Is KOKS the best restaurant in the world?

KOKS, web site, Í Geilini 13, Tórshavn 175, Faroe Islands [Fodors | TripAdvisor]

I am told KOKS is a Faroese word for “adding something excellent,” though there are varying accounts of the translation. In any case, in terms of originality, purity of concept and vision, execution, service, and also view — taken as an integrated whole — I can’t think of any restaurant experience that comes close to this one. Noma in Copenhagen is a pale memory in contrast, as are the Michelin three-stars in San Sebastian. KOKS is still unspoilt and on the way up, and the guiding star is the very young and extremely personable Poul Andrias Ziska.

It has been written up in the New York Times and Guardian for its innovative take on Faroese cuisine, though both articles are now out of date. The dining room seats only 20, and Ziska is also the pastry chef, with no loss of quality. You’ll find photos and food descriptions on their Facebook page. Here is the shaved horsemussel on dried cod skin:

KOKS, shaved horsemussel on dried cod skin

Here is one recent review:

Its cuisine style is earthy and refined, ancient and modern. Instead of the new, it emphasizes the old (drying, fermenting, pickling, curing and smoking) with a larger goal of returning balance to earth itself. At KOKS, the cuisine is about seasonality, seriously engaging with agriculture and history and of making age-old food delightful to modern palates…

Poul continues to simply enjoy the uniqueness and richness of the Faroe Islands. Fan of ræst, (local preservation method) he supports and defends this technique that captures and boosts flavour.

I can agree with this assessment:

And finally (and I have to say the best dessert I’ve ever had), dulse seaweed served with chocolate crumble, fermented blueberries and dulse mousse. Sweet, a bit tangy, a bit crunchy, silky-smooth on the mouth and simple heavenly. My marathon reward ended on a very special note.

I am willing to go out on a limb here: it is probably the best restaurant in the world right now. It alone justifies a trip to the Faroe Islands.

Addendum: Etika, also in the Faroes, has some of the best sashimi I’ve eaten, recommended as well.

Originally posted on Marginal Revolution – click to see comments and suggestions.

Puffins!

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Al Hamra

Al Hamra, web site, 4230 Annandale Road, Annandale, VA, 703-256-1906 (Metro Trip Planner – opens in new window) [zabihah | Ylp]

Wow, did I love this place. A mix of Middle Eastern and Pakistani, the owner is from Pakistan. I’ve only gone once, and tried three dishes, still I feel it is worthy of an immediate report. The best chicken Haleem around, by far. Superb Biryani rice, maybe also the best in the area. And the hummus was a knockout, made from actual fresh beans soaked overnight. The proprietor is also very friendly and knowledgeable. They offer yet more Pakistani dishes through their catering service, let’s hope they make it to the main menu as well, I wonder if you can access them by calling ahead? Go, go, go!

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Fatouche

Fatouche, FB, 1109 West Broad Street, Falls Church, VA, 571-366-0561 (Metro Trip Planner – opens in new window) [Google+ | TripAdvisor | zabihah | FCT | Ylp]

Yes, Iraqi, though it is mostly standard kabobs and Middle Eastern dishes such as hummus. There is a greater presence of lamb shank as special Iraqi dishes, however. I put their standard “Iraqi kabobs” in the top tier of the area’s kabob restaurants, say the top 15 percent. I put their rice as the very best around, not counting the Persian specialty rices with extra ingredients. The hummus and falafel are at about the area average, OK but nothing special. Nonetheless it is worth having this place in the repertoire, friendly atmosphere too. Yana took me here, I am glad she did.

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The culinary culture that is San Francisco

I am all in favor of San Francisco’s $13 per hour minimum wage (which rises to $15 by 2018), plus mandatory paid sick leave, parental leave and employer health care contributions. But labor costs at restaurants are inching past 50 percent of total expenditures, an indicator of poor fiscal health. Commercial rents have also gone bananas. Add the ever-rising cost of frisée and pastured quail eggs and it’s no wonder that many restaurants are experimenting with that unique form of sadism known as “small plate sharing,” which amounts to offering a big group of hungry people something tiny to divvy up. Even nontrendy joints now ask $30 for a proper entree — a price point, according to Mr. Patterson, that encourages even affluent customers to discover the joys of home cooking.

That is by Daniel Duane for the NYT, on how Silicon Valley shapes the northern California dining scene and it is of interest more generally.

Originally posted on Marginal Revolution – click to see comments.

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Espita Mezcaleria

Espita Mezcaleria, web site, 1250 9th Street NW, Washington, DC, 202-621-9795 (Metro Trip Planner – opens in new window) [Google+ | WaPo | Zagat | Washingtonian | TripAdvisor | City Paper | Ylp | Gayot]

South Mexican, this is probably the best Mexican place around right now. First, the corn in all forms is superb, most of all the simple corn on the cob (“elote“). Second, these are the best moles in the area by far. The green pipian mole, on pork ribs, would impress me even in Mexico City. The rest of the menu is good but not awesome. Good ceviche, but it’s not the thing to get here. The Tlayuda I found a little dull. Quite good tacos, first-rate sopes (corn!). We all know that the moles and corn are what really counts, right? Definitely recommended.

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Kyirisan

Kyirisan, Chinese-French, web site, 1924 8th Street NW, Washington, DC, 202-525-2942 (Metro Trip Planner – opens in new window) [Zagat | WaPo | Washingtonian | TripAdvisor | City Paper | Arlington Mag | Ylp]

There are also Filipino and Korean inspirations, plus a general eclecticism. This place is excellent. My favorite here is the scallops with coconut rice and basil ice cream – no it’s not a dessert! It is one of the best courses in town. The duck confit and cheesecake dessert are recommended as well, the tofu too. Not cheap, but for what you get reasonably priced, a fine addition to the mid-range DC dining repertoire.

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El Sol Restaurante

El Sol Restaurante, web site, 1227 11th Street NW, Washington, DC, 202-815-4789 (there is another branch in DC at 3911 14th Street NW, 202-545-0081) (the 11th Street location is open mornings, there is conflicting information on exactly when, it is either 8 or 10 am maybe call ahead) (Metro Trip Planner – opens in new window) [Google+ | WaPo | TripAdvisor | Zagat | Ylp]

The Washington Post said these were the best tacos around, so of course I tried them. The Washington Post is right! I especially liked the tacos del pastor. The pozole I thought was only so-so, and overall I am not entirely convinced by the notion that this is a serviceable full-scale Mexican restaurant with mole and the like. The atmosphere is more mom and pop than the web site might lead you to expect. Don’t get carried away here, but definitely recommended, cheap too.

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Distinct Taste

Distinct Taste, web site, another web site, 617 S. Frederick Ave., Gaithersburg, MD, 301-987-0800 (Metro Trip Planner – opens in new window) [Google+ | Ylp]

What a weird restaurant! No one seems to go here, and when I called for a reservation they were absolutely baffled, as if no one ever had done such a thing before. The restaurant is dedicated to regional Chinese cuisine, but it’s not like the other regional Chinese places around. The best thing to do is go here, order a bunch of dishes you’ve never heard of (and they do have quite a few of those), and then half of them will be excellent, half so-so. If you order your Sichuan favorites, and expect a version of the familiar, nope sorry that is not what will be delivered. Or maybe on another day it will be. My favorite item was the tofu skin in black bean sauce, very nice textures, the fish dishes are good too. Overall it’s like pressing the hyperspace button on one of those old video games. It’s recommended for the diner who has tried everything, all others you take your chances.

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Where to dine in London

I recommend two Indian places, neither super cheap but each worth it:

Amaya, and

Gymkhana

Both are good for vegetarians, the former especially. Trishna is another good Indian place in London, though I won’t get to visit this time around.

Originally posted on Marginal Revolution – click to see comments and suggestions.

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Brussels bleg

I’ll be there next week, in fact just in time for the Brexit vote. Above and beyond the obvious guidebook sights, what do you all recommend that I do? And where should I eat?

Here is a good Ian Buruma survey of where Brussels the city is at right now.

Originally posted on Marginal Revolution – click to see comments and suggestions.

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