March 26, 2024

Asia's 50 Best Restaurants 2024

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After a few years' absence, I'm back catching up with chef friends at the awards ceremony for Asia's 50 Best Restaurants, sponsored by S.Pellegrino and Aqua Panna. This year Seoul plays host to the awards, bringing in chefs, restauranteurs, KOLs, groupies, and wannabes to the large metropolis. Most of us having been eating our way around town, but we've finally arrived at the main event.

Of course many people take pictures to commemorate the occasion, especially chefs. After a few years of trying, Hong Kong team finally got their act together to take a group picture. This year there are 6 restaurants in the top 50, plus another 6 in the back 50 - which is a slight improvement over last year.

I didn't join the group going for some offal stew before the ceremonies, so I was a little hungry. Fortunately there were a few booths serving nibbles - including one from Eatanic Garden. But since I was just there last night and had already tasted what's on offer, I chose to try out something else. Pot rice, steamed okdom, and seafood broth from Yunseoul (윤서울) helped to stave off hunger pangs for me - at least for a little while. The red tilefish has gone through some dry-aging, and I could certainly taste the complexity in the flavors.

The best part of being here is seeing my friends get the recognition they so richly deserved. I'm so happy for them.

Having just paid my first visit to Chef Tam's Seasons (譚卉), I was really happy to see Chef Tam re-join the list with his new restaurant, which also picked up the award for the Best Restaurant in Macau.

I was also happy to see Goh-san rejoin the list after opening Goh in its beautiful new location. One of my regrets is never having visited La Maison de la Nature Goh before its closure, but I did love my dinner at the new incarnation.

Caprice has moved up 17 spots this year, and naturally I was happy for Hairy LS and Victor.

Neighborhood moved back into the top 20 this year, so congratulations were in order to the Man in White T-shirt. He had the honor of Kutsuyama's company tonight.

WING jumped a whopping 32 places this year, getting into the top 5 and picking up the Highest Climber Award, sponsored by Korean Air. With Vicky's legions of fans out there, I guess I shouldn't be too surprised.

The Chairman moved up to No. 4 to take the award for the Best Restaurant in Hong Kong. Hong Kong now has 2 restaurants in the top 5. Danny Yip also managed to pick up the Icon Award.

I was so happy to see my friend Gaggan tonight, and Gaggan Anand moved up from last year to take the award for the Best Restaurant in Thailand.

When Sezanne was announced as the Best Restaurant in Asia, sponsored by S.Pellegrino and Aqua Panna, I was not the least bit surprised. Given the number of Daniel Calvert fans I know, I figured they wouldn't be satisfied with the restaurant only taking the No. 2 spot last year. This year, they succeeded in getting their friend to the top. Congratulations to Daniel!

I'll do the usual summary:

The Best Restaurant in Japan is Sezanne, which serves French cuisine.

The Best Restaurant in Thailand is Gaggan Anand, which serves up innovative Indian cuisine.

The Best Restaurant in Hong Kong is the Chairman, which serves up Chinese cuisine. One can argue whether the cuisine is actually fully Cantonese.

The Best Restaurant in Singapore is Odette, which serves French cuisine.

The Best Restaurant in Korea is Mingles, which serves Korean cuisine.

The Best Restaurant in Mainland China is Fu He Hui, which serves Chinese vegetarian cuisine.

The Best Restaurant in Taiwan is logy, which serves Asian-accented French cuisine.

The Best Restaurant in India is Masque, which serves Indian cuisine.

The Best Restaurant in the Philippines is Toyo Eatery, which serves Filipino cuisine.

The Best Restaurant in Indonesia is August, which serves up cuisine with Indonesian flavors.

The Best Restaurant in Vietnam is Anan Saigon, which serves contemprary Vietnamese cuisine.

The Best Restaurant in Macau is Chef Tam's Seasons, which serves Cantonese cuisine.

There was... almost no food at the official "after party". Some people resorted to munching on Valrhona chocolate, while I made a beeline to the Nongshim (농심) booth to shove down a tiny cup of Shin Ramyun (辛라면). I didn't pay much attention at the time, but I think those were the special Jay Fai editions!

There was a horde of starving people at the event who all needed to be fed, so Chef Son Jong-won from Eatanic Garden organized a group outing to grab dinner at Saebyeokjip (새벽집). The place is open 24 hours, so that was definitely perfect for us.

I arrived to various banchan already laid out on the table.

There were pots of kimchi-jjigae (김치찌개), and i was happy to slurp it down. Juve Fan wasnt a fan of the big chunk of (beef?) blood in his pot, so I offered to take it off his hands.

Yukhoe bibimbap (육회비빔밥) - not bad la...

Sirloin (꽃등심) - the expression "so hungry I could eat a cow" comes to mind... and cow was what we wanted!

Yangnyeom-galbi (양념갈비)

With my belly now not completely empty, a few of us decided to head to the GohGan after-party being held at a little place called Salt. The place was definitely pretty tiny, so lots of people spilled out onto the street outside...

It's ain't a GohGan party without curry...

Not sure what the sauce for the pasta was, but it was pretty decent.

It was really good to see everyone, especially Gaggan, Goh-san, Vlad, Julien... and friends from other cities I don't see often. Congrats to everyone for making the list!

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