Grab a counter seat at this popular restaurant to admire the precision with which chef Mario Payán prepares, at a hypnotising rhythm, all the sushi that make up his outstanding tasting menu. Nigiri is elevated to high art with ingredients like prawn and piparra (green Basque pepper), squid and fig or smoked pilchard. Payán's take is Japanese to a tee, shunning any sort of fusion – but he does allow local produce, and will often pay tribute to his favourite local sea resident, the red tuna.
Calle de Bretón de los Herreros 54, Ríos Rosas
Taberna San Mamés
The ultimate accolade for any restaurant? "Anthony Bourdain ate here." Tony stopped by this ultra-trad joint during his televised food tour of Madrid and loved it... so you know it's good. Everything about this dinky taberna is as classic as it gets in Madrid, with old-school tiles decorating the walls, small tables covered with chequered tablecloths and a menu of straight classic like patatas revolconas (a mix of smashed potatoes and fried pork, topped off with an egg), callos a la madrileña (tripe stew with blood sausage and chorizo) or cod al ajoarriero. This is the kind of place where bread is a must in order to scoop up each drop of delicious sauce on your plate. Dig in.
Calle de Bravo Murillo 88, Ríos Rosas
Patatas bravas (deep-fried potatoes with a slightly spicy sauce) are a Madrid staple, even if perfectly cooked iterations of this classic dish are hard to come by. But if you hit up this place right next to Puerta del Sol, you can rest assured that you will taste bravas in their most perfect form. The house recipe is always on point thanks to the homemade aioli and spicy paprika oil. There are two more menu items that make the visit a must: the outstanding steaks (sourced from Galicia and hung for between 20 and 45 days) and a caramelised torrija – Spanish-style French toast – to round it all out.
Calle de Arlabán 7, Cortes
If you tire of tapas and cañas (heaven forbid!), Mawey provides a welcome respite by way of excellent Mexican food. With two different locations, one near the central Gran Vía and another in the Chamberí neighbourhood, Mawey uses the best local produce to make classic dishes from Mexico, often with a small nod to more-nearby Castilian cuisine. Think tacos al pastor made with Iberian pork, or pig-ear tacos, which pay tribute to one of the Madrid's most famous dishes, oreja de cerdo.
Calle de San Bernardo 5, galería Sol / Calle de Olid 6, Trafalgar
This bright, zigzagged stall in the Vallehermoso Market – with a single communal table set up outside – does pan Asian-Latin American fusion to great effect. Casual, fun and uninhibited by regional conventions, Tripea is a dream for a well-priced weekday dinner or languid lunch. Spot chef Roberto Martínez Foronda at work the kitchen, flitting expertly between woks that sizzle over tall flames, churning out dishes from his eclectic, perfectly lengthed tasting menu. Minds will surely be blown.
Calle de Vallehermoso 36, Arapiles
It's hard to imagine anyone leaving this haute-punk fine diner with a complaint. Michelin agrees: it's the only restaurant in Madrid with three stars to its name. Chef David Muñoz is an iconoclast in the kitchen, bending and shaping produce from all around the world (with a special focus on ingredients from Asia) to create dishes that defy expectations. Umami is Muñoz's pet flavour, and it shows up constantly in his imaginative, artfully presented dishes. Expect to be awed.
NH Eurobuilding, Calle del Padre Damián, 23, Hispanoamérica
Chef Javi Estévez worships offal, so you can expect to find all sorts of organs and entrails on your plate here. Ingredients that were once only seen as wartime sustenance are given a modern refit here, dressed up for the generations who grew up without eating liver, brain and pigs' heads. For adventurous eaters, prepare for your food biases to be challenged.
Calle de Duque de Sesto 48, Goya
You'll find ramen and bao buns all over Madrid these days, and it's mostly thanks to Chuka. The busy kitchen team here cooks homey broths from scratch, and serves them swimming with smoked tuna and roasted chicken or pork, mushrooms and black sesame oil. Even still, the 'dry' (brothless) ramen is our favourite – cold, slurpy noodles topped with Cantonese sausage and chilli oil. Baos are satisfyingly fluffy, served with fried chicken, Korean pulled pork or soft-shell crab. Booking is essential.
Calle de Echegaray 9, Las Letras
Madrid-style stew, aka cocido madrileño, is an outrageously delicious, rib-sticking dish that's served in three layers – first, soup with noodles and chickpeas, then cabbage, then a cornucopia of meats such as blood sausage, chorizo, chicken and ham. You can find this dish almost everywhere in Madrid but this restaurant, about a 20-minute car journey from the city centre, is the temple of cocido. But if this kind of hairy-chested stew doesn't appeal, go for a glass of champagne and the fabada, a still-robust but less macho white bean soup from Asturias with chorizo and morcilla, or rabbit with garlic in summer.
Calle de Carlos Martín Álvarez 58, Vallecas
The much-loved Cisne Azul has reigned for decades as the best restaurant in Madrid to taste of the wide array of mushrooms that grow around the city. And while it's still worth a visit – if not just for the food, but for the old-school local vibes – El Brote is its most worthy competition, and makes the list for its willingness to experiment instead of leaning wholly on tradition. Its weekly changing menu revolves around a specific variety of mushroom, with each dish immaculately plated in that very precise, new-Nordic way.
Calle de la Ruda 14, La Latina
The Coque experience unfolds over the distinct rooms that make up the spectacular space designed by Jean Porsche for owners and veteran restaurateurs the Sandoval brothers. Juan Diego, Mario and Rafael take you on a wild ride that starts with a cocktail at the basement bar, then moves on to snacks in the wine cellar within the ground-floor kitchen. Finally, in the dining room, a nine-course tasting menu really shows off the Sandoval chops – particularly their most famous dish, the crunchy, sinfully juicy suckling pig.
Calle del Marqués del Riscal 11, Almagro
This restaurant is hidden in an out-of-the-way industrial space of the sort that could easily be found in Denmark or New York. But what makes it distinctly Madrid is its local-celeb owner, chef Nino Redruello – also behind other city powerhouses like La Gabinoteca, La Ancha and Las Tortillas de Gabino – and his reliance on the best seasonal, local produce. Madridians love this place so much that scoring a table is no easy task – blame it on that sumptuous butter that greets you on your table (try and get a 'private' one, they're a bit more hidden away than the long communal tables). The kitchen pays the utmost respect to the ingredients, dressing them only with subtle enhancements: an example is the sea bream carpaccio scattered with almonds or the famous beef scallop with truffle and egg. Oh, and don't dare skip the cheesecake.
Calle Sagasta 9, Trafalgar
This Buenos Aires import has quickly managed to attract the city's most clued-in residents thanks to its modern aesthetic and snobbery-free vibe. The menu blends Israeli classics with Argentinian staples, which results in a delightfully hybrid bounty on the table: hummus, baba ganoush, empanadas and the magnificent pastrón con hueso (bone-in pastrami), which is cured for 10 days with salt, sugar and spices, then smoked and cooked for 24 hours.
Orfila 7, Almagro
The warm and homey flavors of the Canary Islands hadn't made their entrance in Madrid... until Gofio arrived. Not only has the hard work of chef Safe Cruz and his young team earned the restaurant a Michelin star, it also turned madrileños into fanatic fans of Canarian cuisine. Then menu is full of flavours you won't find anywhere else in the city, and showcases the hard-to-come-by produce and recipes that make the islands' food so special. The selection of Canarian wine is equally worth a dig-through.
Calle Lope de Vega 9, Las Letras