Your next favourite restaurant is here

They'll keep your love for good food alive.

To say 2020 was tough is a bit of an understatement. 😬

And it’s not over yet.

But we push forward and move on… or at least we try to. Some things may be gone forever (or for now), but some things still manage to survive, continue to grow, or reinvent themselves – like the Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants programme.

Now on its ninth edition, Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants celebrates the top chefs and dining establishments of the year as voted by Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants Academy – a 300+ strong group made up of food experts, chefs and restaurateurs in the region with a 50/50 gender balance. There will be a virtual ceremony, and it is scheduled for 25 March 2021.

Go with the flow

Like Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants, William Drew, its director of content, adjusted to the situation in his own way.

William Drew
William feels optimistic

“Like many, we focused more on eating at home (not out of choice) and paying more attention to the quality of ingredients and variety of cooking,” he says. “Dining became such a rarity that my choices became more and more discerning – if I am able to dine out, I wanted to make it worth it!”

What about 2020 did he remember the most? “I guess because eating out was so limited – and travel even more so – the dining experiences I did have were all the more memorable,” he admits.

“So the food I had on a pre-pandemic trip to Mumbai early last year will stay with me forever. It included sharing a meal with Floyd Cardoso, one of the founders of Bombay Canteen, who sadly passed away after contracting Covid-19 – so that is a particularly poignant memory.

“Other than that, 2020 highlights include Davies & Brook’s roast chicken meal kit by Daniel Humm; superb seafood at London restaurant Cornerstone; and my son’s bread baking at home.”

Still, it’s left him dreaming even more of “going to good restaurants – where the dishes are a surprise, where someone else is cooking, where the drinks offer has new experiences to explore”, as well as “seafood, which is more difficult to source and cook at home” and “high-quality Chinese or Japanese food”.

Waiting to be inspired

The restaurant industry did take a hit – and our dining habits have changed – but there’s hope… and a host of opportunities for new food experiences. Maybe even a revisit of our favourite places?

Which is why Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants can be a good thing. It could point us in the right direction and show us how to support a lot of eateries in the region. We might even be able to taste their exciting menus soon, too.

Although William can’t reveal anything before the 25th of March, we do know that they will have individual awards like the Icon Award (won by Jay Fai, the queen of Thai street food, which was announced on 4 February); Asia’s Best Female Chef on 25 February; and the first edition of Essence of Asia on 16 March.

Jay Fai
Catch Jay Fai...

Jay Fai
... whip up her tasty street foods in Thailand

Essence of Asia is an unranked selection of casual restaurants in the region that have made, and continue to make, a difference by preserving local culinary traditions and flavours, and helping their communities.

It’s exciting. “Being included in the unranked collection represents an invaluable opportunity for local businesses, no matter where they are based, to grow, leveraging on the platform that Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants represents,” William declares.

“However, in these challenging times of the pandemic, recognition and acknowledgment are more important than ever. The restaurant sector as a whole needs all the support it can get, and we believe that the chefs and owners will feel a strong sense of motivation and solidarity from being part of this collection, aside from it benefiting the business.

“I’m very happy if this collection can help celebrate and promote more restaurants – with an even greater diversity of cuisines with an even wider geographic spread.”

So consider the list

And plan your next meal, pickup or takeaway (whichever’s applicable) with the establishments in your area. Here are a few suggestions when details about the 50 restaurants and Essence of Asia are finally released.

#1 Choose something you’ve never had before

Like a different cuisine, unusual ingredients, novel prep and cooking methods.

#2 Get aligned

Are issues of sustainability and environmental impact important to you? What about culinary traditions? Which cause, value or philosophy is close to your heart?

#3 Check out the new entries

These restaurants are doing something that deserves your attention.

#4 Seasons change

And so do some menus. You could go back when they do.

#5 Signature for a reason

Go with their specialty!

We need each other

The industry and restaurants change, and with them us people as diners (and vice-versa). Last year has shown us how we’re able to cope, what we’re capable of, and what’s important, food-wise. The Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants programme seeks to reflect this.

“The pandemic has presented restaurants with the biggest crisis and economic challenges in modern times,” William maintains. “However, the sector has shown its agility and resilience in such difficult times, not only to stay in business, but also to support others in their communities.

“All chefs and restaurant owners have been forced to rethink, reset and prioritise. In terms of menus, in the short and medium term, they have often had to be simplified to focus on what is available or easily created with a restricted team or supply chain. However, in the long term, we believe this crisis has reinforced the vital role that restaurants play in culture, in mutual understanding, human connections and economic development.

“We can see from the worldwide reaction that the restaurant sector is as agile, fast-moving and fast-thinking as any industry,” he adds. “Ultimately, this will help it to survive and, in due course, thrive again. I dearly hope that the sector recovers, is valued more highly and demonstrates its value to society even further by promoting a healthy, sustainable and accessible future for restaurants.”

And there are no rivalries. “Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants is about collaboration more than competition, recognition more than individual ranking.” So support as many of them as you can, as much as possible, and eat!

For updates on Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants, follow them on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.

Meanwhile, here's last year's #1, Odette in Singapore, to whet your appetite. ⬇