The winners of the inaugural Asia's 50 Best Restaurants awards have been announced at a gala event held at Marina Bay Sands. Organised by Restaurant Magazine, sponsored by San Pellegrino and Acqua Panna, the list is a result of voting by over 900 international restaurant industry experts. It's the Asian edition of the World's 50 Best.
Topping the list is Tokyo's Narisawa, which also was the S.Pellegrino Best Restaurant in Japan. China, Singapore and Japan dominated the list of 16, 10 and nine restaurants respectively.
ASIA'S 50 BEST RESTAURANTS 2013
(links go to my own experiences with the restaurant/chefs - I seriously need to add more!)
1. Narisawa, Tokyo, Japan
2. Nihonryori Ryugin, Tokyo, Japan
3. Nahm, Bangkok, Thailand
4. Amber, Hong Kong, China
5. Restaurant Andre, Singapore
6. 8 ½ Otto e Mezzo Bombana, Hong Kong, China
7. Mr & Mrs Bund, Shanghai, China
8. Ultra Violet, Shanghai, China
9. Iggy’s, Singapore
10. Gaggan, Bangkok, Thailand
11. Waku Ghin, Singapore
12. Caprice, Hong Kong, China
13. Lung King Heen, Hong Kong, China
14. Les Amis, Singapore
15. Bo Innovation, Hong Kong China
16. Quintessence, Tokyo, Japan
17. Dum Pukht, New Delhi, India
18. The Chairman, Hong Kong, China
19. Eat Me, Bangkok, Thailand
20. Wasabi By Morimoto, Mumbai, India
21. Hajime Restaurant, Osaka, Japan
22. JAAN, Singapore
23. L’atelier De Joel Robuchon, Hong Kong, China
24. L’atelier De Joel Robuchon, Singapore
25. 28 Hubin Road, Hangzhou, China
26. Bukhara, New Delhi, India
27. Sushi Mizutani, Tokyo, Japan
28. Indigo, Mumbai, India
29. Sra Bua By Kiin Kiin, Bangkok, Thailand
30. Varq, New Delhi, India
31. Aronia De Takazawa, Tokyo, Japan
32. Shinji by Kanesaka, Singapore
33. Kahala, Osaka, Japan
34. Franck Bistro, Shanghai, China
35. Osteria Mozza, Singapore
36. Bo Lan, Bangkok, Thailand
37. Robuchon Au Dome, Macau, China
38. Nihonbashi, Colombo, Sri Lanka
39. Sushi Saito, Tokyo, Japan
40. FU1015, Shanghai, China
41. Indian Accent, New Dehli, India
42. Ishikawa, Tokyo, Japan
43. Gunther’s, Singapore
44. Karavalli, Bangalore, India
45. Jade on 36, Shanghai, China
46. Yardbird, Hong Kong, China
47. Don’s, Hanoi, Vietnam
48. Fook Lam Moon, Hong Kong China
49. Imperial Treasure, Singapore
50. Mozaic, Bali, Indonesia
The cocktail reception was abuzz with culinary luminaries. Everywhere you looked there was a famous chef or restauranteur. It was like Oscar night for the makan world.
Here's Tetsuya Wakuda posing for a shot. He is so affable.
It was truly an amazing evening. We had a great after-party too, with fabulous food and champagne!
Not surprisingly, Restaurant Andre was named Singapore's best. Whenever people ask me which restaurant is the best in Singapore, I always say Andre's. Hands-down. How often we get to eat there, well, is another matter entirely, of course.
Other awards given out:
Janice Wong of 2am: Dessert Bar - Asia's Best Pastry Chef award.
JAAN with Julien Royer at its helm - "One to Watch" award
Seiji Yamamoto of Ryugin - Chefs' Choice award
Paul Pairet of Mr & Mrs Bund and Ultraviolet - Lifetime Achievement Award
Duangporn Songvisava of Bo.lan - Asia’s Best Female Chef award
I know the year just started but I feel like I need a holiday already! While my heart longs for exotic locales like Sikkim, Xinjiang and Samarkand, reality has me rooted here for the time being. But someday, when the kids are old enough, maybe we'll drop by and surprise my old friend in Slovenia, on a crazy overland trek across Asia to see the northern lights in Norway. Yes, I did say crazy. But one can dream, right? What a journey that would be to blog!
Meanwhile, there will always be a place for tropical resorts that let you chase the sea sport thrills or just absolutely vege out and do nothing. Last year, we had a chance to check out Bintan Lagoon Resort. I never got to see the original resort but it's been completely refurbished, and now even comes with own private high-speed ferry AND immigration terminal for convenience.
Anyway, I wanted a good cupcake base recipe for a coconut cupcake and this was it. I simply swapped out half the milk for coconut milk, and used cake flour instead. I also reduced the sugar by a little bit, even though Ju-ee has already reduced it from the original. Ah, I love it when I find recipes that are keepers. These cupcakes are extra soft and fine in texture, and just the right level of sweetness.
They taste great on their own without frosting too - which is a godsend for lazy folks like me who hate frosting (yeah, I know, you can have mine if we ever end up anywhere with frosted cupcakes). The Magnolia Bakery one calls for a nightmarish 6-8 cups of icing sugar. Maybe they haven't read this report on sugar.
How's the lunar new year going for everyone? Hope it was a great time catching up with friends and family. How many of you had steamboat?
If you wanna try something a bit different from the usual Chinese-style steamboats, take a look at the Thai mookata (pig skillet) - a trough of soup catching all the delicious fat and flavour drizzling down from the BBQ dome.
To be honest, most of the mookata joints that have popped up have not inspired much confidence. But MooJaa at 25 Keong Saik Road looks to be one that tries for quality. They use binchotan, Japanese white charcoal (less soot and acidic effect). Kurobuta pork and Angus beef are among the better cuts available. The homemade sauces and Thai ice tea alone are worth going for.
So prettily stacked, this portion of "pen cai" is. So neat and tidy, standing strong.
Feels like I could eat it all in one mouthful.
This Pun Choy or Pen Cai is from Yan Ting at St Regis. It features 12 treasures including abalone, dried scallops, dace fish balls, pork belly, fish maw, prawns, roasted duck, soya sauce chicken layered on white radish and cabbage.
Did you know Hai Tien Lo is now a totally new restaurant, relocated to the third floor of the Pan Pacific Hotel? Gone are the top floor views, the subtle hues of gold, peach and black. Now it's made over in sultry red and black, with contemporary elements. Perhaps it was time; I did think the Cantonese restaurant was showing its age. But you do miss the panoramic views from the very top. Let's hope the dim sum is still good.
Anyway, for the lunar new year, Hai Tien Lo has got the usual crowd-pleasing items like yusheng and pen cai (treasure pot).
"Wealth" Fresh Lobster with Hokkaido Scallops and Tuna Fish Yusheng
Tossing yusheng on a separate large glass table top. You know this is serious business, cos it means "get ready to get messy"!
"Huat ah!" Lots of joy, prosperity and good health to all in the new year.
Even though the decor and location is new, the chefs remain the same. Chef Lai Tong Ping is still here, and he showed us a wonderful stewed chicken baked in a spice-studded salt crust.
Traditional Stewed Chicken with Eight Treasures and Lotus Seed (S48++)
Here it is...and I was pleasantly surprised by how wonderfully the chicken had soaked up the perfectly balanced flavours. This kind of dish normally underwhelms me, but I really enjoyed Hai Tien Lo's version.
Double-boiled Fish Maw with Dried Scallop and Chinese Cabbage
Cantonese soups are always so comforting, especially when served piping hot.
Hai Tien Lo Traditional Treasure Bowl (S$328++ for 6 pax; S$468++ for 10 pax)
Whole abalone, dried oyster, sea cucumber, pork knuckle, mushroom, prawn, Hokkaido scallop, deer tendon, chicken wing, bean gluten, lotus root, black moss and Chinese cabbage are the cast in this "pen cai" performance.
Ah beautifully done. There's usually a wealth of premium seafood in pen cai, but somehow my favourite item is always the roast pork or in this case, the pork knuckle. I'll happily pass the abalone to someone else.
This is the pen cai claypot that you get when you do a takeaway. A cute keepsake.
Special set menus are available from now til 24 Feb 2013. These include 7-course set menus from S$98++ per person (minimum two to dine), and 8-course set menus per table (S$388++ for 4 diners, S$588++ for 6 diners and S$999++ for 10 diners).
By the way, Hai Tien Lo also features a grand 20-seater table in a private dining room that also has its own washroom, sofa and TV. This is great for big dinners where you don't want everyone to be split into two tables. The minimum spending is $2000++ for lunch and $3000++ for dinner, for food only. Corkage charge of wine and champagne at S$25.00++ per bottle; hard liquor at S$50.00++ per bottle.
HAI TIEN LO
Level 3, Pan Pacific Hotel
7 Raffles Boulevard, Marina Square
Lunch: 12:00pm to 2:30pm daily
Dinner: 6:30pm to 10:30pm daily
Yum Cha: 11:30am to 2.30pm on Saturdays, Sundays and Public Holidays
Japanese Fragrant Rice with XO Sausages and Pan-seared Foie Gras served in Steamed Yellow Pumpkin
Is it the beautifully caramelised cubes of foie gras sitting on top? Is it the gorgeous little pumpkin baked to a golden finish? All very good, yes, but it was the rice. So exquisitely perfumed with savoury flavours and the smoky XO sausage. The aromas are not in your face, but subtle yet so seductive. Texture was perfect - fluffy yet firm. We just wanted more with each mouthful, as we tore into the pumpkin to hunt down every morsel. Nods of approval from all round the table, even from jaded palates.
This dish is part of the reunion meals that Sam Leong is trotting out for Chinese New Year at Forest 森. But I was glad when I found out it's available a la carte (S$28++) too. One more dish on my list of food I'd gladly come back for repeatedly.
Baked Alaska King Crab with Spicy Mayo and Fish Roe
You might also find this in some of the menus. This mentaiyaki-like baked crab is also lipsmackingly good, although the pumpkin rice stole the show. I really liked that it was lots of meat on a split shell, saving us the hassle of fighting the crustacean's exoskeleton to get at its flesh.
Forest Delight - chocolate ganache, passionfruit sorbet and lemongrass jelly
Dessert was a simple medley also showing yellow-golden highlights. The chocolate ganache hides sweet banana inside, and the combination is nicely addictive. The lemongrass jelly we are all familiar with - nice refreshing end to the meal.
Sam Leong has options for both lunch and dinner. He has a 5-course Fortune Celebration set lunch menu at S$68 per person featuring Braised Four Treasures Soup, and a 6-course Reunion Celebration set lunch menu at S$88++ per person.
There are two reunion dinners starting from S$168++ per person and an ultra-luxe 7-course Reunion Deluxe Tasting Menu at S$888++ per person. You'll have to reserve four days in advance (like today!) for this one, as it comes with indulgent items like Braised Superlative Imperial Bird Nest with crab meat and roe, and Braised 10 Head Dry Abalone with Sauteed Vegetable and Truffle Oil.
The restaurant itself too is gorgeous; I'm sure you have seen plenty of photos online by now. Hmm, hey, I must check out their Sunday brunch (S$58++ adult; S$28++ child) sometime. Special dishes served butler style? Sounds nice.
Level 1 Equarius Hotel
Resorts World Sentosa
8 Sentosa Gateway
(regular shuttle bus available from Hotel Michael)
Breakfast: 7.30am – 10.30am
Sunday Brunch: 11.30am – 4pm (last order 3.30pm)
Lunch (Mon - Sat): 12pm – 2.30pm (last order 2.15pm)
Dinner (Mon - Sun): 6pm – 10.30pm (last order 10.15pm)
We were all hungry one evening after an event. It was late, almost 10pm, and most eateries were shut or closing. But growling tummies demanded real food, not 24-hour fast food. Fortunately one of us hit on the idea of Menya Musashi just nearby. You can't argue with ramen, one of the best supper foods!
They were kind enough to let us in, but kept reminding us they were closing in 10 minutes (and counting!). Ah well, nothing like eating with a stopwatch, eh? Luckily it was rubber timing too, meaning it stretched another ten minutes graciously for us to finish our food.
Leroy of the four stomachs chose the triple portion Tsukemen (S$14.90). Yes, they allow you to choose up to five portions worth of noodles. The 360g that came was pretty sizeable, so we were glad we didn't opt for the maximum five!
He had the black dipping sauce, which was a power broth of complex savoury flavours, with a strong hint of seaweed.
Back then we all had thought the black broth was by far the best. Today it isn't anymore. It tastes like the white one, strangely. Did someone put squid ink in mine?
Anyway, this was a very rich bowl of ramen. Nice noodles, but my chashu and kakuni were very fatty, and I couldn't finish them.
I found myself also preferring the red broth's taste. Gently spicy with some miso flavours in the background. This is the single noodle portion of the Tsukemen that Calvin chose. OK, next time, I'm having the tsukemen, and I hope nothing changes!
Julia wasn't too hungry, so she went for the Tongari Rice (S$5.90) side dish, which was a nice find. This at first resembles Taiwanese braised pork rice 滷肉飯 (Lu Rou Fan), except that the pork looks like pulled pork and is much leaner. But oh what intense flavours - the pork must have been stewed for a very long time! Together with the rice, this is a real bowl of comfort.
Gong xi fa cai! It's February already. Have you started to lo-hei yet? Yesterday, I met someone who says he did it 50 times last year - imagine that! Well, I have rounded up five of the more unusual yusheng available, so hopefully tossing for fortune can be a bit more interesting.
These include lo-hei the sustainable way, bird's nest, salmon flambé, crab roe and sea urchin yusheng, and an amazing tower of lobster and sashimi.
Hey, it's Cat Cora! You know her from various TV shows and Iron Chef America. She's the first and only female Iron Chef in a male-dominated line-up - something that takes not just culinary prowess but steely resolve and tenacity. This amazing woman's got books, cookware, TV shows, six restaurants in the United States, plus she's an avid philanthropist and mother of four!
Have always thought her cooking looked good, but now we can all get to try her dishes right here in Singapore - Cat opened her first overseas restaurant today at Resorts World Sentosa (RWS).
This is your tableside view - the majestic Open Ocean habitat! It houses manta rays, leopard or zebra sharks, mahi mahi, groupers, batfish, and shiny schools of fusiliers, scads and other fishes. This alone is one of the biggest highlights of the Marine Life Park, which houses the S.E.A. Aquarium.
I was surprised that this is the world's largest, surpassing even Churaumi Aquarium in Okinawa, which I visited last year (see photos and videos). Churaumi has three whale sharks in their tank, but S.E.A. Aquarium has more than 45 million litres of water, over 100,000 marine animals across 800 species, and the viewing panel for the Open Ocean habitat is officially the largest, measuring 36m long and 8.3m high.
The 63-seater Ocean Restaurant is a cosy den with undersea themes. Glittery opalescent mosaic tiles, fabrics in sea foam and aquamarine, lighting domes inlaid in pearl that shining down from the ceiling, and a carpet with patterns evocative of deep sea jelly fish and anemonies.
But you can't beat the real beauty beyond the glass windows.
Like a painting that's ever moving and changing, the marine life mesmerizes you with therapeutic art.
I'm a former scuba-diver, so I miss what I used to see in the sea. Couldn't help taking lots of photos...the way I used to get so distracted in open water training sessions.
I guess these are the lucky tables that get "front row" views of the habitat. The dining view here is simply unbeatable, and I would happily come back for it.
But even if you are sitting on the opposite side of the glass windows, you can still view the marine life quite easily. The walls above the banquettes have angled mirrors that not only double the visual space but also the view. Custom made dining chairs with concealed swivel mechanisms make it easy for you to turn from all angles to enjoy the underwater scenes.
How can you not be impressed, right?
And for some of us, we can enjoy food while watching food-to-be (yes, I'm sure many Singaporeans will be thinking of how to BBQ that stingray or steam that giant fish that keeps swimming by).
But Ocean Restaurant is about eating responsibly too. The restaurant uses sustainably sourced seafood which jives with the Marine Life Park's aim of ensuring the continuation of vibrant marine, coastal and freshwater ecosystems.
The cuisine here is Mediterranean-Californian with Asian flair. Cat Cora has already studied the Asian palate and incorporated some local elements into dishes like Coq Au Vin Asia - lemongrass-sake braised spring chicken with roasted ginger, accompanied with Thai chili and young bok choy (S$32 for lunch, S$34 for dinner).
In keeping to her farm-to-table philosophy, Cat is glad to use as much as possible ingredients grown in or around Singapore. She believes in simple, light and healthy cooking styles.
We got to try the five-course Cat Cora Experience set dinner menu (S$158++) which offers some of her signature dishes paired with wines. These come in degustation-like portions (I'll show you the a la carte sizes later). This promo set's only available until 28 Feb 2013.
Oh and if you want to catch her at the restaurant, Cat Cora is around until 7 Feb 2013! But she will be back every now and then as well. Check out her interview on the RWS blog.
Some lovely soft rolls and pretzel-like bread to start things off. Some people are "rice bins" (rice lovers), I am a "bread bin". Hahaha.
You will be continue to be wowed as you nibble on your bread. I love how the shafts of light play with the fish weaving in and out of them.
AMUSE BOUCHE Sous Vide 48°C Ocean Trout with Sustainable Caviar & Prosecco Pear Crushed Almond, Vine Tomato Jelly & Garden Cress
This is one of Cat Cora's signature items. The tender ocean trout and pear contrasted with the hard, candied almonds. The caviar lent a sea-like saltiness, the pear gave heady sweetness, and the tomato jelly a touch of tang. Overall a nice fusion of flavours that make you want a second bite.
A spotted eagle ray - we nicknamed him "Manja Ray" cos he kept coming by, seemingly wanting us to pet him or stroke his belly. (Manja = "likes to be pampered" in Malay)
HOT STARTER Sakura Shrimp Risotto with Morel Mushroom Black Truffle Butter Ikura and Seared Hokkaido Scallop
The aromas of mushroom and shrimp combine to make the risotto both smoky and umami. The creaminess was comforting and the rice still retained some bite. The scallop was seared way longer than I am used to though.
It's a whole city of fish but there are never traffic accidents, no matter how close they swim alongside each other.
SOUP Vongole of Manila Clams with Spicy Fennel Sausage, Garlic Broth & Toasted Sesame Croutons
This soup manages to be full-flavoured and yet clean-tasting. The yuzu zest complements the clam and garlic broth.
Available for lunch ($18) and dinner (S$20) in portions at least twice this size.
Whoa, fancy looking up to see a giant manta ray gliding by?
MAIN (OPTION 1) Grilled Basque Wagyu Striploin with Leek Bread Pudding & Roasted Sesame-Coriander Vegetables
I think the tasting portion may have been slightly overdone, as it's a small piece. But the spices in the seasoning rub kicked up the interest point. The chili heat was a little strong for some, but I liked it. Also a pleasing sauce of roasted pureed vegetables.
Ooh, flash mob!
Every now and then the smaller fish will rush to one point and then after some fuss, dash away as quickly as they had assembled.
MAIN (OPTION 2) King Salmon with Mandarin-Habanero Glaze, Meyer Lemon Cous Cous & Hot House Cilantro
This was very nicely done, with the fish retaining a "just barely cooked" tenderness inside the caramelised crust. Apparently this dish (sometimes using Arctic Char) is specially created for Ocean Restaurant.
I love the baby rays! Cute, right?
DESSERT ‘After Eight’ Mint Variation with Chocolate
This dessert is for chocoholics. It is also available for dinner at S$16.
There's that manta ray again with the crazy entourage of little fish. Anyone remember Mr Ray from Finding Nemo? The one who takes the 'school' of fish kiddies on a ride?
And here below are the full a la carte portions. Some dishes are available for dinner only, and as you may have noticed, the lunch menu is a little lower in terms of pricing as well. Cat Cora has also included some kids' options for lunch (fish and chips, S$12; crispy nuggets, S$12; fries, S$8).
Sous Vide 48°C Ocean Trout with Sustainable Caviar & Prosecco Pear Crushed Almond, Vine Tomato Jelly & Garden Cress
This is the full starter size. The King Salmon version is available at lunch (S$24) and dinner (S$26).
King Salmon with Mandarin-Habanero Glaze, Meyer Lemon Cous Cous & Hot House Cilantro
There are windows on the far side - probably those famed suites that have windows built right next to the oceanarium?
One of the crystal lights near the entrance (car park side) is gorgeous (near the door to the carpark). A lot of care went into choosing the furnishings and fixtures.
We were loath to leave the beautiful vista, but the fish have to sleep. Towards the end of dining hours, they turn off the lights in the oceanarium.
You can access the restaurant by via the West Zone Carpark, B1M. Diners can park near Equarius Hotel. If you don't drive, take one of the resort's buggies (the carpark is so huge, they have buggies ferrying people along main attraction points).
Alternatively, if you are visiting the aquarium, you can enter and exit the restaurant from the other side.
Well, I'm betting that the restaurant is going to be packed for weeks to come. Cat Cora's name will draw the crowds, the prices are fairly reasonable, and the oceanarium view alone is worth coming for.
OCEAN RESTAURANT BY CAT CORA
22 Sentosa Gateway, Marine Life Park
Tel: +65 6577-8888 for reservations
Open daily 11am to 10.30pm (last order at 10pm)
Minimum spending of S$25++ per person between 11.30am to 2.30pm; 5.30pm to 10.30pm
Many thanks to Weber Shandwick and RWS for the invitation.