A true temple of French cuisine that puts garden produce centre-stage

Alain Passard has cooked at L’Arpège for nearly 30 years. In that time he has achieved living-legend status as one of France’s greatest and most influential chefs, but this giant of Gallic gastronomy has a surprisingly light touch. The cooking at this Parisian superstar revolves around a 2.5 hectare biodynamic garden just outside the city where a team of gardeners grow produce to exacting briefs.

All meals here feature a simple salad named after his head gardener, a tangle of esoteric herbs and leaves dressed with oil, a little Parmesan and chopped hazelnut praline. Such is his dedication to garden produce that a decade or so ago Passard removed red meat from his menu. At the time it represented a controversial though forward-thinking comment about the top-end of the restaurant industry’s obsession with flesh. But carnivores shouldn’t despair, as the Brittany-born chef has now reinstated red meat (if in very small measure) to a menu that also features exceptional game, poultry and seafood options.

The chef, who began his career back in 1971, has a complete grasp of classic French techniques; having worked with some of the nation’s most esteemed chefs in his formative years, including Alain Senderens, from whom Passard purchased L’Arpège in 1986. It is these well-honed skills along with a healthy dose of playful creativity that set him apart from the crowd.

Source: http://www.theworlds50best.com/list/1-50-winners/l-arpege

Minimalist, high impact plates in Alicante

Valencian food gets the techno-emotional treatment at Quique Dacosta’s eponymous restaurant on the Costa Blanca. While Alicante might be more usually associated with package holidays than cutting-edge gastronomy, the tiny city of Dénia is far removed from the all-day breakfasts and mainstream lager of the area’s numerous tourist resorts. Formerly El Poblet, the super-sleek restaurant makes a fine and suitable backdrop for the team’s striking plates and also houses some first-rate contemporary art.

Part-chef, part-botanist, Dacosta occupies the same culinary perch as Ferran Adrià and the Roca brothers and is a big name in Spain. His plates are minimalist and always memorable, featuring two or three ingredients, making for great clarity of flavour. A meal here may begin with a single rose supplied with a pair of Quique Dacosta-branded tweezers. On closer inspection, the middle of the flower has been painstakingly constructed from pickled apple. Another dish shows the chef’s willingness to reference other cuisines – his black truffle mochi is an extraordinary little cake stuffed with a creamy cheese filling and dusted with black truffles.

Although there are other references, his tasting menu is billed as an edible landscape of the Costa Blanca, seeking to evoke the aroma and texture of the environment as well as the taste. As such, his restaurant is a hub for food research as well as unashamedly top-end dining. Dacosta is an expert on the local vegetation in addition to the cuisine, and is an authority on the use of rice in Spanish cooking as well as being an expert on aloe vera, micro-greens and sprouts.

Source: http://www.theworlds50best.com/list/1-50-winners/quique-dacosta