> Location: Los Angeles, California
> Fixed-price menu per person (food only) $130, $185, and $240
The late Los Angeles Times restaurant critic Jonathan Gold regularly named this superbly run establishment L.A.’s best restaurant. The specialty here is seafood of the highest quality, but chef and co-owner Michael Cimarusti and his team prepare it in a style that is both sophisticated and accessible. Santa Barbara spot prawns with asparagus and fava beans, black cod with artichoke and mint, and Japanese mackerel with baby carrots and sesame are typical preparations.
4. The French Laundry
> Location: Yountville, California
> Fixed-price per person (gratuity included) $325
The estimable Thomas Keller serves some of the most creative and finely crafted food in America at his flagship restaurant in the Napa Valley, including dishes like his famous “oysters and pearls” (pearl tapioca with oysters and caviar), abalone gratin with wild mushrooms, and charcoal-grilled Japanese wagyu beef with Dungeness crab and a sunny-side-up quail egg.
> Location: Chicago, Illinois
> Fixed-price menu per person (food only) $190-$395
With a background that included five years at the French Laundry (see No. 4) and an apprenticeship at the legendary elBulli in Spain, chef Grant Achatz opened Alinea in 2004. It quickly built a reputation as one of America’s — and the world’s — most unusual and respected purveyors of modernist cuisine. Reimagining ingredients and combining them in unusual ways with the help of scientific techniques, this Michelin three-star serves stunning-looking and sometimes animated dishes with deceptively simple names like “lobster, curry, Earl Grey, grapefruit” and “scallop, citrus aromas, fourteen textures.” One dish is called “balloon, helium, green apple,” which is a good indication of just how unexpected the food can be. (Fixed-price menu prices vary according to which of the three dining areas they’re served in and the day of the week.)
2. Eleven Madison Park
> Location: New York, New York
> Fixed-price menu per person (gratuity included) $175 and $335
With its three Michelin stars and its position as the highest-ranking American restaurant on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list (at No. 4), this Midtown gastronome’s retreat offers elaborate tasting-menu fare that’s both serious and fun — the likes of sea urchin cappuccino with peekytoe crab; black truffles with celery root, potatoes, and fresh goat cheese; and “milk and honey” with dehydrated milk foam and bee pollen.
1. Le Bernardin
> Location: New York, New York
> Fixed-price menu per person (food only) $160, $170, $187, and $225
Chef and co-owner Eric Ripert has made this seafood-focused Midtown restaurant a must for serious diners, both local and visiting. The dining room is calmly beautiful, the service is impeccable, the wine list is monumental, and Ripert’s finely crafted dishes are well-deserving of the three stars Michelin has awarded the place. Considering the quality, the “basic” four-course dinner menu is a bargain at $160. A sample meal: yellowfin tuna carpaccio with Ibérico ham “chutney” and sea beans, rare smoked sea trout with pickled red onion, steamed black bass with baby shrimp and calamari, and a red wine-strawberry “bonbon” with macerated strawberries and yogurt sorbet.