Miele Guide - Japan choices
The upcoming Miele Guide to restaurants in Asia (www.mieleguide.com) has just opened up voting by the public. Here are some of the more surprising nominations from Japan for "Best restaurant in Asia". (Note that there aren't subcategories for "best burger" or whatever - these are for best restaurant, period.)
Dexee Diner (Shibuya)
Pizzeria Bar D'Oro
The Tavern (Yokohama)
What the Dickens
What I mean by the above post is that while a fair few foreigners living in Tokyo are very interested in the local cuisine - be it a Michelin-starred restaurant or a yakitori joint or ramen place down the street - many almost exclusively eat at a burger joint like Homeworks or drink watery US or Mexican beer while enjoying their tacos at a loud Tex Mex place like Zest or spend the evening at a British pub like What the Dickens.
And why not, if that's what people like, that's what people should do. But it does amaze me how inflexible many people are, the thought of running into something food and drink related that may be Japanese really puts some off. That is why I'm not too surprised that the places in Robb S's post are offered up by Miele in their Best of Asia list.
Objectively, there is obviously nothing wrong with it - those people will be as unconcerned about my restaurant choices as I should be about theirs - but I am just finding it difficult to get my head around people traveling to the other side of the world to feast exclusively on the food they know from home, drink the beer they get in their favourite pub in their home towns and pretty much socialise with fellow foreigners only. Why leave the comfort of one's own country at all in that case?
There's always a slant. Many expats and travelers in Japan don't even make it out of Roppongi and the six-block radius of the Grand Hyatt, which also leads to myoptic, disproportionate coverage.
But anyway, while I find your point valid- it always will be for a certain group I suppose- I feel that things have changed over time and the expat community is generally much more in tune with the Japanese sense of appreciation of the local cuisine. I'm sure Robb will agree with this. Whether What the Dickens wins or not, most people have enough sense to know that it validates nothing but the limits of the survey process when a meat pie meat market is a winner.
I guess part of my surprise was that the publishers made such a big deal mentioning that the initial choices were made by professionals - they say: "A shortlist has been drawn from the region’s top food critics." So I was expecting something not quite so...random.
The voting system seems problematic also. You get ten votes, but only three in the country you live in, so you have seven votes for restaurants in other countries in Asia. (But if you live in Montreal or Berlin and travel to Japan a lot, then you can vote for ten places in Japan if you like.) It seems like the system would heavily favor places that are already famous and that cater to tourists.
Well I guess we'll find out how it turns out in a few months....
re: Robb S
It's a complete waste of time, nothing other than a gimmick. And only visa card holders are allowed to vote... Please. A lot of these lists are totally pointless. Consider for example this very widely publicised list: http://www.theworlds50best.com/2007_l... It was published in lots of major newspapers around the world, and some journalists acted like it somehow means something - even though it does not contain a single restaurant located in Tokyo (or anywhere else in Japan). When you click on restaurants 51-100, you will see that there are no Tokyo restaurants there, either.
While the Miele list will tell you the preferences of visa card holders who bother to vote, it's hardly something worth a second look. Also, how could a place like, for example, Aronia de Takazawa do well? They have two tables, so very few people will have a chance to sample their food as compared to people who have visited another restaurant on the list, Cicada for example, which might sit several hundred people in a night versus 10 maximum at Aronia. Aronia has generated lots of hype, so some people may give it a vote based on reputation rather than eprsonal experience, but that's not exactly a useful vote cast, either.
I agree with what Silverjay says, most expats do appreciate Japanese cuisine to a greater or lesser extent. My point was just that it is not that surprising places like WTD or Homeworks even make it on the list, because there is still a strong enough expat contingent here who consider the above "restaurants" to provide sufficient culinary highlights to end up with a respectable number of votes.
The Miele Guide have finally announced their results for the top restaurants in Asia.
1. Iggy's, Singapore.
2. L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon, Hong Kong.
3. Les Amis, Singapore.
4. Gunther's, Singapore.
5. Mozaic, Ubud, Bali, Indonesia.
6. Robuchon a Galera, Macau, China.
7. Garibaldi, Singapore.
8. Yung Kee, Hong Kong.
9. Hutong, Hong Kong.
10. Antonio's Fine Dining, Tagaytay, Philippines.
11. Caprice, Hong Kong.
12. Zuma, Hong Kong.
13. L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon, Tokyo.
14. Bukhara, New Delhi.
15. Grissini, Hong Kong.
16. Nobu, Hong Kong.
17. M on the Bund, Shanghai.
18. Fook Lam Moon, Hong Kong.
19. Zanotti, Bangkok.
20. Kyubey, Tokyo.
re: Robb S
In my opinion, this list and the one by S Pellegrino, are both worthless and not a good guide for any serious foodie. It is more likely catered for the western expatriate community. I have personally tried 9 of the 20 on the above list, and none of them would make it into my personal ten best list in Asia. And incredibly, only one Tokyo restaurant makes it in the top 20. Kyubei is not even in my top 5 SUSHI restaurants in Tokyo, the voters simply have no clue at all. And the best in China is M on the Bund, give me a break!!! Both Meile and S Pellegrino lists deserve to be thrown to the gabbage can.
re: Robb S
Maybe I need to clarify myself so that my above statement is not misunderstood. I like the 9 restaurants that I tried on the list and would not hesitate to go back there again. But the list is terrible for MANY reasons. First, it is overwhelmingly biased for western fine dining places. And it is so obvious that the voters had no idea about Asian cuisine, and or any familiarity with other Asian cities outside of Singapore and Hong Kong. And even for the favorite restaurants in Hong Kong, which is my second favorite culinary city, it is mind boggling that only two are Cantonese restaurants, and not even a single Chiu Chow restaurant is represented there. I also wonder if the voters have any knowledge about the diverse Chinese cuisine in Mainland China that they would only vote for M on the Bund. But the worst sin is to include only one restaurant in the whole Japan in the top 20 list. I personally would include 8 or 9 restaurants in Tokyo in my top 10 list.
Also I have no idea why Nobu and Testsuya (the Sydney one), which I have tried both of them, are consistently considered the best Japanese restaurants on this Meile or S. Pellegrino list. To me, it is so obvious the voters have never tried anything in Japan; their knowledge of Japanese cuisine is so superficial that serious foodies like us would tremble in disbelief when the list is shown to us.
That's kind of what I thought you meant - the individual choices may be okay, but taken as a whole the list is completely unbalanced in terms of cities, cuisines, etc. - arbitrary, random and just plain wrong.
And yes, seeing Nobu listed as the best Japanese restaurant in Asia really shows up the major problems with their methodology. It should have been a clue to whoever put the guide together that something was deeply amiss.
re: Robb S
I've been to 17 of the top 20 restaurants - only missing out on Mozaic, Antonio's & Kyubey - and must admit that I'm also absolutely flabbergasted at the breathtakingly skewed results that came out of the poll.
I was one of those approached by Miele Guide to vote via e-mail - I was directed to a link which doesn't require a VISA card to vote. Despite being Singaporean, I actually chose to vote non-Singaporean restaurants for all my 10 allocated votes, precisely because I was afraid that the results may become TOO skewed towards Singaporean restaurants.
IMO, there is NO WAY that Iggy's can be ranked the top restaurant in Asia. It is one of my favorite restaurants in Singapore, but better that HK's Caprice or L'Atelier? Impossible!
That 3 Singaporean restaurants occupy the top 5 slots just show how biased the survey was - obviously, most of the voters are Singapore-based (the guide's published here in Singapore anyway, and was the brainchild of Singapore food-blogger Chubby Hubby aka Aun Koh & his wife).
I thought one of the funniest entries was in the Japan section - they actually voted Sin Tong Kee, a Singaporean eatery in Ebisu which specializes in Hainanese chicken rice & other Singaporean hawker foods, as being one of the top restaurants in Tokyo. HA-HA-HA!!!
That is funny. And from what I've heard, the service there is notably bad (although apparently the food is good).
I was surprised to see that French Kitchen made their list. Then I noticed that of only 27 entries in the Tokyo section, four of them are in Hyatt hotels. And Hyatt is one of the sponsors of the guide.
Obviously, the folks at the Miele Guide haven't been to The Tavern. I've been there many times in the last 25 years, most recently in December 2007. It's a bar. We drink and play darts and then head down the alley to eat good Chinatown food.
But a "best restaurant" designation? Not in a million years.