I finally made it.
I received an invitation to attend last year's awards ceremony for Asia's 50 Best Restaurants, sponsored by S.Pellegrino and Acqua Panna, in Singapore. Unfortunately, I was trying my damnedest to launch a new fund and couldn't afford to fly off for a few days for some partying, and I decided to cancel my trip.
So when I was lucky enough to receive another invitation to attend this year's awards ceremony in Bangkok at the last minute, I didn't hesitate. I even called off my 8-year self-imposed exile from Thailand for this.
After speeches by the dignitaries, the presenters rolled through the top 50 list - pausing only for the presentation of individual awards - such as the best restaurant in each country and other categories which were previously announced.
Who wins the No. 1 spot is always the focus, but even getting into the top 10 is already a very huge deal. As we count down to the top 5 spots, it became a game of sorts to look at which restaurants hadn't been mentioned...
It wasn't a complete surprise to me when Gaggan was announced as the Best Restaurant in Asia, sponsored by S.Pellegrino and Acqua Panna, for the second year in a row. From the outside, it would seem that they've been getting even more attention since the last year, so I can imagine that even more people on the voting panels have been visiting the restaurant. Gaggan also became the Best Restaurant in Thailand, sponsored by S.Pellegrino and Acqua Panna.
The rest of the top 5 weren't really surprises and mostly consisted of the same restaurants reshuffling their positions. Narisawa, André, Amber, and Nihonryori RyuGin are all regulars when it comes to the top part of the list.
For all the prestige of the Guide Michelin and the coveted stars, the reality is that the annual Michelin announcements are boring affairs. The list of restaurants with stars is shown on a screen, facts are rattled off from the press release, and chefs take a group picture. Then it's all over. All very business-like. No fun.
Anyway, I was very glad to have been invited again, and happy that there were no work conflicts this year. It was good to mingle to meet some of the chefs from other countries, and I even managed to catch up with some old friends like Chubby Hubby.
We had heard that there was an after-party at Gaggan, but we decided not to crash it like everyone else. There was plenty of food inside the courtyard of the House on Sathorn, prepared by the in-house kitchen as well as the team from Nahm, but we were going out for something better...
P.S. Most of us were shocked to hear Gaggan Anand announce that he will close his eponymous restaurant in 2020. He says he doesn't want to do the same thing beyond the next 5 years, and will look for new challenges or new dreams to pursue. I guess we'd better hit Gaggan as soon and as often as possible, then...
P.P.S. During a break after the awards ceremony, I took a few minutes to gather my thoughts and came to the following realization:
No. 1 on the list, also the Best Restaurant in Thailand, is Gaggan - which serves progressive Indian cuisine instead of Thai cuisine.
No. 2 on the list, also the Best Restaurant in Japan, is Narisawa - which serves cuisine that I consider to be more modern French instead of Japanese cuisine.
No. 3 on the list, also the Best Restaurant in Singapore, is André - which serves modern French cuisine rather than Peranakan cuisine.
No. 4 on the list, also the Best Restaurant in China, is Amber - which serves modern French cuisine rather than Chinese cuisine.
Thankfully No. 9 on the list - Indian Accent, which happens to be the Best Restaurant in India - actually serves contemporary Indian cuisine!
A friend chimed in later, reminding me that according to the list, the best sushi restaurant isn't in Japan, but rather Singapore. Shinji by Kanesaka - an offshoot of Sushi Kanesaka in Tokyo which doesn't appear on the list - comes in at No. 21 while Sushi Saito - considered by many foodies to be the finest sushi restaurant in Japan - is only ranked at No. 26.
The full list of Asia's 50 Best Restaurants is here.