Best Experimental Cuisine

Alinea, Chicago

Lara Kastner/ Courtesy of Alineabook.com

There's little question that Grant Achatz, whose training includes stints with Charlie Trotter, Thomas Keller, and Ferran Adrià, deserves the title of America's most creative chef. The menu at his Alinea sounds deceptively simple ("Bass, black pepper, vanilla, lemon" or "Rabbit parfait rillette consommé), but what shows up on the plate is absolutely original and almost always dazzlingly good.

wd~50, New York City

Robert Polidori

Say what you will about so-called molecular gastronomy, but you have to give it up to a restaurant that takes an iconic dish like eggs Benedict and reintroduces it to the plate as egg yolk cylinders with crispy cubes of molten hollandaise with dehydrated bacon. And it's so pretty that you almost don't want to attack it with your fork — almost. At the helm here is Wylie Dufresne, one of the modern food world's founding culinary wizards. To dine at wd-50 is a promise of the unexpected, which is no small feat in this hard-to-impress town.

The Bazaar, Los Angeles

Darko Zagar

Spanish food, whether traditional or avant-garde, has no more fervent and eloquent champion in America than José Andrès, proprietor of this multi-part restaurant and culinary theme park. Whether you choose to sample hot and cold foie soup with corn at Saam, Ottoman carrot fritters with apricot and pistachio sauce at Bar Centro, or the best jamón ibérico in America at Rojo y Blanco — or, best of all, a combination of the trad and the completely mad, easily achieved here — you’ll have a memorable, one-of-a-kind experience here.

minibar, Washington, D.C.

Jeff Zalaznick

At José Andres' D.C. restaurant Café Atlantico, the best seat in the house is at an entirely different eatery — the counter he has christened minibar. With only six bar seats, this restaurant within a restaurant is arguably the country's toughest reservation to score. Because it functions as a kind of test kitchen for his L.A. restaurant, Bazaar, expect a dining experience here filled with culinary hat tricks — cotton candy eel, popcorn that smokes in your mouth, a study of zucchini seeds. Even with a price tag of $120 for 30 (mini) courses, it's a steal of a deal. (Watch for Andres' large-scale "Minibar 2.0" later this year.)

Moto, Chicago

MotoRestaurant.com

Diners at Moto should be prepared to eat anything from “trash” to a "Cuban cigar" — that is, with his sense of whimsy and cerebral molecular gastronomy, chef Homaro Cantu’s creative dishes have been known to fool his guests, leading to playful culinary optical illusions, like a flowerpot with edible dirt.