It's been a week now, but I'm still seething, when I'm not laughing. So why am I indignant yet amused? It's because of the joke that is San Pellegrino's World's 50 Best Restaurants. I find it laughable that some believe it to be a better guide than Michelin. Don't get me wrong, I don't set much store by Michelin but at least with their Tokyo and Hong Kong guides, they attempt to respect Asian food. In contrast, San Pellegrino features few restaurants in Asian cities that serve local cuisine.
So let's consider the gospel according to San Pellegrino:
1) Of their best 50, only four are in Asia, with the best-placed restaurant, Tokyo's Les Creations de Narisawa, in at No. 12. In the next 50, there are a further seven restaurants in Asia. So out of the best 100, eleven are in Asia. Did I mention that 60% of the world's population lives in Asia?
2) The best restaurant in Hong Kong is Amber. I'm sure it's very good but does modern French food represent the best of this fine foodie city? Of the three other restaurants in Hong Kong featured in the best 100, two also serve French food with the other, Bo Innovation, serving a molecular gastronomic take on Chinese food. It seems that the city's traditional Chinese restaurants just don't cut it.
3) That's because it would appear London, not Hong Kong, is the place to go for Chinese food, as Hakkasan is apparently the best Chinese restaurant in the world. Well at least you can't accuse the voting panel of not having a sense of humour. It's just that joke isn't funny anymore.
4) The best Thai restaurant in the world is also in London. Yes, that's right, there isn't a single Thai restaurant in Thailand that can compare to Nahm. This is getting more than slightly ridiculous now, not even the most partisan Londoner can surely believe that their home city boasts both the best Chinese and the best Thai restaurant in the world. Can they?
5) The Japanese can feel rightly aggrieved that despite Tokyo being lauded as the best foodie city in the world, it only has three restaurants in the best 100. Mind you, it's probably because standards aren't what they were in the home of sushi. Why else would the favoured haunt of the beautiful people, London's Zuma, be deemed the fourth best Japanese restaurant in the world?
6) And lastly, of the best 100 restaurants in the world, none are in those citadels of Chinese cuisine such as Beijing, Chengdu, Guangzhou, Shanghai or Taipei. I feel sorry for the 70 million plus people that live in those cities, as the poor sods can't get their hands on the best that their native cuisine offers. If only there was a Hakkasan that they could go to.
In fairness, the voting process is transparent. It's just that the voting panel seem to be a bunch of ignorant bores (I'm being kind - I called them much worse in the original draft) that don't really get Asian food. Why else would they pitch up in an Asian city, and dine out at restaurants serving posh European food. Why not get down and dirty with the local cuisine? Oh well, their loss, not ours. And by the way, in case you're wondering, Noma came in at No.1.