- China has its best showing yet on the Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants list, with four entries, and a 50 Best director thinks more will make it when travel curbs end
- Three restaurants in Shanghai – Da Vittorio, Fu He Hui and Ultraviolet by Paul Pairet – were named in the top 50, and Ensue in Shenzhen also made the cut
Four restaurants in China made it onto Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants 2022 list – the most since the annual ranking began nearly a decade ago.
“I think we are likely to see more Chinese restaurants in the future, especially if and when China opens up its borders to travellers,” says William Drew, the director of content of 50 Best, which includes The World’s 50 Best Restaurants, The World’s 50 Best Bars
In Shanghai, Da Vittorio – an outpost of the original restaurant run by the Italian Cerea family – rose from 82nd place last year to 28th. It opened on the Bund in May, 2019.
Western-style restaurant Ensue, led by US chef Christopher Kostow and which opened in Shenzhen, southern China, three years ago, rose from 69th place in 2021 to 19th on the list, announced on March 29.
Fu He Hui – the only Chinese restaurant on the list – moved up 10 spots to 12th place, and immersive fine-dining restaurant Ultraviolet by Paul Pairet, which last year did not make the list, has made a return in 39th place. Both are in Shanghai.
“Mainland China has a wealth of great restaurants and they are being recognised, which is certainly positive for the country,” says Drew.
Miles Pundsack-Poe, the head chef at Ensue, says the coronavirus pandemic has forced foodies to look closer to home for fine restaurants. That trend has given Ensue, and Shenzhen, the exposure it deserves.
“We might have otherwise stayed in the shadows of Hong Kong and Shanghai. So for this I’m thankful,” he says.
Chinese critics have noted the lack of local-cuisine restaurants on the list but Tony Lu, a chef at Fu He Hui, says: “Many Chinese chefs lack the capacity to interpret their own distinct … food stories … besides, they are not in pursuit of a global vision.
“It’s true that now younger generations are keen to present new flavours through infusing Chinese local ingredients with unconventional approaches, but mostly, chefs honed their craft from French restaurants rather than Chinese kitchens that deliver authentic Chinese culinary art.”
Drew says: “My only advice to Chinese restaurants is to continue to service their guests as best as they can. Their focus should always be on the guests’ dining experience, not on accolades or rankings. If those come, then it is a by-product of them doing an outstanding job.”
While entries from China on the Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants list rose, the number of Hong Kong restaurants fell from 11 to six. Drew says that, while the entire region has been affected by Covid-19 pandemic restrictions, the city “has been restricted more than most”.
“Traditionally, it is a city that relies on many people coming in and out – and eating out in the city – but that market has disappeared. That has affected the number of restaurants on the ranking this year,” he says.
“We have no doubt that the level of Hong Kong restaurants remains one of the best in the world. Once travel restrictions are eased, we believe this will be reflected in its results in the future, as one of the great dining cities.”
Macau and Taiwan have also seen a fall in the number of restaurants represented. The former has just one establishment, Wing Lei Palace, which rose from last year’s 50th place to 47th, while the latter has two on the list – Logy (38th) and JL Studio (45th).
Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants, which launched in 2013, is compiled on the views of more than 300 food writers and critics, chefs, restaurateurs and regional culinary experts.
Drew says this year the voting rules were adjusted to reflect restricted travel opportunities.
“For sure, Covid has affected the list, but it’s very difficult to say precisely how. Inevitably, it has become a more ‘local’ list because diners have been forced to look closer to home. The list of Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants always aims to reflect the reality of the dining market at any given point.”
This article originally appeared on the South China Morning Post (www.scmp.com), the leading news media reporting on China and Asia.
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