Mr. Harper's 10 Favorite Culinary Destinations

By Andrew Harper Staff

The Harper Way | August 27, 2013


The 10 cities highlighted here attract visitors not just for their sites, scenery and experiences, but also for their cuisine. Each puts its own distinct stamp on its  culinary offerings, whether that stems from local ingredients, creative chefs, traditional foods or local interpretations of international dishes. Here, Mr. Harper provides insight into why each city is a top culinary delight.  

1. Bangkok

The fundamental balance of sweet-sour-salty-hot that is at the heart of every Thai dish makes for food that is always distinctive, from a simple dish of pad Thai to startlingly complex curries. And Bangkok is a city where the street food, in the dazzlingly colorful markets, is often utterly delicious. I have eaten memorably well at little stalls, surrounded by 1,000 pink orchids and kaleidoscopic piles of vegetables.

2. Hong Kong

Despite all the exciting developments on the Chinese mainland, I have still eaten the most delicious Chinese cuisine in Hong Kong, whether dim sum in a small teahouse or in one of the sumptuous dining rooms of the grand hotels. Some of the best places can be garish and brightly lit, but you can always sense the real passion that the Cantonese have for their food.

3. London

Thirty years ago, London was a culinary Kalahari among the great European cities. Now, arguably, it has more great restaurants and more creative chefs than anywhere else, Paris included. London is perhaps the world’s most cosmopolitan city and its food now reflects this demographic transformation. Also the influx of chefs from Australia, India and South Africa has had an enormous and lasting impact.

4. New Orleans

Home to one of the world’s truly distinctive cuisines, New Orleans has a vibrant and ever-changing food scene. This is where I come to eat superlative seafood. Are there better oysters anywhere?

5. New York City

The whole world came to New York and, as a result, you can find virtually any kind of cuisine. Literally. In New York there is always a new restaurant to try. The city is remarkable both for its diversity and incessant innovation. And the food and wine stores are the best in the country.

6. Paris

Personally, I still come to Paris for traditional French cuisine. If I want culinary innovation, then I generally look elsewhere. For me, Paris is about classic dishes in a time-honored bistro. This may be a travel cliché, but it is still a deeply satisfying one. Of course, the Parisians themselves don’t think this way at all. But being a visitor has its privileges.

7. Rome

Italian food is the most consoling and satisfying of the world’s cuisines. Sometimes its simplicity is the chief attraction. The ingredients are so wonderful; all you need is pasta, rosemary and olive oil and you have a gastronomic triumph. But the pleasure of dining in Rome is always greatly enhanced by joyful enthusiasm of the staff. Nowhere else do you receive such a warm welcome and such instinctive hospitality.

8. San Francisco

The home of the American food revolution—thank you Alice Waters—this city possesses some of the most creative chefs in the world, not least because of influences from across the Pacific. Add the close proximity of Napa and Sonoma—culinary hot spots in their own right—and you have foodie heaven.

9. Sydney

Thanks to its proximity to Asia, Sydney serves the world’s finest fusion cuisine. The Australians now take real national pride in their culinary sophistication and their chefs have conquered the world. Certainly the fish, produce and local wines are all superb. And then there is the incomparable backdrop of Sydney Harbour.

10. Tokyo

The chefs of Tokyo have dazzled the food world with their creativity and have garnered more Michelin stars than those of any other city on Earth. I find the exquisite aesthetics of Japanese food to be endlessly appealing. And even though every corner store now sells sushi, there is still nowhere like Tokyo. Somehow, there invariably seems to be a qualitative difference in the fish: there is sushi and then there is Japanese sushi.

This article was excerpted from the July/August/September 2013 Andrew Harper Traveler. Read the original article here.

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