Everyone raves about Noma as “the best” restaurant in the world. Their pop-up restaurants (like the most recent Noma in Mexico) command just short of US$1000 per meal.
I have to say, I’ve been to Noma twice and several of their spin-off restaurants. I wasn’t impressed. Eating fermented pine needles with froth (about which several critics raved) reminded me of pine needles with frothy saliva spit on them. They tasted like pickles and simply weren’t appetizing. I found the menu to be rigid and limited and frankly, for $1000, it just wasn’t worth it.
Noma “closed” in early 2017, so it didn’t place on the most recent list of the top 50 restaurants.
I get it, eating at this level of restaurant is an art that requires a different type of thinking. The meal and its preparation are an art (or science) and are appreciated not for their satiating effect, but for small bites of sensory excitement.
It’s strange to me that all of the restaurants on the list are in or very near major cities. What about the thousands of restaurants that are off the beaten path? One of the most meaningful meals was made at a “restaurant” in Costa Rica, made from scratch by a woman and her daughter for two backpackers passing by (my friend Mark and myself.) I don’t think the restaurant had a name, I know it didn’t have a printed menu, but the food was outstanding and honest.
Aparaat in Tartu, Estonia is another restaurant that is off the beaten path. It gets no significant press outside of Estonia, and consistently is one of the very best restaurants that I visit. The prices, on average are about 3300% (that’s not a typo) less than Noma and the meals are no less divine than any other “top” restaurant I have visited, and in fact are consistently creative and outstanding. The menu at Aparaat is flexible and accommodates all manner of eaters: vegans, meat eaters, gluten free eaters, localphiles, and on and on. That’s more than I am able to say for Noma.
I’m not a food critic, and I don’t have a fancy ranking system or list, but for my vote, I strongly recommend Aparaat. If I were making a list it would be at the top in the #1 spot.