10 Restaurants Worth Leaving the Ship For


Cruises rarely lack for dining options, but the times when ships are docked either in ports along their routes or before they set sail offer rare opportunities to explore local cuisines. Here, then, is a list of restaurants in ports of call around the world some storied, some new that should entice travelers to leave the comfort of the ship behind.

In the Argentine capital, beef is, of course, the main culinary focus. But for those seeking a more adventurous menu, there is El Baqueano (restoelbaqueano.com), where the European-trained chef Fernando Rivarola presents his diners with modern preparations of carnes autctonas meat from indigenous animals. For guests at the dark-toned bistro in the San Telmo neighborhood, that can mean a tasting menu featuring llama carpaccio or caiman empanadas. Mr. Rivarola uses meats that have been farmed on a small scale and are still consumed in rural areas but had yet to be coveted in the big city until he turned his contemporary techniques loose on them.

This spot in the former meatpacking district infuses the seafood restaurant formula with a bit of populist irreverence. The dcor includes an aquarium full of jellyfish, and decorative meat hooks that hang from the ceiling. Fiskebar (fiskebaren.dk) serves as a casual, clubby arm of the New Nordic scene and it shows in the treatment of otherwise prosaic dishes. The fish and chips, for example, features fresh and fanatically sourced haddock thats lightly smoked before frying, then served in the traditional newspaper cone. Razor clams are served raw, twirled in their long shells and topped with curling pea tendrils, and theres caviar, of a sort North Atlantic bleak roe served in a jelly jar.

Located in the Four Seasons Hong Kong, with its glassy dining room overlooking the glittering harbor, Lung King Heen (fourseasons.com/hongkong) is the first restaurant serving Chinese cuisine to receive three Michelin stars. The chef, Chan Yan Tak, balances the demands of international patrons with dedication to the refinements of Cantonese haute cuisine and its trophy ingredients like birds nest, abalone and shark fin. Naturally, a Cantonese restaurant with an exacting eye for details is a key place to seek out dim sum, which is available at lunch every day; a broader selection is available on weekends.

Do you want your kebap (kabob) with tomatoes, eggplants, peaches, loquats or sour cherries? Thats the sort of decision you might face at one of Musa Dagdevirens three Ciya outposts, in the Kadikoy neighborhood. Mr. Dagdeviren has earned praise from eastern Mediterranean food experts like Anissa Helou and Paula Wolfert for his dedication to preserving half-forgotten regional Turkish recipes; that enthusiasm has created a culinary repertory of dizzying scope. At Ciya Sofrasi (ciya.com.tr) the mission is at its most exuberantly preservationist: Here, its Web site states, all the Azerbaijani, Georgian, Turkish, Arabian, Armenian, Ottoman, Syrian, Seldjukian and Jewish dishes are prepared according to the original customs and beliefs. Thats a lot of culture to survey, so bring an appetite.

It can be tricky to find a restaurant in tourist-heavy Puerto Vallarta that does not cater to an American preconception of Mexican food. But the Chicago-based Mexican food guru Rick Bayless said in an interview that the citys El Arrayn (elarrayan.com.mx) will expand your horizons in terms of what Mexican food has to offer. The restaurant seeks to rescue old family recipes from around the country, so diners might sample Veracruz-style plantain empanadas, or baked Tabasco-style fish served with a herbaceous tomatillo sauce. El Arrayn does serve modern Mexican food as well, but its always married to a traditional concept, like quesadillas stuffed with tart, red hibiscus flowers or carnitas made with duck instead of pork.

Last year, the famed Santorini restaurant Selene (selene.gr) moved from the town of Fira to the beautifully preserved, and quieter, village of Pyrgos, a short drive away. The owner, Yiorgos Hatziyannakis, said the move has brought Selene closer to the farms and vineyards he has championed since he opened the restaurant in 1986. The chef, Konstantina Faklari, infuses traditional dishes with a modern sensibility.

For culinary adventurers in Singapore, the best bet isnt a single restaurant, but a regulated hawker center, where street vendors serve a wide variety of items: all the delicious benefits of street food, without the street (plus better sanitary oversight). At the Maxwell Road Food Centre, the most famous stall is the Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice stall (No. 10), which has been praised by the likes of the Singapore food expert K. F. Seetoh and global travelers like the TV host and author Anthony Bourdain. Other options for curious diners include fried sweet potato dumplings, Fuzhou oyster cakes and rice porridge. Expect long lunch lines and erratic hours but there are few places in the world where one can earn so many adventurous eating badges in one fell swoop. (A copy of Mr. Seetohs Makansutra guidebook may help you sort through it all.)

This restaurant (donalfonso.com) is a winding six-mile ride from Sorrento, near the Isle of Capri on Italys Mediterranean coast. But its been celebrated by gastronomes like the late New York Times reporter R. W. Apple Jr., who included it in his 2006 list of Meals Worth the Price of a Plane Ticket. On a ridge between the Gulfs of Naples and Salerno, the Iaccarino familys farm grows lemons, grapes, olives and vegetables, which they use at their nearby restaurant. There, Alfonso and Ernesto, father and son, consistently reference the Sorrento landscape and its history in the seasonal menu. Last year, for example, early spring diners were offered grilled spring kid, red mullet with caper powder, and steamed octopus couscous with Provola cheese foam and cinnamon.

In 2009, Martin Benn, who had previously cooked at the famed Tetsuyas, opened his own place (sepiarestaurant.com.au), partnering with one of Australias prominent fish distributors. Naturally, the menu is a festival of regional seafood: Murray cod, scallops, spanner crab, abalone. And the appeal doesnt end at the entrees. Terry Durack, restaurant reviewer for The Sydney Morning Herald, called Sepias chocolate forest dessert thrilling, writing: Its like sending your mouth on a trek through the undergrowth, each movement finding something that either snaps or squelches.

The chef and owner Angus An, who worked with David Thompson at Londons acclaimed Thai restaurant Nahm, opened this casual-chic spot (maenam.ca) in the Kitsilano neighborhood in 2009. He works with northern Pacific fish like sablefish and halibut, but the roots of his modern dishes are deeply Thai. Each year, Mr. An and his Thai-born wife and business partner, Kate, explore a different part of Thailand and set a new regional theme for their menu. This year its the south, so diners might encounter Muslim oxtail soup or a dry curry of lingcod with plenty of lime leaf.

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