All in good taste: the winners of Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants are revealed - as Gaggan triumphs again
Gaggan, an Indian molecular gastronomy restaurant in Bangkok, took first place - but there was a strong showing from nine of Hong Kong’s finest too
Gaggan, Bangkok’s self-styled “progressive Indian restaurant”, has won top spot in the Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants awards for the fourth year in a row.
In a press conference after the awards ceremony, which was held at the Wynn Palace, Macau, on Tuesday night, chef Gaggan Anand said that in 2015, when the restaurant first came in first place, “Everyone thought it was a fluke.”
“The second year, people thought we had bribed [people],” the molecular gastronomist continued. “The third year, we won it. This year, we don’t have to prove we won it.”
The chef, who will be closing Gaggan in 2020, commented on the challenges of staying on top. “We change our menu entirely every four months. About 80 per cent of the dishes we test [for the menu] go into the garbage.
“A guest might eat at my restaurant several times a year but when he says that the menu he ate this time was better than the last time, not that the menu last time was better than this one, that’s important but that's the challenge I face.”
Gaggan’s winning streak is matched only by the now-closed El Bulli in Spain, which from 2006-2009 came in at number one on the list of The World’s 50 Best Restaurants - the parent awards of Asia’s Best.
In fact, Anand was the first chef from India to work at the El Bulli lab, and on Tuesday night he talked about how his experiences there inspired him, the importance of the awards, and the need for chefs to pass on their skills.
“The 50 Best has created a community, a family. We cheer for each other [during the ceremony], we don’t boo each other,” he said. “[El Bulli chef] Ferran Adrià motivated me, now it’s my turn to motivate the next generation of chefs.”
Hong Kong had many wins and a few losses on this year’s list.
The city saw three new entries this year: Caprice in the Four Seasons, with chef Guillaume Galliot, came in at number 46; Belon, led by Daniel Calvert, was number 40; and Neighborhood, by chef David Lai, was number 32.
Nicolas Lambert of Caprice was named Asia’s Best Pastry Chef. Ronin, with Matt Abergel at the helm, rose four spots to number 41, while Ta Vie by Hideaki Sato went from last year's 33 to number 16.
The biggest climber among Hong Kong restaurants was The Chairman, owned by Danny Yip, which rose 25 spots to number 22.
On the downside for the city, L’Atelier by Joël Robuchon fell off the list entirely.
Meanwhile, last year’s fourth place, 8 1/2 Otto e Mezzo by Bombana, fell to number 13; Lung King Heen at the Four Seasons went from 17 to 24; while Amber by Richard Ekkebus dropped four spots, from three to seven.
Ekkebus was disappointed by the fall, but was philosophical. “Amber will be closing for renovations by the end of the year, and we will start with a clean slate in early 2019. The best years of Amber are still ahead of us.”
The Chairman’s Danny Yip was happy at his restaurant’s good showing. “We didn't expect anything – we were actually surprised we were on the list again.
“I’m thrilled – I think it’s because we’ve been putting more time into the restaurant. I’m going to sleep with the award tonight!”
Other big winners at the ceremony were Den in Tokyo, which came in at number two (up from last year’s 11); Taiwanese chef André Chiang, who won the Lifetime Achievement Award; and Bee Satongun of Paste in Bangkok, who was named Asia’s Best Female Chef, with her restaurant coming in at number 31.
Also among those taking home trophies were Chef’s Choice Award winner Yoshihiro Narisawa of Japan’s Narisawa (which placed at number six); Ultraviolet by Paul Pairet in Shanghai (number eight), which won the Art of Hospitality Award; and Toyo Eatery in Manila, which was named The One to Watch.