Header images: inside and outside Alter (image: Gourmandj); hay-roasted carrots, genmaicha, squash sauce and uni and the interior at Contra; fenugreek ice cream, lasagna saltimbocca and the interior at Maude (images: Quentin Bacon)
Every year, The World's 50 Best Restaurants Academy members vote on the places where they had their best dining experiences in the previous 18 months. With only 50 making the list and another 50 ranked from 51 to 100, there are countless other award-worthy restaurants around the globe deserving of a mention.
In the latest in our Diners Club 50 Best Discovery Series, we take you to six restaurants in east and west-coast USA that voters picked as some of their favourites.
1. Shuko – New York, USA
47 East 12th Street, New York 10003
+1 212 228 6088
A sushi selection at Shuko
What makes it so special? Diners lucky enough to bag a seat at Shuko's C-shaped counter should strap themselves in for the ride. The epic omakase and kaiseki menus are rooted in Japanese traditions, but go their own way in a quietly radical New York style.
Typical dishes: The spicy tuna rolls made with bluefin belly and explosive pickled red Thai chillies are not the only dish to have set tongues wagging. There have been plenty of column inches devoted to a rich tuna belly tartare designed to be smeared on milk toast with oscietra caviar, as well as roasted squab breast with butternut squash purée, grilled scallion and a rich jus.
Discover more about Shuko
2. Contra – New York, USA
138 Orchard St, New York
+1 212 466 4633
Black pepper and vanilla mousse, rhubarb granita, olive oil at Contra (images courtesy of Contra)
What's the lowdown? Opened in 2014 by two ambitious cooks, Jeremiah Stone and Fabian von Hauske, Contra's mission is to deliver a distinct New York cuisine, inspired by the city's diverse food cultures and taken in experimental new directions.
What should I order? Most decisions are taken out of your hands thanks to a single $67 multi-course menu, although it's worth ordering the bread and cheese plate supplements. Dishes change and evolve constantly, but recent highlights include tender pieces of chicken doused in a savoury ham broth with zingy chickpea pesto or a tranche of charred mackerel with fava beans and fennel sauce.
Discover more about Contra
3. Minibar by José Andrés – Washington DC, USA
855 E St NW, Washington, DC 20004
+1 202 393 0812
Little Piggy Meringues (image: Greg Powers)
In a nutshell: José Andrés' flagship restaurant Minibar is aptly named – it sits just 12 people at two kitchen counters, where diners can watch the chefs create ground-breaking avant-garde dishes designed to thrill the senses.
What to expect: A succession of more than 20 playful, cutting-edge creations that showcase some serious technique and ingenuity. Croquettes of tapioca cooked in ham broth arrive in sculptures of hands, while the shells of steamed mussels are actually made from frozen squid ink. Pink piggy-shaped meringues filled with bacon ice cream can't fail to bring a smile to your lips.
Discover more about Minibar
4. Maude – Los Angeles, USA
212 S Beverly Dr, Beverly Hills, CA 90212
+1 310 859 3418
Venison, flaxseed and mushroom (image: Quentin Bacon)
What's the story? Australian chef Curtis Stone is a familiar face on US TV, appearing in shows such as Top Chef Masters and Celebrity Apprentice. He opened his first restaurant in 2014, winning critical acclaim for its contemporary cooking and novel approach to seasonal ingredients.
Menu concept: The restaurant chooses one seasonal ingredient and showcases it in every dish on the 10-course menu for the entire month. Parsnips, peas, morels and truffles have all had their time in the sun, used either as the star of the plate or in a supporting role. So far, more than 1,000 unique dishes have been created, from a salad of root vegetables with Parmesan and whipped custard to fenugreek ice cream.
Discover more about Maude
5. Bestia – Los Angeles, USA
2121 7th Place Los Angeles CA, 90021
+1 213 514 5724
Bone marrow at Bestia (image: Sierra Prescott)
Love is in the air: You can feel the love at this Italian restaurant, where husband-and-wife team Ori Menashe and Genevieve Gergis cook from the heart, creating rustic and satisfying seasonal dishes.
A beast of a restaurant: Bestia translates as 'beast' in Italian and there's certainly a wild side to the dining room, which is housed in a converted warehouse. Meat hook chandeliers and a design featuring bar-brawl weapons, including knives and broken bottles, are partnered with industrial building materials such as tile, steel, marble and wood. The effect is softened by a warm amber colour scheme and comfortable booths.
Bold flavours: There's a generosity of spirit about the bold flavours on offer, from the house-cured salumi or burrata-topped pizza to freshly made cavatelli pasta shells filled with ricotta and served with lumps of pork sausage, black truffles and Grana Padano. Don't miss Gergis' desserts, such as creamsicle torte comprising glorious layers of coconut, sour tangerine, meyer lemon and kumquat meringue.
Discover more about Bestia
6. Alter – Miami, USA
223 NW 23rd St, Miami, FL 33127
Udon Noodles; rabbit confit, porcini sabayon, shiitakes, blistered scallion at Alter (image: Gourmandj)
Why go? Alter's stark neon and concrete interior has all the hallmarks of a hipster hang-out, but Bradley Kilgore's precise cooking and elegantly presented dishes wouldn't look out of place in a luxurious fine dining restaurant.
Typical dishes: The terroir-driven set menus reveal the scope of Miami's produce and diverse food culture in technically accomplished dishes. Witness a vibrant yellow and orange mosaic of fluke, shot through with Indian spices, tomato hollandaise and roasted avocado. Other highlights include prime short rib with smoked squash bread and the signature 'barely poached egg' with Italian truffle pearls.
Discover more about Alter