As the largest continent in the world, forgive the geography lesson; it is not hard to imagine the culinary genius being nurtured in Asia’s depths, yet capturing this at its very best is difficult. Thankfully the S. Pellegrino awards are here to do it for us, they enable restaurants to showcase their evolving skill and creativity, which is so important to inspire and encourage an element of healthy competition. Asian cuisine is pushing the boundaries of gastronomic invention that lead to some of the most tantalising concoctions. Looking at the top 10 of the S. Pellegrino & Acqua Panna Asia’s 50 Best restaurants 2014, a list comprised by 900 international restaurant industry experts, it is obvious why they have been honoured with so great an accolade.
Securing the No.1 spot is Nahm, epitomized by its Thai authenticity brought to you by the proven hands of Australian-born chef David Thompson. The paired down surroundings of wooden tables and exposed brick serve as the perfect visual vehicle for a menu that pays close attention to the pillars of Thai cuisine: sour, sweet, salt and spice. This must-visit destination is grounded in centuries-old techniques and flavours, which propel you from smoked fish, peanut and tapioca dumplings to guinea fowl curry with shampoo ginger and holy basil.
Yoshihiro’s international training, courtesy of France, Switzerland and Italy, can be seen in his intricate plates that play with classical French techniques in the most delightfully unexpected way. Praised for his use of sustainable and seasonal Japanese ingredients, Narisawa’s perfect execution is delicate and allows him to do justice to his imagination seen in his hirame Carpaccio with scallop cream sauce and olive oil, to name but one.
Gaggan Anand has received widespread acclaim for his individual take on Indian cuisine, which sees him reinventing and reframing classic Indian dishes with all the flare and drama of modernist cooking techniques, although, do not be mistaken, there is just as much substance as there is style, if not much more. Among the foam, smoke and liquid nitrogen that we have become familiar with, though they remain as entertaining as ever, is real genius. Expect names that keep you guessing and street-food snacks, such as papdi chaat, that have been reinterpreted into something ultra-modern, circa 2050 apparently, and whimsical.
4.Amber, Hong Kong
The word opulence is fully encompassed at The Landmark Mandarin Oriental Hotel where Richard Ekkebus plates up stunning French cuisine with subtle Hong Kong influences. The international influence is prevalent and harmonious in dishes such as their signature Hokkaido sea urchin in lobster jelly, with cauliflower, caviar and crispy seaweed waffle.
5.Nihonryori Ryugin, Tokyo
Seiji Yamamoto works his magic in this intimate 18-seat restaurant where he pushes the boundaries and expectations of Japanese cuisine. He plays deftly with hot and cold with his contemporary techniques producing incredible flavour sensations. The daily changing menu of small dishes keeps this Roppongi destination fresh, seasonal and surprising. Be sure to try their sea perch grilled over charcoal and topped with roasted rice and a black vinegar glaze.
6.Restaurant ANDRE, Singapore
André Chiang is changing the gastronomy game as he intertwines philosophy and food. Chiang refers to ‘octaphilosophy’, which is his way of defining the key characteristics behind his food – Unique, Texture, Memory, Pure, Terroir, Salt, South and Artisan. While a few of these alone are enough to boggle the mind, Chiang has astutely taken a minimal approach to each plate, which gives each ingredient the room to come alive. Chiang’s Southern French nouvelle cuisine and his underlying philosophy is awe-inspiring, particularly Memory – warm foie gras jelly with black truffle coulis.
7.Waku Ghin, Singapore
Tetsuya Wakuda is the driving force behind this 25-cover restaurant that is comprised of four private dining rooms each equipped with a private chef. Wakuda is an authority in Japanese cuisine, and has honed and rounded his skills in Australia throughout his career. His skill speaks for itself in his modern eight-course dégustation menu, which includes the standout marinated botan shrimps with sea urchin and Oscietre caviar. The dining experience is completed when you move into the separate dessert room to finish with two sweet courses; the spectacular view over Marina Bay comes as standard.
8. Ultraviolet by Paul Pairet, Shanghai
Ten diners. Twenty courses. Mystery location. The concept behind Ultraviolet is so theatrical that it demands to be taken notice of and is possibly the most avant-garde dining experience in the world. The use of films, effects, projections and lighting enhances and supports the food itself, presumably Pairet is looking to take his food to an extra-terrestrial level and, with his multi-sensory experience, he is not too far off. Expect to be wowed by the sheer level of attention to detail, the entertainment and most importantly the dishes, such as their savoury chocolate foie gras tartines.
9. Lung King Heen, Hong Kong
Sporting three Michelin stars, this Cantonese restaurant is headed by Chan Yan Tak. Seafood and dim sum have a starring role on the extensive menu that prizes the use of texture to compliment the flavour of the ingredients. Chan Yan Tak has the ability to play off the classics and accentuate their beauty through subtle modern twists, seen in the standout dish of sautéed lobster with vegetables in fermented bean sauce.
10. 8 ½ Otto E Mezzo Bombana, Hong Kong
Opened in 2010 and winning its third Michelin star in 2011, chef Umberto Bombana sticks to what he knows with his modern and sophisticated approach to Italian cooking. Bombana’s contemporary Italian cuisine is inventive while staying true to the purity of the ingredients. What’s more his touch with pasta is nothing short of sinful, and his masterful flavour combinations make Otto E Mezzo Hong Kong’s best Italian restaurant, be sure to try the ‘Fassone’ veal tenderloin with fresh porcini mushrooms and barley.