Food miles: Asia takes its proper place in the world of refined dining


The launch of Restaurant magazine's Asia's 50 Best Restaurant awards in Singapore earlier this year has drawn attention to the variety of dining opportunities on the continent.

That's partly due to internationally renowned chefs extending their brands. London-based chef Jason Atherton has a total of six restaurants spread across Singapore, Hong Kong and Shanghai, including the newly launched speakeasy-style tapas joint Commune Social in Shanghai (00 86 21 6047 7638).

The most Michelin-starred chef in the world, Joël Robuchon, has 14 restaurants in Asia compared with just four in his native France. Most recently he opened a Taiwanese branch of his L'Atelier fine-dining concept in the capital, Taipei (00 886 2 8729 2628;

That's not to say that the region is lacking in home-grown talent. Rated best in Asia by Restaurant magazine (and No 20 on the World list), is Narisawa in Tokyo (00 81 3 5785 0799; Chef Yoshihiro Narisawa's refined 10-course tasting menus might include "Ash 2009": grilled squid in a coating of frozen powdered olive oil, lemon juice and charred red pepper ash that forms a sauce for the dish as it melts.

British chef Tom Kerridge, of the Hand and Flowers in Marlow, recently tweeted that André Chaing of Restaurant André, Singapore (00 65 6534 8880;, is "one of the best chefs cooking on Planet Earth". Chaing's work in a converted 19th-century house in Chinatown is defined by his "octaphilosophy", the eight components being unique, texture, memory, pure, terroir, salt, south and artisan. That translates as Mediterranean-influenced dishes such as foie gras jelly with olive oil, fleur de sel and black truffle coulis.

"Demon Chef" Alvin Leung — who recently opened Bo London — has eschewed his signature "X-treme Chinese" cuisine at the new MC Kitchen in Hong Kong (00 852 3758 2239; to focus on comfort food, albeit in a refined way.

Hajime Yoneda of Hajime, Osaka (00 81 6 6447 6688;, arranges more than 100 types of vegetables, grains and herbs around asari clam broth to create his signature dish chikyu (earth) that evokes the forest and the sea on a plate.

Korean dishes are being given a modern twist by Kwon Woo-joong at the stylish East Village Bistro & Gastropub, Seoul (00 82 2 790 778). He's elevated the humble dish of tteokgalbi (charcoal grilled beef short rib and pork patties) by marinating finely chopped prime short rib in soy sauce, garlic, leek and plum extract, served with ssambap rice wraps.