Sure, we love a good hunk of marbled Kobe beef as much as the next fella. But there's something special about seafood. Maybe it's the ephemeral nature of dishes culled from the ocean (the best stuff was swimming only hours before it hits your plate). Maybe it's the culinary versatility of each specific fish or mollusk and almost infinite variety of species. Maybe it's the diversity of offerings from cultures as distant from each other as Bangor, Maine, and Ginza, Japan. Whatever it is, seafood may represent the pinnacle of cuisine, and, here, collected for you, are three restaurants that stand above the others in this category. Of course, you'll have to use a lot of frequent-flier miles to get to them, but trust us — it'll be worth it.
Spain: Asador Etxebarri
In a tiny Basque village, self-taught cook Victor Arguinzoniz grills seafood — or to be more precise, he subjects oysters, salt cod, and even caviar to smoke from charcoal that he prepares himself, twice daily, using equipment he built. His efforts recently propelled Etxebarri onto the S. Pellegrino World's 50 Best Restaurants list. Asador Etxebarri, 1 Plaza San Juan, Atxondo, Spain, 94-658-30-42; asadoretxebarri.com
Japan: Ginza Harutaka
Harutaka Takahashi spent more than a decade at Tokyo's legendary Sukiyabashi Jiro before taking his three-Michelin-star-quality fish and rice to this tiny spot, where the procession of sushi never fails to impress even the pickiest of connoisseurs. This is where Tokyo's top chefs come to graze. 8-5-8 Ginza, 3F Kawabata Bldg, Tokyo, Japan, 81-3-3573-1144 (no website)
Italy: Osteria Da Fiore
Chef Mara Martin harvests the Venetian lagoon and the nearby Adriatic to produce what Italian-cookbook author Marcella Hazan called "some of the most ethereal, purest seafood cooking in Europe." The food is treated deftly and sparely: spider crab dressed with coral sauce, pasta tossed with squid and peas, and cuttlefish risotto. 2002 San Polo, Calle del Scaleter, Venice, Italy, 39-0-41-721-308; dafiore.net