From The Daily Meal's list of the 101 Best Restaurants in America for 2012, here are the top experimental restaurants in America that were chosen and nominated by our illustrious panel of judges and The Daily Meal's editors.
In an industry as complex and multifaceted as the culinary business, infinite cuisines, artistic styles, and business savvy come together to create a highly fickle and competitive scene. And in a world so affected by trends and popularity, it can be difficult to distinguish the true trailblazers. But the chefs and restaurateurs behind the restaurants on this list are the real deal.
The cuisine served at these restaurants is considered experimental because it's conceptualized and presented in a way that encourages diners to reconsider their notions about the dishes they're eating. Some use cutting-edge ingredients and methods to create versions of classic items, like the deconstructed Caesar salad at The Bazaar, and others use varying textures and temperatures to evoke a novel dining experience, like the signature hot potato/cold potato at Alinea.
Take a look through this collection of the best experimental restaurants in America and then head over to the complete 101 list to see those restaurants The Daily Meal deemed the best of 2012.
10. Corton - New York City
Credit & Melissa Hom
Located in Tribeca, Corton's nine-course tasting menu is full of surprises - crystallized violets, coffee grinds in beef dishes, sansho pepper, and more. Chef Paul Liebrandt, the subject of HBO documentary A Matter of Taste, and his outpost recently made the top 10 of best restaurants named by GQ magazine.
9. Hugo's - Portland, Maine
Credit & Flickr/dlge
Right in the heart of Portland, Maine, it's no surprise James Beard-winner chef Rob Evans and his wife Nancy Pugh hit the money with its local seafood fare. Serving dishes like Winter Point Oysters paired with nori, dulse, and pickled seaweed and slow-poached Arctic Char, the tasting and dinner menus are meant to be paired with the impressive list of cocktails at Hugo's.
8. Baume Restaurant Pao Alto, Calif.
Credit & Flickr/hybrid_graphix
Bruno Chemel's macrobiotic experiment, Baume, is named after the French chemist Antoine Baume - appropriate for a French cuisine moderne approach. The 12-course custom tasting menu incorporates unique ingredients like dehydrated "sand" made of apples, 62-degree eggs, and parchment sheets made of acorn. The restaurant earned its second Michelin star this year.
7. E by Jose Andres - Las Vegas
Credit & Flickr/jmh's random shots
The third restaurant on this list from Jose Andres, this Las Vegas version of Minibar is located in The Cosmopolitan Hotel, alongside his Chinese-Mexican fusion restaurant, China Poblano and tapas restaurant, Jaleo. With only eight seats in the space, which is also housed inside Jaleo, this mysterious venue can be rented out for two nightly seatings. The experience costs $3,000 for an all-inclusive 15-course tasting menu.