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Iggy's is Asia's best?

Iggy's, the modern European restaurant at Hilton Singapore beat other restaurants in Asia to come in at No. 26 on the coveted World's 50 Best Restaurant list, deemed the Oscars of the global restaurant industry. (Photo: ST File)

Publication Date : 02-05-2012


Iggy's could officially be the No. 1 restaurant in Asia next year.

That is if it repeats its feat this year: The modern European restaurant at Hilton Singapore beat other restaurants in Asia to come in at No. 26 on the coveted World's 50 Best Restaurant list, deemed the Oscars of the global restaurant industry.

When the new Asia's 50 Best Restaurants list, which will rank restaurants across North, East, Southeast and South Asia, is launched next year, Iggy's could well snare the pole position. Another contender for the Asian list is Waku Ghin, a contemporary Japanese-European restaurant at Marina Bay Sands, which made its debut on the world list at No. 39 this year.

The annual world restaurant ranking, published by UK's Restaurant Magazine and sponsored by S. Pellegrino and Acqua Panna, was announced at the Guildhall in London on Monday night. The event was attended by 550 industry professionals that included chefs and restaurateurs.

The awards ceremony for the new Asian list, which will also be published by Restaurant Magazine, will be held in Singapore next February. The Asian list and awards event is supported by the Singapore Tourism Board (STB).

This year, Iggy's beat top Tokyo restaurants Les Creations de Narisawa (No. 27), and Nihonryori RyuGin (No. 28), both of which had placed above the Singapore restaurant last year.

On edging out restaurants from Japan, a country well- known for its sophisticated dining scene, Ignatius Chan, 49, co-owner of Iggy's, says: "We are still shocked that we climbed and that they dropped back a little bit. It was quite a surprise for us and it's a very happy thing, it's good for our team.

"But it is also a double-edged sword - more pressure for us. It is always the case with such a title."

Last year, Iggy's was ranked 27th.

Waku Ghin's entry also came as a surprise to Sydney-based celebrity chef Tetsuya Wakuda, who runs both Waku Ghin and Tetsuya's in Sydney. The chef's Sydney restaurant fell 18 spots to No. 76 this year. Tetsuya's has been ranked in world's top 50 list every year except last year, since the list began in 2002. Its highest ranking was No. 4 in 2005.

Chef Wakuda, 52, tells Life!: "I never thought Waku Ghin would be in the top 50. It's a nice surprise. We have not even been open for two years - we turn two in July."

Asked if he is sore that his 23-year-old restaurant Tetsuya's has slipped in the rankings this time around, he replies: "Ranking is one thing. Tetsuya's has been ranked fourth and is now in the top 100. Just to be in the list is a great honour."

The top three restaurants in the world remain the same as last year - Noma in Denmark is at No. 1, El Celler de Can Roca in Spain at No. 2 and another Spanish restaurant, Mugaritz, is No. 3.

Two more Singapore restaurants made the cut for the world list, which also ranks restaurants 51 to 100. High-end French restaurant Les Amis at Shaw Centre moved up two spots to No. 53 while Restaurant Andre in Bukit Pasoh Road, which debuted in 100th position last year, came in at No. 68.

A total of 14 restaurants in Asia made the top 100 list this year, of which six placed in the top 50.

Editor of Restaurant Magazine William Drew says the idea to have a separate list for restaurants in Asia came about a year ago. The world list will still contain restaurants in Asia should they receive enough votes from its more than 800 panelists from 27 regions around the world, which include six Asian categories.

Drew, 40, says: "The list, as it stands, does not reflect the gastronomy across the Asian continent. Therefore, there was an opportunity to highlight the great gastronomy in Asia by doing a related, but more focused, regional event and list."

He adds that Asia's under representation in the world list is not the sole driving force behind the launch of the new Asian list.

He says: "We would like to put the spotlight on the Asian continent, which has great restaurants. The influence of Asian cuisine across the world is enormous in its very various and diverse forms... The Asian list is not a reaction to the main list. This is just an extension of the success of the World's 50 Best Restaurants as a programme, as a whole."

There may be other regional lists to follow, he says, though there is no specific plan as yet.

Organiser publisher William Reed Business Media, which publishes Restaurant Magazine, conducted a joint research project with STB, which involved discussions with food and beverage players in cities such as Hong Kong, Mumbai, Tokyo and Singapore.

Of the new Asian list and its launch here next February, Aw Kah Peng, chief executive of STB, says: "In the longer term, we also see this having a positive knock-on effect on Singapore's own blossoming culinary industry and leading to more compelling dining experiences for locals and visitors alike."

Industry players here are open to the new list for Asia.

Chef-owner of Wild Rocket, Willin Low, 40, who is one of the jury members and voters for the World's 50 Best Restaurants list, says: "Any list is always good as it helps to profile restaurants. Asia has not been represented enough, but the flip side is that a list is likely to be subjective. You will tend to see the same few players playing musical chairs."

Aun Koh, 40, co-founder of restaurant guide for Asia The Miele Guide and executive director of integrated lifestyle group The Ate Group, who is also a jury member of the world list, welcomes the move, but questions the rationale for establishing the new list.

He says that in a survey circulated to all jury members, it stated that the Asia list was being created because "not enough restaurants in Asia were penetrating the World's 50 Best Restaurants list".

He adds: "The lack of restaurants in Asia on the global list may have something to do with their voting system, and not because Asia's restaurants are not good enough. We believe that many of the best restaurants in Asia are on a par with the best anywhere else in the world."

Of the low representation of restaurants in Asia on the world list, Drew speculates that the votes in Asia may be "more diluted", where votes are spread across more restaurants.

He adds that voters may not travel as widely in Asia as they do other parts of the world. He reckons the Asian list will be something "new and interesting" for the Asian market as it will shine a greater spotlight on Asia's best restaurants. He says both the world and Asia's lists are essentially about "a celebration of great restaurants and great chefs", one that draws attention to the industry as opposed to being a guide for consumers.

He adds: "It is about promoting the industry, and promoting great restaurants, as well as having that recognition from your peer group that you have made it into the elite."


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