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17 Restaurants Worth An Entire Trip (PHOTOS)

These spots should be on any culinary bucket-list.
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Sometimes a stellar restaurant is all the reason you need to jet off to some corner of the world. Maybe it's an earthy soil soup that beckons from Tokyo or an edible cocktail in Chicago, a piquant shaving of sheep's milk cheese in rural Tennessee or simply a fresh filet of snapper caught somewhere off the coast of Tulum. These spots should be on any culinary bucket-list.

French Laundry in Yountville, California
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Thomas Keller continues to reinvent his nouvelle French tour de force, the first ever Bay Area restaurant to receive a third Michelin star in 2006. A new glass-sheathed kitchen is currently under construction, designed by Oslo-based firm Snøhetta, who pedestrianized Time Square in 2014. The $295 tasting menu is still one of the most revered experiences in the food world. Tip: The restaurant reopened April 7, cooking out of a temp kitchen fashioned from shipping containers, so book now (707.944.2380) while there’s less demand and before the grand reopening next fall.

Photo: Deborah Jones
Astrid & Gastón in Lima, Peru
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El Bulli and Mugaritz vet Diego Muñoz took the reigns at Gaston Acurio’s flagship after he hung up the apron last year. The passing of the torch, along with the relocation to Acurio’s new culinary campus Casa Moreyra in San Isidro, signals a new era for the restaurant. The tasting menu, developed at the on-site research and development lab, is conceptualized with ingredients from the botanical garden and will focus on the biodiverse region surrounding Lima—a shift from previous menus that focused on themed narratives—and will span everything from ceviche to guinea pig to alpaca. Tip: Online reservations are accepted up to three months in advance. If it’s short notice, call and try to land a table at lunch.

Photo: Astrid & Gaston
Benu in San Francisco
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David Chang called this homey Soma spot the best restaurant in America. For his Korean-and-Chinese-inspired tasting menu, former French Laundry chef de cuisine Corey Lee utilizes northern California’s seasonal bounty. The standout: the faux shark fin soup, made with dungeness crab and Jinhua ham custard, a childhood favorite from Lee’s early days in Seoul. Tip: Since Michelin awarded Benu with its third star, demand for reservations has been even higher than normal. Book up to two months early on the website.

Photo: Alex Farnum
Blackberry Farm in Walland, Tennessee
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This farmhouse hotel’s setting on 4,200 bucolic acres in Tennessee’s Smoky Mountains makes for magical lawnside dinners as the sunset lights pockets of mist aglow in tangerine hues. The apple-red Amish barn, a relic from the 18th century, is an equally special place to eat. Either way you’ll get homespun country staples made with ingredients from the working farm: organic eggs, heirloom vegetables, sheep’s milk cheese, even Saison beer produced at the new onsite brewery. Tip: The best way to guarantee a reservation is to book a room and stay the night. Otherwise, call 30 days ahead and hope there’s space.

Photo: Christopher Testani
D.O.M. in Sáo Paulo
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Historian-botanist-DJ-chef Alex Atala is often designated as the ambassador of South American cuisine, drawing the global spotlight below the equator by giving classics a haute sheen at his gastro temple to Brazilian flavors in Jardins. Research pilgrimages to the Amazon produce exotic embellishments to his colorful dishes, like priprioca, an aromatic root normally reserved for perfumes, or jambu, a leafy plant with numbing qualities that makes it a natural remedy for toothaches. Tip: Months of advance planning is the only way to snag a reservation.

Photo: Ⓒ Hemis/Alamy
El Celler de Can Roca in Girona, Spain
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10,000 gastro tourists from 57 countries flocked to this century-old house an hour north of Barcelona in 2013. Run by the three Roca brothers, it’s an avant-garde masterpiece that will make even the most ardent El Bulli worshiper believe there is life after Adria in Spain. The elaborate degustation may feature pickled barnacles, braised shrimp with seawater and plankton sponge, or caramelized olives that arrive hanging on a bonsai tree. Tip: Reservations come online at midnight on the first day of every month and are booked almost a year in advance. A Hail Mary option is to have your hotel concierge call the day of and pray for a last–minute cancellation.

Photo: El Cellar de Can Roca
Eleven Madison Park in NYC
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Daniel Humm and Will Guidara’s stately dining room is a throwback to white tablecloth fine dining, albeit with a modern execution. The service is legendary: the maître d' profiles guests with Google searches to prepare special flourishes once they arrive. Is the couple oenophiles? Is a chef coming in? Is the group celebrating a birthday? Wash down dishes like Pig’s bladder with celery root, Humm’s take on poulet en vessie, with a tableside cocktail from the roving Manhattan cart. Tip: Reservations can be booked 28 days in advance, but walk-ins can usually score one of the five tables in the bar nook, where a limited menu (3-courses, $68) is offered.

Photo: Francesco Tonelli

--By Nate Storey

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