Yesterday marked the release of the annual World's 50 Best Restaurants lists as ranked by London-based Restaurant Magazine. The three Bay Area restaurants that have figured on here the last few years continue to swap spots in the Top 50, with Coi creeping back to #49 and the French Laundry landing at #44, and sometimes slipping off to the bottom 50 as was the case with Manresa last year (slipping to #52, and this year to #64). Saison was singled out by the group as the One to Watch, debuting on this list this year at #69. And the Restaurant at Meadowood, which has held three Michelin stars for four years, inexplicably was off the radar of these judges and only made its debut now, at #80.
Back in 2003 and 2004, this list vaulted The French Laundry onto the international culinary stage by naming it the best in the world, cementing chef Thomas Keller's reputation and leading directly to his being able to open a sister, nearly duplicate restaurant in New York, Per Se. Nowadays no critic in this country would suggest that Per Se and the Laundry are particularly different from each other the only difference being that one is in a mall in the middle of Manhattan, and the other is nestled in the quaint wine country village of Yountville. One holds four stars from the New York Times, the other holds four stars from the San Francisco Chronicle, and both have three Michelin stars. So why, one may wonder, has the blush come off the rose of the Laundry to make it now #44 on this list (it rose from #47 last year) while Per Se is at #30 (slipping from #11 last year). In any event, the list always has some arbitrariness to it, as all lists do, and the "academy" of voters responsible for doing the American restaurant updates clearly have their favorites, like Grant Achatz's Alinea in Chicago (#9), and Eleven Madison Park in New York (#4).
Also, some (including me) would argue that Meadowood is more cutting edge, luxurious, and less stuffy than the French Laundry, and there's no reason it should sit so far below its Michelin three-star neighbor on this list. But, again, it's all kind of arbitrary.
In more international news, Copenhagen's Noma, which held the #1 slot from 2010 to 2012 before getting bumped to #2 last year, regained its spot at the top, and oustpoken chef-owner Rene Redzepi took to the dais and said, "Wood sorrel conquered caviar. The seal fucker came out on top."