• MJ Agra

THE SHORTLIST Best Restaurants in ASIA

Updated: Mar 5

Journey through a kaleidoscope of flavors across the continent of Asia, with cities like Singapore, Tangalle, Manila, Bangkok, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Hanoi, Tokyo, and Dubai at the forefront of top places to eat!

This was not an easy shortlist. Being the biggest foodie and a lover of Asia, it was tempting to add more than 10 to this list. The Top 10 are carefully handpicked; they have gained my stamp of approval over the years as a regular diner and can attest they excel in these TOP 3 areas: FOOD, AMBIENCE, and CUSTOMER SERVICE.


With extra precautions in place, such as safe distancing measures, digital menus, PPE’s and enhanced hygiene protocols - dining in this era of the new normal has forever changed our perspective. Now, we only go out to eat at select restaurants for the pure love of food, either alone or in the company of a few. Gone are the days where we annoyingly bump elbows with someone at the bar or accidentally eavesdrop on the conversation of the table next to us in a restaurant.


We have become so adamant and picky with where we socialize and spend our time! Beneath all the factors in deciding where we dine, the quality of the FOOD always comes first.


I started off with this shortlist, simply because my fondest memories of food are in Asia.


Friendly reminder Most of these restaurants have just re-opened its doors and have even moved to online platforms for delivery. Unusual times call for extra effort - so please - before you go, contact them for any changes and make a reservation!


ADRIFT BY DAVID MYERS

MARINA BAY SANDS

SINGAPORE, SINGAPORE

Seasonal flavours. Fresh ingredients. Thoughtfully sourced. That’s what you can expect when you embark on a culinary journey at Marina Bay Sands’ vibrant and dramatically-sophisticated Adrift Restaurant by Michelin-starred Celebrity Chef and Restaurateur, David Myers. This East-meets-West dining temple is infamous for their bold signature dishes inspired by flavours of the world including the Braised Short Ribs, Yellow Fin Tuna, Spencer Gulf Prawn and Barramundi with Morning Glory.


David Myers is famed as the Gypsy Chef for his successful global endeavours in the restaurant scene, including Los Angeles, Dubai, Singapore, and Tokyo. The American Chef's passion for the Japanese culture is evident in the robata section of the restaurant, which features bincho-grilled items like their miso-cured duck breast.


The modern Japanese Izakaya (meaning a casual after-work snack bar) opens up to an elegant Ginza-style bar - so inviting - that having a taste of their signature cocktails created by New York-based bartender extraordinaire, Sam Ross, becomes a pre-dinner rite of passage.


Adrift Singapore doesn’t fall short for a day-time treat with their 3-course power lunch offerings, including their popular Japanese Flying Squid, Cheeseburger Spring rolls, and Barley Miso Chicken. The lunch menu changes every now and then, giving Adrift foodies something to be excited for whenever they visit.

MY FAVOURITE DISHES

Uni Ramen Noodle with pickled lemon and garden spinach. And - anything and everything from their Yakitori Alley Menu!


MY SIGNATURE COCKTAIL

Sault made with dry gin, sloe gin, and vermouth - or - just my usual Dry Gin Martini.


MUST TRY

Definitely the Wagyu Cheeseburger or rather the “Famous David Burger” as raved by New York Times. The Michelin-starred chef admits creating the perfect burger is his masterpiece. His strong following stems from his successes around the world and he is now bringing back these delicious burgers right to your doors in Los Angeles with Adrift Burger L.A.!

WEBSITE

ALL ABOUT GYPSYCHEF



THE RESTAURANT

AMANWELLA RESORT

TANGALLE, SRI LANKA

Nestled in a secluded crescent-shaped bay in Tangalle on Sri Lanka’s southern coast is its luxury beachfront sanctuary Amanwella. Inside this stylish boutique hotel is The Restaurant beside an 800-metre sweep of silky sand and perched 8 meters above sea level with panoramic views of the palm-fringed Indian Ocean.

The menu is an impressive assembly of Asian, Mediterranean, and Sri Lankan specialities. But - the star of the show is their fresh seafood catch-of-the-day, that is slowly cooked over a coconut charcoal barbecue. Here, you get a true taste of the finest ingredients of Sri Lanka, with spices bought from the local markets and fresh vegetables and herbs directly sourced from the resort’s organic gardens.

Depending on the mood and weather, you can set your romantic dining experience at their elevated outdoor terrace with views of their expansive infinity pool and moon-bathed coconut groves. For a more intimate experience or when the rain sets in, you can relax inside their spacious interior with views of their grassed landscaped courtyard and frangipini trees.

MY FAVOURITE DISHES

Coconut roti (flatbread) paired with fish or chicken curry, traditional curry gravy and coconut sambal (a spicy, chili-based sauce or relish). Pittu (steamed ground rice with coconut).

MY SIGNATURE COCKTAIL

Basil Breeze - made with Ceylon Coconut Arrack, fresh organce, passion fruit, basil, and a dash of cinnamon.


MUST TRY

Traditional string hoppers, with fish or chicken curry, coconut curry gravy and coconut sambal.

WEBSITE



CRISOSTOMO

RESORTS WORLD

MANILA, PHILIPPINES

Take your palate on a historical journey to the diverse flavors of the Philippines at Resorts World Manila’s very own Crisostomo restaurant. Inspired by Spanish, American, Japanese, and Chinese influences, Chef Floral Co-Yatco’s modern twist of gastronomy to the country’s historical literature is the go-to local destination for the best Filipino food.


The restaurant’s sumptuous and savoury dishes are not the only elements that take you down memory lane during your visit to one of their 12 branches. The inspiration drawn from the country’s most famous controversial literature Noli Me Tangere (Latin for “Touch Me Not”) by its national hero, Jose Rizal, can be seen throughout its interior with decorative paintings, wooden accents, pale green walls, and grandeur chandelier. The bold flavors of their diverse dishes - from vegetarian, seafood, to meaty food choices - are a sure feast to your refined palate.


MY FAVOURITE DISH

Their affordable prices make it hard not to order the entire menu! For appetizers, I order their Sizzling Bracken Tofu, which is tofu in a savory sauce. For mains, I opt for the Bistek na Bangus, which is a pan-fried milkfish belly in bistek sauce with a side of green/yellow mangoes and anchovies.


MUST TRY

Their Don Rafael Krispy Pata, which is a deep-fried pork leg served with atchara (pickled green papaya) and soy vinegar. Served with a side of rice or salad, you’ll be dreaming of this dish for days!


WEBSITE



NAHM

COMO METROPOLITAN

BANGKOK, THAILAND

Famed for its fiery modern take on traditional Thai fare, it’s no surprise Nahm snags another Michelin-star on its third consecutive year. Unlike its flagship in London, this Bangkok staple has continuously gained momentum as one of the top restaurants in Asia since 2010. Lead by former Silicon valley powerhouse and Bangkok-native Chef Pim Techamuanvivit after David Thompson, Nahm has attracted foodies from around the globe with their stellar signatures, such as grilled banana leaf packet with blue swimmer crab, wild prawn, and red grouper fish seasoned with wild ginger and curry paste, steamed red curry scallops with Thai basil and coconut, and hot and sour soup of river prawn and wild mushroom.

Set in COMO Metropolitan in the central Bangkok district of Sathorn, this sophisticated restaurant resembles that feel-at-home dining experience as if hosting a dinner for local friends. Matched with their 5-star Thai hospitality and stunning night-lit view of the crystal blue pool and veranda, a meal at Nahm is truly a luxury experience to beat!

MY FAVOURITE DISH

The Angry Beef, which is stir-fried Wagyu beef with young coconut shoots, basil, and green peppercorns. You'll understand how it got its name - and rightfully so - as soon as your tongue burns! For foodies who shy away from all the hot spice, Carambola (”starfruit”) plates are on standby when those chilies start to overwhelm your taste buds.

MY SIGNATURE COCKTAIL

Their version of my go-to drink - the Lychee Martini.

MUST TRY

Another blue swimmer crab dish, Gang Pu Ba Cha Plu, a southern yellow curry with betel leaves and calamansi lime.


WEBSITE



YI LONG COURT

THE PENINSULA

SHANGHAI, CHINA

This Michelin star fine-dining restaurant set along the the Bund on Shanghai’s luxurious The Peninsula serves up high-end exquisite Cantonese cuisine with fresh emphasis on seafood.


Styled after the golden era of old Shanghai circa 1930s, this flagship restaurant boasts a menu showcasing tasty adaptations of classic Chinese dishes. Signature fares include steamed crab and crab roe with garlic and glutinous rice, stewed chicken and abalone in clay pot with Chinese Hua Diao rice wine, and traditional Cantonese style braised spotted grouper with shredded pork.

Global diners will soon discover after a taste that Executive Chef Tang Chi Keung is a master of creatively combining flavors of traditional Chinese ingredients to create a one-of-a-kind dining experience. Other creative dishes include a bowl of noodles in a lobster broth and topped with Dalian, barbecued Jiansu Kurobuta pork, steamed red snapper cooked with ginger and onions, and a tomato soup with grouper.

MY FAVOURITE DISHES

Sweet Corn Soup with Minced Chicken, Roasted Peking Duck, Braised Spare Ribs with XO Sauce, Braised Mung Bean Noodles with Bamboo Fungus, Mushrooms and Mixed Vegetables in Clay Pot


MUST TRY

Cantonese-style Roasted Chicken and Wok fried Lobster and Scallops with Matsutake in Mushroom Sauce

WEBSITE



GRANDMA’S RESTAURANT

OLD QUARTER

HANOI, VIETNAM

Relive the glorious history of Hanoi at this beguiling and quaint restaurant in the heart of Hanoi’s old quarter. Inspired by traditional ways of cooking authentic Vietnamese cuisine, Grandma’s Restaurant specializes in Hanoian cuisine with emphasis on fresh local ingredients, such as pomelo and prawn salad, grilled lemongrass chicken, and pan-fried seabass with pepper sauce.


Did you know Northern Vietnamese cuisine is lighter and more balanced in flavors compared to the bold and spicy elements often found in their

Southeast Asian counterparts?


The menu also features classic Vietnamese staples artfully and meticulously plated for "the gram" such as grilled beef in bamboo, traditional grilled ‘Lang’ fish, and deep-fried spring rolls. This multi-level fine-dining establishment is thoughtfully designed giving it a throwback back to Hanoi’s rustic past vibe with its dark-wood furniture, concrete walls and lanterns, ambient mood lighting, and décor.

MY FAVOURITE DISHES

Grilled marinated King Prawns in Lemongrass. River crab broth with Vietnamese spinach. Grilled Beef in Bamboo.

MUST TRY

Grilled Chicken with lemongrass. Stir-fried Lobster with Tamarind Sauce. Fried Bananas coated with sweet crispy rice.

WEBSITE



CAFE GRAY DELUXE

THE UPPER HOUSE

HONG KONG, HONG KONG

Café Gray Deluxe is an all-day dining venue on the 49th floor of the celebrity-destination luxury hotel and fashionable Upper House. This stylish bistro’s décor is muted enough to immediately draw your gaze towards its sensational cityscape views - seen through its many expansive windows.

This Hong Kong institution is famed for its stellar skyline backdrop and modern European cuisine, with premium ingredients and seasonal set menus focused on “sustainable, seasonal, and organic ingredients,” according to its Executive Chef Lee Tak Sum. Menu highlights include the steak tartare’s tangy Kunz ketjap sauce and the full-bodied richness of the saffron pasta fiore stewed tomatoes. For cocktail drinkers, you’ll catch their expert mixologists magically craft your perfect drink for the evening at their famous 14-meter handsome marble bar. For wine lovers, a sommelier is on standby to offer recommendations from their extensive wine list while you relax in their velvet and leather banquettes.

MY FAVOURITE DISH

Steamed Barbecued Pork Bun. Short Rib of Beef with cheesy grits, horseradish, meaux mustard sauve, and horseradish julienne.

MY SIGNATURE COCKTAIL

Their classic Earl Grey Martini, with tea-infused Beefeater gin with lemon, orange and demerara.

MUST TRY

Saffron Pasta Fiore. Halibut on the bone. Raspberry Tiramisu.


WEBSITE



*SECRET SPOT*

TOKYO, JAPAN

This Japanese izakaya-style restaurant (whose name we won't mention for now) is tucked amongst the traditional alleyways of Tokyo where locals eat and drink. Kept a secret for many years, this hidden spot will not appear on any of your google searches or social media feed. This is one place locals go back to on a regular basis, with the same faces filling up their tables every single night. Their lack of - rather - absence of online presence make them even more special.


Certainly not the place for convenience or ritzy candlelit dinners, this hardest-to-book “yakitori” (meaning a type of skewered chicken) joint is fairly informal. Upon stepping foot, you're greeted with an open-kitchen interior and two binchotan charcoal embers where diners behind the expansive wooden counter can watch the skilled chefs work their magic. This yakitoriya is a favorite for adventurous diners wanting to have a taste of any of the 40+ chicken parts available that day.

There’s more to their menu than just the standard parts of the chicken, like its thighs, breast, heart, wings, gizzard and liver.

In fact, those who crave yakitori come here for the more rare chicken parts like the throat, collarbone, tail, aorta, and the chōchin (lantern). You’re guaranteed freshness as the meat is sourced daily. So go ahead and try their sashimi version of the chicken breast - where the meat merely kisses the grill for a slight hint of colour. For an extra kick, sprinkle some chili pepper, seaweed flakes, and shio (salt) and smudge some wasabi on top! Soon, you'll become an anatomy expert after feasting on a number of cuts from their secret menu!

MY FAVOURITE DISHES

Too many to mention, but I will anyway! Tsukune, single-bite balls of ground chicken meat. The velvety rebā (liver) and grilled hearts. Kashira, one of the tastiest cuts of chicken breasts. Sesseri, fine layers of neck meat. Sunagimo, gizzard. Bonjiri, the fatty part from chicken’s tail. Mildly bitter shishito peppers and Ginko nuts.

MY DRINK

Shōchū, a national spirit of Japan most akin to vodka at about 30-35 proof, BUT contains zero sugar and has about a quarter of the calories per ounce of vodka.


MUST TRY

The most desired of all yakitori treats, the chōchin or Lantern - which consists of two golden unfertilized egg yolks grilled in its membrane and served still dangling from fallopian tubes. It may not sound as appetizing - but if you enjoy the unctuous creamy richness of a traditional egg yolk, the prized and often sold-out chōchin takes this dining pleasure to the next level!



MATSUBARA-AN KEYAKI

HARAJUKU

TOKYO, JAPAN

From yakitori to handcrafted soba above Harajuku, Tokyo is a wonderland for endless dining opportunities to eat like a local. Three floors above the busy boulevard of Omotesandō and a minute stroll from the most-visited Meiji shrine, the serene setting and calm elegance of Matsubara-an Keyaki take over after stepping past the modest noren (traditional fabric dividers) and leaving your shoes by the door.


The display of Japanese omotenashi (traditional hospitality), outside views of the swaying keyaki (zelkova) trees, the faint whispers of diners, and the sight of the young artisan kneading the gray-brown buckwheat dough are all sights to soak in to appreciate the culture much more.

The 70 seats are almost always full, sometimes with lineups extending to outside the door. It’s not just the ambience that draws people in - but the teuchi soba, which is prepared by hand with ingredients from Kamakura, the former capital of Japan from 1185 to 1333.


Their well-loved noodles are light and delicate, with a subtle, nutty and buckwheat fragrance and can be served either hot or cold. Other than soba, traditionalists will be pleased to find a colorful array of seasonal appetizers and sides on the menu, from sashimi, chilled tofu, itawasa (fish cake slices with freshly grated wasabi), crisp tempura, aburiyaki seared duck breast, and charcoal-grilled chicken.

MY FAVOURITE DISHES

Dashimaki tamago (rolled omelet served with grated daikon). Kake (soba buckwheat noodles served in a hot soup).

MY DRINK

Asahi, a Lager-Japanese rice style Beer meaning "rising sun."

MUST TRY

The classic seiro soba (cold noodles with dipping sauce.)


WEBSITE



ZUMA

D.I.F.C.

DUBAI, U.A.E.

With travel limitations and border closures, the closest thing to fulfilling your authentic Japanese food craving is right in the heart of Dubai’s International Financial Centre - Zuma. Time Out Dubai’s repeat-awardee boasts some of the best sushi and sashimi in Dubai; try to be seated on their dining room sushi counter to watch their itamae (sushi chef) in action for the full experience.


From their Unagi bo zushi maki (grilled freshwater eel with avocado and sweet omelette), to their thinly sliced seabass with yuzu, truffle oil and salmon roe, to the dynamite spider roll with softshell crab, chilli mayonnaise and cucumber and tokibo sauce, your taste buds are in for a treat!

Inspired by an izakaya with an emphasis on sharing plates, they have an extensive menu of Japanese classics, including the miso-marinated black cod wrapped in hobo leaf and grilled chilean seabass with green chilli ginger dressing and cress salad. This London-based restaurant is a favorite stop for business lunch and pre/post dinner drinks with the upper floor chilled-out lounge as the it spot to mingle (pre-covid) and watch the mixologists in action behind the bar. The upper floor is in stark contrast to its spacious dining room on the lower level and resembles the ambience of a posh nightclub, with dimmed ambience and the live DJ's blasting music setting the scene for a memorable night ahead.


MY FAVOURITE

The thinly sliced seabass with yuzu, truffle oil and salmon roe. I can live off their full list of Nigiri/Sashimi selection: from botan ebi (jumbo sweet shrimp), sake (salmon), ikura (salmon roe), o toro (fatty tuna), hamachi (yellowtail), hotate (hokkaido scallop), and more!


MY SIGNATURE COCKTAIL

Dry Hendricks Gin Martini with a lemon twist and extra olives on the side.


MUST TRY

ika no kari kari age (crispy squid with green chili and lime). Gindara no saikyo miso yaki (Miso black cod wrapped in hobo leaf) and their seasonal wagyu hohoniku to komiyasai Zoe (braised Wagyu beef and Japanese herbs).

WEBSITE


Hungry for more?

Stay tuned for the Shortlist of other Continents - coming soon!

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