A couple of days ago I received an unexpected and lovely email from the head chef of the Copenhagen restaurant Noma, Rene Redzepi, congratulating me on my new blog:
'The world needs more of your kind of blogs. Thank you for that!' he said. Made my day.
Well, today I am glad to return the compliment having just heard that Noma has shot up the rankings on the San Pellegrino 50 Best Restaurants in the World list, published in the UK's Restaurant magazine this week.
Noma is now number 3 - up from No.10, an incredible achievement - just behind the Fat Duck and El Bulli. The previous number 3, Pierre Gagnaire's 3-star flagship just off the Champs Elysées, which I used to walk past everyday taking my kids to school, is down in ninth place. Meanwhile, the UK papers have pounced upon the absence of any of Gordon Ramsay's restaurants from the list - including his eponymous 3-star place (clearly it is open season on Ramsay these days - which I think we can all enjoy).
This all rather makes a (deserved) mockery of the Michelin star system, which only gives two to Noma. Perhaps even more notable, Noma won the chef's prize, voted for by the rest of the chefs on the list.
Other notable risers include Alinea. I saw Grant Achatz speak in Tokyo recently and, though I was slightly perturbed that he spoke as much about the tableware as he did about his food, I do have his book and the food at least looks stunning. Good to see Le Bernadin up too - I have a huge admiration for its pastry chef, Michael Laiskonis' blog, which is linked to on the left. Meanwhile, Paris' funky bistro Le Chateaubriand (there's a link to a piece I wrote about it a while back, also on the left), is a new entry - pop-pickers - at 40, but the French Laundry appears to have taken a bit of a tumble, as has Alain Ducasse. Ducasse's place at the Plaza Athenée isn't even on the list, which seems a bit harsh.
Good to see my old alma mater, Joel Robuchon's Paris L'Atelier at No.20 - even though it was hell working there, I can't deny the food and setting are fantastic.
Noma and Rene deserve their success, having stuck to their guns and served only Nordic-sourced ingredients even though, from the start, there were many who ridiculed them. It's also admirably unpretentious, innovative, intensely seasonal and highly principled. (He also has a great walnut supplier: me!)
That said, the fact that there is only one Japanese restaurant on the list, and a French-inspired one at that (Les Creations de Narisawa - which I mentioned in my first post last month), does kind of undermine its credibility. There are three German restaurants, for God's sake!
Frankly, I have eaten in about ten restaurants in Japan that could easily populate the higher echelons of the top 20. Why no Kicho? Why no Ryugin? Why no Kikunoi? To name just three of the better known.