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

3.59  ·  Rating details ·  855 ratings  ·  119 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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Average rating 3.59  · 
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Dec 15, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
Jul 25, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Sarah O'Riordan | travelseatsreads
This is 100% hands down a love it or hate it book. There is no middle ground with this one, and I absolutely head over heels fell in love with it. And maybe Jay Rayner just a little bit.

First of all if you're not a "foodie" and the idea of throwing €€€ repeatedly at your lunch or dinner bill makes your eyes roll or makes you feel slightly ill, please do us all a favour and don't read this book because you will be in the hate camp.

There's no doubt about it, Jay Rayner is a bit of a snarky bollox
Sara Parker
Feb 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved everything about this. His snarky humor to his keen observations about the food industry as a whole. What makes a perfect meal? the food? the decor? the staff? the company? he makes a case for all. What would be my perfect meal? As a food lover, this was a fantastic read.
I liked the book when the author was dining alone (for the most part), as well as digressions about his personal life. I did not care for it at all when his friends, big name chefs and others appeared. So, perhaps 2.5 stars, but he seems like a nice guy, in spite of his $$$ meals coming off a bit as bragging. He does self-deprecation well. The travel narrative aspect was well done, although I'll disagree that New York is a wasteland for Indian food -- you just have to know where to look for it, ...more
Jul 14, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 08, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Boy is he snarky but that's what makes this book so entertaining. I listened to the audiobook and Rayner narrates it himself. It's a really fun listen ...more
Kenny A
May 02, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Jay Rayner, a prominent British food critic, wit and raconteur, embarks on a global quest for the prefect meal, a culinary adventure which takes him through countless Michelin-starred restaurants from Las Vegas to Paris, and many other cities besides. How terrible!
Mr Rayner is not a great respecter of reputations and does not pull any punches in this book. He is, however, the writer of some of the most entertaining restaurant reviews I have ever read, and his creative use of language is given fr
Jul 31, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  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
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
Jul 15, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 30, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
Feb 04, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I like to read about food, and I found the author's writing style to be enjoyable and conversational. I really enjoyed reading the descriptions of the meals that the author has, and drew personal inspiration from both the ingredients and cooking styles as well as the restaurant design, interiors and menu style in each different setting. I read this on a long day of travel and found it immersing but at the same time easy to pop down at a moment's notice and then to pick up again when needed. A go ...more
Aug 19, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Aug 15, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: foodstuff
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. ...more
Mar 19, 2022 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Rayner gives a report on his adventures trying to find the best dining options in several cities known for having ample food options (Las Vegas, Tokyo, Moscow, Dubai, New York, London and Paris). He interjects his report on this quest with recollections from his past and explains he loves food and why he has such fond memories of some foods, or is repelled by others.

All in all a very amusing read with some funny anecdotes about food in general. The author is a self-confessed curmudgeon, which he
Sian Bradshaw
Dec 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Another Jay Rayner coup. Very readable, funny and well observed. Rayner is careful not to disappear up himself despite having a job which involves eating food in cushy places. He is careful to point out he is on a budget set by his newspaper. It's one I could easily live by but I suppose if your job is to judge the best of the best from the middle of the menu and the wine list, it must chafe a little.

His visit to Russia was as odd as his visit to Vegas.
Martin Budd
Mar 15, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
If this was a meal you wouldn't want a second helping, repeats itself more than a dish of radish. Leaves a smell like overboiled cabbage, devoid of anything authentic, the book is a soiree around noted cities famed for good eateries, and yet leaves little of rememberance.
It's writing like this that makes me realise what a loss A.A.Gill is to restaurant criticism.
May 17, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'm a big Rayner Fan, and this one has a bit of everything. Not what you might expect. While there is a lot of travel and foodie fun, it's also got a lot of philisophical introspection and personal info about Rayners life. If you love Rayners work this is very good and much better than I expected. (not a slight, a knew it would be good but it was much better) ...more
Fiona Black
Jun 16, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017
A lovely, tempting culinary literary journey with a writer who appeals to my sense of humour. This book had me laughing out loud in places, and dashing to the fridge for left-overs as he stirred my appetite.
Nov 12, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Deliciously snarky.

“It is one of the glories of the human condition that we are made to be addicted to food. If we don’t get a fix at least once or twice a day we are mad, bad, and dangerous to know, and a little after that, we are dead.”
Andrew Brown
Jan 18, 2021 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audible, 2021
An enjoyable romp around the world of Michelin Star dining as Rayner goes in pursuit of the perfect meal, the perfect restaurant experience, and explores his (and society's) relationship with food, and the similarities and differences of dining around the globe. ...more
Axel T
Apr 01, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I began to like Jay Rayner more and more after every page. He is fully aware of the preposterous nature of his profession, and the sheer amounts of wank in Michelen starred high-dining restaurants, but fully embraces it for what it is. He likes to eat good food. It's that simple. He is also hilarious. My immediate comparison would be Charlie Brooker's collections of his column, but that would be unfair. Rayner is more mature, succinct and biting, without being crass. I loved this book. Just don' ...more
Shelby A
Aug 10, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
It seemed like he didn't enjoy anything ...more
Steven W
Apr 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
If you are at all interested in fine dining this is a fascinating book!!
Reflections and lessons learned:
Vegas! Russia! London and New York!! Culinary adventures of the restaurants of the world whilst not holding back... just what I wanted - yummy...!
I'm being slightly harsh here. Enjoyable to read but overlong for the subject matter. He's still a great writer . ...more
Jenn Adams
Jul 02, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Anthony Bourdain meets Jeffrey Steingarten
Sam Swicegood
Jun 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Rayner describes food in a way that makes you hungry. He describes people in a way that makes you like them. He describes places in a way that makes you want to leave home and go searching for a new adventure yourself.
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
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Jay Rayner is a British journalist, writer and broadcaster born in 1966.

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