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Indian Accent Rises 11 Notches on Asia’s 50 Best, Topped Yet Again by Gaggan, But Is The List Worth Our Attention?

Posted: March 27, 2018 at 4:15 pm   /   by   /   comments (0)

FOR A much-anticipated list that makes or breaks restaurants, the newest Asia’s 50 Best, released tonight (March 27, 2018) amid the usual grandeur in Macau, which is celebrating 2018 as the Year of Gastronomy, has been completely without any spark of excitement.

As Indians, we have a good reason to celebrate — Indian Accent, powered by the dynamic duo of Manish and Shantanu Mehrotra, has risen 11 notches since last year, landing at No. 19, compared with No. 30 in 2017. As flag-bearers of Indian Cuisine, we must also raise a toast to Gaggan Anand for the fourth year in a row, for his eponymous restaurant in Bangkok is Asia’s No. 1 — yet again. India gets another place on the list (barely!) — Wasabi by Morimoto at the Taj Mahal Palace in Mumbai is at No. 49; the larger Indian sub-continent gets two more — Dharshan Munidasa‘s two Colombo restaurants, Ministry of Crab (No. 25) and Nihonbashi (No. 45), which seem to have established squatter’s rights on the list, in the same manner as Gaggan, Indian Accent and Wasabi by Morimoto.

Compare this with nine restaurants each in Tokyo, Bangkok and Hong Kong, seven in Singapore, three each in Seoul and Taipei, two each in Osaka and Shanghai, and one each in Fukuoka, Macau and Bali. Japan is the clear leader with 12 restaurants on the Asia’s 50 Best List. And in the gastronomical world as determined by the jury of Asia’s 50 Best, restaurants outside the crescent stretching from Japan to Indonesia may not as well exist.

What surprises me is that the jury has not found any restaurant worth its attention in the whole of Mainland China (so, I guess I shouldn’t be complaining about India’s fate), and places such as Dubai and the Gulf Cooperation Council states seem to have melted away from the edible globe. There clearly is an East Asian/South-East Asian bias at work here.

As an Indian who understands Indian Cuisine and can contextualise it against the best offerings of the world’s trendiest cities, I am affronted by the limited presence of Indian restaurants. Is it because, as some conspiracy theorists propound, the Indian market for international mineral water brands, such as San Pellegrino (the sponsor of Asia’s 50 Best/World’s 50 Best), is too small to excite the jury’s interest in India.

For solace, I turned to Conde Nast Traveller India’s Top Restaurant Awards 2017 and I could list without hesitation at least six restaurants (in order of preference) — Masque (Mumbai), The Bombay Canteen (Mumbai), Toast & Tonic (Bangalore), Masala Library (New Delhi), Bomra’s (Goa) and Artusi (New Delhi) —  that deserve to be on Asia’s 50 Best. The purpose of such lists is to throw up surprises, to discover new landmark restaurants, and not to be like a stock market index, juggling the same names up and down the totem pole. I didn’t come across any such revelation in the list — and I don’t expect anything better next year.

To check out the list, go to