LA MAISON 1888
This restaurant alone is worth the trip to Vietnam, Celebrated French born chef, Michel Roux, whose abundant accolades include three Michelin Start each for his other two restaurants (The Waterside Inn is the first outside France to have retained its stars for twenty-five years), transformed the port city of Da Nang’s foodscape when he opened La Maison 1888 in the intercontinental hotel. Everything about the place is painstakingly exquisite, from the setting – reminiscent of a vintage French mansion – to the menu, where classic French food is infused with Asian flavours to superb results. Pork belly served with lentils; grilled tender rabbit fillets with Armagnac sauce; scallops with carrot puree and tamarind sause; fish veloute with coconut milk and lemongrass – this is fine-dining at its finest.
A small restaurant with a big heart, the award winning, Miele Guide-rated Makphet is run by Friends-International to contribute to the needs of the street children in Laos. They also employ homeless youth to cook and serve. That said, it’s also one of the top dining experiences to be had in the country. Literally translating into ‘chilli’, Makphet is an unassuming, friendly place that offers Laotian cuisine with a creative twist on several dishes. Portions are hearty, food is freshly prepared (if you are restless waiting at your table, you can take a quick peek into their adjoining boutique that sells stuff to support their cause), flavours are bold, often spicy and the presentation is unfussy. Make sure you try their cocktails and the mango and black sticky rice dessert.
Located in Bali tourist hotspot, Kuta, Sarong’s inspiration is the street food from various corners of Asia. The creation of chef Will Meyrick (who has had immense success with multiple restaurants across the Asia-Pacific region), Sarong’s restaurant and atmospheric outdoor lounge has been pulling in the crowds ever since it opened in 2008. Coloured in warm shades of cream and brown with flickering candles and comfy couches, the place makes you feel fight at home. The electic menu trots across Asia, gathering flavours from India, China, Thailand, Vietnam and, of course, Indonesia: butter chicken and tandoori kababs sit alongside kung pao chicken, Wagyu beef and Vietnamese caramelized duck. Bear in mind, though, that the restaurant opens only in the evenings.
In the four years that this multi-cuisine bistro has been serving food, it has acquired quite a name (and more than a few accolades) for itself. For starters, the view is fabulous: of Hanoi’s serene West Lake. The menu is impressive too, mainly for the fact that it serves everything – from traditional Vietnamese and American to Pizzas, burgers, Italian favourites, Asian fusion and more – and manages to get it all spectacularly right. There’s even an oyster bar, a wine cellar and a cigar den.
RESTAURANT ANDRE Singapore
What is octaphilosophy? It’s Unique and Pure. It’s Texture, Memory and Salt. It’s South and Artisan. It’s Restaurant Andre. Taiwanese chef, Andre Chiang, combined his two loves – cooking and art – and created a whole new dining experience, the bedrock for which are these eight culinary aspects. Each course is an expression of one such characteristic: pure could mean the pure flavours of seafood; salt could be represented by oysters; south could be an ode to the fresh flavours of the south of France (incidentally Chiang spent several years training in this region); texture could arrive in the form of lobster with gnocchi and caviar ..and so on. The setting is lovely too – within a historic terrace house in lively Chinatown.
Elegance is the keword here – from the sunlit, high – ceilinged space amid luchgreenery, the polished wooden floors and classy furniture, to the tasteful table arrangements and of course the food. Antonio ‘Tony Boy’ Escalante set up his eponymous restaurant in 2002 on his own farm in the verdant hills of Tagaytay, Philippines to indulge his two passions – creating fine food and bringing happiness to his loved once. Today’s he clearly brings joy to a much wider audience. The menu is French-inspired and favourites include pan-fried visayan sole with meuniere sauce. Angus prime roast beef with truffle mashed potatoes and black tiger prawns with sweet paprika. Ingredients, of course, are farm fresh. Interestingly, Antonio’s lover for breakfasts prompted him to open another restaurant, Breakfast at Antonio’s devoted to this essential meal.
LE MALARAUX Siem Reap
This former brewery-turned-restaurant is a tribute to Combodia’s French era, starting with its slightly odd appellation – after Frenchman Andre Marlraux, who among other things in recognized for plundering many temples, including Angkor Wat. Nevertheless, the atmosphere is cheery – set in a historic building with art deco interiors: exposed brick walls, ornate lanterns, stylish wooden furniture and a well-stocked bar. And while ou may imagine this as a purely French restaurant, Le Malraux describes its cuisine as Asian fusion with a section dedicated to Cambodian specialities such as fish amok with coconut milk and rice and beef lok lak.
You’d think that the best Thai receipie in Bangkok belonged to their indegenous chefs, right? Wrong. Australian-born chef, David Thompson, has the winning formula in Nahm the younger sibling of the Michelin-star Nahm in London (incidentally the first Thai cuisine restaurant to receive this honour). Located in the pulsating heart of Bangkok’s central business district within the glamorous Metropolitan hotel, the restaurant focuses on bringing alive the big, bold flavours of traditional, even obscure or long-forgotten, Thai dishes. Expect the unexpected: salted thread fin perch with green mango on betel leaves; toasted coconut with watermelon and mango; snake gourd soup; salted duck egg… you don’t know Thai food till you’ve eaten here.
Down the road from Ubud’s main shopping drag, Mozaic’s discreet entrance is easy to overlook. But step inside and you know you’re in someplace special. Not only because Mozaic’s uber trendy decor-clean contemporary lines, glittering mirrors and chandeliers, careful plant arrangements – stands apart from that of every other grungy eatery around. It’s also the service, courteous and welcoming, which begins even before you step in. And then there’s the dining experience: four six course tasting menus that beautifully fuse Eastern and European flavours and change depending on seasonal ingredients and the chef’s inspiration. You can look forward to foie gras and daviar, truffles and rabbit, find French cheese and baby lamb, mostly with a Balinese twist. All washed down with fine wine, paired by the chef himself.
CILANTRO Kuala Lumpur
It holds the distinction of being Malaysia’s best restaurant, which is quite an achievement given that it doesn’t even serve the universally favoured indigenous cuisine. Chef Takashi Kimura marries two of the world’s greatest cuisines – French and Japanese to bring to the table his version of contemporary fine dining. You have three dining options here – to go with either the three or four course fixed menu, the degustation menu (for a minimum of two) or order a la carte. Whatever you choose, you won’t be disapointed. Not when you have dishes like unagi with foie grass, grain-fed lamb rack with houba miso, braised ox tongue with madeira and chestnut creme brulee. And don’t forget to ask for their black truffle butter.