mbar – Seattle, WA

Friends recently recommended this as a great place for dinner and an amazing view so my husband and I tried it out on one of our date nights.  I think it’s safe to say this will be a new one in our rotation.   And what’s even better is that once the nice weather hits the roof deck will be so on point!

First impression was “wow…we’re somewhere really hip!”.  You’re greeting by a hostess at a podium on the ground floor where they check for your reservation then lead you to an elevator that takes you to the 14th floor.  Once at the top you go down a long hallway and turn the corner where you finally see the space and views.  Something about the whole process makes this place feel very exclusive and cool.  I’ve only experienced this twice before, once at Vue du Monde and the other at our very own Nest at The Thompson.

Everything we ate was memorable and I’d order the exact same thing again.  It’s the kind of place where you want to lick your plates clean.  Their craft cocktails are just as notable.  Perfect place to meet a friend or loved one (or perhaps a future one:)).  Go!

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roasted cauliflower hummus with tahini & rice beans

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black spaghetti with dungeness crab, trout roe, lime leaf, meyer lemon & brioche breadcrumbs

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grilled trout with avocado, sumac, labneh & fenugreek

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the mbar: dark chocolate bar with sesame nougat & tamarind caramel

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Sushi Sukiyabashi Jiro – Tokyo, Japan

If you’ve seen the documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi then you’re well aware of who Jiro Ono is.  I’m completely convinced now that it’s nearly impossible to get into his sushi restaurant.  However, we DID get a reservation at his son Takashi Ono’s restaurant, Sushi Sukiyabashi Jiro in Roppongi.  There are 8 seats at the counter and rules to go along with dinner.  No perfume and you must be on time or they will cancel your reservation after 30 minutes.  The rice is purposely prepared so that it’s warm when you eat it (side note – if at any time you feel yourself getting full, tell the chef and he’ll make your rice serving smaller going forward – big help considering how much you have to eat!).  The ambiance is not that of your typical sushi restaurant in the States.  No music or mood lighting.  It’s all about the sushi.  Anything else is purely a distraction.  Chef Takashi Ono was very personable and talked to us during the whole meal.  Was it worth the price and hype?  Absolutely!

Our dinner consisted of the following:  Flounder sashimi, clam sashimi, abalone (awabi) sashimi, marinated mackerel sashimi, flounder nigiri, squid (ika) nigiri, needle fish (sayori) nigiri, lean tuna (maguro) nigiri, medium fatty (chutoro) tuna nigiri, fatty (otoro) tuna nigiri, sardine family fish nigiri, large scallop (hotate) nigiri, raw horse mackerel (aji) nigiri, Ikura nigiri, tiger prawn (kuruma ebi) nigiri, Japanese geoduck (mirugai) nigiri, octopus (tako) nigiri, sea urchin (uni) nigiri, hard shell clam nigiri, small scallops nigiri, saltwater eel nigiri, egg nigiri.

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Cosme – New York, NY

SO GOOD!  It’s no wonder this is supposedly President Obama’s favorite restaurant in NYC.  We were recommended this restaurant by a very trustworthy Seattle chef/friend and now I want to fly to Mexico City to try Chef Enrique Olvera’s Pujol and eno and then to Cabo for Manta.

Who knew Mexican fare could be so refined and modern?!  Stunning stunning food.  My mouth is still salivating thinking about the brown butter on the lobster and the duck carnitas.  I also have to mention how incredible the staff was.  Our server couldn’t have been more friendly and welcoming.  He has fabulous suggestions and just made the night that much more enjoyable.  You won’t regret this dinner choice.  Go for a drink beforehand and take in the cool space.

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Tuna tostada, daisy capers, yuzu, avocado

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Lobster, shiso, ginger mojo, brown butter

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Mole verde, pine nuts, chile güero, brussels sprouts, kale

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Duck carnitas, onions, radishes, cilantro

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Huckleberry raspado, cheese, coconut milk, lime

Le Bernardin – New York, NY

There’s a reason this restaurant has three Michelin stars, seven James Beard Awards and is  ranked 24 on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list.  Time and time again it’s impeccable.  I’ve been twice now, the first time having the Chef’s Tasting Menu and the second ordering a la carte.  Both were divine and different which was extremely satisfying.  Each dish is so beautifully composed and perfect from the presentation to the moment the flavors touch your tongue.  Mmmm…I just wanted more!  Definitely set your alarm to call two months in advance at 9am EST.  It’s worth the effort and money if you can manage it.

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Hamachi – flash marinated Hamachi, young radishes and amaranth crisp, Yuzu vinaigrette

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Langoustine – seared langoustine, fennel mousse line, spiced citrus-sambal sauce

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Snapper – crusted red snapper, pickled Persian cucumbers, green curry-goat yogurt emulsion

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Trattoria Sostanza – Florence, Italy

I think this is my favorite restaurant in Florence.  I just can’t believe I found out about it a decade after I lived there for a year and that it’s blocks from the pensione where I lived.  Small, casual and far from touristy, I make a point to go here every time I’m in town.  The staff is no nonsense but friendly in every way.  The food speaks for itself.  The first time I found myself in the kitchen learning how to make the artichoke pie and the last time it was our friend standing in front of the stovetop trying to memorize their method.   Take my advice and definitely order the artichoke pie, butter chicken and the meringue cake with fresh berries for dessert.  I PROMISE you…these dishes will change your life.

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Raoul’s – New York, NY

An acquaintance in NYC recommended this spot as a place that locals frequent and as a must try for all!  He was right.  We walked in at 11pm on a Friday night after seeing a Broadway show only to be greeted with a packed restaurant, energy buzzing all around and the friendliest staff.  This is a great example of why I love NYC.

Raoul’s is your classic French bistro with dishes that will leave an impression on your palette for a long long time.  Don’t skip the artichoke or Steak au Poivre (it’s been on the menu for 40 years) and be sure to get a reservation.

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Bigeye Tuna “Saisi” with avocado, blood orange & yuzu citronette

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Grilled Octopus with artichoke confit, olives, saffron-fennel purée & pomegranate

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Steak au Poivre with hand cut pommel frites

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Crispy Hampshire Pork Schnitzel “Holstein” with pea greens, sunny side egg & caper rémoulade

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Warm CasaLuker Chocolate Fondant with pomegranate & vanilla ice cream

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RPM Italian – Chicago, IL

Not going to lie, I’ve been a huge fan of Giuliana and Bill Rancic for a while now, so ever since they opened RPM Italian in Chicago I’ve been dying to go.  What a beautiful, cool and modern space!  The place was packed and rightfully so, the food is incredible!  The fact that I’m still thinking about what I ate says a lot.

The stand outs for me were the toast with homemade ricotta and marinara, the artichokes, the spicy king crab pasta (this is the dish I’ll be dreaming of until I go back again) and the budino.  Everything was stunning and packed with flavor.  You can tell a lot of love goes into this food.  Let’s also not forget to mention the staff who were so fun and full of personality.  Our server truly enchanted our evening.

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Fresh Homemade Ricotta – Ciabatta Toast

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Roman-Style Artichokes – Lemon Aioli

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Burrata Stuffed Squash Blossoms – Homemade Marinara

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RPM Caesar Wedge – White Anchovy

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Spicy King Crab – Squid Ink Spaghetti, Fresno Chili

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Pappardelle Bolognese – Hand-Cut Pasta, Short Rib Ragu

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Braised Duck Agnolotti – Black Mission Figs

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Whole Grilled Branzino – Mediterranean Sea Bass, Oregano, Capers

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Bill’s Chocolate Budino – Salted Caramel, Cocoa Nibs

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Bomboloni – Cooked-to-order Italian Brioche Donuts with Nutella and Vanilla Sugar

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