December 6, 2022


Qualified food specialists

Five of Anthony Bourdain’s favourite food destinations | Food and drink

5 min read

From kebabs and sausages devoured after a night of boozing to ease the blow of tomorrow morning’s hangover, to spicy noodles, grilled birds and fish. From complex braises and soups and stews whose particular flavour profiles tell their own stories, to the classics of French cuisine ancienne – Anthony Bourdain ate it all, and made it his mission to share it with the world.

Whether you’ve been to every place he explored or never even owned a passport, it remains a joy to see the world through his hysterical and sometimes profane lens. What he left behind, and what you’ll find in World Travel, was a 20-year history and road map of how to be a happy, mindful, curious and well-fed traveller.

Happy Paradise, Hong Kong

Shrimps at Happy Paradise, Hong Kong

Tony (as he preferred to be called) went to Hong Kong at the start of his television adventure, and returned often. As he said in a mid-career episode of No Reservations, “I’m constantly asked, ‘What’s the greatest food city in the world?’ And I always say that no one can say you’re wrong if you say Hong Kong.”

He loved the roast goose and pork, the seafood and the homey, comforting classics of the city’s dai pai dong (outdoor food stall) restaurants. He loved the electric night markets and street food, as well as its fine dining.

And, on his last visit there, in 2018, he was enamoured with Happy Paradise, owned and operated by chef May Chow, whose cooking is hyper-modern and steeped in Cantonese tradition. He took particular note of the sautéed prawns with pan-roasted pumpkin, dried shrimp roe, and prawn oil (tossed with fresh egg noodles in their current menu incarnation); medium-rare tea-smoked pigeon, Hakka-style yellow wine chicken served with oyster mushroom fried rice and chrysanthemum butter, “all of it truly, stunningly delicious”.
Main dishes about HK$250 (£23); set menus HK$480-$680HK,

Restaurant Paul Bocuse, Lyon

French chef Gilles Reinhardt (C) prepares frog legs in the Restaurant of Paul Bocuse
Photograph: Jeff Pachoud/AFP/Getty Images

The gloriously tradition-bound culinary culture of Lyon held a decades-long fascination for Tony. He visited the city, in the company of chef (and native son) Daniel Boulud, in 2014, eating well at every stop, which included an elementary school cafeteria, bouchons and bistros, a private hunting cabin, and one of the temples of Lyonnaise haute cuisine, Restaurant Paul Bocuse.

In the company of the late chef himself, he enjoyed a menu of classics, including black truffle soup VGE (named for former French president Valéry Giscard d’Estaing), whole seabass baked in a decorative crust with sauce Choron, and “the legendary lièvre à la royale,” a dish of slowly-cooked wild hare “coated by a sauce of its own minced heart, liver and lungs, that has been thickened with its own blood … the rich glorious sauce finished with truffles and chartreuse … absolutely the Lost Ark of the Covenant of cuisine ancienne.”
Main around €80euros (£70), set menus from €180,

Bún Bò Huế Kim Chau, Huế, Vietnam

Tucking into bowls of bún bò Huế in Vietnam.
Tucking into bowls of bún bò Huế in Vietnam. Photograph: Mint Images Limited/Alamy

It took more than a decade of non-stop world travel, with many return visits to Vietnam, for Tony to finally make it to Huế, in the central region. Once the seat of imperial power for the Nguyễn dynasty, Huế remains a centre of Vietnamese intellectual, cultural, religious and culinary importance. While Huế’s cuisine is characterised by small, delicate and visually striking presentations of steamed rice cakes and crepes stuffed with shrimp, pork and vegetables, the dish that stole Tony’s heart was the lusty bún bò Huế soup, specifically that served at Bún Bò Huế Kim Chau, in Dong Ba market.

“In the hierarchy of delicious, slurpy stuff in a bowl, bún bò Huế is at the very top,” he said, while perched on a stool, enjoying a taste in the morning humidity. “An elaborate broth of mixed bones scented with lemongrass, spice, and fermented shrimp paste … rice noodles heaped with tender, slow-cooked beef shank, crabmeat dumplings, pig’s foot, and huyet-blood cake. Garnished with lime wedge, cilantro, green onions, chilli sauce, shredded banana blossoms, and mung bean sprouts … the greatest soup in the world … as sophisticated and complex a bowl of food as any French restaurant. It really is just the top of the mountain.”
Bún Bò Huế Kim Chau at Dong Ba Market; bowl of bún bò Huế about VND50,000 (£1.55),

Ganbara, San Sebastián

San Sebastian,Spain:Pintxo bar/restaurant Ganbara in the old town Parte Vieja.
Photograph: Alamy Stock Photo

“We could make the argument,” said Tony, in an episode of Parts Unknown, “that there’s no better place to eat in Europe than the city of San Sebastián. There are more Michelin-starred restaurants per capita than anywhere on Earth. But even the everyday joints are superb. The love of food, the insistence on the very best ingredients, is fundamental to the culture, and to life here.”

“I come here every time, like a heat-seeking missile,” Tony said about Ganbara, the pintxos bar first introduced to him by Juan Mari and Elena Arzak, whom he considered a kind of second family. In a reverie that casts aside his reputation for always seeking out the new and obscure, Tony said about the place, “The house specialty, what they’re most famous for, is the be-all and end-all for me: seared wild mushrooms and foie gras with a raw egg yolk over the top, to sizzle and commingle with the hot fungi.”
Pintxos from €9-€20 (£7.80-£17 each); typical meal about €57,

Pastrami Queen, New York

Pastrami Queen, 1125 Lexington Ave, New York, NY. exterior storefront of a kosher jewish deli on the Upper East Side of Manhattan
Photograph: Robert K Chin/Alamy

Arguably the culinary capital of the US, New York offers an awful lot of just about every type of food in the world, much of it made by people only recently arrived from everywhere else on the planet. A feature could be made from the places that Tony adored in New York, but for our purposes, let’s focus on the endemically New York pleasure of Pastrami Queen, on the Upper East and West Sides of Manhattan.

When it comes to kosher-style dining, Katz’s Deli and Barney Greengrass may be more famous and have a deeper history and lore in New York, but when speaking to Variety magazine about his home town favourites in 2017, Tony said, “The first thing I get when I’m back in New York is a pastrami sandwich. Pastrami Queen is a really good pastrami sandwich – if not the best, among the very best. Just a good, nice mix of fat and lean. It’s the real deal, served warm on fresh, soft rye bread with the right kind of mustard … It’s a quintessential New York meal for me.”
Pastrami sandwich with mustard, Russian dressing and two pickles, $22 (£16),

Laurie Woolever is the co-author of World Travel: An Irreverent Guide (Bloomsbury, £18.99)

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