For the third straight year, an Indian restaurant in Thailand topped Asia's 50 Best Restaurants list. Gaggan, named after founder and head chef Gaggan Anand, debuted on the inaugural 2013 list at No. 10 and climbed to the top spot two years later. Anand, who cooked for Bill Clinton and a former president of India by age 22, trained under Ferran Adrià at the iconic elBulli and then opened his Bangkok-based shrine to molecular Indian gastronomy in 2010.
Gaggan serves an extensive tasting menu that has included playfully named dishes like Who Killed the Goat, Delhi Belly, Beauty and Beast, Magic Mushrooms and Bong Connection. To the less-daring diner, the fanciful names might sound more appealing than sea urchin ice cream, charcoal prawn and poached fish with gunpowder. The cocktail list includes a cannabis-free take on the cannabis-infused bhang thandai that the menu describes as, "Without Indian cannabis but recreating the magic drink with almond liqueur, fresh pistachio, milk saffron, spices, pepper vodka and lots of green chilly." Another classic cocktail (pictured here) is an updated Old Fashioned made with bourbon, pepper and Cohiba served in a smoking pipe.
In spring 2016, Gaggan dropped 13 spots to No. 23 on the World's 50 Best Restaurants list, but it managed to stay ahead of Singapore's Restaurant André (No. 2) and Hong Kong's Amber (No. 3) on the Asian list. The restaurant has since bounced back, landing at No. 7 on the world list for 2017.
Overall, Bangkok and Singapore tied for the most entries with nine apiece, followed by Tokyo with eight and Hong Kong with seven. Nahm, which topped the list in 2014, climbed three spots to No. 5 for the highest-charting restaurant serving traditional Thai food, albeit at the hands of an Aussie chef. In fact, only four of the Top 10 restaurants were actually helmed by Asian chefs, i.e., Gaggan Anand, André Chiang of Restaurant André, Yoshihiro Narisawa of Narisawa (No. 6) and Seiji Yamamoto of Nihonryori RyuGin (No. 7). Restaurants run by Dutch, Italian, two French and two Aussie chefs rounded out the Top 10. Among the immigrant chefs, Julien Royer of France scored the highest debut in the list's history with Singapore's Odette taking a No. 9 bow.
The British trade magazine Restaurant compiles three Top 50 lists: World, Asia and Latin America. Hundreds of experts voted on the restaurants included in the Asia list, but the results are not without controversy. Last year, France launched a competing rankings after feeling purposefully underrepresented in the British-based list. The French ranking is famous because Benoit Violier, head chef at the inaugural list-topping restaurant, committed suicide for unrelated reasons shortly after winning the top spot.
On a happier note, Tokyo-based restaurant Den (picture on the right) at No. 11 scored the Art of Hospitality Award for its fun and friendly service, which includes dishes like Den-tucky Fried Chicken served in a mock KFC take-out box. Den sat at No. 37 on this same list a year ago.