20 June 2006

Asia-Pacific Best Restaurants 2006

Okay, I know. This is late, but that is sort of my trademark, no? And I have a couple of good excuses, really I do. The main one being that I had not yet eaten at Iggy's and didn't feel like I could fairly participate without having done so as I am now a resident of Singapore...

Anyway, what am I going on about? Well, after many debates about Restaurant magazine's somewhat contentious list for "Best Restaurants in the World" , Chubby Hubby came up with an Asia-centric survey to see what other goodies would turn up.

Well here is my Asia Pacific Best Restaurants List, read 'em and weep!

2 best restaurants in Singapore

Surprise, surprise... it was worth the wait. I took hubby there for his birthday and he was damned please. Then again, so was I. I'll try and post a more specific review of it later, but just a few words here to say that the food was creative without being too fussy, innovative without being over the top and most importantly, just pretty damn delicious. After an apéritif of Jacquesson champagne, we went for (of course) the full tasting menu. I pretty much licked every plate and wished I had some more. Service was impeccable (something I have such a problem with in so many restaurants and especially in Singapore), the restaurant itself was charming. I preferred this version of "counter service" much more than at L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon. There, the stools weren't that comfortable and a VERY open kitchen meant that the girl prepping the cold plates was making me nervous with her constant head scratching and pushing up of the eyeglasses, yuk. I digress, anyway, 2 enthusiastic thumbs up!

While CH put this down as his favourite restaurant, I'm putting it in for my second best. Hu Cui is the restaurant I would go back to time and time again. Their xiaolongbao easily betters those from Din Tai Fung and I just love all the other dishes there as well. The setting and service aren't too shabby either making for an all around winner.

Favourite restaurant in Singapore

You gotta give it to those guys at Crystal Jade, they know how to open restaurants that offer good quality and good value meals. That's why my favourite is divided between either the Crystal Jade Golden Palace in the Paragon or the Crystal Jade Palace at Takashimaya. I have dimsum at either one or the other almost every Sunday and pretty much always come away happy. Their main menus are also very well executed and the dining rooms are really lovely.

3 best in Asia-Pacific (excluding Singapore)

KAZAHANA, Tokyo, Japan
I like Japanese, in all it's guises, heck, I'll even go to a Sushi Tei from time to time. But Kazahana really shows you where it's at; this is Japanese cuisine at its finest. From the earthy maitake to velvety Wagyu, you get the finest ingredients and the most beautiful techniques. Located at the Conrad Hotel in the Ginza, this is a really elegant and dare I say, glamorous combination of the traditional and the modern (so very Tokyo in fact). Go for the chef's kaiseki dinner. While pricey, is the only way to go if food nirvana is what you're looking for. And we are talking about some serious food here...

TETSUYA'S, Sydney, Australia
This Franco-Nippo-Ozzie master has made it into the legion of the single-name wonders: Madonna, Cher, Tetsuya! There is no mistaking him, or his food, for anyone else's. His food is clean, with ingredients the star of the show. The confit of of ocean trout is a must-have and all the food is as good as it looks. In fact, Tetsuya has reached such an outstanding balance with his fish and crustacean dishes, truly genius. And the restaurant itself, a Japanese-style oasis in the middle of the city with traditional gardens to boot are a very nice bonus to the whole package. (P.S. Met him here with Justin Quek, and despite being severely jetlagged, came and had a drink with us, what a trooper!)

WHAMPOA CLUB, Shanghai, China
Jereme Leung was recently invited as one of the few Asian chefs (along with Tetsuya and Justin) at the recent inaugural “A Feast of World Gastronomy” in Toulouse. And for good reason. This man can cook! His reinterpretations of the classics are clever, bold and revelatory. Shaoshing Ice with Drunken Chicken, Su Dong Po Braised Pork, Pi Pa Gao Ice? Fantastic! This is Chinese cuisine refined, modernised without having lost anything in the translation.

(BTW, based on what I've tasted of Justin Quek's cuisine here, I would love to add La Petite Cuisine to my list, but as I haven't actually eaten in that restaurant, cannot lah!)

2 favourite in Asia-Pacific (excluding Singapore)

Having spent 3 years in Tokyo, eating my way through this highly gastronomic city, I managed to sample so many bowls of ramen that I certainly don't have enough digits to count on. But this is my favourite. I can't say it is the best, ramen is a very personal matter and anyone who has seen Juzo Itami's "Tampopo" would know how important it is, "Caress the pork..." But for me this is the ultimate ramen, springy noodles, delectable broth. I always get the Negi Chasu Ramen, with extra spring onions and pork. And I drink down ALL the broth, after which I wipe the sweat from my very happy face, ureshii neeee!

A refined venue this is not, boisterous family style restaurant is more like it. However, that is exactly the atmosphere I expect to have fantastic dimsum in; high turnover, ultra-fresh food. This restaurant never disappoints, especially with its saliva-inducing, Shanghai-style hairy crab dumplings. They're so fragile that the waiter actually has to help each little bun from the steaming basket to your waiting bowl. Top it with a bit of ginger vinegar and slurp it down, ahhhh... All the other dimsum are also extremely well-executed, not a wrong foot anywhere that I've tasted yet.

So that's it then. Please take all this in with a grain of salt. The Singapore restaurant list in particular is based on me being back in the country only a couple of months after a seven and a half year absence. There are so many restaurants I haven't been to yet: Il Lido, Le Papillon, Majestic, Xi Yan, etc. All that sound promising but there's only little 'ol me and so little time. One restaurant at a time, I will persevere. I look forward to compiling next year's favourites!