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Around the world in 18 fave restaurants

Churros and grilled bone marrow of Street XO Photos by Cheryl Tiu

A guide to the author’s favorite restaurant discoveries in Madrid, London, Addis Ababa, Hong Kong, Singapore And Seattle

Sometimes when people ask me where I’ve been this year, I blank out. I know which countries I’ve been to, of course, but I tend to forget when, or which year I was there. It’s only when I look at my digital folders — it’s so important now to label the places and dates, I tell you! — or Instagram — if you haven’t already, I highly encourage you to start a hashtag to monitor your travels; mine is #cheryltiutravels — that I’m jolted back to where I was, how many times I was in that country this year, where I ate, who I saw, where I stayed, etc. (It’s not an exaggeration; in this day and age when you’re bombarded with so much information, sometimes you forget the details of your own life, so chronicling is very important.)

In 2015, I’ve been very fortunate to have traveled around Asia (Singapore and Hong Kong multiple times, and Guangzhou in China), to North America (Washington, USA), to Europe (Spain, the UK, Ireland), to Africa (Ethiopia). It’s been a little bit of a whirlwind, yes, because all my trips were very short — the longest I’ve been in another continent is a week, and the shortest two days — but I’m grateful for every single experience.

While in these countries, I spend whatever free time I have exploring or trying out new restaurants or bars. From casual to fine dining, sit-down to takeaway, I’ve put together some of my favorite finds for your next visit.

 

 

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Madrid, Spain

1) Street XO

David Muñoz’s DiverXO became the most sought-after reservation in Madrid ever since it was awarded three Michelin stars in November 2013. (Prior to this, it had been nearly two decades since there had been a three-Michelin-star restaurant in Madrid.) If you can’t get a table there, his casual eatery StreetXO is the next best thing. Located on the top floor of department store Corte Ingles de Serrano, it features dishes that mix Spanish and Asian flavors in a loud, slightly chaotic-busy space. Churros and grilled bone marrow? Why not? Peking dumplings with crunchy pig’s ears and strawberry-hoisin sauce? Amazing. StreetXO is fusion, unorthodox, sometimes irreverent and absolutely memorable.

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Calle de Serrano, 52, 28001 Madrid; +34 915 31 98 84

2) Mercado San Miguel

Yes, it’s a tourist destination but Mercado offers a large selection of Spanish tapas, all under one very hygienic roof. My favorite Spanish dish ever, gulas, is a steal here for only six euros a bowl. It can even be had in a tortilla, stuffed with salmon. Plus, don’t forget the copious amounts of tinto reserva or vermouth at any time of the day.

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Plaza San Miguel, 28005 Madrid; +34 915 42 49 36; mercadodesanmiguel.es

3) Platea

Platea was a former theater converted into a multi-level food court that’s become a popular food and nightlife destination. It features fare by Michelin-starred chefs Paco Roncero (La Terraza del Casino, Madrid), Pepe Solla (Solla, Galicia), Marcos Morán (Casa Gerardo, Asturias) and Ramón Freixa (Ramón Freixa) for a steal. Tacos at Mexican joint Beso de Sal and Peruvian ceviche at Kinua are crowd favorites.  On the weekends, it houses performances like live bands, cabarets and aerial acrobatics.

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Calle de Goya, 5-7, 28001 Madrid; +34 915 77 00 25; info@plateamadrid.com; plateamadrid.com

4) Asador Cristobal

“The best cordero de leche (baby lamb) in Madrid,” reads a review on TripAdvisor. It could not have been a more accurate description. Introduced to us by Department of Agriculture Undersecretary Berna Romulo-Puyat, the moment my companions and I sank our teeth into the roasted baby lamb, we all gasped, “OMG!” (not an exaggeration) at how perfectly crispy the skin was, and how juicy and tender the meat was, especially drizzled with its own drippings. Do order a glass or pitcher of red wine, though, to cut through the fat or you will be rolling home, slightly delirious.

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C/ Pinos Alta 23, Madrid; +34 913 15 74 74; info@asadorcristobal.com; asadorcristobal.com

London, United Kingdom

5) Dinner by Heston

The restaurant that celebrates British gastronomy has Dorset-born Ashley Palmer-Watts at the helm of its kitchen. Dishes from as far back as the 1300s are resurrected using present-day sustainably farmed ingredients cooked in modern techniques. My favorite dish is also its most famous and most photographed — the Meat Fruit from 13th to 15th century — a silky-smooth chicken liver parfait enclosed in a delicate skin of mandarin jelly. Trivia: The reason it is encased in mandarin is because Dinner by Heston is located at the Mandarin Oriental! It was awarded the seventh best restaurant in the world at the 2015 World’s 50 Best Restaurants, and has been one of my most enjoyable meals to date.

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Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park, 66 Knightsbridge, London SW1X 7LA; +44 20 7201 3833; molon-dinnerhb@mohg.com; dinnerbyheston.com

6) The Palomar

This modern Israeli restaurant has been described as “West End’s most unlikely bar-restaurant at the moment,” by Time Out London. Hip and vibrant, the menu is best described as “Israeli tapas,” with flavor combinations and presentation I’d not seen previously, even during my visit to Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. I especially enjoyed the Cornfed Chicken cooked two ways — fried in buttermilk and “stroganoffed” with a variety of spices and served with tender-stem broccoli and freekeh.

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34 Rupert Street, London W1D 6DN; +44 207 439 8777; reservations@thepalomar.co.uk; thepalomar.co.uk

7) Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen

Pop Brixton is reformed shipping containers converted into unique food stalls and neighborhood eateries and has been dubbed “south London’s newest foodie hotspot” by Time Out London. But what’s more remarkable is that it isn’t just a hipster hangout but also “a container community with a conscience.” Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen, a food event that “creates a look and feel from its Ghanaian roots that merges with a contemporary dining experience,” is the restaurant you need to check out there. Flavorful suya-style beef wrap (rump beef kebabs marinated in a peanut-spice that’s available in both Ghana and Nigeria) was washed down with some Star Nigerian beer. We already knew that it was “Ghana Be Tasty,” and it was!

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49 Brixton Station Rd, London SW9 8PQ; 44 7494 746907; ghanakitchen@gmail.com; zoesghanakitchen.co.uk

8) Taberna do Mercado

When I was in London, Nuno Mendes was on the cover of every magazine I came across, from British Airways’ to FT Weekend. It was because the chef behind Chiltern Firehouse had just opened a new restaurant, Taberna do Mercado, this time heralding his Portuguese roots, his “coming home.” It’s simple, rather inexpensive (for London standards) spotlighting classic ingredients on small plates. I enjoyed the pork tartare from Bisaro pig (a chestnut-eating Portuguese pig) served in a cocido broth, which to me, as a Pinay, was slightly reminiscent of a flavorful boiled sisig. They have a great Portuguese wine selection, too.

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Old Spitalfields Market, 107b Commercial Street, London E1, +44 207375 0649; lunch@tabernamercado.co.uk; tabernamercado.co.uk

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

9) Yod Abyssinia

Yod Abyssinia is always top of mind whenever “Where to eat in Addis Ababa” becomes the topic of conversation. There is a nightly cultural performance showcasing dances from the different parts of Ethiopia, but before you wave it off as being touristy — yes, it is popular with both tourists and locals — Yod has possibly the best quality and largest selection of Ethiopian cuisine from all parts of the country. Tej (Ethiopian honey wine) is readily available here so don’t forget to have it with your injera and wot (stew). If you need to pick only one restaurant to eat at while you are in Addis, make it this one. It’s a full cultural immersion.

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Bole Medhaniyalem Area, Addis Ababa; +251 116 612 985, info@yodethiopia.com; yodethiopia.com

10) Kategna

An Ethiopian restaurant favored by locals, it has an extensive menu that’s reasonably priced. Tibs (grilled meats with onions and peppers), doro wot (spicy chicken stew), kitfo (Ethiopian steak tartare) are some of the offerings at this relaxed neighborhood joint that’s often packed for lunch or dinner.

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Located in front of Medhanialem Church, Bole, Addis Ababa; +251 911 969 716

11) Tsige

This hole-in-the-wall serves the best shiro wot (chickpea stew) and bayanetu (vegetarian sampler) in town — in a no-frills space with low tables and chairs, and grass on the floor. The shiro is so good, thick and rich, that you won’t want to eat anything else. (I need to disclose, though, that the toilet is squat so hold up on those liquids!)

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Located on the street directly behind Bole-Medhanialem church, a few doors down from La Mandoline and La Parisienne

Singapore

12) Labyrinth

Chef Han Liguang is pushing boundaries by creating progressive Singaporean cuisine that remains faithful to his country’s heritage and flavors. The former banker from Citibank and Goldman Sachs serves laksa as a hot-and-cold dish of coconut jelly noodles on curry soup dehydrated into powder form. Hainanese Chicken is molded into “rocks” made out of chicken mousseline and potatoes, “grass” made out of coriander sponge, “twigs” made out of potato skins and a soft-boiled quail egg on a curry quinoa risotto. Chef Han’s patriotism can be felt in every dish on the tasting menu, and I highly recommend Labyrinth to open-minded patrons game to leave their comfort zones and challenge their minds and palates.

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8 Raffles Avenue, #02-23 Esplanade Mall, Singapore 039802; +65 6223 4098; info@labyrinth.com.sg; labyrinth.com.sg

13) Corner House

Corner House is situated in a stunning two-story black-and-white bungalow built in 1910 within the lush greenery of the Singapore Botanical Gardens. Here, chef Jason Tan dexterously wields French techniques on fresh produce, creating a cuisine he describes as “gastro-botanica,” where botanicals (seasonality, provenance and terroir) are given prominence.  His signature dish, the Cevennes Onion (Oignon doux des Cevennes), turns the humble vegetable into four ingenious ways: an oven-baked whole onion with 62-degree sous-vide egg, onion confit and black truffles; a wafer-thin onion tart; a crispy onion chip; and a soothing onion tea, made of an infusion of caramelized onion with Earl Gray YinZhen tea. It’s a beautiful, special-occasions type of place, from date nights to anniversaries to birthdays to graduations.

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1 Cluny Road, Nassim Gate, Singapore Botanic Gardens, E J H Corner House Singapore 259569;  +65 6469 1000; enquiries@cornerhouse.com.sg; cornerhouse.com.sg

14) Cure

Chef Andrew Walsh first caught our attention when he was working the kitchen at Jason Atherton’s Esquina. A few months ago, he opened his own place called Cure — a “bistronomy” that serves fresh produce in set menus, which change on the fifth of each month. Here, he showcases his Irish roots and brings in produce from his native Ireland like lamb from Wicklow Mountain and oysters from Galway Bay, with each dish using no more than four to five ingredients. SG $1 is added to the bill to benefit the movement he initiated called Hospitality Against Hunger, in partnership with local charity Food Bank Singapore, which distributes food to the less fortunate.

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21 Keong Saik Road, Outram, Singapore 089128; +65 6221 2189; reserve@curesingapore.com; curesingapore.com

Hong Kong

15) Ho Lee Fook

Ho Lee Fook… say it again but as you would in English (don’t mind the Chinese spelling!) That’s the reaction you’re meant to elicit at this popular restaurant that serves great modern Chinese fare like cauliflower and Brussels sprouts with maple bacon chili jam, Mom’s cabbage and pork dumplings, and Wagyu beef ribs with jalapeño puree and green shallots kimchi in a hip basement dining space. OK, fine, Ho Lee Fook translates to “good fortune in your mouth” — what were you thinking?!

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1 Elgin Street, Central, Hong Kong; +852 2810 0860; info@holeefook.com.hk; holeefookhk.tumblr.com

16) Grassroots Pantry

Grassroots Pantry just moved from their previous Sai Ying Pun to a larger space on Hollywood Road in Sheung Wan. Known for advocating local, farm-to-table and sustainable food practices, serving fresh, organic, unprocessed, plant-based ingredients, the restaurant has become a favorite for vegetarians, those with dietary restrictions, or want to eat healthy. But even if you are none of the above, I guarantee an enjoyable meal here. I particularly enjoyed the gyozas made from tapioca-teff wrappers, mushroom tempeh rendang, and the kelp noodle salad, served with satay hedgehog mushroom, spring rolls and konbu vinaigrette.

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108 Hollywood Road, Sheung Wan, Hong Kong; +852 2873 3353; info@grassrootspantry.com; grassrootspantry.com

17) Carbone

At Carbone, I felt like I was on the set of The Grand Budapest Hotel, with a dining room decked in leather and brass, evoking the feel of the mid-20th century. (Zac Posen designed the staff’s uniforms of neatly pressed tuxedos.) The classic New York-Italian dishes are delicious and good for sharing, from paper-thin melt-in-your-mouth Wagyu beef carpaccio (with black truffle and hazelnuts!) to their popular spicy vodka rigatoni to the lemon cheesecake with the best crust ever. Come hungry and as a group, so you can share!

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9/F, LKF Tower, 33 Wyndham St, Central, Hong Kong; +852 2593 2593; carbone.com.hk

Seattle, Washington, Usa

18) Piroshky, Piroshky, Pike Place Market

I was in Seattle — and America — for only 48 hours and my only food agenda was to try piroshkies — Russian handheld pies filled with meat or vegetables — from Piroshky Piroshky at Pike Place Market. In Russia, they are usually fried; here they are baked, and they go straight from the oven to your hands. I had the beef and cheese; and mushroom, onion and celery, and both were piping-hot delicious! Even at their opening hour of 8 a.m., there was quite a queue as it’s a great breakfast, snack, lunch or dinner on-the-go.

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Pike Place Market, 1908 Pike Pl, Seattle, WA 98101; +1 206 441 6068; piroshkybakery.com

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You can reach me at inbetweendeadlines@gmail.com, on my blog www.cheryltiu.com, on Twitter at www.twitter.com/cheryltiu or on Instagram at www.instagram.com/chertiu.

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