Early this year, our roving critic, Besha Rodell, once again set off on what was to be a round-the-world research trip in search of the restaurants that best capture the spirit of their communities—the second annual World’s Best Restaurants from Travel + Leisure and Food & Wine. She explored Australia and New Zealand, Latin America, and the Caribbean, and had just begun her U.S. tasting tour when the situation began to escalate and it was time to send her home.
Still, with the global hospitality industry in crisis, it seemed more important than ever to recognize the chefs and restaurateurs doing incredible work around the world. When international travel returns to normal, we’ll resume scouting out spots around the globe and unveil the complete lineup of winners. For now, the restaurants below represent the first portion of this year’s World’s Best Restaurants list—we can’t wait to bring you the rest.
Momofuku Seiōbo (Sydney, Australia)
In many ways, Momofuku Seiōbo is antithetical to the mission of the WBR list, which is to shine a light on restaurants that express the culture of their locations. This is a slick and darkly moody Caribbean restaurant owned by an American restaurant group, bumping reggae in the back hallway of a hulking casino in Sydney, Australia. But rules are meant to be broken. Chef Paul Carmichael, who is originally from Barbados, approaches the food of his homeland with lyricism, specificity, and an unwavering dedication to deliciousness. Carmichael has worked extensively in Puerto Rico and New York City, and did his senior thesis at the Culinary Institute of America on the food and history of the Caribbean. Cou cou, the unofficial national dish of Barbados, is made here with fresh corn and sterling caviar rather than the traditional cornmeal and flying fish roe, giving it a sweet and salty elegance. If you look closely, Momofuku Seiobo does reveal things about its location, in the riotously beautiful Australian produce used by Carmichael. Intensely flavored sea urchin is sandwiched between impossibly thin, crisp cassava chips. Marron—the seasonal Australian freshwater shellfish that’s like lobster but better—is smothered in a bright sofrito. This is undeniably one of the best restaurants in the world, and Carmichael deserves all the recognition afforded his famous boss and possibly more. seiobo.momofuku.com