10 Best Experimental Restaurants In America

10. Corton - New York City

Located in Tribeca, Corton's nine-course tasting menu is full of surprises – crystallized violets, coffee grinds in beef dishes, sansho pepper, and more. Chef Paul Liebrandt, the subject of HBO documentary A Matter of Taste, and his outpost recently made the top 10 of best restaurants named by GQ magazine.


9. Hugo's - Portland, Maine

Right in the heart of Portland, Maine, it's no surprise James Beard-winner chef Rob Evans and his wife Nancy Pugh hit the money with its local seafood fare. Serving dishes like Winter Point Oysters paired with nori, dulse, and pickled seaweed and slow-poached Arctic Char, the tasting and dinner menus are meant to be paired with the impressive list of cocktails at Hugo's.


8. Baumé Restaurant Pao Alto, Calif.

Bruno Chemel's macrobiotic experiment, Baumé, is named after the French chemist Antoine Baume – appropriate for a French cuisine moderne approach. The 12-course custom tasting menu incorporates unique ingredients like dehydrated "sand" made of apples, 62-degree eggs, and parchment sheets made of acorn. The restaurant earned its second Michelin star this year. 


7. E by Jose Andres - Las Vegas

The third restaurant on this list from José Andrés, this Las Vegas version of Minibar is located in The Cosmopolitan Hotel, alongside his Chinese-Mexican fusion restaurant, China Poblano and tapas restaurant, Jaleo. With only eight seats in the space, which is also housed inside Jaleo, this mysterious venue can be rented out for two nightly seatings. The experience costs $3,000 for an all-inclusive 15-course tasting menu. 


6. Moto - Chicago

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.


5. WD-50 - New York City

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. Wylie Dufresne continues to prove himself one of our country's most imaginative and technically accomplished chefs.

4. Next - Chicago

What does one of the world's most successful avant-garde chefs do to challenge himself? Open a restaurant that completely changes concepts every few months. First it was Paris 1906, a menu paying homage to the creations of legendary chef Escoffier, then it was a futuristic Thai menu, and that was followed by a theme perhaps even more ambitious in scope: childhood. It was already hard enough to buy a ticket (there's a special online reservation system) and then chef Grant Achatz decided to do an homage to the now-closed, legendary elBulli. Some people play at being innovative. Not Achatz, and not Next's capable chef, Dave Beran, who has deftly executed the restaurant's concepts.

3. minibar - Washington, DC

At José Andrés' D.C. restaurant America Eats Tavern, 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, The Bazaar, expect a dining experience 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 $150 for 30 (mini) courses, it's a steal of a deal. The imaginative cuisine scored chef José Andrés a 2011 James Beard Outstanding Chef Award.

2. The Bazaar - Los Angeles

Spanish food, whether traditional or avant-garde, has no more fervent and eloquent champion in America than José Andrés, 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 traditional and the completely mad, easily achieved here — you'll have a memorable, one-of-a-kind experience here, that is until the second location of The Bazaar, which is currently being built, opens in Miami.

1. Alinea - Chicago

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 Alineasounds deceptively simple (bass with black pepper, vanilla, and lemon), but what shows up on the plate is absolutely original and almost always dazzlingly good. However, there are rumors going around that he and partner Nick Kokonas have plans to make some major changes to the Alinea concept, now that they've successfully launched two new ventures, Next andThe Aviary