Sunday, November 28, 2010

Food Guide Raises Glass to Indonesia’s Best Restaurants

It was a grand feast at the Djakarta Theater’s XXI Ballroom on Thursday, as 220 guests from the restaurant industry celebrated the country’s top eateries and welcomed the launch of the Miele Guide’s 2010-11 edition.

The Singaporean publication, running since October 2008, listed Bali restaurants Mozaic and Ku De Ta on top of its list this year. Miele is known worldwide as an authoritative guide to Asia’s best restaurants, ranked annually using a stringent judging and voting process.

Aun Koh, the guide’s director and co-founder, said it was the first time that Miele’s team hosted a gala outside of Singapore, awarding a particular country’s top establishments. “We want to do [it in] Jakarta first,” Koh said. “It is a great, diverse city and an important neighbor. It’s such a great place for food.”

Guests at Thursday’s event were treated to dishes by renowned chefs, who used classical music as their inspiration.

The symphony of food and cocktails was prepared by Phillip Davenport of Ku De Ta, Erik Idos of Nobu in Hong Kong, Takashi Kumura of Cilantro in Kuala Lumpur, Ryan Clift of Singapore’s Tippling Club and mixologists Ben-David Sorum and Thomas Anostam of Hyde & Seek Gastro Bar in Bangkok, making sure that it was a dinner to remember.

“Regardless of which part of society you come from, the love of food is always shared,” said Koh Yuen Lin, the Miele Guide’s editorial director. “It’s a common love that you share with just everybody.”

The affair was also a way to recognize Miele’s role in promoting Asia’s best.

Koh and his wife, food journalist Tan Su-Lyn, decided in 2006 to create a food guide devoted exclusively to Asia and set a standard for evaluating the region’s best restaurants. The publication was officially launched in Singapore two years later.

Though there were similar food guides that surveyed Asian cuisine, Koh said these were too driven by advertisements. To make sure that the guide would remain independent, the couple refused to run ads.

“Fortunately, [German home appliances manufacturer] Miele came to us and said that they wanted to subsidize [the project] because they believed in the [cause] also,” Koh said.

He also said the Miele Guide had the added goal of “giving some credibility” to Asian chefs. “When American or European chefs come to Asia, they can say, ‘I have two Michelin stars,’ and there would be no question of how good they were because they’ve already set a standard,” Koh said.

“Or if an Australian chef comes to Asia, he can say, ‘The Sydney Morning Herald Good Food guide gave me two hats.’ But in Asia, there were no standards,” he said. “No chefs from Indonesia or Singapore can go to United States or France and say they have this or that accolade.”

“We’re trying to establish a guide that has a high level of credibility that people will accept and the international restaurant industry will also respect,” the guide co-founder added.

Restaurants that make it to the Asia’s Top 20 list are selected after four rounds of judging by industry experts. The process also involves online voting by diners and surprise visits by the Miele team.

This year’s edition — first launched in October in Macau — features 450 restaurants, including a ranking of Asia’s 20 best eating spots. Mozaic ranked sixth on the list, while Ku De Ta placed 18th.

The guide also lists the 20 best restaurants in 18 countries, including Indonesia, China and Japan. At least 21,000 voters from 98 countries participated in the online voting this year.

Yuen Lin, former managing editor of Singapore’s Appetite magazine who was hired to head the Miele Guide’s editorial team in October, said they were trying to widen the scope of review.

“What we’re trying to do is to increase the number of cities being represented in the guide,” Yuen Lin said. “For example, in India, there are a lot of exciting destinations, like Goa, which is not being represented right now. But we can only do that with the help of the people, the journalists and [industry] professionals who cast their votes online.”

The team is aiming to translate their Web site into more languages, such as Thai and Indonesian, to reach a wider audience.

The site is currently available in English, traditional Chinese, simplified Chinese, Japanese and Korean.

“In the long term, we’re thinking to bring the Miele Guide outside of Asia,” Yuen Lin said.

“So you can have not only an Asian edition of the Miele Guide, but also maybe a Middle East edition.”

“It’s still a young guide,” Koh said. “What we’re trying to do now is to make a better and stronger guide.”


Miele Guide’s Top 10 Restaurants in Indonesia
1. Mozaic, Bali
2. Ku De Ta, Bali
3. Hotel Tugu, Bali
4. Metis, Bali
5. Sarong, Bali
6. Kayaputi, Bali
7. Warung Ibu Oka, Bali
8. Naughty Nuri’s Warung and Grill, Bali
9. La Lucciola, Bali
10. Din Tai Fung, Plaza Senayan Arcadia, Jakarta

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