Japan is the top destination in Asia for gastronomes this year, according to new rankings released by the 50 Best organization.
The country is home to 17 of the region’s “best” 100 restaurants, which were released in two parts in March.
Singapore and Thailand tied for second place, with 15 restaurants on the list each. Hong Kong — last year’s top destination — saw 13 establishments on the list.
William Drew, director of content for Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants, said Japan’s strong performance is “no surprise.”
“Japan has long been regarded as one of the great gastronomic countries of the world with a culinary heritage that is admired across the globe — combined with innovation, dedication, knowledge and talent,” he told CNBC.
The top 50 restaurants in Asia
This year commemorates the 10th anniversary of the “Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants” list. This year’s ranking includes restaurants from 19 cities, with 7 new establishments on the list.
Singapore and Thailand both count the highest number of entries on the top 50 list with nine restaurants each. Thailand took home the top honor with Bangkok’s Le Du named “The Best Restaurant in Asia 2023” — moving up three spots.
This year’s ranking saw some shake-ups: Japan’s Den, which was No. 1 in 2022 — dropped three spots to No. 4, while Bangkok’s Sorn tumbled from No. 2 to No. 9.
Japan’s Sezanne rose an impressive 15 places to emerge at No. 2, clinching the title of “Best Restaurant in Japan” for the first time.
Hong Kong’s The Chairman, which ranked No. 1 in 2021, lost further ground as it slipped from No. 5 to No. 13.
The “Highest Entry” award also went to Avartana from India, which debuted on the list at No. 30.
Asia’s ‘best restaurant’
Asia’s top restaurant, Thailand’s Le Du, is a one-Michelin-starred restaurant that first entered the list in 2017 at No. 37.
Opened in 2013, head chef and owner Thitid ‘Ton’ Tassanakajohn gives Thai food a modern spin through a French-leaning lens.
His menus champion the use of seasonal and local ingredients — enforcing his steadfast belief in the superiority of Thai produce.
When I opened the restaurant, [people] said, I will never make it because I only use local produce.Thitid Tassanakajohnchef/owner of Thailand’s Le Du restaurant
Speaking to CNBC after the award ceremony on Tuesday night, Tassanakajohn said taking the coveted spot feels “unreal.”
“I didn’t expect it at all … 10 years ago, when I opened the restaurant, [people] said, I will never make it because I only use local produce and you have to use imported ingredients,” he shared.
“I’m so happy to represent Thailand and bring Thai ingredients to the forefront of Asia.”
Asia’s top 50 restaurants
The list of “Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants” for 2023 are:
1. Le Du (Bangkok, Thailand)
2. Sezanne (Tokyo, Japan)
3. Nusara (Bangkok, Thailand)
4. Den (Tokyo, Japan)
5. Gaggan Anand (Bangkok, Thailand)
6. Odette (Singapore)
7. Florilege (Tokyo, Japan)
8. La Cime (Osaka, Japan)
9. Sorn (Bangkok, Thailand)
10. Narisawa (Tokyo, Japan)
11. Labyrinth (Singapore) — Highest Climber Award (from No. 40 in 2022)
12. Sazenka (Tokyo, Japan)
13. The Chairman (Hong Kong)
14. Villa Aida (Wakayama, Japan)
15. Mosu (Seoul, Korea)
16. Masque (Mumbai, India)
17. Meta (Singapore)
18. Fu He Hui (Shanghai, China)
19. Indian Accent (New Delhi, India)
20. Ode (Tokyo, Japan)
21. Zen (Singapore)
22. Suhring (Bangkok, Thailand)
23. Onjium (Seoul, South Korea)
24. Burnt Ends (Singapore)
25. Euphoria (Singapore)
26. Cloudstreet (Singapore)
27. Les Amis (Singapore)
28. Mingles (Seoul, South Korea)
29. Neighborhood (Hong Kong)
30. Avartana (Chennai, India) — Highest New Entry Award
31. Ensue (Shenzhen, China)
32. Cenci (Kyoto, Japan)
33. Ms. Maria & Mr. Singh (Bangkok, Thailand)
34. Da Vittorio (Shanghai, China)
35. Potong (Bangkok, Thailand)
36. Born (Singapore)
37. Wing (Hong Kong)
38. Raan Jay Fai (Bangkok, Thailand)
39. Wing Lei Palace (Macau)
40. Anan Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam)
41. Mono (Hong Kong)
42. Toyo Eatery (Manila, Philippines)
43. Sichuan Moon (Macau)
44. L’Effervescence (Tokyo, Japan)
45. Mume (Taipei, Taiwan)
46. Baan Tepa (Bangkok, Thailand)
47. Born & Bred (Seoul, Korea)
48. Metiz (Makati, Philippines)
49. Caprice (Hong Kong)
50. Refer (Beijing, China)
Asia’s best restaurants: 51-100
This is the third year the extended list has been released. There are 17 new entries spanning 17 cities — including L’evo at No. 60, the first ever restaurant from Toyama, Japan to make the list.
Ten restaurants that ranked among Asia’s best 50 restaurants last year fell into the 51-100 ranking this year.
Most notably, Joo Ok fell 33 spots from No. 18 to No. 51 and Samrub Samrub Thai dropped 51 places from No. 31 to No. 82.
Ete also saw a drop of 49 spots from No. 41 to No. 90.
Hong Kong continued its reign with the most number of restaurants in the 51-100 list, with eight making the ranking.
Singapore’s Thevar saw the biggest jump in this list — catapulting from No. 92 to No. 56 — edging close to the best 50 list. India’s Bukhara also closed its gap, moving 14 spots from No. 66 to No. 52.
Here’s the extended list:
51. Joo Ok (Seoul, South Korea)
52. Bukhara (New Delhi, India)
53. Ta Vie (Hong Kong)
54. Yong Fu (Hong Kong)
55. 7th Door (Seoul, South Korea)
56. Thevar (Singapore)
57. Logy (Taipei, Taiwan)
58. Jade Dragon (Macau)
59. Jin Sha (Hangzhou, China)
60. L’evo (Toyama, Japan)
61. Ando (Hong Kong)
62. Estro (Hong Kong)
63. Lolla (Singapore)
64. Sugita (Tokyo, Japan)
65. Ultraviolet by Paul Pairet (Shanghai, China)
66. Americano (Mumbai, India)
67. Esquisse (Tokyo, Japan)
68. Eatanic Garden at Josun Palace (Seoul, South Korea)
69. Ministry of Crab (Colombo, Sri Lanka)
70. 8 1/2 Otto e Mezzo Bombana (Hong Kong)
71. Cote by Mauro Colagreco (Bangkok, Thailand)
72. Wana Yook (Bangkok, Thailand)
73. Lerdtip Wanghin (Bangkok, Thailand)
74. Dewakan (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia)
75. Nihonryori RyuGin (Tokyo, Japan)
76. Fu1015 (Shanghai, China)
77. Ling Long (Beijing, China)
78. The Table (Mumbai, India)
79. Eat and Cook (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia)
80. The Pizza Bar on 38th (Toyo, Japan)
81. Gaa (Bangkok, Thailand)
82. Samrub Samrub Thai (Bangkok, Thailand)
83. Nae:Um (Singapore)
84. Jaan by Kirk Westaway (Singapore)
85. Claudine (Singapore)
86. Summer Pavilion (Singapore)
87. Adachi Sushi (Taipei, Taiwan)
88. Obscura (Shanghai, China)
89. Meet the Bund (Shanghai, China)
90. Ete (Tokyo, Japan)
91. Hommage (Tokyo, Japan)
92. Golden Flower (Macau)
93. Ekaa (Mumbai, India)
94. Nadodi (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia)
95. August (Jakarta, Indonesia)
96. Liberte (Kaohsiung, Taiwan)
97. Sushi Hare (Hong Kong)
98. Nahm (Bangkok, Thailand)
99. Xin Rong Ji (Hong Kong)
100. Vea (Hong Kong)
‘Tremendous year’ for Singapore
Singapore’s restaurants hold nine coveted spots — an increase from seven last year. Odette, which has been named Asia’s best restaurant twice, leads the charge at No. 6.
Its pastry chef Louisa Lim also took home the “Asia’s Best Pastry Chef” award.
All of Singapore’s restaurants — with the exception of Jaan by Kirk Westaway — saw improvements on the top 100 list.
For example, Australian barbecue restaurant Burnt Ends, regained footing after dropping 27 places last year — jumping 17 spots to No. 24.
Labyrinth also rose 29 spots to No.11, winning the “Highest Climber” award. Born is Singapore’s highest ranking new entry this year at No. 36.
This has been a “tremendous year” for Singapore’s culinary scene, Drew told CNBC.
“There are myriad explanations as to why some regions have a strong showing — it could be a case of varying Covid restrictions across certain countries in recent years,” he added.
“Or more broadly speaking, it could be an indication of shifting culinary tastes, or it could also represent that a geographical area is becoming more important.”
How the list is made
The list is an “annual snapshot” of opinions of more than 300 industry experts, said the 50 Best organization, referred to as “the academy.”
They are made up of food writers, critics, chefs and restaurateurs from across the region.
The 50 Best organization added that the panel is “gender-balanced,” and each member was given 10 votes to nominate restaurants — with a maximum of seven located within their home country.
The 50 Best organization publishes several lists to highlight excellence in the food industry, including “The World’s 50 Best Bars” and regional listings such as “Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants.”
Clarification: This story has been updated to clarify the award title for Thailand’s Le Du.