It is always a pleasure to encounter the work of exceptionally talented young chefs. In Paris, Arnaud Nicolas has set himself the daunting task of reinventing French charcuterie for a more health-conscious age. We also admired the imaginative New Nordic cuisine of the team of chefs at Restaurant Domestic in the Danish port city of Aarhus. In Lisbon, it was impossible not to applaud the hypermodern Portuguese food of chef Alexandre Silva, while the Spanish-Mediterranean dishes of chef Andrés Madrigal in the historic Casco Viejo neighborhood of Panama City were a delightful and wholly unexpected surprise.
At his casually chic shop and restaurant on the Left Bank, young chef Arnaud Nicolas is a man on a mission: He wants the French to fall in love with charcuterie again, because these foods, in their industrially made supermarket versions, are now widely regarded as heavy, fatty and unhealthy. His light and flavorful charcuterie, which includes dishes like quail-and-dried-fruit pâté en croûte and what just may be the world’s best headcheese, is superb. And so is the rest of the menu, which runs to dishes like cod with cuttlefish and celery root cooked carbonara style, or duck breast with a turnip-and-quince tart.
46 Avenue de la Bourdonnais (7e). Tel. (33) 1-45-55-59-59
Chef Alexandre Silva is a celebrity in Portugal, having won Portuguese television’s Top Chef competition in 2012. In late 2015 he opened this stylish restaurant, within walking distance of the Olissippo Lapa Palace hotel, and it has already earned a Michelin star for its hypermodern, hyperseasonal interpretation of Portuguese cuisine. Diners choose either the full menu with 18 “moments” or a 14-course “Discover” menu, as we did. Memorable dishes included a traditional chorizo sandwich interpreted as a steamed bun, a strikingly beautiful shrimp from Peniche topped with its own electric-blue eggs, and intensely flavored smoked duck breast with quince jam and savoy cabbage fried in goose fat.
Rua dos Navegantes 53-B. Tel. (351) 21-395-1861
Panama City, Panama
Michelin-starred chef Andrés Madrigal is at the helm of this exceptional restaurant in the historic Casco Viejo neighborhood of Panama City. The contemporary dining room, with original stone walls and colorful modern art, serves Spanish-Mediterranean dishes that employ regionally sourced ingredients. The menu changes often, but our sautéed octopus coated in a spicy red mojo glaze was excellent, while the cannelloni stuffed with traditional ropa vieja (stewed beef) was beautifully presented and topped with edible flower petals. Though the staff spoke limited English, they were friendly and helpful; a translated menu is available upon request. Chef Madrigal’s talent for combining unexpected flavors, textures and aromas makes for an epicurean adventure.
Avenida A. Tel. (507) 211-1956
Tucked away in the lively Latin Quarter of Aarhus, Restaurant Domestic is one of the best new bistros in Denmark. The team of young, talented chefs has been awarded a Michelin star for their excellent New Nordic tasting menus. These change regularly and follow the seasons but run to dishes like oysters with cabbage in dashi broth, langoustines with kohlrabi and burnt cream, and pear poached in kombucha tea with brown-sugar sauce. Service is friendly and relaxed but very professional. The wine list is spectacular and includes numerous bottles of natural wines (with no additives).
Mejlgade 35B. Tel. (45) 61-43-70-10