I spent more than 26 years traveling around the world. I eaten in hundred of cities. Occasionally, I would have a truly rememorable experience. Here are four of them. I would like to start with:
Marius Degustore, Avenue Atlantica, 290. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
You walk into Marius and you would swear this is run by the guys on “American Pickers”. This place is filled, and I mean FILLED with the strangest assortment of treasures that it defies description. The collection is so huge, you can’t see the ceiling. Beautiful shells and rock crystals are on one ceiling. Another has objects as varied as a water ski next to an artillery shell. Their collection of ancient diving helmets is quite amazing. Then you sit down to eat and they ask you one question, “Meat or Seafood?” This is followed by a trip to the salad bar that seems to never end and, as you return, they bring your meat or seafood until you say “Stop!”
SO GO HUNGRY!
Service is great, but don’t be in a hurry. And did I mention the dessert buffet bar?
Newton Circus, Singapore. Any Singapore taxi driver knows where this is. If they don’t, tell them it’s just across from “Newton MRT Station”. It’s also called the Newton Food Centre. A few years ago they tried to tear this place down to build low-income housing and the outcry was so intense, they gave up. So it’s still here. The middle of the circle (circus) is over a hundred restaurants, serving every kind of food imaginable. If you seek the exotic, or are an adventurous eater (like me) this is the place for you! For instance, there’s one restaurant that only serves marrow. They boil giant bones all day, chop one it half with an axe, pour hot sauce over it and hand you a STRAW. Amazing! And you have a hundred other choices if that doesn’t fit the bill. The outside of the circle is a thousand tables, so just take your food and drink, sit out in the balmy Singapore night and eat yourself silly. No other place like it.
The Original Pantry. 877 South Figueroa at 9th, Los Angeles. If you’re from another country, another culture, and you want to know what “American Food” is, this is where I would send you. I live 400 miles away in San Francisco but come here all the time. This place opened in 1924 and has NEVER CLOSED. There isn’t even a lock in the front door. They are especially famous for breakfast. They serve a limited breakfast menu during the day, but at 3 AM until 12 noon, they serve a full breakfast. Be careful, you won’t be able to eat it all. It sit at the counter so I can watch them cook everything. I usually order two eggs scrambled (which they do by hand in front of you) with home fries and sour dough toast cooked on the grill. The toast alone is to die for. Cash only, but they made a concession a few years ago and put in an ATM machine. When you pay the bill on the way out, look at your feet on the floor. So many people stand here, your feet go right though ten layers of linoleum tile to the concrete below. I first came here in 1969, and Dewey Logan, who started it in 1924 was still at the cash register! It’s now owned by Richard Riordan, a former Mayor of LA. Truly a unique eatery.
San Angel Inn, Diego Rivera 50, at Altavista, 01060, Mexico City, Mexico DF. Built in 1692, this huge restaurant started as “Hacienda de las Goeicochea”, a Carmelite monastery. It then became a private residence for the Spanish Viceroys and Emperor Maximilian and his wife Carlota. Now it is one of the most spectacular restaurants in Mexico. They feature “International” cuisine, but I come here for classic Mexican dishes such as Escamoles (ants eggs), lucious, buttery and rich, they are amazing. They might have Huitlacoche, an Aztec delicacy, which is a special fungus that only grows on a certain Aztec corn. It’s sometimes called “black corn” to tourists, but it is closer to caviar in taste and mushrooms in consistency. Truly a unique dish. They have much more so go and try them out.