It’s Official: Atomix Is Still North America’s Top Restaurant

New York’s Atomix, with its focus on taking Korean food into the stratosphere of fine dining, retained its top spot on the North America list, while Barcelona’s Disfrutar scored the No. 1 spot on the World's 50 Best Restaurants list.

JP and Ellia Park’s Atomix retained its No. 1 spot on the North America list. Camila Almeida

The annual World’s 50 Best Restaurants ceremony is about honoring the avant-garde and celebrating those who ignore boundaries and create their own genres. It’s about making grand and important statements, like declaring that North America’s best restaurant is run by a forward-thinking Korean couple.

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But the list, based on the votes of 1,080 “international restaurant industry experts and well-travelled gourmets who make up The World’s 50 Best Restaurants Academy,” is also about honoring the old guard and telling stories about legacies. So things got especially interesting at this year’s ceremony at Wynn Las Vegas around 10 p.m. on Wednesday, June 5, when Rasmus Munk’s Alchemist restaurant in Copenhagen was named No. 8. 

Alchemist, which opened in 2019, is a multisensory high-tech experience with up to 50 courses (known as “impressions”) that weave together art and science and pure imagination. Last year, Alchemist was No. 5 on the list. This year, it was considered a serious contender for the top spot. But as things turn out, Alchemist might seem too much like the future for some voters in 2024.

Oriol Castro, Eduard Xatruch and Mateu Casaña’s Barcelona restaurant Disfrutar scored the top spot on the World’s 50 Best list.

And the No. 1 pick for the World’s Best, which many found simultaneously deserving and predictable, was Barcelona’s Disfrutar, from El Bulli veterans Oriol Castro, Eduard Xatruch and Mateu Casaña. El Bulli, of course, was the pioneering Ferran Adrià restaurant that was named No. 1 an unprecedented five times in the early aughts. Many still consider this pioneering molecular-gastronomy destination the most avant-garde restaurant, ever. So a vote for Disfrutar over Alchemist isn’t exactly like rejecting AI and writing things down with a notepad. But Adrià’s legacy continues to hover over the World’s 50 Best.

Meanwhile, Observer ran into Atomix’s Ellia Park at Wynn’s Tower Suites salon on Wednesday morning. She admitted that she was quite nervous about how things would play out for her and her husband, chef JP Park, that night. The year before, New York’s Atomix, with its focus on taking Korean food into the stratosphere of fine dining, had risen 25 spots to No. 8. As it turns out, the Parks had nothing to worry about this week. Atomix rose to No. 6 on the World’s Best list and retained its status as North America’s top restaurant. The only other United States restaurant in the top 50 was 46th-ranked SingleThread, Kyle and Katina Connaughton’s Healdsburg, CA, restaurant that deeply weaves the idea of omotenashi (mindful Japanese hospitality) into its tasting menus.

Kyle and Katina Connaughton’s SingleThread was the only other U.S. restaurant, aside from Atomix, on the World’s 50 Best list.

Thursday night (June 6) should feel like a celebration, with JP Park and Kyle Connaughton cooking at a dinner during Wynn’s new Revelry food festival alongside icons including Thomas Keller, Dominique Crenn and Daniel Humm (who all presented awards on Wednesday). When Observer spoke to Ellia on Wednesday morning, JP was getting things sorted for the Revelry dinner. That’s how it works at the highest level of hospitality. You endure one of your more stressful days and are rewarded with a reason to celebrate like never before. But then it’s time to cook again.

The World’s 50 Best happening in Las Vegas was a chance for many of the country’s most prolific chefs and restaurant operators, including José Andrés (who cooked with his friend Quique Dacosta at Bazaar Meat inside the Sahara) and Emeril Lagasse (who tirelessly bounced from event to event with his son, rising fine-dining star E.J., and also recorded an episode of the Longer Tables podcast with Andrés) to hold court throughout the week. Simon Kim announced the opening of a Vegas location of his Cote steakhouse at the Venetian and then addressed guests at a dinner with food from Venetian chefs Keller, Wolfgang Puck and Tetsuya Wakuda. Resorts World Las Vegas hosted the official welcome dinner with Central’s Virgilio Martinez and Pia Leon alongside El Celler de Can Roca’s Joan Roca and Jordi Roca.

The younger Lagasse told Observer that there were many chefs betting on Wednesday’s outcome. (He personally had Atomix and Disfrutar among his top picks.) Even though it was clear that the United States would barely be recognized in this year’s list, it was great to see this kind of culinary-minded action in Las Vegas. 

“Who doesn’t want all the fun chefs of the world to roll up to one spot and hang out for four or five days, and cook and hang out and talk about the industry and ways to progress it forward,” E.J. said.

Andrés, who hugged Crenn at his Tuesday Bazaar Meat dinner, echoed that sentiment.

“I just came from the Cosmopolitan, where I was able to spend two, three hours with my very good friends, the Roca family,” he told Observer as he cooked at Bazaar Meat. “To have everyone in Vegas is really a dream. That is what the 50 does. It brings us together.”

A little later, Andrés, who also cut his teeth at El Bulli and has countless accolades (including Michelin stars) but hasn’t had a restaurant that’s ever made The World’s 50 Best, made an important point to the crowd at his special dinner with Dacosta (whose eponymous Valencian restaurant was ranked No. 14 at the ceremony one night later).

“One day we will be there,” Andrés said of the list. “If anybody tells you they don’t care about the 50, they are lying.”

It’s Official: Atomix Is Still North America’s Top Restaurant