In a field of Michelin-starred restaurants, District 5 may seem an unlikely contender for our list, but those seeking a taste of Italy in Amsterdam are loyal diners at this well-run, authentic trattoria. Chef Emiliano Covelli crafts a menu (that changes biweekly) of various pastas and meat, fish, and vegetarian dishes, enhanced by a solid wine list featuring lots of small producers. The pizzas, including the District 5 (tomato, mozzarella, prosciutto di Parma, and arugula) and the pizza tartufo (white truffle sauce, arugula, Parmigiano-Reggiano, and buffalo mozzarella), are most probably the best in town.
Here's a piece of interesting trivia about the pleasant city of Breda, in southern Holland: It is the birthplace of a man named Andreas Cornelius van Kuijk — who moved to the United States, changed his to "Colonel" Tom Parker, and became Elvis Presley's manager. There are no peanut butter and banana sandwiches at this attractive former coach house in a public park, however. Instead, chef Maarten Camps' Michelin-starred cuisine includes such offerings as halibut with duck confit and truffles, Black Angus beef with vegetables from the restaurant garden and shallot sauce, and passion fruit soufflé with mango sorbet.
In his popular Amsterdam establishment, Blaauw applies an artist's eye and the palate of a skilled Northern European chef to beautifully present clear-flavored dishes combining typical ingredients of the region: beef tartare, Amsterdam pickles, smoked mayonnaise, and tarragon; brill, leek, eel, and beurre rouge; roasted chicken, white cabbage, morels, verbena…
Luxembourg-born chef Léa Linster has had a Michelin star since 1987 for her hearty but skillfully finished specialties, like lobster salad with tarragon sauce, saddle of lamb in a crust of potatoes, and crispy sweetbreads with veal juice and thyme. Her restaurant is a sleek, modern-style freestanding building with glass walls in the midst of a verdant park.
Korean-born Sang-Hoon Degeimbre spends his days deconstructing ingredients and experimenting with textures, materials, and preparation methods to create a fanciful seasonal menu at L’Air du Temps. The two-Michelin-starred chef prepares innovative and inventive dishes like Belgian blue beef with sesame cream cheese, shiso, pear, pine nuts, and egg yolk; local pheasant with chicory, coffee, orange, and beets; and ambercup squash mousse with vanilla, calamondin, pistachio, shiso, and orange.
Hertog Jan has had various incarnations — first as an inn; then as a café, a bar, and a brasserie; and now a contemporary dining spot where Gert De Mangeleer presents intelligent modern Belgian food with international accents. Items may include blue lobster braised in coral oil, with passion fruit cream, cocoa, and tonka beans; and pig's feet with crusty farmhouse bread, fried ceps, and marinated celeriac.
Located inside the opulent Dolder Grand hotel, The Restaurant is a treat, particularly in the summer when the terrace is open for alfresco dining; what's on the plates is just as impressive as the sweeping views of Zurich, the lake, and the Alps. Chef Heiko Nieder serves four- and five- course set menus at lunch and four- to seven-course dinners, including a vegetarian meal option. There's also a 12-course tasting menu, which includes Swiss alpine caviar and Brittany anglerfish liver; white truffles with mountain potato, egg, and spinach; and Bresse pigeon breast sous-vide.
At age 31, Rolf Fliegauf is one of the youngest two-Michelin-starred chefs in Europe. The talented chef cooked at Noma in Copenhagen and now displays his talent at Ecco in the Hotel Giardino (the dining room is closed for the winter). Fliegauf serves a skillfully prepared and artfully presented menu of game, seafood, and vegetables in Ecco’s bright and airy dining room, with its vaulted glass ceiling and casual-chic atmosphere.
Chefs Aziz Bhatti and Erik Lindelauf specialize, not surprisingly, in black truffles — fresh in season, preserved the rest of the year. The Stéphanie salad (wild mushrooms, Jerusalem artichokes, and parmigiano with slices of black truffles on top), the remarkable whole Périgord truffle in a crust of salt with truffle juice and port, and the homemade tagliolini or king crab risotto with Thai with (yes) sliced black truffles are indulgences of the highest order. Non-truffle fare is good, too: One of the more unusual dishes at La Truffe Noire is roasted lobster with crustacean essence enriched with dark chocolate, accompanied by foamed zucchini mousse and multicolor risotto.
The Hôtel des Trois Rois, on the banks of the Rhine in Basel, is one of several establishments that claims to be the oldest continuously operating hotel in Europe (it is mentioned in documents as early as 1681), but there's nothing antique about chef Peter Knogl's two-Michelin-starred cuisine, which runs from foie gras with pineapple and black pepper and fried scampi with trumpet mushrooms and chive sauce to Bresse pigeon with Moroccan flavors and glazed Nantais duckling with fig juice for two. Lukewarm chocolate cake with mango and coconut ice cream is a dessert not to be missed.
The cozy 50-seat dining roomfilled with paintings and sculptures by Stéphane Thoma is an inviting spot to dine, complete with a terrace for the warmer months and an intimate 10-seat "library" flanked with a wall of cookbooks. Chef Cyril Molard offers a seven-course set menu, which changes monthly, and a customizable three-course prix fixe menu — sample dishes include smoked haddock with creamy potatoes, lemon oil, green cabbage, and vanilla bouillon; pike-perch with capers and parsnips; and chocolate-chestnut-praline cake with salted caramel — which are sure to make any discerning diner happy. That's appropriate, since this one-Michelin-starred restaurant’s name, Ma Langue Sourit, means "my tongue smiles."
In the luxurious old Beau Rivage Hotel, this stylishly modern restaurant with its fairy-tale name (Le Chat-Botté is known to us as Puss in Boots) draws both business folk and high-end tourists for Dominique Gauthier's Michelin-starred French cuisine. Tempura frog's legs with spinach sprout mousseline and garlic cream, mushroom and rutabaga cannelloni with spinach and hazelnut oil, brill from Brittany with artichokes and olive oil jus, roast Scottish pheasant breast with white grapes and celeriac, pumpkin soufflé with chestnut shortbread, and cinnamon apple crumble with caramel foam and sea salt ice cream are among the lures.
The food of Luxembourg, the tiny duchy bordered by Germany and France, is said to combine German portion size with French finesse. At least the latter is true at the high-tone Clairefontaine, in the middle of storybook castle-like Luxembourg City, where Arnaud and Edwige Magnier have long set the standards for cooking in the duchy with such unusual creations such as a chicken liver mousse with lobster tartare, lightly smoked and grilled Normandy scallops with miniature caramelized endives and truffle juice, fricassée of frog's legs with chicken giblets and crayfish, and cod with sausages of spinach and its own meat with horseradish purée and roast chicken juice, as well as a slightly more traditional entrecôte with béarnaise "modernized in our style."
Thierry Duhr settled in the Grand Duchy two decades ago and won a Michelin star at Le Bouquet Garni in 1995. Duhr carefully curates dishes from a set of seasonal ingredients that work together, with each individual flavor driving the dish’s overall taste while still allowing each distinct ingredient to remain discernible. Smoked Scottish salmon with beets and horseradish cream, vichyssoise with white truffles, and yellow pollock with baby shellfish and spinach are musts.
In the beginning, there was Frédy Girardet, known as "the Pope" of cuisine, who turned the town hall in Crissier, a town just outside Lausanne, into one of the world's greatest restaurants. In 1996, he retired and was succeeded, in turn, by his longtime sous-chef Philippe Rochat, who kept up the same high standards. Last year, Rochat himself retired, handing the celebrated kitchen over to his second-in-command, Benoît Violier. He obviously has a large toque to fill, but so far he seems to be doing it pretty well, with such creations as pigeon with farmhouse butter and sauternes cream, saddle of hare with juniper, lobster tail with green cabbage, and baba of old Guadeloupe rum with double Gruyère cream and vanilla. Speaking of Gruyère, the selection of French and Swiss cheeses is memorable, and the wine list (try some of the unusual Swiss selections) is first rate.
Anne-Sophie Pic's father and grandfather both earned three Michelin stars for their family restaurant in Valence, and she continues their culinary tradition with two stars of her own and maybe another one to come. Situated within the exquisite 150-year-old Beau-Rivage Palace, the light and airy 52-seat restaurant has a view of the Alps and a terrace set within a 10-acre garden. Signature dishes include recipes from Pic’s father, like sea bass with Aquitane caviar, a dish he created in 1971. Other mains featuring Pic’s light style of cooking and presentation include lake crayfish slowly roasted in butter with spring turnip, and classic Simmental beef tournedos with duck foie gras and gnocchi in mild spices.
Three-Michelin-star chef Geert Van Hecke’s De Karmeliet has been one of Belgium’s top restaurants for more than 15 years. With seasonally changing à la carte and set menus that are contemporary yet stay true to the classics, De Karmeliet is a feast for the palate. The eight-course Brugge die Scone menu includes roast giant shrimp with glazed bacon, hot chocolate, Belgian endive, and green apple, and pigeon in broth with foie gras and white beans The lighter three-course Le Plat Pays menu includes young Belgian endive with celeriac and glazed apple served with Oud Brugge cheese beignets and pheasant with green cabbage, pâté, pheasant-leg parmentier, and seasonal vegetables and fruits.
Owner-chef Sergio Herman's grandfather was an artist who ran a bistro near Oud Sluis. Granddad's daughter and son-in-law took over the place in their turn and converted it into the place to eat mussels (much appreciated and of excellent quality hereabouts). When their son Sergio took the reins in 1991, he began the process of slowly building it into one of the great restaurants of the Low Countries. Porcini "pizza," blood sausage and apple ravioli, and venison with muesli crisp or bitter chocolate sauce are the kinds of things that have won Herman three Michelin stars.
"Finesse is the message here," says chef Peter Goossens of Hof van Cleve. Every detail, from the crisp white linens to the artisanal vases and flatware, exudes individuality and character. There are three set menus, including the daily changing multi-course Market Walk menu and a seasonally changing Freshness of Nature offering. The latter might include scallops with piccalilli, cucumber, and smoked eel; langoustines with quinoa, shiitakes, and shellfish; and Flemish hare with chicory, lingonberry, and Jerusalem artichoke.
The sophisticated, handsomely appointed Bruneau had three Michelin stars for some years in the early 2000s, and there are those who can't imagine why it doesn't still (it now has one). Jean-Pierre Bruneau's cuisine is hardly cutting edge, but he crafts dishes like langoustine capaccio, celery-filled ravioli with truffles, fillet of line-caught sea bass with caviar, and wonderful old-style set pieces like fillet of beef Rossini and saddle of wild hare à l'ancienne with such precision and sense of flavor that dining here is an undeniably exciting experience.