By Erin Mosbaugh
Reblogged from: http://firstwefeast.com/travel/
Chad Koeplinger humbly identifies as a “tattoo maker.” His trade takes him all over the world, and his hunger brings him to the some of the best restaurants around. Tattooing has taken Chad—a Grand Rapids, MI native—to 70 countries. He’s tattooed on every continent. And, by our estimations, he’s also eaten at a good percentage of the globe’s Michelin-starred establishments.
Consider Chad the ink-slinging Anthony Bourdain. Fellow tattooer BJ Betts calls him “the king of $500 solo meals.” His quest for the best dining experiences is matched by only a few, and worthy of envy by all.
Crushing all pedestrian foodie dreams, here are the best meals Koeplinger’s consumed thus far in 2013, from Nepal to his new home of Napa. Be sure to follow him on Instagram (@chadkoeplinger) to fuel your food envy and inspire your next tattoo.
10. GARDEN OF DREAMS (KATHMANDU, NEPAL)
Address and phone: Kaiser Mahal, Tridevi Marg Kathmandu, Nepal (977-1-4425340) Website: gardenofdreams.org
This place isn’t so much about the food, but the setting. And the company. And a little about the food. I had dinner here one night after participating in a tattoo convention in Kathmandu, with six of my favorite people in the world, some of my very best friends. Some are food aficionados, some don’t even give a shit about food at all, seeing it as purely fuel. But man, eating this meal with these guys, in this tranquil walled garden setting in the middle of the chaos and noise that is Kathmandu, was amazing. From the fact that we pissed off some rich Nepalis that couldn’t understand why we got the seats they wanted, to the amazing corn and bacon chowder (I know, in Nepal?), it was an amazing night. Meals aren’t always all about the food, and this one in particular will forever be a reminder of that to me.
9. LA RIVE (AMSTERDAM, NETHERLANDS)
Address and phone: Professor Tulpplein 1, 1018 GX Amsterdam, Netherlands(+31 20 520 3264) Website: restaurantlarive.nl
La Rive and Dinner in London are my two favorite restaurants in the world that aren’t solely a special occasion type place. I only get to La Rive about once a year, and they remember me every time, treating me just as well, or better, than all the suit-and-tie types ding all around me. These guys love the food they make, and it shows—always interesting, always exceptional. The amuse of baby heirloom tomato—stripped of its skin, marinated for 24 hours in an “Asian sauce,” then breaded, deep-fried, candied with honey and ginger, coated with black sesame seeds, and served in a glass with ice—is one of may favorite things ever…and i generally dislike tomatoes. This thing is hot and cold, crunchy and soft, salty and sweet, with that hint of umami. It’s everything in one bite.
8. DINNER BY HESTON BLUMENTHAL (LONDON, ENGLAND)
Address and phone: 66 Knightsbridge (+44 020 7201 3833) Website: dinnerbyheston.com
I spent a month in London earlier this year, and after a chance meal here one night, I fell in love with the place. The meat fruit [a trompe l’oeil dish of chicken-liver mousse made to look like a mandarin orange], the broth of lamb with slow-cooked hens egg and sweetbreads, and especially the brown-bread ice cream, which I think about almost daily, made me go back four more times that month. I sat there alone during those four meals, loving every second of them like a kid in his room with his first issue of Hustler, not even knowing what he is looking at, just knowing that it is amazing. Brown bread ice cream!
7. FRISBY (MANIZALES, COLOMBIA)
Address and phone: Av Santander, Manizales, Caldas 1100, Colombia (+57 368756544) Website: frisby.com.co
This Colombian fried chicken chain has the best fried chicken I have had to date. Well, second best if you count the chicken stand at the flea market my Dad would take me to as a kid. Anyway, it’s perfectly seasoned with a crispy battered skin; really juicy, flavorful meat; and a sugary, honey-like sauce you can put on it—the stuff blows away everything that’s supposed to be good, and now places like Ad Hoc and the like just taste like doughy wannabes.
6. LITTLE CAESARS PIZZA PIZZA (ANYWHERE, ANY TIME. EXCEPT IN CAIRO.)
I grew up in Michigan. There were Little Caesars pizza places everywhere…like every ten blocks or so. I grew up with this pie, and it will be forever my favorite pizza: especially cold, straight out of the refrigerator. I have tried Little Caesars in several countries, all of which were great, with the burning exception of Cairo, Egypt, where it tasted like some bullshit ketchup on a cracker, almost as bad as the crap they call “St. Louis-style” pizza. Super disappointing after I happened to spot a delivery guy on a beat-up scooter with a hot box strapped to it while on my way back to my hotel from visiting the Giza pyramids and had to taxi it all over Cairo to find the place. No matter what, I will always love Little Caesars….because it’s good, not because it’s cheap.
5. SAMMY’S ROUMANIAN STEAKHOUSE (NEW YORK, NY)
Address and phone: 157 Chrystie St (212-673-0330)
This place is amazing. Fucking amazing. You could go there on the day your Mom died and have a good time. The musical stylings of the legendary Dani Luv. The jar of schmaltz (rendered chicken fat) that you pour on everything. Steaks as big as your three-year-old child, with so much garlic you breathe fire. What’s not to love? Do not forget the egg creams. They aren’t even good, but who gives a shit? If you aren’t drunk from the frozen vodka bottles and cranberry juice, you will definitely be drunk on the atmosphere. Look out for my shirt I ripped of of my body and hung on the wall last time I was there.
4. POK POK (PORTLAND, OR)
Address and phone: 3226 SE Division St, Portland, OR (503-232-1387) Website: pokpokpdx.com
Eating here took me back to eating food in Bangkok. It just looked right, smelled right, and most importantly, tasted right. If you haven’t been to Thailand and eaten the food sold on the street, you won’t know what I am saying. It’s not your typical western “Thai” restaurant menu, you don’t go there to get your pad thai. I don’t know what else to say.
3. MEADOWOOD (ST. HELENA, CA)
Address and phone: 900 Meadowood Lane, St. Helena, CA (877-963-3646) Website: meadowood.com
I had dinner here with my brother in April, and it was one of the best meals of my life, surpassed only by RyuGin, Crenn, and 41 Degrees in Barcelona. Each course was a showcase of textures, each serving a different experience—quite a feat through 11 courses. The part that made me more and more stoked every time was the way the each dish somehow echoed the flavors of the previous dish, while still having completely different ingredients each time. Nothing was repeated. It left me wanting more, and I am salivating while writing this, but I would need to sell my car to be able to afford dinner there again!
2. ATELIER CRENN (SAN FRANCISCO, CA)
Address and phone: 3127 Fillmore St (415-440-0460) Website: ateliercrenn.com
The only female in the United States with two Michelin stars, Dominique Crenn is an incredible chef. This meal was full of unexpected flavors, combinations, and some of the most beautiful and fun plating I have seen yet. The dish of grains and seeds was amazing, I am still thinking of it five months later. If you are in San Francisco and do not go, you must not really like food.
1. NIHONRYORI RYUGIN (TOKYO, JAPAN)
Address and phone: Side Roppongi 1st fl. ï¼ä¸ç®-ï¼ï¼-ï¼ï¼ Roppongi, Minato, Tokyo (+81 3-3423-8006) Website: nihonryori-ryugin.com/index_en.html
This was without any hesitation, the best meal of my life so far. The progression from a small salad of 13 winter vegetables all uniformly cut, with a dressing of pine-nut paste, and small shards of ginger on the top, all the way through to the sake soufflé with salt ice cream at the end, kept me firmly planted and completely comfortable with this being the winter season in Japan. Every course was like nothing I had ever had, but still conjured up memories and feelings of my childhood, to the point where I had tears in my eyes during the last course. Although, it could have been the 10 glasses of sake I had during dinner that had me feeling nostalgic as well!