Den showed a great performance, coming highest among all Japanese restaurants
Which restaurants are at the center of world’sattention this year?
The World’s 50 Best Restaurants is an event sponsored by San Pellegrino and AcquaPanna. This year, its awarding ceremony took place at Singapore on June 25th. Launched in 2002, the event has been referred to as the “Oscars of the fine dining world” or the “Oscars of global gastronomy.” It’s the first time to be held in Asia and over 800 chefs, experts in food as well as journalists gathered from around the world at Marina Bay Sands in Singapore.
This year, first in place was Mirazur of Menton, France which stepped up from last year’s third place. It’s a dream come true for Mirazur, which surprisingly marked the first time for a French restaurant to come at first place. 2nd in place came NOMA of Copenhagen, Denmark, which underwent a renewal, while at 3rd place came Asador Etxebarri of Axpe, Spain. Other restaurants that were selected should be checked out from the official website, but here,I would like to look into the restaurants that made it to the top and state my opinion.
Winners of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants 2019
To begin with, there were two big rules that were altered this year. I’d like to mention these first, because they are something that greatly affected the results. Firstly, 50 % of the voters have been changed to women. This rule—to adopt more women in its voters—was changed by the management side, based on the award’s principle of incorporating diversity. Further research needs to be done to discover how much affect this had on the rankings, but I think women’s viewpoint definitely had an influence on the results.
The other rule that got changed involved restaurants that earned first place in the past. From this year, these restaurants were raised a step higher to the“BEST OF THE BEST” category—literally retiring from the rankings. As a result, 8 restaurants that earned first place in past events including No. 1 restaurant of last year—Osteria Francescana in Modena, Italy—were excluded from the rankings. As an exception, Noma—which moved locations and went through a renewal—was regarded a new restaurant; it came second place this year.
Osteria Francescana in Modena, northern Italy, is one restaurant among the 8 restaurants that joined the “BEST OF THE BEST” category this year. Massimo Bottura, who serves as chef, is known for his creative cuisine that takes a modern take on traditional Italian food.
There are arguments both for and against this system of having restaurants enter the “BEST OF THE BEST” category among chairmen, voters and journalists, but its aim is to revitalize young, new restaurants and create attention. As both a chairman and a columnist, I personally think that changing the rules is something to appraise. The issue now lies on how to shed light on these restaurants that have entered the “BEST OF THE BEST” category. There is obviously room for discussion on how to evaluate these restaurants other than its rankings and how to provide occasions for the restaurants to receive more attention. Otherwise, restaurants will lose their motivations to reach the top. I would like to pay close attention on how the award is going to tackle these issues from here onwards. With this in mind, I would like to reflect on some of the restaurants that have reached the higher ranks this year.
Mirazur that made its challenge from a local village, is chosen No. 1—first time for a French restaurant
Firstly, I would like to greatly appraise Mirazur that earned first place. Although it’s a French restaurant, it’s not in a big city like Paris, but rather a small village called Menton—a secluded area beside the border of Italy, far from Paris. It’s noteworthy that even in such an environment it has gathered people and positioned itself at the top of the list. Even in Japan, I often hear voices from restaurants that they “can’t gather people because they’re in a local area where luxurious restaurants cannot get by,” but Mirazur’s No. 1 position proves there is an answer.
Looking down the Mediterranean Sea from Mirazur, situated on a rise in Menton—a village at the Italian border. It’s the first time for Mauro Colagreco from Argentina to reach the top.
The reason Mirazur came at first place can be uncovered when you look at the restaurant’s background. The utmost reason lies in the restaurant chef Mauro Colagreco and his borderless career and upbringing. Born in Argentina, Colagreco moved to Brazil and Italy before continuing his activities as a chef in France. Now, his restaurant is near the border of Italy and France. This kind of upbringing, which transcends borders, languages and ethnical groups, has become a personality that is incorporated in his receipts too. This, I think, is what captured the sense and soul of so many people.That he is expressing his attractive food not in the city but in a local restaurant, has resulted in gaining high approval.
Den is ranked 11th, higher than last year
Narisawa has maintained its position at 22th
Now let’s see how the Japanese restaurants did. Two Japanese restaurants ranked in. Den, in Jingumae, Tokyo was the highest amongst the Japanese restaurants,raising its rank from 17th last year to 11th this year. It also earned the special “Art of Hospitality Award.” Den is known to have earned the “Ferrari Trento Art of Hospitality Award” at the Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants 2017 too, making it the first restaurant to earn both an award in Asia and the world.
Den’s signature appetizer; “foie gras monaka.”Texture and taste calculated to the utmost detail, can be enjoyed.
This “Art of Hospitality Award”is a special award that evaluates “the spirit of hospitality.” I think it’s worth mentioning that not only voters of Asia but also voters of the world appraised the restaurant for its spirit of making its visitors feel at home. I think if Japan were to choose food for international appeal in order to invite more foreigners to Japan, it should explore Den’s “omotenashi” spirit at depth.
Also, Narisawa in Aoyama, Tokyo, maintained its position at 22nd—same as last year. That Narisawa’s chef Yoshihiro Narisawa tackled his cuisine thoroughly and achieved consistent world acclaim, amid a situation in which many ranks replaced one another including those at the top, is worthy of praise.
“Innovative Satoyama Cuisine”—Narisawa’s original style of cuisine that makes the most of the Japanese season, land and food culture.
Born in Hayama, Kanagawa Prefecture. Nakamura’s activities range from magazines, newspaper to television in areas around fashion, culture, gourmet, travel, hotels and luxurious life. He received the title of Chevalier (knighthood) in Champagne, France in 2007 and in Cava, Spain in 2010. From 2013, Nakamura serves as Chairman of the Japan Council of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants. Holder of Japanese martial arts kendo 7-dan and professor at Dai-Nihon Chado Gakkai. His books include, “The CIGAR LIFE,” co-written by Mamoru Hiromi and Takanori Nakamura (Ohta Publications) and “Meiten Reshipi-no Junrei-shugyo—Tsukutte Wakatta Ano-ajinoHimitsu (Pilgrimage training of famous restaurants—The secret of that taste, found upon making it)” (Sekaibunkasha).
Photography by ©The World's 50 Best Restaurants