As the whole world has hunkered down to fight the coronavirus pandemic, the global restaurant industry has had to suffer the consequences of quarantine and social distancing. So it was quite bittersweet to learn which Asian-based restaurants landed on this year’s Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants list, knowing full well that they are all in some way suffering from the effects of the pandemic.
The annual Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants list is an offshoot of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list, and has awarded what it considers the 50 best restaurants in Asia since 2013. Every year, the award ceremony is a grandiose event held in various Asian cities, where the who’s who of Asia’s restaurant scene—chefs, restaurateurs, critics, journalists—gather together for a night of celebration, wining and dining included. The organizers had to cancel the event scheduled on March 24, which was supposed to be held in Saga Prefecture, Japan after a two-year stint in Macau. Instead, the results were announced via a virtual announcement on March 24 live streamed throughout the region.
Despite the coronavirus affecting much of Asia, the organizers decided to continue the awarding, albeit virtually, as a show of support for and recognition of an industry in need. William Drew, Director of Content for Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants, shared, “We are, of course, experiencing unprecedented times both in the restaurant sector and across Asia as a whole. It is therefore more important than ever to support restaurants all over the continent in their recovery, to recognise each other’s achievements over the last 12 months and broadcast a message of solidarity.” In a video message, Drew reiterated, “This announcement is not a celebration. The objective is one of recognition. At this time, more than ever, the restaurant sector needs support: recognising the hard work and talent of teams and individuals remains valid; showing a sense of community and mutual respect also feels important.
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This year, the number one spot went to modern French restaurant Odette in Singapore for the second year in a row. Upon learning the news, Chef Julien Royer and his team shared the following statement in a post on the Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants website: “It’s an amazing and humbling recognition for the whole team—nearly 40 colleagues who have been working at Odette since the opening almost five years ago.”
Thankfully, Odette has remained open, although with tourism down in Singapore, it has suffered like the rest of the industry. Royer added, “The situation at the moment is very unpredictable and scary for everyone, but I would like to send a message of togetherness. We’re all in the same boat: no matter the restaurant, the cuisine or where we are, it’s affecting us all. We have to put all our efforts together to ultimately carry on doing what we love.”
Toyo Eatery, the lone Philippine entry on the list at No. 44 (its second showing on the list after last year’s No. 43 spot), had to close down due to the enhanced community quarantine enforced in Metro Manila. But the restaurant shared the following Instagram post upon learning the news: “Thank you so much to everyone who have supported us and continue to do so. It’s a bittersweet recognition for us, given the global crisis we’re all currently facing.”
Yesterday afternoon, it was announced that our #TeamNaMayToyo remains on the list of Asia's 50 Best Restaurants, and for that we are truly grateful.🔥🙌🏽✨ Thank you so much to everyone who have supported us and continue to do so.🙏🏽 It's a bittersweet recognition for us, given the global crisis we're all currently facing. In place of a celebration, here instead are the things we've reflected on, as part of an industry now caught between a rock and a hard place. When news of a lockdown in Manila came about, our knee-jerk reaction was to remain open no matter what. But after a few sleepless nights of considering our options, we decided to close both Toyo Eatery and Panaderya Toyo indefinitely. Like most establishments, the decision to close wasn't an easy one. There are many people that make up a restaurant's nervous system, from each and every supplier, to the different members of our team. For each day that these restaurants, both big and small, remain closed, big losses are incurred. The uncertainty of how the next few months will go certainly bears a weight that's felt industry-wide. What will "normal" be like for us in this time of crisis? We honestly have no clue. It's a tough time for restaurants right now, but we're a community that's built to serve—and we will try our very best to do so, however the following months turn out to be.💪🏽 ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ This epidemic has shown us the best of what 🇵🇭Filipinos have to offer. Amidst the uncertainties, we have gathered together to aid and support the doctors, nurses, delivery men, service crew, and others in the front line that are going beyond their capacity, so that the rest of us have a chance to come back in fighting order. Our hope is that, when the dust settles, you continue supporting your local restaurants. While we wait, who’s up for online karaoke?🎤🙋🏻♀️🎵😷🎉🇵🇭
Toyo Eatery’s Chef Jordy Navarra also expressed the recognition as a “a nice break from the crisis our world faces today and a mini celebration of our work the past year,” but also took the chance to acknowledge the current dire reality for the industry in an Instagram post.
The rest of the list was dominated by restaurants from Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Thailand. Following Odette, the top five include No. 2 The Chairman in Hong Kong, No. 3 Den in Tokyo, No. 4 Belon in Hong Kong, and No. 5 Burnt Ends in Singapore.
Other 2020 awardees were also honored:
- American Express Icon Award Yoshihiro Morata of Kikunoi, Kyoto, Japan
- Asia’s Best Female Chef Cho Hee-Sook of Hansikgonggan, Seoul, Korea (No. 34)
- Inedit Damm Chef’s Choice Award Yusuke Takada of La Cime, Osaka, Japan (No. 10)
- Asia’s Best Pastry Chef Natsuko Shoji of été, Tokyo, Japan
- Gin Mare Art of Hospitality Award Les Amis, Singapore (No. 11)
- Sustainable Restaurant Award Amber, Hong Kong (No. 31)
- Miele One To Watch Award Masque, Mumbai, India
- Highest New Entry Award Sichuan Moon, Macau (No. 23)
- Highest Climber Award Sorn, Bangkok, Thailand (No. 16)
While this year’s Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants was void of its usual pomp and circumstance, William Drew took the opportunity to share in a post on the website: “Every day we are speaking to chefs, bartenders and customers who tell us new stories of hardship. And with each person we speak to, our resolve grows: in times of crisis, we need to use the strength of our network to help others.”
To learn more, visit theworlds50best.com
Photos courtesy of Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants