T+L Top Eateries Picks in Asia
If there’s anything better than eating around Asia, it’s uncovering new places that will get your mouth watering and send your tastebuds into overdrive. Here are a few of our recent finds.
Joannès Rivière, the French chef who put Cambodian cooking on the map as executive chef of Hotel de la Paix’s Meric restaurant, has opened his own place in Siem Reap: Cuisine Wat Damnak (behind Wat Damnak; +855 77 347 762; cuisinewatdamnak.com). In a converted, Cambodian country home, Rivière creates innovative weekly menus, with Khmer-inspired dishes like grilled river fish and starfruit salsa, and frog braised with winter melon. Three Italians joined forces to open Il Forno (between Pub St. and the Lane; +855 78 208 174; ilfornorestaurantsiemreap.com) in January; their traditional wood-fired pizzas and homemade pastas, made with imported Italian ingredients, are now an essential Siem Reap experience. In Phnom Penh, the upstairs of the gorgeous Sino-French colonial Chinese House has been transformed into a fine dining eatery, Tepui (45 Sisowath Quay; +855 23 991 514; tepui.asia), which offers a Mediterranean-Latin-Asian menu, spanning seafood salpicon with banana chips to blissfully tender beer-braised beef cheeks.
Cuisine Wat Damnak
Korean cuisine gets an update at Beijing’s Ssam (B1-238, Tower 2, Sanlitun SOHO; +86 10 5935 9475), where chef Andrew Ahn sends out playful dishes such as glass noodles topped with sesame-oil foam and a sampler of its namesake—savory morsels in various wrappings. Wood paneling and bike seats serving as bar stools lend an air of informality at Cuivre (1502 Middle Huaihai Rd.; +86 21 6437 4219), in Shanghai’s French Concession. The Mediterranean-inflected food is similarly unpretentious: grilled rack of lamb with pesto; mussels cooked with spicy sausage and tomatoes. California transplant Brad Turley, chef–owner of always-packed Goga, brings his winning mix of laid-back vibe and honest grub to Hai (7th floor, 1 Yueyang Rd.; +86 21 3461 7893), a rooftop restaurant with a raw seafood bar. Two Shanghai restaurants to look out for: Paul Pairet’s Ultraviolet (uvbypp.cc)—10 seats, 20 courses, one undisclosed location—and restaurant–lounge Modernist (378 Wukang Rd.) by native New Yorker Hilary Ambrose.
Riffing on Hong Kong’s cha chaan teng culture, retro-cool Loyal Dining (66 Wellington St., Central; loyaldining.com.hk; +852 3125 3000) combines dizzying 1960’s floor tiles with dim sum and nostalgic Canto-Western fare (shrimp cocktail; baked lobster fried rice) served late into the night. Don’t expect a table at Yardbird (33–35 Bridges St., Sheung Wan; +852 2547 9273; yardbirdrestaurant.com), the buzzy no-reservations yakitori joint of former Zuma chef Matt Abergel. Arrive early (it opens at 6 p.m.) and perch barside for the sublimely turned-out skewers and serious drinks—the Whiskey Lemonade is not to be missed. The airy, industrial-chic Madam Sixty Ate (First floor, Shop 8, The Podium, J Senses, 60 Johnston Rd., Wan Chai; +852 2527 2558; madamsixtyate.com.hk) adds to Wan Chai’s fast-gentrifying sheen with creative Euro fare: stracci with semi-cured pork and onion foam; yoghurt parfait and chocolate mousse sprinkled with salted-caramel confetti. New York–inspired cuisine shines at Liberty Private Works (26th floor, 11 Stanley St., Central; +852 5186 3282; libertypw.com), where Daniel Boulud–trained chef Vicky Cheng picks up the mantle from Makoto Ono in a new location.
Madam Sixty Ate
Jakartans are flocking to industrial-styled bistro-bar Union (Ground floor, Plaza Senayan Courtyard, Jln. Asia Afrika No. 8; +62 21 5790 5861), the toughest reservation in the capital. With its own bakery and the culinary creations of 27-year-old Adhika Maxi, who once worked in a Gordon Ramsay kitchen, the place feels like a slice of the meat-packing district in lower Manhattan—especially after a few drinks. If it’s the buzz that brings them in, then it’s the food that keeps them coming back to Turkuaz (Jln. Gunawarman No. 32; +62 21 7279 5846), the 30-seat creation of Turkish chef Sezai Korlu in south Jakarta. Dig into lamb shank, yaprak sarma (stuffed grape leaves) and burma (pistachio roll in filo pastry), served in an atmosphere as laid-back as the chef himself.
In Vientiane, I-Beam (88 Setthathirath Rd.; +856 21 254 528) hosts a lively scene of expats and professionals, drawn to its Mediterranean fare and selection of New World wines.
In Kuala Lumpur, Albion (31 Jln. Berangan; +60 3 2141 9282; albionkl.com) serves grown-up cocktails and mod-Brit cuisine—think homey duck confit with red cabbage—in a swanky minimalist space. A proper roast (beef and lamb) is served on Sundays. The capital’s skyline sets off the seasonal prixe fixe at Upper Deck, Tanzini @ G Tower (Tanzini Penthouse, G Tower, 199 Jln. Tun Razak; +60 3 2168 1899; tanzini.com.my), which boasts floor-to-ceiling windows. Let’s hope the smoked-duck “tea” stays on the ever-changing menu. Chef Nathalie Arbefeuille puts a new spin on French ingredients at Cuisine Gourmet at Nathalie (Menara Taipan, Jln. Punchak; +60 3 2072 4452; nathaliegourmetstudio.com), her second KL venture. Love snails? On the menu, look for escargot mille-feuille and an unctuous lasagne that pairs the mollusc with garlic mousseline. There’s a downtown Sydney-esque vibe at Bangsar’s Antipodean Café (20 Jln. Telawi 2; +60 3 2282 0411), where flawless long flat whites accompany all-day Aussie breakfasts. In Penang, George Town’s smart Venetian-leaning restaurant Il Bacaro (106 Campbell St.; +60 4 261 8290; campbellhousepenang.com) gives the island’s renowned hawker fare a run for its money with wood-fired pizzas and handmade pasta in dishes like seafood-sauced stracci and green pea agnolotti.
It may serve up “slow food,” but airy locavore bistro Tourné (The Fort Strip, 7th Ave. corner 26th St., Bonifacio Global City, Taguig; +63 2 555 0267) is fast turning heads in the capital. Chef-owner Sandralyn Hataway serves up dishes like Serrano ham salad with truffle-orange vinaigrette and roasted garlic pizza slathered with mozzarella and micro greens. Over in Quezon City, Manila gets a taste of San Francisco at chef Bruce Lim’s Hyphy’s (Level 2, Robinsons Galleria Veranda, Edsa corner Ortigas Ave., Quezon City; + 63 2 477 7611; hyphys.com), specializing in modern Fil-Am fare (hearty clam chowder in sourdough; moreish calamansi–tuyo, or salted-fish, pasta). “Not your mama’s ramen” is the order of the day at Nomama Artisanal Ramen (Ground floor, FSS Bldg. 2, Sct. Tuazon corner Sct. Castor, Quezon City; 63 2 542 2558), chef Him Uy de Baron’s debut turn as chef-owner. Sit down in the bright, concrete-floored space for dishes made from scratch: short-rib curry with roasted Kabocha; ramen with a perfectly gooey soft-boiled egg.
Nomama Artisanal Ramen
When the shine wears off the S$400 per head celebrity-chef restaurants at the Marina Bay Sands casino resort, book a table at the Oversea Restaurant (100 Beach Rd., #01-27 Shaw Leisure Gallery, Shaw Tower; +65 6294 2638; oversea.com.my) for braised home-made tofu and some of Singapore’s best char siu (roast barbecued pork). Across town, in the bucolic setting of the Bukit Timah Saddle Club, the family-friendly Pantry at the Stables (55 Fairways Drive; +65 6467 9328) charms with restrained Nordic interiors by Albano Daminato. It’s the perfect setting for a leisurely lunch of Thai roast beef salad, and a spaghetti carbonara cooked sous vide.
Pantry at the Stables
Taiwan foodies are gathering at Justin Quek’s Just In Bistro & Wine Bar (First floor, Neo 19, 22 Songren Rd.; +886 2 8786 2000; justinquek.com), the third Taipei outpost by the famed Singaporean chef. On the menu is French cuisine with a Chinese twist: chicken casserole in Shaoxing wine; fried Hokkien noodles with Maine lobster. Away from Xinyi’s bustle, in the Shida university neighborhood, the boho-chic Café Trouvé (4 Lane 16, Taishun St.; +886 2 2365 5653) sits in a restored 60-year-old wooden house. Relax with a latte and a slice of homemade cheesecake amid exposed beams, Midcentury furniture and retro knick-knacks.
Just In Bistro & Wine Bar
New-wave Indian restaurant Gaggan (68/1 Soi Langsuan; +66 2 652 1700; eatatgaggan.com) hits the mark with clever takes on classics (spherified cumin-spiked yogurt; sous vide mutton served in a rich curry). Floor-to-ceiling windows and pale wood floors set the stage for hearty eggs Florentine and other brunch standards at Kuppadeli (219/1A The Pride, Asoke Towers, Soi 21, Sukhumvit Rd.; +66 2 664 2350; kuppadeli.com). The city also welcomed several restaurants and shops devoted to one thing: while BKK Bagel Bakery (518/3 Maneeya Center, Ploenchit Rd.; +66 2 254 8157; bkkbagelbakery.com) serves the town’s most authentic bagel with schmear, Le Blanc (15 Soi 39, Sukhumvit Rd.; +66 2 259 4353) has crisp baguettes; the flaky pastries, especially the pain au chocolat, are worth breaking any diet for. Ignore the disappointing food at Roast (2nd floor, Seenspace, Thonglor Soi 13; +66 2 185 2865) and luxuriate in the expertly made espresso drinks.
Six-month old Southgate (28 Tong Duy Tan St.; +84 4 3938 1979; southgatehanoi.com) and its modern Mediterranean cuisine and innovative cocktails (claimed to be the city’s best) has quickly become one of the capital city’s go-to spots for quality Western nosh. In an Asian-contempo setting—geometric screens, cherry red walls, ambient lighting—tuck into dishes like chicken, sage and zucchini ravioli and a seafood hotpot in carrot–ginger broth. Saigon gets a taste of Hanoi with Mam Son (35 Ton That Thiep St.; +84 8 3915 3653), located in a shop house with charming colonial tiles and French doors. Look for northern delicacies cooked the traditional way, like cha ca, grilled fish with dill and turmeric, and delicately assembled fresh spring rolls packed with shrimp and herbs. Also in District 1, pizza lovers should make a beeline to Pizza 4P’s (8/15 Le Thanh Ton; +84 8 3822 9838; pizza4ps.com), housed in a renovated home, for expertly made, wood-fired pies: classic, with homemade buffalo mozzarella, or Japanese-inspired, with toppings like edible flowers and chicken teriyaki.