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Belcanto (Lisbon, PT)

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.

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BouBou’s (Lisbon, PT)

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 crispy duck salad
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Hakkasan (London, UK)

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.

lasarte
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Lasarte (Barcelona, Spain)

Lasarte is currently the only restaurant in Barcelona to hold three Michelin stars; it was upgraded from two to three in the 2017 version of the guide. This is the second three-star restaurant for Martin Berasategui after his eponymous restaurant outside of San Sebastián. Berasategui holds 8 total Michelin stars, the most of any Spanish chef, for his takes on modern Spanish cuisine. I didn’t get a chance to try his restaurant while in San Sebastian but had an opportunity to dine here for a lunch.

ibai sole
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Ibai (San Sebastián, Spain)

Ibai wasn’t initially on my radar while researching potential restaurants in San Sebastián. It’s not in the Michelin guide and isn’t highly ranked on either Yelp or TripAdvisor. However, I stumbled across it on a few food blogs that gave rave reviews of the restaurants’ simple, homey cooking with warnings of how difficult a reservation is to attain.

The restaurant is small, fitting only 5-6 tables, and is only open weekdays for one lunch seating. That is it; the restaurant is not open for dinner, nor on weekends. To complicate matters, the restaurant would not accept reservations from abroad so we had to make the reservation once we were in town. On our first day in San Sebastián, we walked in that afternoon to seek out a reservation. To our surprise, there was a table available the next day, so we were all set.

sardine @ arzak
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Arzak (San Sebastián, Spain)

Arzak was the first reservation I made in Spain on this trip. This restaurant has reached a legendary status in San Sebastián and has been on the forefront of modern Basque cooking for decades. The restaurant has garnered three Michelin stars since 1989 and has made the top 50 best restaurants in the world list every year it’s been published (since 2003). It currently sits at #30. Chef Juan Mari Arzak has been the driving force behind the restaurant’s success, and he now shares the kitchen management with daughter Elena Arzak.