Although it's considered the gastronomic capital of South America, the complex, flavour-packed meals of Lima have never garnered the attention it deserves outside that continent. A symbiotic melding of traditional Spanish cooking with an already advanced indigenous cuisine was followed by influences from China, Italy, West Africa and Japan (Nikkei cuisine, a unique blend of Peruvian and Japanese, is just waiting to be discovered).
Lately, though, chefs such as Gastón Acurio (whose restaurants include Astrid & Gastón, La Mar and Tanta), Javier Wong (whose menuless restaurant is located in his house) and Marilú Madueño at Huaca Pucllana have started bringing the New Andean cuisine to a wider audience.
Washing down a delicious ceviche, tiradito or beef heart anticucho with a pisco sour is pretty much culinary nirvana; and the fact that you would be hard pressed to spend $100 on a meal for two puts Lima near the top of any foodie vacation wish list.
Peripatetic gourmets visiting Chicago are spoiled for choice. A typical day might start with a mortadella pie at Great Lake - the best pizza you've ever had - include a stop at Murphy's Red Hots for a foot-long and finish with carnitas at Topolabampo. Still hungry? The Porterhouse at Gibson's is a bucket list cut of beef, you won't soon forget the uni shooters at Arami, and the barbecued ribs at Robinson's will spoil you for all others. Just be sure to save room for the pork and beans at Three Aces and the ham frites at The Girl and the Goat - possibly the hottest restaurant in America right now.
That's before even considering the big new Michelin stars (three each for Alinea and L20), the futuristic gastronomy of Moto, the classic French of Everest, the modern elegance of Tru and Charlie Trotter's. Coming up, Grant Achatz of Alinea fame, opens two new places, Next and Aviary; Grahamwich (smoked whitefish with raisin chutney, anyone?) will soon take sandwiches to the next level and a street-food boom is poised for the summer.
It was big news last year when Copenhagen's Noma unseated Spain's legendary El Bulli as the best restaurant in the world at the prestigious World's 50 Best Restaurants awards. That triumph only fanned the flames of an already smoking-hot restaurant scene.
At the top of any culinary adventurer's wish list this year are such dishes as rye bread porridge with salted foie gras at Formel B, trout tartare with spelt seeds and herbs at Kodbyens Fiskebar, "slightly frozen" veal with cress and bleak roe at Restaurant AOC, and dried scallops with biodynamic cereals and beech nut at Noma.
All of this avant garde cuisine has been a boon to the region's traditional cooking, as well, and restaurants such as Madklubben, Aamanns Etablissement and Restaurant Nimb have turned smorrebrod (open-faced sandwiches), fried herring plates and frikadeller (meat balls with cabbage) into envy-inducing dishes.
London's dominance as a global culinary capital is even more surprising considering it wasn't too long ago that British food was shorthand for heinous. Today, a hungry visitor would be able to eat in some of the best Italian, Indian, Chinese, French (that's right), Japanese and, of course, British restaurants in the world.
The gastro-metamorphosis shows no sign of slowing. In 2011, Fergus Henderson, the man who reinvented nose-to-tail eating, will open St. John Hotel; former Gordon Ramsay protégé and now nemesis Marcus Wareing opens The Gilbert Scott; Lee Streeton, who once ran the kitchen at the Ivy, opens The Capability; Wolfgang Puck will bring a bit of sunny California to foggy London with Cut; and molecular whiz Heston Blumenthal opens the year's most anticipated restaurant, Dinner. And those are only the hotel restaurants. A culinary laughing stock no longer, London is now simply the best food city on Earth.
The driving force behind Singapore's culinary explosion is the construction of massive, multibillion-dollar gambling complexes. The first mega casino, Resorts World Sentosa, which opened earlier this year, attracted the likes of Joel Robuchon, Susur Lee, Kunio Tokuoka and Australia's Scott Webster. Not to be outdone, the Marina Bay Sands enlisted its own coterie of culinary heavy hitters: Wolfgang Puck, Guy Savoy, Tetsuya Wakuda and Santi Santamaria so far, with Mario Batali and Daniel Boulud soon to open.
Beyond the dream teams of mega chefs, Singapore's homegrown food scene - with its unique blend of Chinese, Indian, Malay and Indonesian cuisine - is reason enough to visit. Among the city state's thousands of brilliant "hawker" food-court chefs, with their spicy laksa soups, sublime Hainanese chicken rice, complex chili crabs, and fragrant prawn noodles, there are hundreds of unsung chefs just waiting to be discovered.
Special to The Globe and Mail