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Feb 25, 2014 09:57 PM

Asia's Top 50 Restaurants (2014)

I saw the new S.Pellegrino list came out yesterday. It makes quite interesting reading and usefully covers quite a few countries and broadens out from some of the usual suspects.

Anyone have any thoughts?

The top ten are:
1. Nahm - Bangkok
2. Narisawa - Tokyo
3. Gaggan - Bangkok
4. Amber - HK
5. Nihonryori Ryugin - Tokyo
6. Restaurant Andre - Singapore
7. Waku Ghin - Singapore
8. Ultraviolet by Paul Pairet - Shanghai
9. Lung King Heen - HK
10 8 1/2 - HK

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  1. What's everyone take on Nahm being on the top? Some that I can think of:
    - a praise towards Thai cuisine
    - some "slap & insults" to the local chefs knowing the 'best' Thai restaurant (serving Thai food) is prepared by non-Thai head chef

    Anyway, another restaurant list - good for fun
    I don't take it that seriously ...

    6 Replies
    1. re: Bu Pun Su

      I always liked Thompson's food and to be fair he has worked hard to promote Thai food and is very passionate about authenticity so to be fair to him I would say many of the accolades are deserved. Some will argue it isn't the real deal and real Thai food can only be enjoyed on a little plastic stool on the roadside but I think that misses how much influence he has had in promoting Thai food to its rightful place in the world.

      Is he #1 in Asia - who knows, it's a fun list, and good to see all the six Thai restaurants that also made the list - lots of new names in different countries make the list which can't be abad thing.

      1. re: PhilD

        No I never meant great Thai foods are only the one at the street - With limited experiences, my 'best' experiences were eating Thai "fine dining" at FS bangkok and Oriental chiang mai

        How's the food actually like at Nahm? Is it pure and authentic Thai cuisine or more like fusion/somewhat 'westernized'? I hope it's not like a more refined version of PF chang (in this case serving Chinese food) in the US

        1. re: Bu Pun Su

          Sorry wasn't directing it at you.

          Nahm is definitely nothing like the PF Chang model, Thompson would say his whole ethos is the create as authentic a cuisine as possible. His detractors argue its not really a restaurant cuisine to start with; and its aimed at tourists based on its price point thus toned down; and as a farang he will never get it.

          I tend to eat a broad range of good thai food and I think Nahm and Thompson definitely has its place. However, whilst I love the food I have not liked his last two restaurants: the London Nahm was sterile and the Bangkok version didn't relax me (service was a bit iffy).

          We are lucky that in HK we now have a restaurant (ChaChaWan) from an Australian chef - Adam Cliff - a Nahm alumnus.

      2. re: Bu Pun Su

        I don't put much store by the Top 50 list. I can chip a bit with my experience eating many of the Latin America Top 50 List in 2013 (6-8 restaurants, most in top 15).

        The Lima, Peru restaurants were very solid, as was Borago in Chile. But due to an unjustified preponderance of Argentine reviewers - a truly awful restaurant called Tegui made it to #9 in Latin America, and best in Argentina. I think there is always risk of geographical bias, possibly from Thailand.

        My non-foodie friends who have been to Nahm were also unimpressed by the mains, though they liked the desserts.

        1. re: singaporediner

          If "non-foodie friends" are not impressed in a decent Thai restaurant I often take that as a sign it's good. My non-foodie friends love a mild green chicken curry, some nice satay to start, and if it's really good prawn crackers with the drinks order of Tiger beer.

          But seriously - interesting point about the LA list. The one big flaw in the list is local bias, or even worse peer group bias i.e. everyone is on trend and goes to the on trend places, which keeps the places on trend. I think St John is an example of this, maybe El Bulli and possibly Noma.

        2. re: Bu Pun Su

          been to Nahm during November for lunch. while overall, it's good, i don't think its exceptional. dishes were hit and miss. fish and soup were kinda salty, but i love his green curry, the balance was spot on. amuse bouche and dessert were good as well. Good but i don't think its the best in Bangkok.

          My experience at Gaggan was better and i thought the best meal i have in that trip was in Le Beaulieu.

        3. To see 8 1/2 listed in the Top 10 is enough for me to ignore the list!!
          Take a look at this entree dish from this so called Michelin 3* ! Such 'rough-with-an edge' presentation and 'boiled veggies'!! Come-on!!! A Florence Trattoria can do a better job!!

          10 Replies
          1. re: Charles Yu

            I tend to agree about 8 1/2 and no list is perfect - that said the list of the 50 is quite interesting.

            1. re: Charles Yu

              A few years ago I had lunch at 8 1/2 and ordered a la carte
              I agreed that the presentation was not that appealing
              But Bombana's beef duo (tenderloin and short rib - succulent and juicy), al-dente pasta with fresh big prawn and balanced tiramisu were well-executed

              Certainly not 3-star, but it's worth 2 star in my opinion
              It's about as good as his old days at Toscana but dishes are lighter and more modern in the current restaurant

              1. re: Bu Pun Su

                Don't get me wrong - I quite like it - especially a Negroni or three followed by the veal milanese in the bar.

                1. re: PhilD

                  My favorite Italian in Hong Kong is Da Domenico. I know Mr. Yu will now chime in with the HKD 600 vongole, but if you ask Kevin to sort something out, it can be relatively "modest".

                  I had an excellent dinner there recently, four courses: burrata and tomato basil, angel hair pasta, branzino, and a veal dish, plus dessert AND a bottle of wine (for four). Total bill per head, HKD 1,300.

                  You do have to overlook the fact that the waiters will be wearing t-shirts from rock concerts or whatever, but the food is second to none in HK.

                  1. re: Uncle Yabai

                    Has Da Domenico moved...? I thought there lease was up in the old spot.

                    Uncle haver you tried "Rosticceria Italiana Monteverdi" in Sai Ying Pun..? Its the happening area of town at the moment with lots of new openings, yet this is an owner operated restaurant and so counters the trend a bit because its pretty old school (and pretty decent value).

                    Dare I say food cooked with love - a cliche I know - but Armando (the owner) is very passionate about old school Italian recipes. Its a favourite of the Italian expat community and as its tint you need to book.

                    1. re: PhilD

                      Da Domenico did move further up the hill in Causeway Bay. A bit harder to find, but still there. Have not tried Monteverdi. Sounds good, should check it out.

                      I also went to Doppio Zero in Sheung Wan, which was better than I expected.

                    2. re: Uncle Yabai

                      Ha! Ha! Uncle!!
                      No, I won't chime in with the Vongole but can I chime in with the scampi instead?! Ha!!
                      Wow!! By DD standard, that dinner of yours sounded really reasonable! Next time I'm in town may be you can take the lead and arrange a chowmeet there?! I know 'Fourseason' loves the place.

                2. re: Charles Yu

                  Charles, to be fair presentation is not a main stay for Italian fine dining. Trying to assess Italian cuisine against the Michelin ratings presents an immense challenge!

                  After a recent vacation to Singapore, I find it even more bizarre that Iggy's is on the list and that it rates even higher than Les Amis!

                  1. re: blownd

                    Based on my Michelin 3 star experiences in Italy:
                    - Piazza Duomo in Alba and La Pergola in Rome.
                    Both taste AND presentation of the food warrant genuine 3 stars status. 8 1/2, compares to the aforementioned two is IMO only a 1-2 star establishment!!

                    Same can be said about Hong Kong L'Atelier Robuchon's 3 stars!! The 2* Tokyo outpost in Ropponghi Hill IMHO has better and more meticulously prepared food!!

                3. Those japanese restaurants in Sri Lanka, and Mumbai are questionable.

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: Shirang

                    Indeed - but any actual reports as to quality? In some ways the list is interesting because of these types of recommendations are they worthy of seeking them out if in town or not it would be interesting to know.

                    1. re: Shirang

                      Pretty much any Japanese restaurant outside of Japan is questionable. That they would make a "top 50" Asian restaurant list is even more suspect.

                      1. re: Shirang

                        They also really like less traditional restaurants....narisawa/ryugin/ultraviolet/all the singapore places. I wonder what the Japanese people think of the list....

                        1. re: tbtb18

                          tbtb - yes its definitely less traditional.

                          I tend to view it as very different lens to Michelin's conventions. The Top 50 is just a bunch of respected chefs, journalists, writers, and bloggers and reflects their favourites.

                          The methodology is flawed if one expects a systematic analysis of Asian restaurants, but it works quite well for on-trend, restaurants of the moment.

                          Always sensible to triangulate and not rely on one or two sources - the Top 50 just gives a different view.

                      2. I've been to 1, 2, 4, 5 (HK version), and 6.
                        I'd rank them:
                        Ryugin (HK version)
                        Nahm (for lunch)
                        Andre and Narisawa stood out.

                        1. Was actually at Nahm earlier this year for dinner and I really enjoyed the blue swimmer crab curry. Would go back in a heartbeat just for that dish. Best in Asia? That I am not sure but it would be very high on my recall list.