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The World’s Greatest Restaurants

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by Dan Clarke

New York City’s Eleven Madison Park is the best restaurant in the world. It was deemed such by an organization named World’s 50 Best Restaurants last Wednesday in Melbourne, Australia.

Their 2017 winner is the second American restaurant to be accorded this honor. The French Laundry (Yountville, California) took the top spot in 2003 and 2004. In second place on the 2017 list is last year’s winner, Osteria Francescana in Modena, Italy. The Catalonian El Celler de Can Roca (Girona, Spain) won in 2015 and was considered third in 2017’s competition. However, the restaurant did receive another accolade at this year's ceremonies, the Ferrari Trento Art of Hospitality Award for having the most outstanding service in the world. (see our previous comments about El Celler de Can Roca).

SAISON WORLD 2017 INTERIOR PicmonkeySan Francisco's Saison, 37th best restaurant in the world?

Is Eleven Madison Park really the world’s best restaurant? How would I know? I’ve never eaten there. But for that same reason, I couldn’t say it’s not the best. The World’s 50 Best Restaurants organization seems well organized and includes the names of many heavyweights in the food business. While it is improbable that any of their judges have eaten at all 50 honored restaurants in the past year, I’ll stipulate that they have the opportunity and the means to have scrutinized more of the candidates than I have.

Editing digital magazines about culinary travel in the states of Washington and California, I was curious if any West Coast restaurants cracked the top 50. None in Washington or Oregon were listed, but California had one that placed 37th, Saison (San Francisco).

In spite of their name, World’s 50 Best Restaurants actually ranks what they declare are the best 100 restaurants in the world. Still no recognition for restaurants in the Pacific Northwest in the extended list, but there were five more California establishments. Number 68 was Benu (San Francisco), 69 was the French Laundry (Yountville), twice the survey’s top dog in years 2003 and 2004. Had they slipped that badly in less than a decade-and-a-half? Or are they just not trendy enough these days? Atelier Crenn, another San Francisco restaurant was in 84th place. The Restaurant at Meadowood (St. Helena) joined the French Laundry as another Napa Valley establishment in the top 100 by placing 85th. Manresa (Los Gatos) was 91st.

Is this list really the final word on the current best 100 restaurants in the world (and in specific order of merit)?

What about the awarding of stars by the Michelin Guide? Who got another star in the latest edition of the book? And (gasp) who had one taken away? Who makes such decisions?

Is a Cabernet Sauvignon touting its 98-point rating really better than one with only a 95?

Lists, awards and comparisons are staples of modern PR. They don’t really prove anything, but they generate a lot of attention. They may help consumers decide how to spend their money, but they also set the table for further consideration and discussion . . . and this is not a bad thing. Actualy visiting any of these restaurants will likely mean a meal of a lifetime and be priced accordingly. We recommend visiting The World’s 50 Best Restaurants website for vicarious meals—the price is right.