Cover Danny Yip, founder of The Chairman (Photo: Michaela Giles for Tatler Dining)

The Chairman has become the first Chinese restaurant to take the top spot in Asia's 50 Best Restaurants list, with last year's winner Odette in Singapore falling to second place and Den from Japan retaining third place

The announcement of Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants 2021 saw Cantonese restaurant The Chairman take the number one spot, with last year's winner Odette, which helmed the list in 2019 and 2020, dropping to second place. Den in Tokyo, Japan retained its third place ranking from 2020, with Le Du in Bangkok rising from eighth place to take fourth position this year. In fifth place was the highest new entry, Gaggan Anand in Bangkok, Thailand, the eponymous new restaurant from the chef whose previous establishment, Gaggan, held the number one spot on Asia's 50 Best Restaurants between 2015 and 2018. The top 10 restaurants were rounded out by Sühring in Bangkok, Florilège in Tokyo, La Cime in Osaka, Narisawa in Tokyo and Mingles in Seoul. 

Asia's 50 Best Content Director William Drew told Tatler Dining in a recent interview that there could be big changes in the list, given the impact of the last year on the hospitality sector, saying that this year’s ranking was “always going to be unusual.” While there was movement further down the list, eight of the top 10 restaurants remained in the top fifth, albeit with some shuffling in rank. 

Overall, the list featured 11 new entries, including Gaggan Anand (#5) and Nusara (#20) in Bangkok; Logy (#24) in Taipei, Taiwan; Mono (#44) in Hong Kong; Cloudstreet (#31), Labyrinth (#40) and Euphoria (#41) in Singapore; Anan Saigon (#39) in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam; Masque (#32) in Mumbai, India, and Born & Bred (#36) and 7th Door (#34), both in Seoul, South Korea.

Hong Kong dominated the list with 11 restaurants ranked. It was also the first time that a Hong Kong restaurant claimed the number 1 spot.

"We're very happy. It feels unreal. I can't believe that we are number one," Yip told Tatler Dining shortly after the announcement. "The team is extremely happy, despite the tough situation. The reward comes with great timing. We could not open the restaurant for two months last year; and we could not open dinner for six months. It's been dreadful. But the award gives us all the energy, all the reasons to hang in there and devote more of our efforts to good food."

Yip is seemingly already planning how he can do this. "Looking forward, we need more staff in the kitchen. And instead of creating 10 dishes a month, we should create 20 good dishes. We want to be more innovative within the Cantonese cooking boundaries and to look for more interesting, forgotten Chinese ingredients from the southern part of China, to go deep into the villages and talk to people and see what treasures they have in hand. We will put 120% effort into that."

The honour of being named The Best Restaurant in Asia has been a positive boost after a challenging year for the F&B industry. "I think the whole of the Hong Kong food industry was looking forward to this event," says Yip. "It gives the whole industry an incentive to work harder, to work better."

The annual announcement of Asia's 50 Best Restaurants was broadcast online for the second year running due to the global pandemic. The broadcast included a rundown of Asia's 50 Best's newest list, the Essence of Asia, which seeks to represent the spirit of Asia and features “casual restaurants recognised for preserving culinary traditions, honouring authentic flavours and providing a vital link to their communities."

For the first time Asia's 50 Best also announced a ranking from 51-100. Among those listed were Meta in Singapore (#60), which won the American Express One to Watch Award 2021; and Supinya Jay Fai Junsuta’s restaurant, Raan Jay Fai (#62) in Bangkok––Fai received this year’s Icon Award.

Among the other individual awards announced this year, Singaporean chef Angela Lai of Tairroir in Taipei was named Asia's Best Pastry Chef 2021; DeAille Tam of Obscura in Shanghai was named Asia's Best Female Chef; Labyrinth in Singapore won the Flor de Cana Sustainable Restaurant Award; VEA in Hong Kong was honoured with the Gin Mare Art of Hospitality Award; and L'Effervescence in Tokyo received the Beronia Highest Climber Award for its 29-place rise to 19th place in this year's ranking.

Asia's 50 Best Restaurant's list was voted for by Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants Academy, which includes more than 300 members, each with knowledge of the region's dining scene. Voting procedures had been adjusted to account for travel restrictions that have been in place for much of the year across Asia with the time period over which judging could take place extended to include the sixth month period prior to the pandemic and instead of members highlighting 10 restaurants with at least four outside their home countries, voters nominated seven restaurants with up to five from home.

The Asia's 50 Best Restaurants 2021 ranking is listed in full below (those with an asterisk are new entries)

1. The Chairman (Hong Kong)
2. Odette (Singapore)
3. Den (Japan)
4. Le Du (Bangkok, Thailand)
5. Gaggan Anand (Bangkok, Thailand) *
6. Sühring (Thailand)
7. Florilege (Japan)
8. La Cime (Osaka, Japan) 
9. Narisawa (Tokyo, Japan)
10. Mingles (Seoul, South Korea)
11. Sorn (Bangkok, Thailand) 
12. Sazenka (Tokyo, Japan) 
13. Les Amis (Singapore) 
14. Burnt Ends (Singapore) 
15. Mume (Taiwan) 
16. VEA (Hong Kong) 
17. Neighborhood (Hong Kong)
18. Indian Accent (New Dehli, India) 
19. L'Effervescence (Tokyo, Japan) 
20. Nusara (Bangkok, Thailand) *
21. Raw (Taipei, Taiwan) 
22. Fu He Hui (Shanghai, China) 
23. Zén (Singapore) 
24. Logy (Taipei, Taiwan) *
25. Belon (Hong Kong)
26. JL Studio (Taichung, Taiwan) 
27. Ode (Tokyo, Japan) 
28. Caprice (Hong Kong)
29. Ministry of Crab (Sri Lanka)
30. La Maison de la Nature Goh (Fukuoka, Japan) 
31. Cloudstreet (Singapore) *
32. Masque (Mumbai, India) *
33. 8 1/2 Otto e Mezzo Bombana (Hong Kong)
34. 7th Door (Seoul, South Korea) *
35. Nihonryori Ryugin (Tokyo, Japan)
36. Born & Bred (Seoul, South Korea) *
37. Amber (Hong Kong)
38. Ta Vie (Hong Kong)
39. Anan Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam) *
40. Labyrinth (Singapore) *
41. Euphoria (Singapore) *
42. Jaan by Kirk Westaway (Singapore)
43. Hansikgonggan (South Korea) 
44. Mono (Hong Kong) *
45. Shoun Ryugin (Taipei, Taiwan) 
46. Gaa (Bangkok, Thailand) 
47. Lung King Heen (Hong Kong)
48. Seventh Son (Hong Kong)
49. Toyo Eatery (Manila, Philippines)
50. Wing Lei Palace (Macau)

Related: Asia's 50 Best Restaurant Announced Its Essence of Asia List for 2021

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