I’ve been lucky enough to stay at the Ventana Big Sur a few times over the last couple of years. With a large, open campus in the hills of Big Sur, the resort has been an ideal place to get away during the pandemic. The on-property restaurant is this one, The Sur House, open for breakfast and dinner. The restaurant was open to the public pre-pandemic, but converted to a ‘hotel guest only’ policy in the middle of 2020 as the hotel went all-inclusive.
I’ve been a fan of Gordon Ramsay’s food for a long time, and my 2014 lunch at his London flagship was one of my most memorable meals abroad. It’s taken me a while to come back here, but I’ve been wanting to have a dinner here ever since that first visit. An extended layover in London (en route from Portugal) was a perfect opportunity.
While an a la carte option is available, there’s also a six-course Prestige Menu (£170) and a Carte Blanche menu (£220). For this meal, we went with the Prestige Menu and added a seasonal supplement of white truffle risotto. Pricing is definitely on the higher side, but the restaurant has been awarded three Michelin stars since 2001.
While in London I was excited to try Brat, a seafood-focused concept with Basque influence. The restaurant has been a hit ever since opening in 2018, and even gained a Michelin star. The restaurant reminds me a lot of Ibai in San Sebastian, where I had a fantastic meal, so it was near the top of my list of places to try while in London.
Belcanto is one of the most highly acclaimed fine dining restaurants in Portugal, even Europe. Holding two Michelin stars (seven years running) and ranked the 41st best restaurant in the world, it’s the flagship restaurant in the mini restaurant empire of chef José Avillez.
And at 250€ for the chefs table (150€ wine pairing), it’s priced accordingly. Given one can eat and drink very well in Portugal for much less, I had a hard time deciding whether to commit to a price tag like this. However, finding a chefs table opening while in town was such a fortuitous find that we decided to do it.
This was my first time visiting Portugal and I didn’t really have anything on my list of places to go; I came across BouBou’s while researching restaurants in Lisbon. Reviews have been positive for this upscale bistro from a brother-sister team; the kitchen is led by Louise Bourrat who has gained experience cooking in upscale restaurants around Europe. The food here tends to be plant and seafood-forward; while a mystery tasting menu was available for €65 we decided to go a la carte.
Hakkasan began in London in 2001 and expanded rapidly worldwide in the 2010s, but has contracted in recent years. Only two US locations remain (Las Vegas and Miami), with recent openings concentrated on the Middle East and Turkey. Hakkasan’s Mayfair location is one of two locations to currently hold a Michelin star (they’re both in London), and this was our choice to be the first meal on a recent European trip.
During a quick trip to Portland, we had one free evening to try one of the city’s many restaurants. After browsing options, I chose this Italian restaurant in downtown Portland. Reviews were very favorable across all platforms, especially touting the house-made pastas, which was enough to sell me on this spot.
Empress By Boon was one of the most highly anticipated restaurant openings in San Francisco this year. Delayed by the pandemic, it finally opened in June and has been busy ever since. The restaurant occupies the top floor of the original Empress of China, which opened in the 1960s and was home to generations of special occasions and banquets for the Chinese American community until its closure in 2014.
Ho Chee Boon is the chef of this restaurant, best known for being the former executive chef of the worldwide chain of Hakkasan restaurants.