Sungei Road laksa vies for World Restaurant Award

Sungei Road Laksa is nominated in a category for establishments defined by a particular dish.
Sungei Road Laksa is nominated in a category for establishments defined by a particular dish.PHOTO: TNP FILE

Inaugural awards take a tongue-in-cheek approach with quirky categories

The food and beverage scene is crowded with food awards, from the World's 50 Best Restaurants to the Michelin Guide. Now, another award has entered the fray - The World Restaurant Awards that will not be ranking restaurants or giving out stars.

Instead, the new awards will highlight hidden gems such as giving an Off-Map Destination of the Year to restaurants in remote locations and acknowledge the influence of social media by recognising a restaurant-related Instagram Account of the Year.

There will be 18 categories in all and these will change every year.

Singapore establishments, which have already made their mark on the World's 50 Best Restaurants list and in the Michelin Guide, were among the nominees in three categories of the new awards unveiled on Thursday.

Sungei Road Laksa in Jalan Berseh has been nominated in the House Special category, for establishments defined by a particular dish. It is up against 19 other nominees such as one-Michelin-starred Hong Kong establishment Yat Lok, famous for its roast goose.

Modern Australian barbecue restaurant Burnt Ends in Teck Lim Road, which has one Michelin star, has been nominated in two categories - No Reservations Required, for restaurants that accept walk-in diners, and the more quirky category of Tweezer-free Kitchen of the Year, for a more "hands-on" style of plating.

Other nominees in the No Reservations Required category include The Bombay Canteen in Mumbai and Clamato in Paris. Other Tweezer-free Kitchen of the Year nominees include Bo.Lan in Bangkok and Mocoto in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

The 322 nominees were put up by a panel of 100 judges from 36 countries and include chefs, restaurateurs, journalists and film-makers. High-profile names include Danish chef Rene Redzepi of Noma in Denmark; Italian chef Massimo Bottura of Osteria Francescana in Modena, Italy; American restaurateur David Chang of the Momofuku restaurant group; and Canadian-born chef May Chow of Little Bao in Hong Kong.

Representing Singapore on the panel is Japanese food journalist Kyoko Nakayama, who has been based here for five years.

The winners will be announced at an awards ceremony in Paris on Feb 18 next year.

The World Restaurant Awards are produced by IMG - an event, media, fashion and sports company which operates in more than 30 countries - in partnership with London-based restaurant journalist Joe Warwick and Italian food writer and broadcaster Andrea Petrini.

IMG is behind the popular Taste Festivals - a series of food festivals held in 20 cities around the world - as well as The Big Feastival in the United Kingdom and Margaret River Gourmet Escape in Australia. Warwick is the author of international restaurant guide Where Chefs Eat, while Mr Petrini is the creator of gastronomic roadshow Gelinaz.

Mr Petrini says: "It's important to pay attention to the full scale of the world's great restaurants and chefs, but also to bring these awards into the 21st century by acknowledging the cultural nuances of today. For example, the pivotal role social media plays in the restaurant industry and, with tongue in cheek, to subvert current fashion with the Small Plate awards such as Red Wine Serving Restaurant, Tattoo-free Chef of the Year and Tweezer-free Kitchen of the Year."

The World Restaurant Awards also have a partnership with the Singapore Tourism Board (STB), where Singapore is the Official Culinary Destination Partner and will be the first country to host the World Restaurant Awards Dining Series - an exclusive series of bespoke dining experiences - which will take place after the awards ceremony.

STB says it cannot give details of the partnership for confidential reasons.

On how the collaboration will benefit Singapore, Ms Ranita Sundra, director of dining and retail for STB, says: "Through collaborations with established international culinary and mixology talents at The World Restaurant Awards, our home-grown talent will be able to learn from recognised figures in the industry, as well as showcase our rich gastronomic offerings to an influential international audience."

Chef Anthony Yeoh, 37, of French bistro Summer Hill in Sunset Way, says: "I think the list is more fun and probably an answer to the criticism of the 50 Best list and the Michelin Guide by attempting a more inclusive list. It is a good thing, but I'm not sure what "tattoo-free" has to do with being more inclusive. It may be a tongue-in-cheek dig at the hipster-chef stereotype.

"While it's great for international exposure, I thought the inclusion of Sungei Road Laksa was quite random. It's sure to get Singaporeans talking about why their favourite hawkers weren't included."

He adds: "I do like that the categories aren't set. The flexibility to change and adapt seems very smart. Maybe a favourite neighbourhood restaurant category next year?"

• Follow Eunice Quek on Twitter @STEuniceQ

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 15, 2018, with the headline 'Sungei Road laksa vies for World Restaurant Award'. Print Edition | Subscribe