100 Very Best Restaurants 2014: Minibar

No. 2 on this year's list
Photograph by Scott Suchman.

At $250 per person (before alcohol), José Andrés’s Penn Quarter culinary lab—with 12 seats surrounding an intensely focused kitchen—is among the most expensive restaurants in the world. Yet as you make your way through the thrilling 25 to 30 courses, you’re constantly reminded how few chefs have the creative capacity and technical wizardry to make food that’s at once perspective-altering and delicious. Bite the head off a meringue “rubber ducky” and a burst of ice-cold foie gras envelops your tongue. A tempura-fried sea bean invokes the lushness of a tropical island. A liquefied Marcona almond, frozen and stuffed with blue cheese, pays homage to an iconic Spanish tapa.

If you go, go all out—wine pairings, which begin at $75 per person, elevate the experience and showcase the skills of the exceptional service team. If you want to marvel at the place on the (relatively) cheap, book a table at the adjacent Barmini, where 15-minute cocktails complement such snacks as uni panini. Open: Tuesday through Saturday for dinner. Don’t miss: Parmesan canalé; chicken shawarma; Vietnamese pig ears; chocolate doughnuts; mezcal-flavored gummy bears.

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