Pictured above: Odette, located in the National Gallery, Singapore.
Would you like to be in-the-know to recommend some of the best restaurants in Asia to your clients? The 2018 list of Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants, sponsored by S.Pellegrino & Acqua Panna was announced recently and is a useful guide to point you to some of Asia’s best dining spots.
The awards are now in their sixth year and recognise the best in fine-dining. Whilst we all know Asia has some incredible street-food options, this list is for those who may want to treat themselves to a very special and sophisticated dining experience when travelling.
Gaggan in Bangkok took out the number one spot for a fourth consecutive year, retaining the dual titles of The Best Restaurant in Asia and The Best Restaurant in Thailand. Japan was the winning country with 11 restaurants featured out of the 50 winners. Following Japan, was Hong Kong (nine winners); Thailand (nine winners); Singapore (seven winners); Korea (three winners); Taiwan (three winners); mainland China (two winners); India (two winners); Sri Lanka (two winners); Macau (one winner) and Indonesia (one winner).
We’ve dissected the list by country and have outlined the winning or ‘best’ restaurant in each — as well as listing the other winning restaurants within each country.
7/F, The Landmark Mandarin Oriental, The Landmark
15 Queen’s Road, Central, Hong Kong
Dutch-born chef-director Richard Ekkebus makes the most of his location in one of the world’s great ports to access fine ingredients from all over Asia as well as Europe and Australia. The ceiling of the restaurant features more than 4,000 suspended bronze rods to form a dramatic ‘chandelier’. John Chan, one of the most respected sommeliers in Asia, oversees a list of 1,100 labels. The signature dish of Miyazaki wagyu beef strip loin barbecued with dulse and red cabbage slaw with oxalis, horseradish and pepper berry emulsion is thought to be one of the most Instagrammed dishes in Hong Kong. The small holding bar by the restaurant’s entrance is a popular rendezvous for savvy wine lovers.
Other restaurants in China in the Top 50 list:
81/2 Otto e Mezzo Bombana, Hong Kong (No. 13)
Ta Vie, Hong Kong (No. 16)
The Chairman, Hong Kong (No. 22)
Lung King Heen, Hong Kong (No. 24)
Fu He Hui, Shanghai (No. 30)
Neighborhood, Hong Kong (No. 32)
Jade Dragan, Macau (No. 35)
Belon, Hong Kong (No. 40)
Ronin, Hong Kong (No. 41)
Caprice, Hong Kong (No. 46)
77 Friends Colony (West)
Considered one of the top chefs in India and also around the world, Manish Mehrotra has helped put modern Indian food on the gastronomic map. Here, Indian cuisine is created with a contemporary twist. Duck khurchan is presented in a cornetto-like cone with herb yoghurt and chilli chutney, while galautis is stuffed with foie gras. The signature dish is chicken tikka meatballs, green chilli cream and truffle butter — while other dishes include pulled pork phulka tacos and gongura masala prawns, butter popcorn upma and crispy curry leaves. There are also nine types of bread, including camembert and potato bhuna kulcha. Drinks include fruit chaat sangria or masala martini. Mehrotra’s Indian Accent restaurants are now also open in New York and London.
Other restaurants in India in the Top 50 list:
Wasabi by Morimoto, Mumbai (No. 49)
Jalan Dewi Sita
European-Indonesian with local ingredients
Locavore is all about local, from the raw Balinese abalone to the Sumbawa Island oyster, and even through to the plates, silverware and cocktail glasses, which are all locally made. Guests can choose from the ‘locavore’ or the vegetarian ‘herbivore’ option; each is five to seven dishes long and influenced by European and Indonesian cuisines. Plates might include fermented dadap leaves with long bean lawar, bumbu Bali and crispy amaranth leaves; or ‘Are they really called stinky beans…?’ with petai, caramelised green tomato, fermented shiitake mushroom and fermentation juice. The signature dish is considered to be ‘Into the Sawah’. The menu lists the origins of all its ingredients, so diners can see the kohlrabi comes from the restaurant’s vegetable garden in Payangan or the pickled seaweed from Lombok.
The restaurant is run by Eelke Plasmeijer, a Dutch-born chef who moved to Jakarta in 2008; and fellow head chef Ray Adriansyah, who was born in Jakarta to Sumatran parents. They previously ran the kitchen at Alila Ubud before opening Locavore with restaurant manager Adi Karmayasa in November 2013.
2-3-18 Jingumae Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
Chef Zaiyu Hasegawa loves to make diners smile — with playful presentation backed up by technical savvy to create modern kaiseki, the style of Japanese cuisine involving a series of small, intricate dishes. Den made its debut in Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants list in 2016 at No.37, but in 2018 climbed to the number two spot, winning the title of The Best Restaurant in Japan. Hasegawa started his cooking career in a restaurant at 18 alongside his mother, who worked as a geisha in a high-end ryōtei restaurant. He opened Den at the age of 29. Seasonal eight-course menus feature light international influences. The signature garden salad is made from about 20 vegetables reaped daily; meanwhile the ‘Den-tucky fried’ chicken wings are presented in a fast-food takeaway box. The standout dish is the aged fish for sashimi.
Others restaurants in Japan in the Top 50 list:
Florilège, Tokyo (No.3)
Narisawa, Tokyo (No.6)
Nihonryori RyuGin, Tokyo (No.9)
La Cime, Osaka (No. 17)
L’Effervescence, Tokyo (No. 20)
Sushi Saito, Tokyo (No. 27)
Il Ristorante – Luca Fantin, Tokyo (No.28)
Hajime, Osaka (No. 34)
Quintessence, Tokyo (No. 38)
La Maison de la Nature Goh, Fukuoka (No. 48)
Gangnam-gu, Nonhyun-dong 94-9, 1st floor, Seoul
Voted Best Restaurant in Korea for the third consecutive year, Minles has been impressing patrons at its Cheongdam-dong district location since opening in April 2014. Young Korean chef Mingoo Kang trained under Martin Berasategui in San Sebastian, Spain, and later worked at Nobu in Miami and the Bahamas, where he took learnings that he would later apply to Korean cuisine. The seasonal menu is divided into sections such as ‘grains,’ ‘vegetable’ and ‘fish,’ with jang and cho – Korean traditional fermented sauce and vinegar – playing an integral part in the food. Main courses include bansang, a Korean meal with rice, soup, kimchi and ‘Jang’ sauce, and guests can enjoy the zucchini seon – a special dish first conceived as a vegan one-off when a famous monk visited the restaurant – with green pumpkin and zucchini cooked with anchovy broth and salted shrimp. This dish, the restaurant’s signature, takes more than two days to prepare. The basement restaurant is popular with a young and hip Seoul crowd.
Other restaurants in Korea in the Top 50 list:
Jungsik, Seoul (No. 26)
TocToc, Seoul (No. 42)
1 St Andrew’s Rd, 04 National Gallery, Singapore
Odette was formed in 2015 when celebrated French chef Julien Royer left restaurant Jaan to set up his own project. Odette earned two Michelin stars in its first year and made its debut on the Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants list at number nine in 2017 – the Highest New Entry of all time. This year in 2018, it rose four more positions to win the title of The Best Restaurant in Singapore. The restaurant, named after Royer’s grandmother, is housed within Singapore’s National Gallery and was created by Singaporean artist Dawn Ng. Royer describes his cooking style as ‘essential cuisine’: the very best seasonal ingredients and artisan produce from around the world put centre stage in refined dishes. The four-, six- or eight-course menus change regularly and feature colourful dishes such as Kegani crab with Granny Smith apples, celery, Vadouvan spices and kaffir lime oil or fois gras ‘comme un pho’ with Japanese abalone, smoked eel dashi and yuzu. The signature dish is Hokkaido uni (langoustine tartare, Granny Smith apple, caviar).
Other restaurants in Singapore in the Top 50 list:
Burnt Ends (No. 12)
Waku Ghin (No. 23)
Les Amis (No. 29)
Corner House (No. 36)
Jaan (No. 44)
Whitegrass (No. 50)
Old Dutch Hospital, Colombo 1
Sri Lankan seafood
As the name suggests, Ministry of Crab celebrates Sri Lankan ‘crab’ — from the food to also the crab-claw plants. Set in a preserved 400-year-old Dutch hospital in Colombo, the restaurant was established by chef Dharshan Munidasa along with with cricketing legends Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara. Diners need to be crustacean fans and can choose from the signature lagoon crab prepared in one of four ways – chilli crab, pepper crab, garlic or Sri Lankan crab curry, and there’s also garlic chill freshwater prawn and king prawn bisque. Munidasa founded Nihonbashi in his early 20s — one of the best Japanese restaurants in the region. He also owns The Tuna & The Crab, a hybrid Japanese and seafood restaurant; and Kaema Sutra, focusing on contemporary Sri Lankan cuisine. In 2018, he plans to open a restaurant in Mumbai.
Other restaurants in Sri Lanka in the Top 50 list:
Nihonbashi (No. 45)
No.301, Le Qun 3rd Road
Taipei City, Taiwan
French bistronomy with Taiwanese ingredients
Taiwanese chef André Chiang, winner of the 2018 Diners Club® Lifetime Achievement Award, impressed diners for eight years at Restaurant André in Singapore before closing it in February 2018. Returning to his country of birth, Chiang is now at Raw — one of Taipei’s hottest restaurants since it opened in 2014. Chiang now plans to spend more time at Raw and to set up a platform for aspiring Taiwanese chefs. He’s joined at Raw by two fellow chefs: Zor Tan Cheong Thin and Alain Huang. The eye-catching dining room features floor-to-ceiling glass windows, with its enormous wooden sculpture assembled from blocks of Taiwanese pine. All dishes are based on a few simple ingredients, carefully selected according to the island’s 24 ‘micro-seasons,’ so courses may include crispy noodle, wasabi peas and spicy soy bean; mahogany, sumo miso and water lotus, or the single-themed pig ear, pig cheek and pig tail. The drinks list includes a number French biodynamic wines handpicked by chef Chiang to pair with his dishes.
Other restaurants in Taiwan in the Top 50 list:
Mume, Taipei (No. 18)
Shoun RyuGin (No. 47)
68/1 Soi Langsuan, Ploenchit Road
Progressive Indian cuisine
Chef Gaggan Anand, born in Kolkata, is well known in the culinary world for his vivacious personality and dishes that push boundaries. His Bangkok restaurant, opened in 2010, has reimagined the notion of ‘progressive Indian cuisine’. It was voted Number one in the 2018 list and has therefore taken out the title of ‘Best Restaurant in Asia’. He also runs a burger and beer restaurant Meatlicious and is launching natural wine bar Wet and tofu restaurant Mihara Tofuten in 2018. The 25-course menu at Gaggan is writeen entirely in emojis, beginning with a series of snacks including the spherified Yoghurt Explosion, and moves to a long sequence of courses including Indian sushi, charcoal prawn Amritsari and uni ice cream in a miniature cone. At the end of the meal, guests are presented with a version of a menu that contains the names of the dishes. Anand’s latest signature dish ‘Lick it up’ is served in time with the song by legendary rock band Kiss. Made with green peas, fenugreek, mushroom and tomato, the dish is designed to be ‘licked up’ directly from the plate – the flavours are layered to touch the tongue exactly where the different taste receptors are placed. An extensive cocktail list is worth sampling.
Other restaurants in Thailand in the Top 50 list:
Sühring, Bangkok (No. 4)
Nahm, Bangkok (No. 10)
Le Du, Bangkok (No. 14)
Paste, Bangkok (No. 31)
Eat Me, Bangkok (No. 33)
Bo.Lan, Bangkok (No. 37)
Issaya Siamese Club, Bangkok (No. 39)
The Dining Room at The House on Sathorn, Bangkok (No. 43)