Best Restaurant (2001)
The menu at Aries changes daily under the direction of chef-owner Scott Tycer, who improvises with the seasons. To call Tycer an artist doesn't do him justice. He is something even better. He is a culinary genius who has grown up and gotten over himself. Originally from Houston, Tycer spent several years in Northern California working his way up from line cook to sous-chef at Spago in Palo Alto under the famous Wolfgang Puck. But at Aries, Tycer exhibits none of the flashy cleverness that makes Puck's California cuisine look so dated these days. Tycer's food isn't just brilliant; it's brilliantly restrained. He insists on making remarkable ingredients his main subjects, and he complements and seasons them with an imagination that never loses its focus. But it is in the presentation that Tycer shows true self-discipline. There are no silly tentacles sticking out of things, no Jackson Pollock squeeze-bottle paintings and no extraneous garnishes. The food itself is the garnish. American cooking just doesn't get much better than this.