The 7th annual awards took place in Macau earlier today, and Odette pulled an upset, climbing four spots and giving Singapore its first list topper. The restaurant, helmed by chef Julien Royer (on left, below), serves modern French food, which also makes it the first restaurant serving non-Asian cuisine to top Asia's 50 Best. The 36-year-old chef opened Odette in late 2015 and named it after his grandmother, and the always-evolving menu can include dishes like beak-to-tail pigeon with Cambodian kampot pepper and yuzu tarte with sake and basil.
Located in the National Gallery, the restaurant recruited local artist Dawn Ng to run an art program called A Theory of Everything, and she adorned the soft-pink colored walls with deconstructed images of the chef's primary ingredients.
Gaggan Anand, who will close his eponymous restaurant next year to open a new project in Fukuoka, Japan, finished second in Gaggan's final year on the 50 Best list. The progressive Indian restaurant debuted on the inaugural 2013 list at No. 10 and climbed to the top spot two years later. Bangkok-based Gaggan serves an extensive 25-course tasting menu with playfully named dishes like Lick It Up, Magic Mushrooms, Bong Connection and Who Killed the Goat.
Further highlighting the extent of the upset, Gaggan currently sits at No. 5 on the World's 50 Best list and Odette at No. 28. Coincidentally, the next global awards take place June 25 in Singapore where Odette is located.
Den, which dropped to No. 3, was the Chef's Choice for No. 1. The Tokyo-based restaurant mirrors Gaggan's balance of innovative cuisine and lighthearted fun, and chef Zaiyu Hasegawa served PRØHBTD a bowl of sperm-filled cod testicles (unbeknownst to us at the time) when we visited the restaurant last December to interview the chef. Den, which won the Art of Hospitality Award in 2017, defies culinary stereotypes with dishes like Den-tucky Fried Chicken served in a mock KFC take-out box, and the space features a small area with magic mushroom imagery.
Bangkok's German restaurant Sühring and Tokyo's French restaurant Florilège rounded out the Top 5 at Nos. 4 and 5, respectively. Ultraviolet by Paul Pairet, a 10-seat French restaurant in Shanghai, followed in sixth place, moving up two spots from last year.
For those counting at home, yes, Gaggan and Den were the only restaurants in the Top 6 spots that primarily serve Asian cuisine.
After climbing 25 spots in 2018, the Taiwanese restaurant Mume climbed another 11 to finish in the Top 10 at No. 7. This marks Taiwan's first entry in the Top 10. Tokyo's Narisawa (No. 1 on the inaugural Asia's Best list in 2013) and Nihonryori RyuGin landed at Nos. 8 and 9, respectively, while Burnt Ends, an Australian BBQ joint in Singapore, took the ten spot.
Seoul's highest entry, Mingles (below), slipped two spots to No. 13. Controversy surrounded the Michelin guide when it came to the South Korean capital in 2017, and it may have affected some of the vote, as Mingles arguably belongs in the Top 5. (And Ryunique somehow missed the list altogether.) With Jungsik falling off this year, Seoul's only other restaurant on the 50 Best was TocToc at No. 41.
Among the notable debuts, Malaysia scored its first-ever 50 Best restaurant with Dewakan at No. 46, and Bangkok's Gaa landed the highest new entry at No. 16. The highest climber belonged to Hong Kong's Belon, which jumped 25 spots to No. 18.
Japan was the clear culinary leader in 2019 with a record-setting 12 entries, followed by Hong Kong with nine, Thailand with eight and Singapore with seven. Sri Lanka, Malaysia, India, Indonesia and the Philippines each had one restaurant on the list. Hong Kong's entries include a restaurant at No. 38 where PRØHBTD ate a bowl of bird spit, giving Den a run for its money in the scary bowl department.
As far as individual awards, Seiji Yamamoto of Nihonryori RyuGin (No. 9, image below) and Shoun RyuGin (No. 31) won the prestigious Icon Award. Tokyo-based Nihonryori RyuGin claims three Michelin stars and peaked at No. 2 on the inaugural list, behind Narisawa. Jimmy Lim, who merges Taiwanese ingredients with flavors from his native Singapore, scored the Won to Watch award with his relatively new JL Studio in Taichung, Taiwan. Garima Arora (Gaa) scored the Best Female Chef award, marking the third straight year that a chef with a Bangkok-based restaurant won this award: Bee Santongun (Paste) won last year, preceded by May Chow (Little Bao, based in Bangkok and Hong Kong) in 2017.
In total, four restaurant with female chefs made Asia's 50 Best, up from two in 2018 but one less than the current World's 50 Best list.
Photo credit: Asia's 50 Best Restaurants, sponsored by S.Pellegrino & Acqua Panna.