They are all over the country, but here are some of my top picks if you are looking for fine dining in any of the following cities:
- Chinois on Main (Santa Monica) -- this is the original although there is one in Vegas. Asian and French fusion done in a marvelous way. I used to eat there 1-4 times per month when I lived in Venice and the food was consistently elegant. My favorite dishes are the Rock Shrimp and Calamari Salad (this is usually a special, it's not on the menu) and the Szechuan Beef. Pick of the wine list is the 1997 Beaulieu Vineyards Georges de Latour cabernet if you are lucky enough to be there when I have not consumed their entire stock. I go to Chinois every time I am in LA (even if it's only for a day) and it is my number one pick of this entire list.
- Mastro's Steakhouse (Beverly Hills) -- In my opinion, it's the best steak in Los Angeles. Make sure that you ask for a table upstairs when you make reservations and arrive early so you can spend some time at the bar before they seat you. The wine list is excellent and there's not a bad cut of meat in the place. If you are looking for my recommendation, get a filet medium rare and be sure to ask for the sauteed blue cheese on the side (I don't think the sauteed blue cheese is on the menu, but it's the only steakhouse I've found that makes it).
- Del Frisco's (Greenwood Village) -- The best steak in Denver, hands-down. Although it's located 15-20 minutes South of downtown Denver, the drive is certainly worth it. Be sure to start out with the shrimp simpler platter, they can customize the number of shrimp to the number in your party so that each person gets at least 1 shrimp with each of the 3 flavors. Get the filet with the peppercorn sauce on the side and the chateau potatoes are excellent. I'm not a bid spinach fan, but the creamed spinach here is about the only spinach that I will eat. The wine list is spectacular.
- The Fort (Morrison) -- Located up in the foothills, The Fort serves some of the best wild game in the state. The views are spectacular, there's a fire pit to sit around and enjoy after-dinner drinks, and the menu allows you to be adventurous. I highly reccommend the elk steak and, of course, if you have never had them before, the meu does feature Rocky Mountain Oysters.
- Sweet Basil (Vail) -- It is definitely worth the drive; it is the first-class menu at a first class resort. One of the best wine menus in the state and a consistently excellent menu. I like both the rack of lamb and the double-cut pork chop.
- Graycliff Restaurant (Nassau) -- A $20 million wine cellar to start off with. Amazing food, dry-aged beef, hand-rolled cigars on the premises. It's hard to find anything specific to comment on because everything is so good. I can tell you that the Caesar dressing is famous (find the recipe here). If you have the means and the credit limit, there is a private table located in the center of the wine cellar and if you are really lucky, you may be able to convince the manager to take you on a tour of the cellars and show you the oldest registered bottle of wine in the world.
- Bob's Steak and Chop House (Dallas) -- In a place where steak is a way of life, it's hard to find the best, but Bob's is definitely one of the best. Call early for reservations as the place is packed almost every night. All of the meat is simply outstanding.
- The Plantation Club (Hamilton Parrish) -- Bring your blue blazer and tie, but you can get away with wearing your linen shorts and knee socks. The menu is spectacular, the wine list is great, and the fresh seafood is incredible.
I'll add more to the list over time and I would be happy to provide my recommendations for any specific cities or places if you want to e-mail me or leave a comment; I haven't been everywhere, but I'm happy to help if I know anything.
Happy holiday eating!