Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants 2015– Inspiration, Collaboration And… More Reasons To Visit ASIA!

At the Asia's 50 Best 2015 awards ceremony in Capella, Singapore with Asia's #1.. Gaggan Anand of Gaggan in Bangkok, Thailand, whooohoo! Congratulations!!
The 2015 Asia's 50 Best Restaurants was held at Capella Resort in Sentosa, Singapore
The 2015 Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants was held at Capella Resort in Sentosa, Singapore (Photos courtesy of Asia’s 50 Best)

On the stroke of midnight of November 11, 2014, Gaggan Anand personally presented me a mango bomb cake as I wished upon the stars and blew out the candle. I happened to be in Bangkok for a work trip during the eve of my birthday—and I decided to spend it at Gaggan.

Turning a year older at Gaggan. ☺️☺️☺️ Felt so blessed to celebrate my birthday salubong at the #3 Best Restaurant in Asia and #17 Best in the World, with Gaggan himself personally presenting me a mango bomb "birthday cake." :)
Turning a year older at Gaggan. :) :) :) Felt so blessed to celebrate my birthday salubong at the #1 Best Restaurant in Asia and currently, #17 Best in the World, with Gaggan himself personally presenting me a mango bomb “birthday cake.” :)

On March 9, 2015, Gaggan was awarded the #1 Restaurant in Asia at the Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants awards ceremony at Capella in Sentosa, Singapore. I couldn’t have been happier and prouder. I first met Gaggan at the 2014 Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants, and coincidentally, it was his birthday then and we all had a fun celebration at the after-party hosted by celebrity chef Bobby Chinn at Movenpick Resort. I am a big fan of Indian food and at his restaurant, Gaggan keeps his roots– and the inspiration from the street food from his birth place of Kolkata, India– alive (for instance, he doesn’t serve utensils in the first eight courses so guests can have a direct interaction with the food with their fingers). Yet at the same time injects the style he learned from Ferran Adria at El Bulli. The end result is some very delicious progressive Indian cuisine.

Congratulations, Gaggan in Bangkok, Thailand!!! #1!!!
Congratulations, Gaggan in Bangkok, Thailand!!! #1!!! Whoohoo!!!
At the Asia's 50 Best 2015 awards ceremony in Capella, Singapore with Asia's #1.. Gaggan Anand of Gaggan in Bangkok, Thailand, whooohoo! Congratulations!!
At the Asia’s 50 Best 2015 awards ceremony in Capella, Singapore with Asia’s #1.. Gaggan Anand of Gaggan in Bangkok, Thailand, whooohoo! Congratulations!!

This year was a VERY important year for the Philippines as well because for the first time ever, we made it to the list, with Antonio’s in Tagaytay entering at #48, hooray!!! We Filipinos have always championed chef Tony Boy Escalante’s modern European cuisine since it first opened in 2002, but now it has put us on the map once again! (PS He’s opening a restaurant in Metro Manila– finally!!!– converting an old house in Kapitolyo, Pasig– later this year!)

The 1st time the PHILIPPINES is on the list of Asia's 50 Best Restaurant!!! Whoohoo Antonio's, Chef TonyBoy Escalante & team, we are sooo proud of you!!!
The 1st time the PHILIPPINES is on the list of Asia’s 50 Best Restaurant!!! Whoohoo Antonio’s, Chef TonyBoy Escalante & team, we are sooo proud of you!!!
Congratulations Chef Tony Boy Escalante and Antonio's team! You guys are a source of Pinoy Pride!!
Congratulations Chef Tony Boy Escalante and Antonio’s team! You guys are a great source of Pinoy Pride!!

For those of you overseas who have never been, here’s a snippet of what Antonio’s looks and feels like from the CNNGo: Manila episode I did for CNN International back in 2012. I had breakfast there and Chef Tony Boy took me around before I hiked up Taal Volcano!  (The Antonio’s bit starts at 00:40)

To quote William Drew, group editor of Asia’s 50 Best, organized by William Reed Business Media and sponsored by San Pellegrino and Acqua Panna, “We are about bringing people together– not just about top restaurants– [but] we are also about collaboration, provocation and inspiration.”

I personally think that this awards is also a great opportunity for tourism as each restaurant that makes it on the list also puts the country it’s from on the map. For example, people now are like,” I want to go to the Philippines to try Antonio’s and to Cambodia to try Cuisine Wat Damnak.” (Both are NEW COUNTRIES to the list– and Gaggan happens to be one of those who has them on his bucket list!)

A chef recently told me, “The World’s 50 Best/ Asia’s 50 Best/ Latin America’s Best is actually more important now than [insert established guide rating here] because this is the one that can make or break a restaurant/ chef.” 

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Here are my Top 3 personal highlights from the Asia’s 50 Best 2015:

1) Seeing my favorite restaurants in Singapore climb up the list! 

With some of Asia's most talented chefs (Clockwise from L-R): Andre Chiang (Restaurant Andre, Singapore); Julien Royer (JAAN, Singapore); Tetsuya Wakada (Waku Ghin, Singapore; Tetsuya's, Sdyney); Richard Ekkebus (Amber, Hong Kong) (Photo of Tetsuya Wakada courtesy of Asia's 50 Best
With some of Asia’s most talented chefs (Clockwise from L-R): Andre Chiang (Restaurant Andre, Singapore); Julien Royer (JAAN, Singapore); Tetsuya Wakuda (Waku Ghin, Singapore; Tetsuya’s, Sydney); Richard Ekkebus (Amber, Hong Kong) (Photo of Tetsuya Wakuda courtesy of Asia’s 50 Best

Andre Chiang’s Restaurant Andre (now at # 5; also voted best restaurant in Singapore) and Julien Royer’s Jaan (now at # 11; coincidentally, sous chef Kirk Westaway was also awarded S. Pellegrino Young Chef 2015 for Southeast Asia); and the new entry of Dave Pynt’s Burnt Ends right at #30!

Plus, the new entry of Hakkasan in Shanghai to #46— I tried it last year and it was superb– a kind of “welcome back home– finally!” as the restaurant– which serves modern Cantonese fare– first opened in London, then New York, Miami, Mumbai, and so on– and finally last year in its home country!

Richard Ekkebus of Amber in Hong Kong very deservedly won the Chefs’ Choice Award for 2015. Also a massive congratulations to Tetsuya Wakuda who won the Lifetime Achievement Award!  He had the loudest applause that evening! 

2) Eleven Madison Park’s Daniel Humm and Will Guidara’s talk at the Asia’s 50 Best Summit– “You need to leave your ego at the door.”

Eleven Madison Park's Daniel Humm and Will Guidara's talk at the Asia's 50 Best Summit was one of the most inspiring ones, according to most of the guests. (Photo courtesy of Asia's 50 Best)
Eleven Madison Park’s Daniel Humm and Will Guidara’s talk at the Asia’s 50 Best Summit was one of the most inspiring ones for me.. and  most of the guests. (Photo courtesy of Asia’s 50 Best)

A summary of some of their points: “Hospitality is about being reactive and doing your best to figure out what your guests want, and accommodating them in a way for them to feel seen or heard… We research our guests as much as we can before they come in because in the absence of information, we cannot provide personalized service… We look at the experience not about us but about the guest’s experience… There is a growing pride today about not caring about what the guest wants, it’s about what the chef wants; we are not about that at all.”

Their humility, perseverance and guest-centeredness (rather than chef-centeredness) are inspiring and possibly the reason why they are one of the most successful restaurants in the world today (# 4 in the world) — something a lot of others can learn from.

3) The Asia’s 50 Best Maestro Dinner personally prepared by THE Tiger’s Milk Gang  from Peru at Daniel Chavez’s Ola Cocina del Mar. 

Such an honor to have been part of the Asia's 50 Best maestro dinner at Ola Cocina del Mar where the very famous Tiger's Milk Gang each prepared a specialty course from their restaurant, alongside Ola's Daniel Chavez. Gaston Acurio (Astrid y Gaston), Rafael Piqueras (Marasi), Mitshuharu Tsumura (Maido) and Virgilio Martinez (Central) <3
Such an honor to have been part of the Asia’s 50 Best maestro dinner at Ola Cocina del Mar where the very famous Tiger’s Milk Gang each prepared a specialty course from their restaurant, alongside Ola’s Daniel Chavez (in rightmost photo with girlfriend Andrea Koh). Gaston Acurio (Astrid y Gaston), Rafael Piqueras (Marasi), Mitshuharu Tsumura (Maido) and Virgilio Martinez (Central) <3

The Peruvian Quartet, also known as Leche de Tigre, is led by Gastón Acurio of Astrid y Gaston, Rafael Piqueras of Marasi, Mitsuharu Tsumura of Maido, and Virgilio Martinez of Central (currently #1 in Latin America). The most impressive thing about them is that they travel the world promoting Peruvian cuisine.

“We have a huge biodiversity — a heritage of hundreds of recipes that call for a multicultural society,” shares Acurio. “We don’t compete– we share. We are representing a community and are the voice of the farmers working high up in the Andes dealing with a lot of environmental problems. We are presenting food because we deeply believe we can do a lot for food for our communities. We are here not because we are selling our restaurants but because we are representing something bigger than us.”

Definitely something we can aspire for as well!

Peruvian legend Gaston Acurio serving me his own Cebiche of love! He has 1M followers on Twitter-- and I was told that Peru wanted him to run for President because of how he has transformed their country, galing!!!
Peruvian legend Gaston Acurio serving me his own “Cebiche of Love”  made of scallops, sea urchin, red gamba, lobster, coral crab & Rocoto leche de tigre! He has 1M followers on Twitter– and I was told that Peru wanted him to run for President because of how he has transformed their country, galing!!!

The Full List of the 2015 Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants:

1. GAGGAN Bangkok, Thailand

2. NARISAWA Tokyo, Japan

3. ULTRAVIOLET BY PAUL PAIRET Shanghai, China

4. NIHONRYORI RYUGIN Tokyo, Japan

5. RESTAURANT ANDRÉ Singapore

6. AMBER Hong Kong, China

7. NAHM Bangkok, Thailand

8. 8 1/2 OTTO E MEZZO BOMBANA Hong Kong, China

9. WAKU GHIN Singapore

10. JUNGSIK Seoul, Korea

11. JAAN Singapore

12. L’EFFERVESCENCE Tokyo, Japan

13. LES AMIS Singapore

14. HAJIME Osaka, Japan

15. FOOK LAM MOON Hong Kong, China

16. FU1015 Shanghai, China

17. L’ATELIER DE JOËL ROBUCHON Hong Kong, China

18. IGGY’S Singapore

19 FU HE HUI Shanghai, China

20. LUNG KING HEEN Hong Kong, China

21. MR AND MRS BUND Shanghai, China

22 INDIAN ACCENT New Delhi, India

23 ROBUCHON AU DÔME Macau, China

24 TENKU RYUGIN Hong Kong, China

25 EAT ME Bangkok, Thailand

26 LE MOÛT Taichung, Taiwan

27 RYUNIQUE Seoul, Korea

28. BO INNOVATION Hong Kong, China

29. WASABI BY MORIMOTO Mumbai, India

30. BURNT ENDS Singapore

31. NIHONBASHI Colombo, Sri Lanka

32. SHINJI BY KANESAKA Singapore

33. TAKAZAWA Tokyo, Japan

34. 28 HUBIN ROAD Hangzhou, China

35. THE CHAIRMAN Hong Kong, China

36. TIPPLING CLUB Singapore

37. BO.LAN Bangkok, Thailand

38. LA YEON Seoul, South Korea

39. ISSAYA SIAMESE CLUB Bangkok, Thailand

40. SUSHI SAITO Tokyo, Japan

41. BUKHARA New Delhi, India

42. CAPRICE Hong Kong, China

43. MINISTRY OF CRAB Colombo, Sri Lanka

44. SUKIYABASHI JIRO Tokyo, Japan

45. OSTERIA MOZZA Singapore

46. HAKKASAN Shanghai, China

47. IMPERIAL TREASURE SUPER PEKING DUCK Singapore

48. ANTONIO’S Tagaytay, Philippines

49. QUINTESSENCE Tokyo, Japan

50. CUISINE WAT DAMNAK Siem Reap, Cambodia

For more information on Asia’s 50 Best, visit their website here.