When the Singapore-based Odette was announced first runner up during the live stream of Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants' awards ceremony, it could only mean one thing — that Hong Kong's The Chairman had taken the No 1 spot. True enough, when the results were finalised, tumultuous applause and screams of joy erupted at the modern classic Cantonese restaurant in Kau U Fong, where a group of socially distanced staff as well as regular guests watched closely with bated breath.
Ever since Asia’s 50 Best began in 2013, this is the first time the top gong had gone to a Chinese cuisine restaurant. It swapped places with last year’s No 1, Odette, a fine-dining French establishment helmed by Julien Royer, who also runs Louise restaurant at PMQ in Hong Kong.
Known for its ingredient-driven Cantonese dishes, The Chairman — launched in 2009 — also earned the coveted double titles of The Best Restaurant in Asia and The Best Restaurant in China. Plus, it’s the only Hong Kong restaurant listed on World’s 50 Best, which was released in 2019. According to Asia's 50 Best's website, a must-try at the restaurant is chef Kwok Keung Tung’s steamed flowery crab in aged Shaoxing wine and chicken oil with flat rice noodles.
Hong Kong made an impressive showing at this year’s Asia’s 50 Best with 11 restaurants on the list, beating out Japan (nine) and Singapore (eight). Mono in Central by Venezuelan chef Ricardo Chaneton came in at 44, making its debut the only Latin American restaurant on the list. Den retains its No 3 place to win the title of The Best Restaurant in Japan for a fourth successive year.
Special awards for 2021 include Asia’s best female chef, which was given to DeAille Tam of Obscura in Shanghai; best pastry chef to Angela Lai of Tairroir in Taipei; and chef’s choice award to Kang Min-goo of Mingles in Seoul, South Korea.
Singapore has another reason to celebrate as fusion restaurant Meta took home the One To Watch Award.
Legendary Supinya ‘Jay Fai’ Junsuta, the 75-year-old Thai hawker who found fame through her crab omelette and drunken noodles with seafood, was awarded the Icon Award.
The Highest New Entry Award went to chef Gaggan Anand, who made a dramatic return to the list after closing down his hugely popular and award-winning restaurant Gaggan two years ago. His namesake Bangkok restaurant clinched the No 5 spot.
Although the top 50 restaurants were formally announced at the ceremony yesterday, Asia’s 50 Best also released an extended list of restaurants for 51st to 100th earlier. And three Malaysian restaurants — Dewakan, Gēn 根 and Nadodi — are on it.
“This year we have decided to publish the list of restaurants ranked from 51-100, created from the Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants voting process, in order to recognise a greater number of venues than ever before,” said Asia's 50 Best Restaurants Director of Content William Drew.
Dewakan, the first Malaysian restaurant to be in Asia’s 50 Best in 2019, notched the No 66 spot this year. Penang’s Gēn 根, spearheaded by Le Cordon Bleu-trained chef Johnson Wong ranked No 92. Nadodi, recognised for elevating humble South Indian Food into fine dining experience, is listed as No 99.
Here's the full list of Asia's 50 Best Restaurants 2021:
50. Wing Lei Palace, Macau
49. Toyo Eatery, Makati, Philippines
48. Seventh Son, Hong Kong
47. Lung King Heen, Hong Kong
46. Gaa, Bangkok, Thailand
45. Shoun Ryugin, Taipei, Taiwan
44. Mono, Hong Kong
43. Hansikgonggan, Seoul, South Korea
42. Jaan by Kirk Westaway, Singapore
41. Euphoria, Singapore
40. Labyrinth, Singapore
39. Anan Saigon (Best restaurant in Vietnam)
38. Ta Vie, Hong Kong
37. Amber, Hong Kong
36. Born & Bred, Seoul, South Korea
35. Nihonryori RyuGin, Tokyo, Japan
34. Seventh Door, Seoul, South Korea
33. 8 ½ Otto e Mezzo Bombana, Hong Kong
32. Masque, Mumbai, India
31. Cloudstreet, Singapore
30. Maison de La Nature Goh, Fukuoka, Japan
29. Ministry of Crab (Best Restaurant in Sri Lanka)
28. Caprice, Hong Kong
27. Ode, Tokyo, Japan
26. JL Studio, Taichung, Taiwan
25. Belon, Hong Kong
24. Logy, Taipei, Taiwan
23. Zen, Singapore
22. Fu He Hui, Shanghai, China
21. Raw, Taipei, Taiwan
20. Nusara, Bangkok, Thailand
19. L’Effervescence, Tokyo, Japan (Highest Climber award)
18. Indian Accent, New Delhi, India (Best Restaurant in India)
17. Neighborhood, Hong Kong
16. VEA, Hong Kong (Art of Hospitality Award)
15. Mume, Taipei, Taiwan (Best Restaurant in Taiwan)
14. Burnt Ends, Singapore
13. Les Amis, Singapore
12. Sazenka, Tokyo, Japan
11. Sorn, Bangkok, Thailand
10. Mingles, Seoul, South Korea (Best Restaurant in Korea)
9. Narisawa, Tokyo, Japan
8. La Cime, Osaka, Japan
7. Florilège, Tokyo, Japan
6. Sühring, Bangkok, Thailand
5. Gaggan Anand, Bangkok, Thailand (Highest New Entry Award)
4. Le Du, Bangkok, Thailand (Best Restaurant in Thailand)
3. Den, Tokyo, Japan (Best Restaurant in Japan)
2. Odette, Singapore (Best Restaurant in Singapore)
1. The Chairman, Hong Kong (Best Restaurant in Hong Kong and Asia)
For the extended list of winners, see here.