5 restaurants among world's top 100

Singapore continues to make its presence felt on the global food scene, with five restaurants in the top 100, on the much-watched World's 50 Best Restaurants list this year.

Last year, there were only four.

This year, Singapore also has two restaurants in the top 50, up from just one last year. Chef Andre Chiang's Restaurant Andre in Bukit Pasoh Road - Singapore's only top 50 entry last year - climbed one spot to No. 37; while Tetsuya Wakuda's Waku Ghin at Marina Bay Sands, which debuted in 39th place in 2012 but slipped to 68th place last year, jumped 18 places this year to come in at No. 50.

Now in its 13th edition, the annual list, compiled by British trade publication Restaurant Magazine, also releases a secondary list that ranks restaurants from 51 to 100.

The rankings were announced at an awards ceremony attended by the world's leading chefs and restaurateurs at the Guildhall in London, Britain, on Monday night.

The newest Singapore restaurant to make the top 100 is Swissotel The Stamford's French restaurant Jaan, which is ranked 100th this year.

Its chef de cuisine Julien Royer, 31, says: "It is a huge source of encouragement for our team and the tireless work we put into creating a unique experience for our guests. It is just the start for us and we hope to continue to excel and place Singapore on the culinary map."

He joined the restaurant in 2011 and while the restaurant had previously been ranked on the list in 2010, it was headed by Chiang, who now runs Restaurant Andre.

Contemporary restaurant Iggy's at Hilton Singapore and French restaurant Les Amis at Shaw Centre also made the top 100 list again this year.

Iggy's is No. 84, down 19 spots from last year, while Les Amis fell five places to come in at No. 86. Their best ranking on the list was two years ago, when Iggy's placed 26th and Les Amis, 53rd.

Since then, both restaurants now have new chefs heading the kitchens. Both chefs took over the reins in the third quarter of last year. Head chef Masahiro Isono took over the running of Iggy's kitchen last December, while Les Amis' new chef de cuisine, Sebastien Lepinoy, started last October.

Chef Isono, an alumnus of famed Italian restaurant Il Ghiottone in Kyoto, joined Iggy's in 2012. Chef Lepinoy, whose credentials include having worked at L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon in Hong Kong, had previously run Les Amis' now-defunct sister restaurant Cepage in Hong Kong, which debuted on the list in 96th place in 2010.

Spokesmen for both restaurants seem confident about keeping abreast of the world's competitive epicurean scene.

Mr Ignatius Chan, 51, co-owner of Iggy's, says: "The cuisine at Iggy's is unique - we are contemporary and fun, and this gives us a good platform to innovate. Chef Isono's style of cooking has moved away from scientific methods such as thermo-regulated hot water baths, to a bigger emphasis on direct heat cooking such as grilling. For instance, we have a new charcoal grill in the kitchen. His approach goes back to the fundamentals to bring out the best in the produce and it takes a lot of skill to do it right."

Mr Chan adds that equipment, which includes everything from a Thermomix to a sous vide machine, is there to enhance the dishes, "to create surprises and not dominate cooking".

He believes the chef's cuisine, together with his direction and philosophy, will only improve with time.

Les Amis spokesman Raymond Lim, 36, says: "I am cautiously optimistic that we will be able to improve our ranking next year. It is a good thing to still be on this list, considering that there are so many new entrants.

"Response to chef Lepinoy's food has been good. He is steady and consistent in the kitchen. He is produce- and not trend-driven, which is important when a restaurant wants to maintain its presence on the list."

The list is based on the votes of an academy, which comprises more than 900 industry experts from 26 regions around the world, who each cast seven votes for deserving restaurants they have dined at over the past 18 months (between May 31, 2012, and Oct 31 last year for the 2014 list) in order of preference. Three of their votes must be for restaurants outside their own geographical region.

Some seven restaurants in Asia made it into this year's top 50, of which Thai restaurant Nahm in Bangkok, Thailand, in 13th spot, is the highest ranked.

The restaurant, which was ranked 32 on last year's global list, was also named the best restaurant in Asia in Asia's Best 50 Restaurants ranking in February. This ranking is also organised by Restaurant Magazine.

Other entries from Asia include well-known Tokyo restaurants Narisawa (No. 14) and Nihonryori RyuGin (No. 33); contemporary French restaurant Amber in Hong Kong (No. 24); and Gaggan, a progressive Indian cuisine restaurant in Bangkok, which debuted at No. 17.

These restaurants were ranked in the same sequence on the Asia list.

The biggest climber on the global list this year is Central in Lima, Peru, which leapt 35 places from 50th last year to 15th this year.

Taking top spot this year is new-Nordic restaurant Noma in Copenhagen, Denmark, which ousted Spain's El Celler de Can Roca from last year's pole position. Noma had previously been named the world's best for three consecutive years, from 2010 to 2012.

Over the years, The World's 50 Best list has been criticised time and time again for being European-centric and less than representative of the global scene.

But with the rise of restaurants in Asia - Nahm's ranking this year is the highest yet for one located in Asia - as well as the growing popularity of restaurants in Latin America, Mexico and South Africa, the list has become increasingly diverse, which is often attributed to a reflection in dining preferences and trends.

Top restaurants that have fallen to near the bottom of the top 50 list include Californian restaurant The French Laundry, ranked No. 1 in 2003 and 2004, which came in at No. 44 this year, and The Fat Duck in Britain at No. 47. The restaurant had previously ranked No. 1 in 2005, then No. 2 from 2006 to 2008, behind now-defunct restaurant elBulli in Roses, Spain.

Of the rankings, Mr Aun Koh, 41, a partner of the Ate Group, an integrated media consultancy, who has been a member of the World's 50 Best Academy for about 10 years, says: "The list can sometimes be a popularity vote, in terms of the popularity of personalities or cuisines, as opposed to a critical evaluation of restaurant experiences."

He adds that the list has "evolved with the make-up of the academy".

He says that in the early years of the list, the academy was mostly made up of journalists, which gave the list quite a bit of credibility.

These days, restaurateurs and chefs are now also included in the mix and that changes the votes because insiders now vote for their peers.

"The votes can also be a reflection of a food trend," he says.

World's Top 10 Restaurants (last year's rankings in brackets) 

1. (2) Noma, Copenhagen, Denmark
2. (1) El Celler de Can Roca, Girona, Spain
3. (3) Osteria Francescana, Modena, Italy
4. (5) Eleven Madison Park, New York, United States
5. (7) Dinner By Heston Blumenthal, London, United Kingdom
6. (4) Mugaritz, Errenteria, Spain
7. (6) D.O.M, Sao Paulo, Brazil
8. (8) Arzak, San Sebastian, Spain
9. (15) Alinea, Chicago, United States
10. (13) The Ledbury, London, United Kingdom

Singapore Restaurants on the list

37. (38) Restaurant Andre in Bukit Pasoh Road
50. (68) Waku Ghin at Marina Bay Sands
84. (65) Iggy's at Hilton Singapore
86. (81) Les Amis at Shaw Centre
100. (-) Jaan at Swissotel The Stamford


This article was published on April 30 in The Straits Times.

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