Chef of the Century Joel Robuchon.
Jamin (Paris, France; two visits, 1988) – Widely considered the best restaurant in the world at the time (1988), Joel Robuchon’s Paris jewel-box served refined, inventive food of a quality not encountered before or since. Gault-Millau’s designation of Robuchon as Chef of the Century may have understated the case.
Lucas-Carton (Paris, France; one visit, 1988) – An improbably elegant, Art Nouveau room provided an appropriate setting for Alain Senderens’ sumptuous cuisine. The restaurant has since downscaled and re-opened as Senderens.
Michel Guerard (Eugenie-les-Bains, France; two visits, 1988) – In the mid-1970s, Michel Guerard pioneered health-conscious spa cuisine, but on two 1988 visits, his amazing food was decadent, fit for a king. His roast Paulliac lamb: sublime. There’s a full spa, too, and an idyllic French country setting – everything a group could want.
Chantecler (Nice, France; two visits, 1988) – Jacques Maximin managed to transcend pedestrian surroundings – a sprawling, nondescript room in the Negresco hotel – to turn out exquisite food anchored by luxury ingredients like caviar, black truffles and the freshest seafood and produce imaginable.
Chinois on Main (Santa Monica, Calif.; one visit, 1997) – This jewel in Wolfgang Puck’s dining empire pioneered east-west fusion in the early 1980s. And what delicious fusion it was, marrying peerless California ingredients to faultless French technique. Private room and main dining room available for business dinners.
Susur (Toronto; six visits, 2000-2006) – Susur Lee’s elaborate, Asian-inflected tasting menus took Toronto dining to a new level. Lee closed the Susur space (which, since 2008, had housed his uneven, post-Susur restaurant, Madeline’s) and, in August, plans to re-open as Lee Lounge, which presumably will offer private dining.
Senses Restaurant (Toronto; one visit, 2004) – Claudio Aprile and his brigade were really on this night, producing Asian-inflected food that featured delicate flavours and refined textures, but none of the excesses or clichés. In 2006, Aprile left and Patrick Lin now rules the kitchen. Private chef’s table room seats 14 and semi-private space seats 38.
Galatoire’s (New Orleans; one visit, 2003) – You could scour the world and not find better versions of such French Creole classics as the oysters Rockefeller, shrimp remoulade and brown-butter trout served at this 105-year-old grande dame of New Orleans restaurants. Three private rooms available.
Au Pied de Cochon (Montreal; three visits, 2004-2008) – This is the culinary soul of Montreal: Hearty French country cooking, anchored by rustic Quebec ingredients. Utterly unpretentious, Martin Picard’s bustling bistro is a must-visit for groups serious about their eating.
Jack’s Bar-B-Que (Nashville, Tenn.; three visits, 2004) – Well-made ribs are a beautiful thing, and they don’t get much more beautiful than these deeply smoky, moist and tender bad boys. Perfect for a casual, incentive-group dine-around.