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The Man Who Ate the World: In Search of the Perfect Dinner

3.46 of 5 stars 3.46  ·  rating details  ·  514 ratings  ·  87 reviews
“A hilarious and insightful journey into the world of restaurant meals.”—Mario Batali

"Nobody goes to restaurants for nutritional reasons. They go for the experience. And what price a really top experience?”

What price indeed? Fearlessly, and with great wit and verve, award-winning restaurant critic Jay Rayner goes in search of the perfect meal. From the Tokyo sushi chef who
Paperback, 288 pages
Published May 26th 2009 by Holt Paperbacks (first published January 1st 2008)
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I'm not sure what I expected from this book, but it surely wasn't what I received. Rayner is a snarky bastard, to be sure, but he spends a lot of time thinking about what he eats, and more importantly, why. A book chronicling a critic jetting to expensive restaurants around the world would get boring if all it did was describe the food. Instead, Rayner astutely recognizes that he is a unique position to see if 3 star restaurants are worth the sometimes insane expense he lays out. The disappointm ...more
Jay Rayner has written only one book -- this one -- and, if there is Mercy in the Universe, he will not write another, at least until he gets his head right. This is easily the most depressing book I have read in many years. Each chapter recounts a visit to a city which is "big" in the culinary world; each was more depressing than the last. The chapter on Las Vegas touched not only on the great food available in that city but on the falsity, the ostentatiousness, the unreality and pretense of th ...more
rayner is undoubtedly one of the most gifted food writers around: he is funny, greedy (idefinitely a good quality for a food writer), straightforward and most important of all knows what he is talking about when it comes to eating. if you love his word of mouth blog entries, guardian columns and various appearances on tv, radio etc. there is no chance that you won't enjoy this. in his 2008 book rayner questions the possibility of hunting down the perfect dinner at the most notable fine dining re ...more
If you're any bit of a foodie than you are going to love this book. Rayner is witty and funny, at times self-depricating, which of course only adds to his humor. The stories of his adventures around the world at the best restaurants are entertaining, mesmerizing, and a little bit gluttonous. If you have absolutely zero appreciation for fine dining or high-class food than this book is probably not the book for you. But I enjoyed immensely and would recommend it to anyone who can enjoy the finer t ...more
I was surprised at how much I liked this book. I picked it up expecting to not like it, because he kind of annoyed me on Top Chef Masters, but I enjoyed it immensely. And I'm very jealous of his little project to find the best fine dining experience there is. He's pompous, but amusing, which makes the former okay. Now, if I were to see him on Top Chef, I'd appreciate him.

If good food photography is "food porn," then this book is "food erotica." I could read his descriptions of meals anytime.
Jay Rayner, the restaurant critic for The Observer, goes around the world to investigate and document the globalization of high end gastronomy, in search of the perfect meal. He starts in Las Vegas, on to Moscow, Dubai, Tokyo, New York, London, Paris. Wretched excess? You betcha. It will make your most self-indulgent treat seem positively abstemious by comparison. The high notes are spectacular, but there are an almoat equal number of memorably awful experiences. It's great fun.
Anne Green
I would hate to be a chef in any restaurant reviewed by Jay Rayner. In this book he sets out on a quest to find the perfect meal. In his exhaustive search through the world's prestigious gastronomic establishments (from Las Vegas to Paris and everywhere in between) and despite tireless and seemingly limitless consumption, his holy grail ultimately eludes him. Considering the lofty heights of discernment to which his palate has ascended, I think this has more to do with the fact that he's impossi ...more
Nonito Abbu
As a self-confessed and self-proclaimed foodie, I can only drool with envy when I read accounts of really brilliant dinners in the world's most expensive and influential restaurants. Through Rayner's book, I am able to vicariously sit in many a Michelin starred restaurants the world over and acquire an appreciation for the work, the care and the passion that goes into different dishes that have put such places on the map of gastronomy. Whether it is restaurants in Dubai, Moscow, Paris, Tokyo, Lo ...more
Rachel C.
A decent enough food book, but a thought struck me early on and only became more reinforced as I read: Jay Rayner is a journalist first and a foodie second. His first love is clearly words; the book takes place too much in his head and not enough in his mouth.

Some distractingly bad copy-editing. For example, there's a hotel, the name of which is spelled two different ways on successive pages. Oh, and if there's one word you need to get right in a book about food, that word is "palate."

Worth borr
Genene Murphy
While reading this book, avoid Expedia and Orbitz or any deep-seated desires to taste Toyko or tour New York City. Stay far, far away from wine auctions and think twice about booking reservations at restaurants that issue fraud alerts. Because after reading Rayner's adventures and quest for the perfect meal, you'll want to spend a lot of money for your next travel/foodie fix.

With each chapter--and arrival in another city--you may crave exotic food and culinary adventure and more of Rayner's writ
Aug 12, 2009 Meave rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Meave by: enjoyed his writing style on his Top Chef Masters blog on bravot
I apologize in advance for this, but I refuse not to say it:
My goodness, Jay Rayner certainly is full of himself!

OK, now that that's out of my system (sorry again), let's get to it. This book is pretty ridiculous, and I mean that outside of Rayner's acknowledgment of his and the premise's ridiculousness. Even his criticism of others' pomposity comes off as pompous. He relishes pork dishes to the point of fetishism, and despite his attempt to dismiss his Jewish heritage as only genetic, it comes
Juan Morán
Si te gusta el mundo gastronómico es un libro con información interesante relacionada con este tema. La forma en que lo escribe Jay Rayner no es la más refinada, se excede en historias personales que hacen aburrida la lectura. El mejor capítulo sin duda es la experiencia gastronómica en Tokio y sobre todo lo relacionado con el arte culinario en Japón. Termina con la propaganda barata a manera de sarcasmo de incitarnos a comprar su libro para ayudarlo a saldar las millonarias cuentas que pagó por ...more
Half of this book is something like the food version Misha Glenny's "McMafia", only somewhat better. The other half does a very good job of putting you off 3* Michelin restaurants.

Despite these less than positive accolades, it's a light and enjoyable read; think one of Rayner's witty restaurant reviews, and elongate it. Great on the surface, often very funny, lacking depth and hence not quite so original after page 50, but good fun anyway.
Mark Farley
Really good. In fact, better than I expected. Really getting into food memoirs and this is reminiscent of the Tom Parker Bowles Eating Dangerously book, which I really liked. I'm not an avid reader of Rayner's newspaper colums but I do like him when he pops up on things like Masterchef and The One Show. This is an insighful read based in some very escapable and intriguing places.
It's hard to describe how much I love this book because unlike other books I love, it is not a book that I had a hard time putting down. On the contrary, I needed to take breaks. I could picture and sometimes taste the dishes Rayner described, therefore I was sometimes too full to eat (read) the next paragraph. It was also disheartening at times to have to put the book away, get off the bus, and choose among bagels, donuts, and McDonald's for breakfast after reading about a Michelin three-star m ...more
Being a person who enjoys a good meal, I definitely salivated over the descriptions of some of the dinners. I enjoyed the - at times acid - descriptions of chefs and restaurants.

BUT - I was terribly, terribly put off by the editing. For the first third of the book, all of the prices were given in dollars and pounds (but the format wasn't always the same). That stopped in the second third, and only pounds were used. The third third then resumed the double explanation. Early in the book, a footno
Still reading this... its a loan from a co-worker so I probably need to hurry up and finish! I've gotten to Dubai and so far what I've enjoyed most is the foreword and the flashbacks to childhood meals. The introduction was downright hilarious and I thought I'd be laughing my way through this book, but that hasn't happened. I've not seen the author on the Food Network so I'm not familiar with his persona except as it reads through this book. He seems to hold a certain level of guilt or self-deri ...more
Niya B
I really wanted to like Jay Rayner and his writing. Having devoured his text, I'm left slightly unsatisfied and slightly hungry - not as hungry as he promised I would be, but not entirely unmoved. But them, it would be difficult to have no feelings at all for a man who recreated Spurlock's "Supersize Me" with Michelin 3 star restaurants in Paris (and then bemoaned his fate). While I'm not surprised that he is disenchanted with the notion of consuming large quantities of food on someone elses' la ...more
Brenda Mengeling
Sep 30, 2009 Brenda Mengeling rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: foodies,
I found this book and the voice of Jay Rayner very enjoyable to read. The premise of the book is his search for a perfect high-end restaurant meal. He travels to Moscow, Dubai, New York, Tokyo, London and Paris in his search. He is funniest when he has a bad meal, but he does a lot of reflecting on the whole world of high-end restaurants from the blogs, reviews, chefs, ingredients, decor, patrons and personnel. He goes off on many tangents, but he doesn't get lost in them, and the narrative make ...more
This is a great and humorous memoir for anyone who loves to read about food. Jay Rayner is quite a well known food critic in the restaurant circles and I personally have always loved reading his reviews on restaurants. He never holds anything back and it is nice to see that that translates into his book too. He has a great way of putting you in his shoes in every eating situation that he talks about. At the same time, he also tells of some of the ridiculous things that happen in the world of the ...more
A really wonderful, amazing book!

I picked it up out of curiosity, having seen Rayner as a Top chef judge, but this is probably one of the best food books I've ever read. Rayner understands that you cannot separate food from culture, so his explorations of the global food culture are almost sociological. He doesn't just talk about what's on the plate; he also discusses how it got there and why it was put there.

Also, Rayner strikes a great balance between breathlessly fawning over expensive food a
This book was decidedly not what I was expecting. To even bother reading this, you must be a foodie. You will be bored to tears otherwise, but I'll assume you gathered that from the jacket synopsis. I expected that this would be a gushy ode to all things food. I was wrong. It seemed more like an essay on the disappointing trends in upscale dining and the emptiness of it all. As someone who saves for half a year or more to afford a snazzy dinner at the places he writes about it, I felt rather dis ...more
Jay Rayner sets out on a quest to eat the best meal in the world. Or, more specifically, to eat at a selection of the world's great restaurants in a selection of the world's great cities. He's a food critic and a foodie, with a good line in self-deprecating British humour, but the book is surprisingly sad and thoughtful at times - despite his food obsession, Jay started out as a journalist, and he can't help but see what's going on around him and ask at least a few questions about why, and about ...more
Jay Rayner travels around the world (Paris, Dubai, London, New York, Tokyo) in search of the world's best restaurant and (supposedly) the world's best meal. This was an interesting read, but it made me realize that I must be very boring, food-wise. I simply can't justify dropping almost $500 on dinner, even if it is for book research, and I found the description of the crunchy skull and silky brains of one of his meals nauseating rather than delicious. Ironically, this peek into how the other ha ...more
At the age of six, when he didn't like what his mother had cooked for dinner, the author picketed outside in front with a hand-lettered sign, "I want good food". Sort of set the stage for his future career as a food writer.

In this book, he travels the world in search for the perfect dinner. His adventures are amusing and expensive! I enjoyed the book, though I'll never be a hard-core foodie myself. I enjoyed the tangents into history and politics of food and restaurants. Gave me something to thi
Joanne Centa
Ooops! It was *this* book that I read and liked, d'oh.
Eh. Rayner's writing style has so much figurative language and compound adjectives in it, which I guess is good for the cutthroat world of British restaurant critics, but in a book grew tiresome.

Also I probably am not the right person to read about his particular quest. He wanted to eat at high-end restaurants around the world, from Las Vegas, to New York, to Moscow, to Abu Dhabi, to Paris, to Tokyo. It seemed kind of... cynical. I think Rayner acknowledges the McMansion nature of what he was do
I appreciated the description of the different meals all over the world but the gluttony and excess just made it a hard book to enjoy.
This was an entertaining book. Not a whole lot of deep insight, but good narrative of food travels and experiences. Some good personal anecdotes. Hard book to end - no real plot, nothing to conclude. Clunky ending with a blurb about sustainability, as if he wrote the book and then at the end all the food policy stuff became popular so he had to throw in a chapter about that. Amazed to see the chapter on Joe Allen resto in NY where I got my start as a foodie, glad to see he had the same experienc ...more
This book combines travel writing and food criticism, so it was kind of fun. Although I can't fully appreciate haute cuisine I find it interesting to know about. I'm at a disadvantage in that I don't like half (or maybe more than half) the food. This critic gets pretty cranky at times but who can blame him for grousing about a bad meal in a super-pricey restaurant? Poor guy, traveling the world on an expense account, staying at the finest hotels and eating at posh restaurants.
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Jay Rayner is a British journalist, writer and broadcaster born in 1966.

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