Michelin Star Archives - Please The Palate
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Seeking out memorable meals is something that pleases my palate. So, after an amazing week in southern Italy, which included winery visits, historical tours and a boat trip down the Amalfi coast, I capped off the week with a meal in Sorrento at Il Buco, considered one of the best restaurants in Sorrento. Located in the heart of Sorrento, near the sea, Il Buco has been serving food worthy its Michelin Star. Open for more than 20 years, Il Buco has held its Michelin Star for 14 years! I arrived for my 8pm reservation and was taken down a few steps into the the dining room which used to be the wine cellar of an old monastery. My table was waiting for me, set for one person. Unlike in some restaurants where I am given a funny look when I ask for a table for one, the staff at Il Buco made me feel welcome immediately.  I was offered an aperitivo of sparkling wine or a cocktail but decided to pass as had read about the large curated wine cellar and was planning to do a wine pairing. Before I was given the menu, I was presented with an amuse of marinated anchovy with tomatoes and sliced toasted almonds. The sweet fresh tomato against the salty fish woke up my palate and the toasted almonds added a nice touch.
With only two days in Lisbon, my friend and I were looking to pack in as much as we could. She emailed me asking if one of our activities might be to have dinner at Belcanto, a two-star Michelin restaurant. The 2019 Michelin Stars had just been announced and Portugal has twenty-six Michelin starred restaurants, twenty which have one star and six which have two stars. Belcanto had yet again received two stars. I knew it might be a bit of a splurge but I could not say no. Of course, the challenge would be getting a reservation. We were only two weeks away from going on our trip and the website only had an email address on it. I reached out to a friend of mine in Lisbon who works for the elegant Palacio Estoril Hotel and thought he might be able to find their phone number and call from the same time zone. The next day, I had an email from him telling me that the restaurant was completely booked BUT he was able to get us a seat at the Chef's Table. We would experience a tasting menu with wine pairing. We immediately booked the reservation. Belcanto is owned by celebrity chef José Avillez. Avillez has worked with gastronomic superstars Ferran Adria, Eric Frechon and Alain Ducasse, as well as received his first Michelin star at Taveres, Lisbon's oldest and grandest restaurant. Avillez took over Belcanto in 2012. An award-winning restaurant since 1958, Belcanto had been a late night gathering place for artists and opera patrons who frequented the nearby St. Charles theater, as well as a “gentleman’s club” where dancing girls performed on a small stage. Avillez renovated it into a subtle and sophisticated intimate restaurant with only 36 seats.
A few months ago, I was driving from Sonoma to Monterey when a friend called to see if I wanted to join him and some friends for dinner in San Francisco. He mentioned that it was a hard-to-get reservation and they had someone drop out last minute. I took a detour on my drive and went into the city to have dinner at Al's Place. Sadly, I came down with a 24-hour bug that same night and could not eat a single bite. I sat there at dinner, wishing but unable to eat and missing out on what Bon Appetit Magzine called "the country's best new restaurant" and a 2016 recipient of One Michelin Star. Al's Place Months later, on another trip to San Francisco, my friend was able to get a reservation so that I could actually try the food. Al's Place is located in the Mission and is a simple, but bright, space with approximately 50 seats and an open kitchen in the back. The staff is young, friendly and very knowledgeable, both about the food and the wine. Al's Place
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