After unveiling its list of Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants in Singapore this February, the 900 restaurant connoisseurs who compose The Diners Club® World’s 50 Best Restaurants Academy has since cast a global gaze, issuing the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list yesterday in London.
After making the list for eight years running, the three Michelin star, self-proclaimed “avant-garde” cooking lab El Celler De Can Roca – run by brothers Josep, Jordi and Joan Roca of Girona, Spain – landed the top slot for the first time. El Celler dislodged Copenhagen’s Doma, which had held the top spot three years running but had to be content with number two this year. While other European restaurants, along with a smattering of heavy hitters from the United States and Latin America, take the lion’s share of accolades, some Asia-Pacific favorites still did well.
At the top of Asia’s food chain is regional champion Narisawa of Tokyo (short for Les Créations de Narisawa), famed for its Japanese spin on French fundamentals. Narisawa came in 20th worldwide and also won the Sustainable Restaurant Award for its social and environmental consciousness.Enjoying this article? Click here to subscribe for full access. Just $5 a month.
The next Asia-Pacific entry on the list is Melbourne’s Attica at no. 21. Attica is now officially the best restaurant Down Under, topping Sydney chef Peter Gilmore’s Quay, which slipped from no. 29 last year to 48th on the new list. Attica was also awarded Highest New Entry and praised for the “imaginative and outstandingly good” culinary output of Chef Ben Shewry, a 35-year-old Victoria native.
Other notable placements include Nihonryori RyuGin (Tokyo, 22), Nahm (Bangkok, 32), Amber (Hong Kong, 36), new entry Restaurant Andre (Singapore, 38), 8 1/2 Otto E Mezzo Bombana (Hong Kong, 39) and mainland China’s top pick, Mr & Mrs Bund (Shanghai, 43).
Organized by Restaurant magazine (published by William Reed Media) and sponsored by S.Pelegrino and Acqua Panna, the criteria and manner of voting are designed to encourage panelists to make cross-regional picks and dig beneath the surface. Restaurants cannot apply for the contest, nor can judges cast votes for eateries they are involved with.
The only rules are that judges (36 each across 26 regions) confidentially choose seven restaurants where they have eaten within the past 18 months – three outside of their region – and submit them in order of preference. That’s it. The restaurants themselves do not need credentials. If they are so inclined, the foodies behind the results could use one vote for a street stall in Sarawak and another for a swanky five-star hotel spread.
Yet, the list never fails to incite controversy. Speaking with the South China Morning Post, epicure CeCe Hoang said, “People have not heard of these awards. I don't think it has touched Asia enough. I don't know the criteria, but there are a lot better restaurants in Asia.”
“I’m a little surprised. However, the nature of judging food can be subjective,” added fellow bon vivant Kenneth Tang, who owns Bondi Café in Hong Kong’s Lai Chi Kok neighborhood. “I would like to see an award for best everyday dining rather than the super-fine-dining establishments which inevitably dominate the awards.”
Similar criticism comes from food blogger Bonjwing Lee: “I would like to think that most people who read the “World’s 50 Best Restaurants” list are smart enough to know that it is neither an objective nor authoritative source for determining the world’s best restaurants. No one, however qualified, could make that list. At best, these are the fifty trendiest (or most-publicized) restaurants in the world.”