance, Le Bernardin is beautifully and tastefully decorated: the midtown Manhattan restaurant reportedly spends $12,000 a month on fresh flowers. Its menu is extensive and includes such delectable dishes as warm lobster carpaccio, smoked yellow fin tuna, "prosciutto", bread crusted red snapper, crispy black bass and whole red snapper baked in rosemary and thyme salt crust. There are several tasting menus from which to choose, including Le Bernardin's Tasting Menu, which costs $138 per person, or $225 with wine pairing, per person. The prix fixe dinner costs $112 per person.
The restaurant is also known for its extensive wine list and dessert menu. Aldo Sohn, its Wine Director/Chef Sommelier, recently won "best Sommelier in the World", a WSA competition held in Rome, Italy, while Michael Laiskonis, Le Bernardin's Pastry Chef, won the 2007 James Beard Foundation Award for Outstanding Pastry Chef.
Le Bernardin's Head Chef and co-owner, Eric Ripert, was born in Antibes and trained in France. His background is impressive and includes experience working with some of the most famous chefs in the world, including Joel Robuchon and working at such legendary restaurants as the world-famous Tour D'Argent in Paris. Ripert came to the U.S. in 1989 to work as sous chef at Jean Louis in the Watergate Hotel in Washington, D.C. In 1991 he moved to New York to work briefly as sous chef under David Bouley before being recruited to join Le Bernardin when he was only 26. Ripert was named Le Bernardin's Head Chef before he turned 30. He has penned several cookbooks, including "Le Bernardin Cookbook", "A Return to Cooking" and "On the Line". Ripert won the James Beard Award for Outstanding Chef in 2003, beating out such impressive chefs as Mario Batali, Nobu Matsuhisa, Tom Colicchio and Alfred Portale.
Located at 155 West 52st Street between 6th and 7th Avenues, Le Bernardin is open for lunch Monday to Friday from 12:00 pm to 2:30 pm. Dinner is served Monday to Thursday from 5:30 pm to 10:30 pm and from 5:30 pm to 11:00 pm Friday and Saturday. Reservations can be made by calling (212) 554-1515.
Gallery: Le Bernardin in New York
Best Domestic Restaurant: The French Laundry (Yountville, Ca.)
Few fine restaurants boast a past as sordid as The French Laundry. Even so, the Yountville, Calif. eatery is consistently rated among the world's best.
In the late 1880s, the building that currently contains the three Michelin star French Laundry was a humble saloon. When a town ordinance mandated that no alcohol be served within two miles of Yountville, the building was converted first into a brothel, then to a French steam laundry by the 1920s. In 1974, the town's mayor bought the laundry and converted it into a restaurant; twenty years later it was purchased by current owner and chef Thomas Keller.
Keller had spent much of the prior decade working at some of the finest restaurants in the world, including Guy Savoy (winner of the Readers' Choice Award for Best International Restaurant) and Taillevent in Paris, both Luxist Awards' fine dining nominees in the international category . He used his experience abroad to create the French-influenced American cuisine that currently populates The French Laundry's menu-like a foie gras dish decked with a Riesling glaze, Silverado Trail strawberries, Piedmont hazelnut streusel, radish, watercress and black truffle.
The French Laundry's prix fixe dinner menu costs $250, service included; drinks can run the tab much higher. Throughout the nine-course tasting menu, though, no single ingredient is ever repeated, leaving the palate surprised and delighted at every turn.
Gallery: The French Laundry