By Jonathan Evans
Photo Credits: Louis Li
The seventh edition of what’s become the continent’s most prestigious and buzzed-about gastronomic competition arrives for the second consecutive year in Macau on 25th and 26th March 2019, when the glamorous Wynn Palace on the Cotai Strip will host two days of events leading up to the coronation of the finest eatery in Asia.
Photography: Wynn Palace Macau
Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants, a kind of Michelin Guide with added showbiz, has become a startlingly effective barometer of success in the culinary world since its inception in 2013, prompting chefs around the continent to go the extra mile in pursuit of the elusive prize, and focusing public attention on the fine-dining scene like never before. As the regional offshoot of The World’s 50 Best Restaurants – the global contest which began in 2002, this year is held in Singapore and has been aptly described by the 50 Best organisation as “the Oscars of global gastronomy” – Asia’s competition is a relatively new conception, alongside that of Latin America. Its number-one spot has been hogged by Gaggan, the Bangkok bastion of Indian dining, for the last four years, so industry observers as well as chefs will be keen to see which name, if any, can surpass it on the 2019 list before the legendary restaurant closes in 2020.
Photography: Gaggan Website
Photography: Joel Robuchon Website
While Macau makes perfect sense as a venue – the city celebrated its designation as a Unesco Creative City for Gastronomy in 2018, and Macanese food has been cited by some chefs as the world’s first fusion cuisine – the territory’s own restaurants have also graced Asia’s 50 Best since it began. For four consecutive years from 2013 to 2016, the late French celebrity chef Joël Robuchon’s triple-Michelin-starred Robuchon au Dôme, the marquee culinary attraction at the towering Grand Lisboa hotel, made an appearance on the list. In 2017, two new restaurants joined the list: the Cantonese fine-dining destination Jade Dragon, located in City of Dreams, and its near-neighbour The Tasting Room, where chef Guillaume Galliot cooked up luxurious global ingredients to produce outstanding modern European dishes (the executive chef is now Fabrice Vulin). Jade Dragon also clinched the number 35 spot on last year’s list.
Photography: Jade Dragon
Photography: The Tasting Room
Last time round, in its Unesco Creative City for Gastronomy year, Macau put together a special package for the chefs and restaurateurs of Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants, allowing them access to markets, unique culinary experiences and cultural tours. Visiting chefs from around the continent made sightseeing trips to both modern and historical areas of the city in the company of local Wynn chefs Weng Keong, Alfredo Ho and Chow Chiu Chin. This year, too, the program will not just be about the awards. The annual Chefs’ Feast takes place on 25th March – an informal gastronomic gathering of all the entrants on the list, which last year took place at Clube Militar de Macau on Avenida da Praia Grande, and focused on Macanese cuisine.
Photography: Asia's 50 Best Restaurants Website
Photography: Clube Militar de Macau
In addition, on the morning of 25th March, there will be a new edition of #50BestTalks, a thought-leadership forum that chews over issues in the culinary world. This year’s addresses come under the umbrella theme “Vital Ingredients”, and leading chefs from the region will be tackling such subjects as sustainability, sourcing and over-consumption – topics that are foremost in the mind of today’s cooks, restaurateurs and diners. There’s also a full compliment of social media supporting the event, including the 50 Best OpenTalk video series and 50 Best Explores, a mini-documentary series in which visiting chefs learn more about local cuisine from their counterparts based in foreign countries.
After all that, the seventh edition of the 50 Best list is finally revealed on Tuesday 26th March. As a venue, Wynn Palace is well equipped to host an event of this magnitude, with a pedigree in fine dining that’s matched by the grandeur of the setting. Throughout, the hotel prides itself on celebrating the culinary arts, with a range of outlets including Wei Ling Palace – for authentic Cantonese delicacies – surf and turf at SW Steakhouse, authentic Japanese cuisine at Mizumi and displays by master sushi chefs at the intimate Sushi Mizumi.
Whoever wins the Asia’s 50 Best top prize this year, the results are sure to reverberate in culinary circles for months to come. And you can be sure that the ceremony will prove a life-changing event for many of the chefs and restaurateurs in attendance.
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