Incanto, in San Francisco, is among top chefs' 'last meal' restaurant choices. (Photo courtesy Incanto)
Ever wonder what America’s best chefs would eat for their last meals, if they could choose? We’ve asked eight of today’s biggest food personalities for their picks. The chefs' favorites, ranging from California to Singapore, include some of the world's best restaurants.
Andrew Zimmern, co-creator and host of the Travel Channel’s “Bizarre Foods”:
Puerto Princesa (Philippines). I wrote about this restaurant in my first book. It’s a tiny seafood restaurant on stilts built out over the lagoon on one of the prettiest islands in the world. The seafood boats, really just simple canoes, come by 45 or 50 times a day with fishermen sometimes selling just a few lobsters or a few giant prawns or a couple of fish to the chef, who hauls them up by lash and pulley into the kitchen.For my last meal, I’d go to Badjao Seafood House in
After a long day on the breathtaking beaches, exploring the interior jungle or boating through the world’s largest river cave system, an evening at Badjao is simple island charm. The fruit drinks are spectacular. I always go for the kalamansi juice with banana. Then grilled tuna collar, sea snails and water spinach braised in coconut milk, grilled lobster or giant prawns with kalamansi, roasted local fish is served as is, so be sure to get a side of the braised banana flower with ginger, chiles and coconut.
Prices are insanely soft for food of this type and of this quality. Sunsets are breathtaking, and I am hard pressed to think of a better place to eat anywhere in the world.
Michael White, executive chef and co-owner of the Altamarea Group (Marea, Ai Fiori, Osteria Morini, Nicoletta, Costata and The Butterfly):
Singapore at the Maxwell Hawker Food Center. I'd eat chicken rice with lots of spicy condiments, followed by flat rice noodles, chicken and beef satay, laksa, Singapore chili crab; all washed down with fresh coconut water and Tiger beer. I'd probably be too full for dessert but I’d eat fresh lychee, dragon fruit and mangosteens anyway.My last meal in the world would be in
Michael Mina, celebrity chef and founder of the Mina Group, which includes 20 concept restaurants:
For my last meal, I’d go to Hana Japanese Restaurant in Northern California. I have profound respect for Chef Ken Tominaga, for his skill and ability to make Japanese food delicious and approachable. I would have Chef do an omakase menu where he handmakes piece after piece of sushi and sashimi featuring the freshest available seafood. I love to watch Chef Ken create an amazing meal with no limitations. It’s like giving an artist a blank canvas and letting him bring it to life.
One of my favorite dishes is Negitoro with Uni and Ikura — that’s chopped tuna belly mixed with green onion and topped with fresh local sea urchin and Ken’s house-cured salmon roe (caviar). The Uni is rich, and slightly sweet and creamy, and the roe has a salty pop to it, while the savory tuna belly with green onion has a very traditional feel to it. Ken always keeps the seaweed crispy on his rolls, which is important.
Michel Richard, celebrity chef and owner of Central in Washington D.C.:
Vezelay, France for my last meal to Marc Meneau's L'Esperance. I would eat Marc's cromesquis of foie gras with truffle. The foie gras is melted inside of a little crust and is almost like biting into a quail egg. The liquid runs down your throat and makes your mouth so happy that you grab another bite right away. You don't want the wonderful experience to stop.I would go to
Kent Rathbun, executive chef of Abacus, Jasper's and Rathbun's Blue Plate Kitchen:
Bangkok, Thailand called Seafood Market & Restaurant. This is a concept where you first shop for all your food—they have a 50-meter display counter of both local and imported seafood, large fish tanks, an area where you select your vegetables and then of course, some wine—and you check out just as if you were in a grocery store.For my last meal, I would go to a place in
But then when you sit down, these guys on roller skates come by and ask how you'd like each item prepared. They make suggestions for you, of course, but the most memorable for me was the Curry Lobster with Stir Fried Straw Mushrooms (they are so hard to get in the United States), Stir Fried Bamboo Shoots and Chili. I also love the Tempura Shrimp and Cuttlefish. Everything was obviously so fresh and tasted absolutely incredible. It was one of the most memorable meals I've ever had and I would definitely want the entire experience to be a last meal for me.
Mike Isabella, two-time “Top Chef” contestant and chef/owner of Graffiato and Kapnos:
San Francisco. Chris Cosentino is so talented, and I love his approach to California Italian. He makes great pastas and dishes, but works with all the local products, similar to how I approach Graffiato.I would have my last meal at Incanto. It's my favorite restaurant in
One of the most memorable dishes I had there was a house-made spaghetti with cured tuna heart and a farm egg yolk. The dish was so unique and flavorful. He makes his own salumi and makes a lot of great dishes with offal. I love what he does with beef heart and sweetbreads.
Incanto is high energy. It's upscale, but still causal, packed and loud. The food and service are great, and it's an all-around really memorable experience.
Greg Vernick, chef/owner of Philly’s Vernick:
Upper Darby, Pennsylvania. It's a unique and delicious pizza that is assembled with sauce on top and cheese underneath. And, for them, it works perfectly.If I had to narrow it down to one meal, I'd say the plain square pie at Pica's Pizza in
More importantly, it’s a family tradition that we do every year around Thanksgiving time. I can't remember a year when I didn't have Pica's over Thanksgiving weekend. Even when I had to work, my parents would somehow get a pie to me, whether I was in New York City, Boston, or here in Philly. It is a feeling of comfort, craving and family that I cherish every year. And I look forward to continuing the tradition with my daughter when she grows teeth.
Elizabeth Karmel, executive chef of Hill Country Barbecue Market and Hill Country Chicken in New York City:
Paris, I must choose La Cigale Récamier. It’s on a small, quiet pedestrian street in the tony 7th arrondissement, a calm respite from the bustling shops and crowded streets. The restaurant is popular with locals, especially politicians and chic writers. But the best thing about the restaurant is that it specializes in soufflés, both sweet and savory.I have so many favorite meals, but because I would also get one last trip to
Every one of the many choices on the menu is exceptional; light and airy and bursting with flavor. My last meal there would be on a warm spring day and I would be seated on the outdoor terrace that they open seasonally. I would start with a bubbly bottle of Billecart Salmon Rose “Cuvée Elisabeth” and a slab of goose foie gras and crusty bread.
Because it is my last meal, I would order three soufflés. First, the appetizer soufflé: asparagus with a citrusy butter sauce—the asparagus qualify for both a vegetable and a salad enrobed in fluffy egg whites! The entrée course will be one of my favorite soufflés: Un soufflé farine de blé noir et champignons, or a buckwheat and mushroom soufflé. This soufflé is so rich and toothsome that you don’t miss the meat at all.
Finally, I will toast my family, Karmel, and my parents by ordering a caramel soufflé. Slightly salty, rich and buttery with a burnt sugar sauce that adds that perfect touch of bitterness to the sweet. I find it hard to order any other soufflé for dessert unless it is the classic Grand Marnier soufflé, so I change my order and ask for both. A double espresso and a final flute of champagne, and I am well fed.
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