The Fancy Plans Guide to the World’s Greatest Restaurants

June 15, 2010

In our ongoing attempt to be all things to all people (like an ambidextrous hermaphrodite who moonlights as a notary public), we are thrilled beyond single-syllable words to present to you the latest in an apparently never-ending series of series: The Guide to the World’s Greatest Restaurants.

With this quick-start guide safely read and stowed away in the part of your memory that used to hold pertinent information, it won’t matter whether you’re a true “foodie” or just someone who ends up ordering “vanilla” when faced with the rigorous menu at Baskin-Robbins. Soon you’ll be able to force your way into conversations at cocktail parties and bore complete strangers with endless details, factoids and homemade felt infographics.

Under Ferran Adria's watchful eye, the chefs prepare the lunchtime "Pizza Buffett."

El Bulli (Roses, Catalonia, Spain)
While potential diners may land at any major airport in Spain, the final approach to Roses must be made by hang glider or hot air balloon so as not to spook Chef Ferran Adria’s homegrown livestock and produce.

Once inside this small town, those with reservations are escorted (by armed guards) via a serpentine path to El Bulli itself. The hoods are to remain on at all times in order to preserve El Bulli’s secret location. The armed escort serves two purposes: to keep wayward tourists on the right path and to fend off jealous locals who are always kicked to the bottom of the reservation list.

Once inside El Bulli, the atmosphere relaxes as diners enjoy some of the finest food in the world. This reverie is only interrupted by some gentle gun barrel prods and the occasional warning shot as the guards remind patrons of the 90-minute time limit and that tipping should exceed 20%.

Kids under 10 eat free!

Ramsay spots something he doesn't like in a random urine test.

Gordon Ramsay at the London (New York)
Diners at this two-Michelin-star restaurant are invited to mercilessly criticize both the food and the staff, thus allowing Chef Ramsay and his omnipresent camera crew to correct these minor issues through a combination of f-bombs and verbal abuse.

If your complaint is petty enough, you may be included in an upcoming episode of Gordon Ramsay’s Shouty Thing. Those new to the Ramsay experience should use the following list of sample complaints to “brush up” on their sense of entitlement:

  • “Rare” steak edging towards “Medium Rare” (or vice versa)
  • Signature dish only “mildly” transcendent
  • Presentation could use more “dots” and “swirlies”
  • Several misspellings on the shooting release form
  • Entrée not salty enough
  • Waiter failed to mention his unsold script
  • Needs more “hell’
  • Dish failed to utilize all available forks
  • Dressing down of staff seemed forced
  • I don’t know where your “bartender” got his or her degree in mixology, but… (trail off derisively)

Fish Fry Thursday Night – $8!

Iron Chef Chen expertly dices the Velveeta.

Kitchen Stadium (Japan)
Chairman Kaga’s Kitchen Stadium does not take reservations, so it is recommended you show up at least 8 hours prior to your possible “dining experience.” Keep in mind that only 3-6 individuals will be chosen as judges and allowed to eat, while the rest will be relegated to the position of “jealously famished onlooker.”

However, being a judge is such an amazing experience that your weeks or months of going hungry will pale in comparison. As you are entertained by Kaga’s off-color tales of sexual conquest and pepper biting, two world-class chefs (or Bobby Flay) will be running their collective hindquarters off in a hectic, sweaty attempt to curry favor with the judges, often with some form of curry.

Once the dishes are prepared, you’ll be given the opportunity to praise or pan each entry with a selection of non sequiturs, malapropisms and one-liners that refuse to cross cultures.

[Note: Be sure to visit the Japanese Kitchen Stadium as the American version has about as much charm and dignity as your local Denny’s, albeit one that traffics in sea bass sashimi and squid ink ice cream.]


A splendid shot of one of the French Laundry's signature dishes, "Rabid Broccoli."

The French Laundry (Yountville, California)
A misnomer in more ways than one, The French Laundry is Thomas Keller’s bold attempt to turn the world on its stomach through his fearless and endless reinvention of the wheel, gastronomically-speaking. One never knows what to expect when dining at The French Laundry, as the multi-course meals will either come across as a subtle seduction of your palate or a punch right in your uneducated mouth, depending on Keller’s level of playful antagonism. Once thing is for sure: he will not make your whites whiter. (Also: no ticket, no laundry.)

Highly recommended by top chefs worldwide (but not any actual Top Chefs), and if you can’t trust someone who only cooks in front of a camera crew when not signing books or fielding questions at press junkets, who can you trust?

Add Curly Fries to any meal – 99c!



  1. CLT, your words read like the tasting menu at a Mobil 5-star restaurant (pre fixe $125/pp):

    First, you tantalize us with an appetizer, “…like an ambidextrous hermaphrodite who moonlights as a notary public” (Fricassee of Escargots Provencale w/ Sweet Garlic Flan, Arugula Puree and Crispy Veal). Then we move on to the fish course (we are having a leisurely French meal): “…homemade felt infographics” (Roasted Scampi w/ Cauliflower Puree, Lobster Coral Sauce and Black Truffles). Progressing to the main course, “…so as not to spook Chef Ferran Adria’s homegrown livestock and produce” (Milk-Fed Veal Chop w/ Broccoli Puree, Confit Tomatoes and Sweetbread-Spinach Cannelloni) followed by the salad course, “…waiter failed to mention his unsold script” (Santa Barbara Prawn Carpaccio w/ Osetra Caviar, Giant Clam and Celery Salad), a cheese plate, “…subtle seduction of your palate or a punch right in your uneducated mouth” (Plateaux de Fromage) and the pièce de résistance (dessert), “…squid ink ice cream” (Espresso Mascarpone Croquant with Illy Gelato). Délicieux! Check, please!

    • Does any of that come with fries? Specifically, curly fries? I only ask because a friend of mine…

      Thanks very much for that incredible menu/tribute, e3h. You obviously know your way around a menu, much as I know my way around a web of bullshit.

      Also, I had no idea cauliflower could be pureed, much less served with the expectation that someone would pay for them. Oh well, live and learn, I guess.

  2. This guide is so useful I have filed it away with my knowledge of the membership process at my local library and the order of which I folded away my laundry this morning.

    My only complaint is that it didn’t come in time for my trip to El Bulli – I had no idea i was meant to relax once I got inside! Being served ‘shreds’ of pizza dough, ‘slivers’ of fish skin and ‘translucent’ pasta had me in a right panic. Where the hell was all the food?! And for the life of me I couldn’t even find a waiter amongst the ‘restaurant staff’ to ask. I tell you CLT, even late, this guide has been a whole lot more useful than the ‘fascinating education’ I had at El Bulli without it….

    • I’m sorry I didn’t have this out earlier, ruby. It sounds like you had quite the experience at El Bulli. I suppose you can’t really complain about the lack of edible food with a gun waving in your face and your child(ren) eating for free.

      They’ve got a strange way with pretty much everything in these high end restaurants. Not only are the prices far beyond what any Midwesterner (US version) would call “reasonable,” but there’s really nothing in a familiar “patty” or “deep fried” form. It boggles the mind and upsets the still-hungry stomach.

      What can I say. Next time, you’ll know. And since you already know, there won’t be a next time.

  3. I would not suggest you order from the bargain menu at Kitchen Stadium. To do so means you will be waited on by a vacationing Japanese-American student from Southern California with a Valley accent and all entrees from the menu are based on the ancient Yoshinoya style of cooking, clumpy white rice and sinewy pseudo-beef included.

    • Solid advice, UMM. I obviously overlooked that during my research visit. However, I did attend on a night when the secret ingredient was sinewy pseudo-beef, so the only thing I missed out on was the Valley accent. However, one of the other judges was a Japanese-American student who kept saying inappropriate things to Kaga, who grinned a lot and bit a hell of a lot of peppers.

      Great to see you again, UMM.

  4. HA, by a odd cosmic coincidence (we’re talking about the aligning of neutron stars and red giants here), I dropped a shitload of Hamiltons in a great bistro in Yountville on Monday. I had wild boar in a red wine and mushroom reduction over some grilled polenta. And then I see this!! I guess this makes me a fucking foodie.

    • Holy shit! That is an amazing coincidence. And an amazing amount of Hamiltons too, I’m sure (like 3 or something).

      I wouldn’t be able to punch these restaurants in their overeducated mouths if I wasn’t a foodie myself, FJ. I’m just a bit more vicarious.

      Welcome back, FJ. It’s good to see you again.

  5. You may possibly be the blogger juggling the biggest, most eclectic collection of categories in the entire world. I’d say I run a pretty close second but due to my lack of any attention span whatsoever I quit after 2 or 3 posts. You on the other hand somehow keep all the balls in the air. Balls being restaurants, music, movies, histories of things, guides to all manner and sorts of things, survival, platitudes, junk mail exposes, fun with bibles…etc, etc. I could go on and on but my point is that you not only keep your balls in the air, but you do it with an ease and grace not seen since Fred Astaire danced the frigidity right off of Ginger Rodgers. The fact that you are a foodie as well does not surprise me in the least.

    I take your (and the Michelin people’s) recommendations very seriously. So this summer I plan to hire a few Basque mercenary freedom fighters and hopefully freedom fight my way into El Bulli. You mentioned they have pizza right? Do you happen to know if that comes with crazy bread? Ahh no matter.

    And the only other CLT Top Choice I’ll be able to cross off this year will be Gordon Ramsey at the London. Where in London is NYC? I’ll have to get directions which will be easy since everyone in London knows and respects Ramsey for epitome of old school British class that he is. I just hope when I go I’m allowed to call my waitress a filthy, disgusting, cow-pig-whore-bitch. It looks so fun on TV!

    • I do juggle quite a bit, Scott, but I’m sure you’ve stepped on at least of few of my dropped balls during each visit here (Guide to Rock and Roll, This Week’s Featured Soap Operas, The Stabbing Knife). The soap operas I think went 4 posts deep before being unceremoniously tossed aside for the “next big/medium/small thing.”

      I look forward to your account of the house-by-house battle to El Bulli. They do have pizza (I assume, what with kids eating for free), but the crazy bread may have gone the way of Crystal Pepsi. Nobody really wants to attach the word “crazy” to their food, especially a restaurant in which you arrive at gunpoint. And leave at gunpoint.

      I have no idea where in London NYC is. (West of Buckingham Palace?) Oddly enough, (the) London also contains West Hollywood and Versaille, making it the most international town in the world. I’m sure Ramsay would rather handle the viciously degrading insults himself, as it’s kind of all he’s really got going at the moment.

      Thanks for the in-depth comment, Scott. You always keep me on my toes (and my toes from stomping on my balls).

  6. two world-class chefs (or Bobby Flay)

    What is the deal with Bobby Flay? You can tell he’s not much of a cook just by watching. Tasting is unnecessary. I’d rather let Adam Richman sweat a couple of burgers and beers onto my table than eat one of Flay’s bizarre combinations of strawberry waffles and fried pigeon.

    • Ulysses –

      I’m as baffled by his popularity (and omnipresence) as you are. He just looks and acts like the kind of guy who’d throw barbeques that you’d keep politely finding somewhere else to be. Until you stopped being polite and told him what an arrogant prick you thought he was.

      I imagine his home to be a rustic adobe furnished with leather, chrome and Nagel prints.

  7. Now this is a guide that I can take and stick in my back pocket! (But only because of my new iPod phone. Otherwise I’d have to carry it in my laptop bag.)

    I’m probably the furthest thing from a foodie you will ever cyberly (?) meet, seeing as I could eat the same thing every day without getting bored. (It’s one of the many things that makes me so “mysterious”.)

    But I would pay big money (in yen) to be a “jealously famished onlooker” at Kitchen Stadium Japan. Not only because I have a creepy “thing” for Masaharu Morimoto (he kind of looks like my Dad, which makes my “thing” even more creepy), but because I’m fascinated by all things “poorly translated.”

    Oh, and seeing as curly fries are one of my main food staples, The French Laundry would be high on my list as well.

    • Bschooled –

      Fortunately this was one of my shorter guides and therefore, will probably actually fit into your back pocket.

      Your “mystery” and “predictability” are but two of the many traits that would make you an excellent food-judge-person in Kitchen Stadium. Your “thing” for Morimoto is the squid ink icing on the cake. Not only that, Google Translate is always asking for better translations but doesn’t seem to care if you hand in a worse one.

      Thanks for the visit and comment, bschooled.

  8. Curly fries. Gawd I love the curly fries. I’m growing spuds right now to have fresh fixins for the curly fries come autumn, sipping cold beer in front of a big fire with . . . curly fries. Why curly? I dunno. And Ramsey. Don’t get me started on Raw Sewage Mouth Ramsey. Gawd I love the Ram. Yellin’ and swearin’ about food preperation like a lunatic. Did you see when he cooked against his mum? Oh yeah. She wiped the floor with her little Ram. Thanks, CLT. Great foodsy stuff!

    • Curly fries are easily twice the fry their straighter brethren are. I don’t know why. All that changes is the shape. You could season regular fries all to hell and back but it really only seems to work well with the spring-shaped ones.

      I’ll try not to get you started on the shouty Brit, but it appears it’s too late already. God bless his mum. Still able to whip his ass back into shape, no matter how many 18-22 year-olds he made urinate themselves that day.

      Thanks for the visit, Dan. Great to see you.

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