Story by Laurence Civil & Wanida Tardivel
After three very successful years in Singapore the fourth edition was recently held at W Hotel Bangkok on Monday 29th February 2016. The voting is done by international leaders in the restaurant community based in the geographical area covered by the awards. Each member can cast seven votes. Of those seven, at least three votes must recognize restaurants outside of the academy member’s own region.
For the second consecutive year Gaggan in Bangkok has claimed the top spot in the list of Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants. This year’s list welcomes 10 new entries, including three from Japan. China counts 13 restaurants on the list while Singapore and Japan each have 10. With 13 nations represented, the 2016 list includes restaurants from more countries than ever before, showcasing a rich variety of dining experiences across Asia. Host country Thailand is also represented by Nahm (No.8), Issaya Siamese Club, rising 20 places to No.19, and Eat Me at No.23. Sadly for Thailand Bo.lan has dropped off the list. What is more concerning is the repeat of the same names one would have hoped that the next generation of restaurant’s in Thailand notably LeDu and Aston 31 would have been recognised.
Australian born Chef David Thompson justifiably was recognised with the2016 Dinners Club Achievement Awards for Asia for his 30 years culinary career. His restaurant Nahm in London was the first Thai restaurant to be awarded a Michelin star. Nahm in Bangkok was the first restaurant in Thailand to be recognised on the World’s 50 Best restaurant list and the first to win Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants. A passionate advocate of Thai street food he has moved on to open Long Chim at Marina Bay Sands in Singapore in 2015 and in Melbourne this year.
These awards are uniquely independent in the way the results are achieved. There is no fixed criteria for selecting the wining restaurants, rather it’s the collective opinion of which restaurant gave the best dining experience. This is decided by a panel in each region is made up of food writers and critics, chefs, restaurateurs and highly regarded ‘gastronomes’. Members list their choices in order of preference, based on their best restaurant experiences of the previous 18 months. There is no pre-determined check-list of criteria, which hopes to make the list as varied and open as possible.
This selection process isn’t without criticism some do see it as opaque and obscure. But to put the list into context it can only be a snapshot of current tastes which are ever evolving. Nothng is perfect but they aim to do the best job possible.
Individual Country Awards:
Narisawa (No.2) is named The Best Restaurant in Japan, sponsored by S.Pellegrino & Acqua Panna for a fourth successive year. Four of Japan’s remaining nine entries place within the top 20. Japan also welcomes three newcomers, namely La Maison De La Nature Goh (No.31) in Fukuoka, as well as Tokyo-based Den (No.37) and Kyoto’s Kikunoi (No.42).
Rising two places, Chef André Chiang’s Restaurant André (No.3) holds the title of The Best Restaurant in Singapore, sponsored by S.Pellegrino & Acqua Panna, for the fourth consecutive time. Extending his influence in the region, Chiang also impressed diners with his Raw restaurant in Taipei, which enters the list at No.46. Alongside familiar favourites Waku Ghin (No.6), Les Amis (No.12) and Burnt Ends (No.14), Singapore boasts two new entries: Corner House (No.17) and Wild Rocket (No.38).
Amber (No.4) in Hong Kong reclaims the title of The Best Restaurant in China sponsored by S.Pellegrino & Acqua Panna, from last year’s winner Ultraviolet (No.7). The list boasts nine Hong Kong restaurants, including first-time entry Ta Vie (No.48).
Entering the list at No.15, Mingles in Seoul has double reason to celebrate. As well as claiming the Highest New Entry Award, sponsored by John Paul, the restaurant earns the title of The Best Restaurant in Korea.
Two other new entries collected individual country awards. Gallery Vask (No.39) in Manila is awarded The Best Restaurant in the Philippines while Locavore (No.49) in Bali is named the The Best Restaurant in Indonesia.
Indian Accent rises 13 places to No.9 to be awarded The Best Restaurant in India for a second year.
The winners’ circle also includes Le Moût (No.30), retaining The Best Restaurant in Taiwan title, Ministry of Crab in Colombo (No.31) securing honours as The Best Restaurant in Sri Lanka, and Cuisine Wat Damnak (No.43) in Siem Reap, returning as The Best Restaurant in Cambodia.
Other award winners announced include:
Highest New Entry Award, sponsored by John Paul: Mingles
At Mingles in Seoul, Chef Mingoo Kang reinvents Korean cuisine by fusing local ingredients and traditions with Western influences and cooking methods. Inventive and adventurous, this intimate 45-seat restaurant is making its mark on Korea’s dining scene.
One To Watch, sponsored by Peroni Nastro Azzurro: Florilège
The One To Watch Award honours a restaurant that is outside the Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants list but is identified as the rising star in the region. Florilège in Tokyo is dedicated to modern French cuisine presented with impeccable style. Chef-owner Hiroyasu Kawate reveals his creativity and mastery of French cooking through a multi-course tasting menu.
Asia’s Best Pastry Chef, sponsored by Cacao Barry: Cheryl Koh
Singapore-born Cheryl Koh honed her skills in Michelin-starred restaurants in Paris, Dubai and Hong Kong before returning to her home city in 2013. Drawing on her experience as pastry chef at Les Amis, she launched Tarte by Cheryl Koh in April 2015, a retail concept in Singapore’s city centre that is part of the Les Amis Group. Using inspiration from her travels, Koh creates delicate desserts that showcase her classical training and creative instincts.
Chefs’ Choice Award: Paul Pairet
French-born chef Paul Pairet is the recipient of the 2016 Chefs’ Choice Award. Voted for by fellow chefs on Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants list, Pairet earned the respect of his peers with his two hugely successful and influential Shanghai restaurants, Mr & Mrs Bund and the avant-garde Ultraviolet. Provocative and innovative, his creative flair, daring experimentation and inspired dishes continue to influence chefs around the world.
Highest Climber Award: Quintessence
A Tokyo favourite since 2006, Quintessence (No.20) earns the Highest Climber Award, rising 29 places from last year. Chef Shuzo Kishida perfected his skills at three-Michelin-starred L’Astrance in Paris and his modern French cuisine continues to impress discerning diners with its exquisite presentation, innovative use of fresh ingredients and attention to detail.
Other honourees include Chef Margarita Forés from the Philippines who is named Asia’s Best Female Chef 2016. Chef David Thompson of Nahm in Bangkok and Long Chim in Singapore is this year’s recipient of The Diners Club® Lifetime Achievement Award.
William Drew, Group Editor of Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants, said: “Now in its fourth year, these awards reflect the growth and diversity of Asia’s dining scene. The 2016 list includes 10 new restaurants and showcases the best dining experiences in 13 countries, more than ever before. Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants strives to reward creativity as well as culinary excellence and all 50 restaurants on the list, as well as the individual award-winners, exemplify these qualities.”
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