May 10, 2012|
So the S. Pellegrino World’s Best Restaurants list for 2012 (www.theworlds50best.com) has finally been published. It’s still heavily dominated by European and American institutions, but Asia has quite a bit to be proud of—if you look at the top 100 and not just the official top 50. I was happy to see some of my picks make the list (as a member of the judging panel this year, you can bet I did my best to nominate the crème de la crème of our region!)—but would’ve been much, much happier if at least one Asian resto had made the top 10. Alas—again—it just wasn’t meant to be.
The best-faring Asian restaurant managed to just miss the top 25. Iggy’s (3/F, The Hilton Singapore, 581 Orchard Rd., Singapore, (+65) 732-2234, www.iggys.com.sg) is still supposedly Asia’s best eatery, up one notch from last year at number 26. The food at Iggy’s is, unsurprisingly, French—OK, so it comes with a hint of Singaporean influence, but I do have a point to make.
Hong Kong’s lovely Amber (The Landmark Mandarin Oriental, 15 Queen’s Rd. Central, 2132-0066, www.amberhongkong.com) remains the city’s top-rated restaurant, even though it slid down seven spots from last year to land at number 44. I can vouch that chef Richard Ekkebus is truly talented, but again, Amber serves predominantly French cuisine.
Even Japan’s top restaurant, Narisawa (Minami Aoyama 2-6-15, Minato-ku, Tokyo, (+81) 3 5785 0799, www.narisawa-yoshihiro.com)—just behind Iggy’s at number 27—is a blend of French and Japanese. For god’s sake!
Perhaps part of the problem with this totally skewed list lies in the presumptions of the judges (myself included). Maybe we’re all trying to guess what other people are likely to nominate—after all, how else could there ever be a general consensus from a pool of millions of establishments? But whatever it is, the restaurants in the final list are pretty homogenous, if not predictable.
In fact, I can practically give you a formula to make this “Best” list. First, you’ve gotta make your dishes look as delightful as an Impressionist painting. Above all, they’ve gotta be good enough to photograph. Long after people have forgotten how your flash-frozen Nordic pine done-five-ways tastes, they will remember how it sparkled and shone on the plate—they’ll probably have taken pictures of it with their iPhones from three different angles, too, to be remembered for eternity. Secondly, molecular gastronomy or deconstruction or any other 21st-century innovation will go a long way. If it involves dehydration and foaming, even better. Third, make sure there’s some sort of European influence in your dishes, no matter what your restaurant serves or where it’s located; French is the safest bet. Not that I have anything against new techniques or Western interpretations of ethnic cuisines or beautiful presentation—but it almost seems like the S. Pellegrino list doesn’t have the capacity to include anything outside this narrow repertoire. As a well-respected go-to for diners around the world, I definitely think the list has room for improvement.
Back to Hong Kong: Bo Innovation (2/F, J Residence, 60 Johnston Rd., Wan Chai, 2850-8371) climbed up 12 spots to number 52—it’s not part of the official 50, but does get lumped into the top 100—which makes it Hong Kong’s second-highest-ranking restaurant, and one that totally deserves the spotlight. More predictable choices are Caprice (Podium 6, Four Seasons Hotel, 8 Finance St., Central, 3196-8888) and Lung King Heen (Podium 4, Four Seasons Hotel, 8 Finance St., Central, 3196-8880), rounding out the list at 54th and 93rd respectively.
And yes, Noma (Strandgade 93, 1401 Copenhagen, Denmark, (+45) 3296 3297, www.noma.dk) has taken the top spot for the third year in a row, to nobody’s surprise.