Tokyo (Reuters Life!): Singapore restaurant Iggy’s reclaimed its crown as the top dining spot in Asia in the third annual edition of a regional dining guide which saw a Malaysian restaurant make the top 10 for the first time.
Iggy’s run by restaurateur Ignatius Chan topped the list of Asia’s 20 best restaurants in the 2010/2011 Miele Guide, knocking last year’s top choice, L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon in Hong Kong, into second place. Iggy’s topped the inaugural list in 2008/2009.
Celebrity chef Robuchon saw his three Michelin-starred Robuchon a Galera in Macau retain its third-place listing in the guide, which covers 450 restaurants in 17 countries. The Parisian chef’s Tokyo venue shot up to number 9 from 20 last year.
China had the most restaurants in the top 20 with eight -- six of them in Hong Kong -- followed by Singapore, with five, reflecting which parts of the region are recovering fastest from the recent economic crunch.
“I think restaurants had a hard time last year. I’d go into some places and see only corporate customers,” said Aun Koh, director of Ate Media, the Singapore-based company that publishes The Miele Guide.
“But they’re coming back now. I think Singapore and Hong Kong have bounced back really well, but I still worry about Japan.”
Cilantro Restaurant & Wine Bar in Kuala Lumpur became the first Malaysian restaurant to make the top 10.
A rise in restaurants opened by big-name foreign chefs across the region, especially in Singapore, has helped spur local chefs on to new efforts, Koh said.
“There’s been a lot of pressure on chefs and restaurants to keep standards high consistently. They think, ‘I’m going to compete with these guys now,’ it’s pushing them to get better.”
The Miele Guide was created in 2008 to better recognise Asia’s best chefs and restaurants, and is selected after several rounds of public voting and judging by experts. Like last year, Robuchon’s Tokyo restaurant was the only Japanese entry in the top 20 even though Japan as a whole had the greatest number of restaurants in the guide, with 56.Koh attributed this to an overabundance of success that meant votes were split. In addition, many of Japan’s better restaurants have nearly “cult” status and might not be as well known to casual visitors, especially from other countries.
Overall, he said, the guide tended to show that Asians place a high value on physical comfort when eating good food -- not surprising given the climate in much of the region.
“You can go to a lot of these restaurants in jeans and a nice shirt, but you don’t have a snooty waiter looking down at you,” he said.
The 17 countries in the guide are Brunei, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam.