Where Chefs Eat

Theirs may be some of Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants according to San Pellegrino, but these chefs have favourite haunts of their own


“Mugaritz, in San Sebastian, Spain, by chef Andoni Luis Aduriz is a great dining experience that affects me both personally and emotionally. My wife and I are very fortunate to have dined there a number of times and we’ve become friends with Chef Aduriz. Some people complain that the food is natural and rather bland, but I find the food extremely intricate and moving.

Chef Aduriz doesn’t stick to one menu for very long; he’s always coming up with new stuff. I recommend his trademark Edible Stones. They are baby potatoes from local farmers in the Basque region that have been cooked in a special clay from Peru and brushed with ash. They’re served beautifully in a bowl with cloth and really look like actual stones.

This is a true chef’s restaurant where you’re able to appreciate the effort and detail that go into the whole establishment—from the drive there to the R&D test kitchen and the garden. I recommend it to anyone if they’re able to book far enough in advance and get a reservation.”


“El Celler de can Roca in Girona, Spain is my favourite restaurant in the world. Why? Because it is a bible for any restaurateur or chef, a world-class example for everything from technique to choreographed delivery of food and excellent wine pairing. Try the white asparagus and truffle Viennetta. I love how even in the early stages of a meal, an ice cream dish can surprise you. It’s an inspiration for every chef in that it is both avant garde yet incredibly tasty.”


“The original Ding Tai Fung restaurant in Taiwan serves my favourite spicy wonton ravioli dishas well as all kinds of steamed buns, the famous chicken broth and fried rice. Although there are many eateries serving steamed buns in Taiwan and China, only Ding Tai Fung has achieved the delicate nuance of flavours and textures. Their consistently high quality for both service and food is another impressive achievement.”


“I’ve been going to Kwong Kee (光記食店) for over a decade, usually once or twice a week. It has been opened for over 20 years and is a small family-run, neighbourhood eatery in the western part of Hong Kong. It is very close to where I live. To me, it is not only a place with good food but also a place that gives me a warm, homey feeling. My favourite dish is the deep-fried perch (油浸筍殼魚). It is first deep-fried, then drizzled with special soy sauce and sprinkled with parsley. The fish is always fresh and it is not easy to handle the right timing and oil temperature when frying it.”


“I like Ubuka, a Japanese restaurant in Tokyo specialising in shrimp and crab.

It has a firm reputation in the Japanese food scene and its chef is really humble and sincere. It’s a pleasure to visit, no matter how often, as he has lots of different crustaceans and varied cooking methods. It is important to feel this comfortable after work at midnight. Honestly, the prices are too cheap! His takikomi gohan with crabs is the best when in season. It is a simple dish where rice, crab and seasonal vegetables are cooked in an earthen pot, but I like the elegant taste of each grain scented with delicious crabmeat.”


“Restaurant Le Louis XV-Alain Ducasse is my favourite. Situated in Hotel de Paris (in Monte-Carlo, Monaco), this prestigious restaurant is where every single detail is executed as close to perfection as humanly possible. The food is traditional French Mediterranean with inspiration from the Italian Riviera—the finest experience of its kind. The delicate stew of stockfish tripe and salted cod is truly amazing and thinking about it makes me want to visit again. You cannot be a chef and not visit this temple of classical French Mediterranean gastronomy.”


“One of my latest favourite haunts in Singapore is Old Tiong Bahru Market Bak Kut Teh. I am up by 6.30am or 7am every morning and I really look forward to going there for breakfast. Even if I’m dining by myself, I will order several dishes because I am spoilt for choice. The eatery is not fancy in terms of ambience or set-up, but the food is out of this world.

I love Teochew cuisine for its simple yet delicious flavours. You must try the braised pig’s trotters, intestines, watercress soup, steamed fish, pickled vegetables and, of course, the peppery bak kut teh (pork rib soup)! The dishes are simple yet packed with flavour. To sum up, a breakfast here is a great way to start your day.”


“Relae in Copenhagen by Christian F. Puglisi gets my vote. Christian’s cuisine is like a poem—when you first experience it, you get a sense of beauty, and at the same time, a feeling of an enigma. You feel like you know it without really knowing it and you must experience it a second or third time before you understand the depth of meaning in the lines. Just this alone is surprising to me because as a seasoned chef, we are normally able to make an intricate analysis by the first few courses. We would decide whether we like it, whether it’s balanced; the thoughts come fast. At Relae, I never feel like I have all the information I need to make a judgment. A poem tells a whole story in a few lines and Christian’s cuisine is no different.

The dishes always have only three or four ingredients and look deceptively simple, but hide a wealth of technique and knowledge. It’s a very intimate feeling, with nothing unnecessary and wholly approachable.

The menu at Relae changes all the time so there is not really a dish to recommend. I can suggest, however, that you ask for Table 0, where Christian presents an experimental menu and special surprises.”


“I like Lung King Heen (龙景轩) in the Four Seasons Hotel Hong Kong. Besides the magnificent panoramic views of the Victoria Harbour, its cuisine features very refined techniques, creative execution and high quality ingredients. The lunchtime dim sum is always freshly made-to-order, and there is so much variety. I recommend the crispy scallop with fresh pear and lemon juice (龙带玉梨香). In Chinese cuisine, it’s rare to see fruit used in a dish as it can be difficult to balance with savoury flavours. Although this is a fried item, it doesn’t taste greasy at all and the crisp sweetness of the Australian pear matches the succulent sweetness of the scallop and shrimp dumpling deliciously.”


“Pierre Gagnaire in Paris has the perfect balance of innovation, tradition and beautiful flavours. Order the Poularde de Bresse with black truffle—the combination of flavours in the dish and the cooking technique are impeccable.”


“(I have) too many favourites, but if I must choose one, it has to be Per Se in New York where I had the most perfect meal of my life. Every dish was executed flawlessly and very much to my liking. Try the Oysters & Pearls, a sabayon of pearl tapioca with beau soleil oysters and white sturgeon caviar. The incredibly rich, buttery hollandaise-like sauce worked great with the cold briny caviar and plump oysters.”


“Bras in Laguiole, France; Arzak in San Sebastian, Spain; and Sawada in Tokyo, Japan top our list because of the integrity of the chefs, the local ingredients they source and the fact that they cook and serve real food so that every bite is worth it. They are total dining experiences that deliver on every aspect. Trust the chefs; eat what they tell you to eat.”



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