Our 10 Favorite Culinary Destinations

.article-cta-top

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 are our favorite culinary destinations and why.

1. Bangkok

Hideaway Report editors: "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."

Harper Alliance Partners: “When it comes to food, Thailand is a unique destination,” says executive chef Mike Peter Wehrle of The Peninsula Bangkok. “The country is rich in natural resources, so ingredients are very fresh. There are special kinds of fruit that you cannot find anywhere else in the world.” Jason M. Friedman, general manager of The Siam Hotel Bangkok, says Bangkok’s culinary scene has changed over the past five years. In part, he says, the public has become more food-savvy. In addition, “young Thai chefs who spent years working for big chains are now using their knowledge to start restaurants on their own, while Thais who have been living overseas have returned, bringing food knowledge and passion with them,” Friedman says. Similarly, Wehrle says, “Many chefs at top restaurants learned new techniques while studying and working overseas. They learned to pair local spices and flavors with traditional cooking methods,” he says. “Chefs in Bangkok are daring to explore new flavors and matching Western techniques with traditional recipes.”

We asked Harper Alliance partners to name three dishes that are synonymous with their city or that they recommend a visitor try. 

Jason M. Friedman, General Manager, The Siam

  • Pad Krapao; Stir-fried meat (beef, chicken, pork or shrimp) or vegetables with basil over rice  
  • Tom Yam; A classic Thai soup 
  • Pad Thai at Thip Samai; “Perhaps the most famous Pad Thai restaurant in Bangkok is located in the old town and has been operating since 1966,” Friedman says.

Mike Peter Wehrle, Executive Chef, The Peninsula Bangkok

  • Som Tam
  • Pad Thai
  • Mango with sticky rice

2. Hong Kong

Hideaway Report editors: 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.

Harper Alliance Partners: “Hong Kong locals are born as food lovers,” says Chief Concierge Echo Zhu at The Peninsula Hong Kong. This innate passion is evident in the dedication to high quality cuisine throughout Hong Kong, she says. In the past decade, Hong Kong’s culinary experience has evolved to reflect more global influences. “The influence of ’West meets East’ has had an impact on Hong Kong’s culinary scene,” she says. “Through mass communication, people are well-informed on what is new and what is hot in town. They are open to all kinds of cuisines.” Despite the flexibility, variety and creativity of cuisine in the city, Zhu notes that Hong Kong’s culinary traditions “are well-maintained.” Indeed, dim sum remains synonymous with Hong Kong, she says: “This is something that Hong Kong will never let others surpass.”

We asked Harper Alliance partners to name three dishes that are synonymous with their city or that they recommend a visitor try. 

Echo Zhu, Chief Concierge, The Peninsula Hong Kong

  • Dim Sum
  • Peking Duck
  • Double boiled soup; “Good for health,” Zhu notes.

3. London

Hideaway Report editors: "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."

Harper Alliance Partners: "The diversity of cuisine makes London a top culinary destination," say Stefano Trovo, chef concierge at The Halkin, and Frank Laino, executive head concierge at The Stafford London by Kempinski. “London has the best from each nation’s cuisine like few other capitals can offer,” says Trovo, who notes that the capital city also attracts “top chefs using seasonal British products.” Laino says that London’s cuisine is “vibrant, fun and fast-moving, and has an ability to assimilate and adapt influences from different cuisines.” In particular, ethnic cuisine — most notably Indian and Japanese—“has evolved and become much more sophisticated and is hugely popular,” he adds. As a result, “people from all over the world come to London to try the different restaurants,” Trovo says, adding that such “food lover pioneers have dramatically changed the evolution in quality of the food in London.”

We asked Harper Alliance partners to name three dishes that are synonymous with their city or that they recommend a visitor try. 

Stefano Trovo, Chef Concierge, The Halkin

  • Meat Fruit; A mandarin, chicken liver and foie gras parfait with grilled bread at Dinner by Heston Blumenthal
  • Dover sole and other fish and gaming dishes at Wilton’s 
  • Black Angus fillet with miso eggplant roasted salsify and charred onions, among other British menu items at Jason Atherton’s Pollen Street Social 

Frank Laino, Executive Head Concierge, The Stafford

  • Tipsy cake dessert at Dinner by Heston Blumenthal
  • The finest native oysters at Scott’s 
  • Premium Aberdeen Angus steak at 34

4. New Orleans

Hideaway Report editors: "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?"

Harper Alliance Partners: “What fashion is to New York, food is to New Orleans,” says Tara Minamoto, customer experience manager at the Windsor Court. “You can eat at a 100-year-old dining institution that wouldn’t fathom ever changing its menu and then enjoy a meal at the latest restaurant opened by one of New Orleans’ up-and-coming chefs.” According to Minamoto, “the culinary scene in New Orleans has evolved from the still-present Creole craze of the ‘80s with big-name chefs such as Paul Prudhomme and Emeril Lagasse, to a new crop of chefs making a name for themselves, and new twists on traditional cuisine, with chefs taking cues from multinational cuisines.” New Orleans’ culinary culture also has helped the city recover from catastrophes, such as Hurricane Katrina and the BP oil spill. “Some of New Orleans’ most well-known restaurants were the first to open their doors following Hurricane Katrina,” Minamoto says. “There are now more than 1,300 restaurants in New Orleans. I think that’s due in part to Katrina, mostly because after the storm we saw a surge of entrepreneurs with a mission to make the city bigger and better. New Orleans has always taken its food seriously, and that’s never going to change.”

We asked Harper Alliance partners to name three dishes that are synonymous with their city or that they recommend a visitor try. 

Tara Minamoto, Customer Experience Manager, Windsor Court

  • Anything with fresh Louisiana seafood

5. New York City

Hideaway Report editors: 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.

Harper Alliance Partners: “The world looks at New York for new ideas and trends—whether that means fashion, arts or cuisine,” says Ernesto Floro, director of sales and marketing at The Mark. “So, anything new in the culinary world will definitely be found in New York.” John Mark Hopkins, chef concierge at The Lowell, also cites New York’s culinary variety. “You can get anything from Afghan to Vietnamese here. Tarte flambée?  Boerwors? Tacos de chapulín?  no problem.” Hopkins attributes this, in part, to the city’s history. “In many parts of the country, newcomers tried to quickly assimilate, but new New Yorkers tend to embrace what’s already here and hold onto their own traditions at the same time.” Floro and Hopkins say the farm-to-table movement has been one of the city’s biggest trends in the past decade. And, Floro says, “New York has seen a move to more approachable comfort food, and more relaxed but still elegant surroundings.” The city also has seen “a growing group of talented chefs who open very small restaurants and insist that customers eat what’s set before them and play by the chefs’ rules,” Hopkins says, “and people line up to do this.”

We asked Harper Alliance partners to name three dishes that are synonymous with their city or that they recommend a visitor try. 

Ernesto Floro, Director of Sales and Marketing, The Mark

6. Paris

Hideaway Report editors: 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.

Harper Alliance Partners: "Food in France is such an integral part of the country’s culture that UNESCO declared French cuisine as a “World Intangible Heritage” in 2010," says Eric Frechon, Michelin three-star chef at Le Bristol Paris. Frechon says that this, as well as Paris having the second-most Michelin-starred restaurants in the world, are two reasons why Paris is consistently a top culinary destination. Along with its historic contributions, Parisian cuisine continues to evolve and be innovative, he says. “The culinary scene in Paris has totally changed over the past 10 years: fine dining is more refined, more uncluttered,” he says. Also, fusion cuisine has become popular, and Parisian cuisine “has tended to be healthier,” he notes. Multicultural influences have also affected the kitchens of Paris, according to Frechon. “The influence of Asian cuisine has had an important impact on Paris’ culinary scene,” he says. “Cuisines from around the world have only added to Paris’ gastronomic richness.”

We asked Harper Alliance partners to name three dishes that are synonymous with their city or that they recommend a visitor try. 

Eric Frechon, Chef, Le Bristol Paris

  • Foie gras
  • Poularde de Bresse 
  • Millefeuille à la vanille Bourbon

7. Rome

Hideaway Report editors: 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.

Harper Alliance Partners: "Rome has been evolving as a culinary center for thousands of years", says Chef Fulvio Pierangelini of the Hotel de Russie in Rome. “The far-sighted Romans tried to assimilate the best of every culture they came into contact with. The same happened with the cuisine,” he says. The resulting culinary influences range from Magna Graecia and Etruscans to Swiss Vatican guards and Jewish populations. Armando Manni, owner of Casa MANNI Roma, says these long culinary traditions are why the Eternal City “is like a ‘mecca’ for every food lover. It is not only in Michelin-starred restaurants that you can expect great food, even the local trattorias have secret jewels. It is a great adventure to uncover them.” Adds Pierangelini, “Young cooks trained by good chefs have opened simple, but very interesting restaurants.” Manni says greater availability of quality and organic ingredients also has had positive effects: “When great tradition and great recipes blend with better ingredients, the outcome is definitely more spectacular.”  

We asked Harper Alliance partners to name three dishes that are synonymous with their city or that they recommend a visitor try. 

Armando Manni, Owner, Casa MANNI Roma

  • Spaghetti alla Carbonara
  • Spaghetti a Cacio e Pepe
  • Baby lamb

Fulvio Pierangelini, Chef, Hotel de Russie

  • Fresh ingredients offered daily from the countryside around Rome, such as artichokes, puntarelle, chicory salad and all types of spontaneous salads

8. San Francisco

Hideaway Report editors: 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.

Harper Alliance Partners: “San Francisco is a top culinary destination in part because of its rich environmental and cultural surroundings,” says Antonio Barrios, chief concierge at The St. Regis San Francisco. “The farm-to-table culture runs deep with farmers’ markets on every corner, and restaurants featuring rotating menus of fresh seasonal fare.” Adam Mali, executive chef of Mandarin Oriental, San Francisco, says, “San Francisco’s culinary scene has become more adventurous and focused on creatively using local ingredients.” This, Mali explains, has been influenced by “knowing where your food comes from and respecting the ingredients.” Barrios adds, “San Francisco is a city that fosters innovation, whether that be in technology or the culinary world. The city’s culinary scene has exploded with young, new chefs who are innovative, creative and constantly pushing the boundaries to find new ways to challenge the public’s palate,” he says. “We’re lucky to have such a variety of fresh and local ingredients in our backyard and chefs who create new dishes and unique experiences suited to indulge all tastes.”

We asked Harper Alliance partners to name three dishes that are synonymous with their city or that they recommend a visitor try. 

Adam Mali, Executive chef, Mandarin Oriental, San Francisco

  • Wood-roasted Dungeness crab
  • Any dish using local albacore or halibut
  • Wood-fired pizza with nettles

Antonio Barrios, Chief Concierge, The St. Regis San Francisco

  • Any dish that uses fresh and local crab
  • Dim sum in Chinatown
  • The city’s famous sourdough bread

9. Sydney

Hideaway Report editors: 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.

Harper Alliance Partners: “Sydney is a melting pot of multicultural influences, well-traveled chefs with modern and old school influences and, of course, our fantastic local produce,” says Anthony Craven, executive chef at The Langham, Sydney. “Chefs in Australia are proud to use amazing local ingredients and take pride in sourcing ingredients from boutique suppliers.” Chris Stebbing, who oversees the team of concierge and butlers as guest manager at Park Hyatt Sydney, agrees. “In Sydney we are so spoilt for choice, and the quality of choice is fantastic. This then brings a healthy competition amongst restaurants to be ever-changing for their patrons’ dining experience,” he says. Adds Stebbing: “Now, it’s not necessarily about the fine dining experience, and this is evident with more casual dining restaurants opening, giving patrons a chance to share and interact with food amongst their table, with the emphasis on quality and affordability.” Other ingredients for Sydney’s culinary success, Craven says, include “a passion from the people of Sydney about quality ingredients and unique food experiences, and an ever growing wine appreciation by Sydneysiders.”

We asked Harper Alliance partners to name three dishes that are synonymous with their city or that they recommend a visitor try. 

Anthony Craven, Executive Chef, The Langham Sydney

vacation ideas sydney city guide

10. Tokyo

Hideaway Report editors: 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.

Harper Alliance Partners:  “Japanese have long had an obsession with food which, coupled with the country’s long period of isolation, has resulted in a national cuisine that is innovative and distinctively its own,” says Gerald Hatherly of Abercrombie & Kent. With Japan’s rise to international importance in the late 20th century, “the Japanese embraced cuisines from around the world, and today the city has a wide variety of international restaurants,” says Hatherly, who notes that 17 percent of Tokyo’s restaurants are non-Japanese. “As information makes the world a smaller place, this will only continue.” The economy also has affected Tokyo’s cuisine. ”There is a grass-roots movement in more traditional food, more economical meals and a turning away in some quarters from ultra-expensive dishes. The Japanese penchant for ‘fresh’ is more popular with the rise of ‘green’ philosophies,” he says. Globalization also has influenced Tokyo’s culinary scene.

We asked Harper Alliance partners to name three dishes that are synonymous with their city or that they recommend a visitor try. 

Gerald Hatherly of Abercrombie & Kent

  • Tonkatsu; a deep-fried, breaded meat (beef or pork) that is crispy and dipped in a piquant sauce, at Tonki in Shimo Meguro
  • Japanese curry rice at Manten Curry in Kanda Jimbocho
  • Gindara saikyo-yaki; a method of slow grilling black cod, that is sweet, tender and flaky, with an almost buttery taste, says Hatherly, who recommends Ginka in Azabu Juban
By Hideaway Report Staff
.article-cta-bottom