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The competition promised to be intense after last year’s inaugural Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants awards, sponsored by S.Pellegrino and Acqua Panna. And change was certainly in the air, as Bangkok’s Nahm restaurant knocked Tokyo’s Les Creations de Narisawa off the top spot, amid emotional and jubilant scenes.
(Here you find the full 2014 Asia's 50 Best List. For the social story of the event, please click here).
The stars of Asia’s culinary galaxy gathered at Singapore’s Capella Hotel to witness Australian-born chef David Thompson take his crown. He also picked up the S.Pellegrino Best Restaurant In Thailand award for his nuanced contemporary interpretations of traditional Thai recipes: “To be honest I'm really quite surprised. I bet against myself. I honestly thought I'd dropped out,” said a stunned Thompson. “But this award is a snapshot of what people think at this stage. It has nothing to do with the ongoing quality of all the restaurants in the 50 Best, and the hard work they strive towards on a daily basis. Next year I might be number 50 - and I will need a drink then - but if I were, it doesn't mean what we're doing has changed, it just means the voters have gone onto something else."
Les Creations de Narisawa dropped to second place, but chef Yoshihiro Narisawa was philosophical: “When you’re number one, there is no going up, only down. There are so many chefs working so hard, so it’s very difficult to keep inside the top 50,” he said. The Japanese chef, for whom a commitment to sustainable, high-quality ingredients has been a hallmark, told us his plans for next year: “I continue what I’m doing - but better.”
It was a night to remember for Thailand, as another Bangkok restaurant took third place. Gaggan brings traditional Indian recipes and street-food favourites kicking and screaming into the 21st century, thanks to the deft touch of chef Gaggan Anand.
It was also a good night for China, which had no less than 16 restaurants on the list. Highest placed at 4th for the second year running was Hong Kong’s Amber, which also scooped the S.Pellegrino Best Restaurant in China award. “We’re very excited to get the same spot as last year, so at least there’s consistency,” said Amber chef Richard Ekkebus, who was very quick to congratulate Thompson, “He’s a great chef. It’s an institution, so I’m very excited for him.”
Japan scored the highest number of new entries as L’Effervescence (No.25), Sukiyabashi Jiro (No.38) and Sawada (No. 41) stormed onto the list. But the Highest New Entry Award went to Korea’s Jungsik, which was named the 20th best restaurant in Asia.
The One To Watch award went to Hong Kong’s Tenku RyuGin, while the Highest Climber Award was taken by another Hong Kong restaurant, Fook Lam Moon, which crept onto the list at number 50. Among the individual awards was Lanshu Chen of Le Moût restaurant in Taiwan (a new entry at No. 24), who won the Veuve Clicquot Asia’s Best Female Chef Gong (read her interview here) and Janice Wong of Singapore’s 2am:dessertbar, who was named Asia’s Best Pastry Chef.
Asia’s 50 Best host nation Singapore figured prominently. Not only did André Chiang’s Restaurant André take the Best Restaurant In Singapore award, but the chef-owner was also presented with the coveted Chef’s Choice Award, voted for by his fellow chefs. “I’m very excited,” said a delighted Chiang. “It’s very good to be voted for by the chefs. It means even more to me to have all the support from all the chefs who’ve been to our restaurant and really like what we do. That is very rewarding.”