By Sourish Bhattacharyya
WHEN I last met Gaggan Anand, the high priest of Progressing Indian Dining, at his namesake restaurant in Bangkok last year, he said it was his dream to reach the top of the World's 50 Best Restaurants -- in the footsteps of his icon Ferran Adria, at whose laboratory he had mastered the techniques that make his kitchen special. He was then at No. 66 on the hallowed world list -- the only Indian restaurant to make it to that pantheon of greats -- and I thought he had a long way to go.
|The winners pose for the photo-op on the Asia's 50 Best|
Restaurants awards night at Capella Hotel in Sentosa,
Singapore, on Monday, February 23.
Not anymore. Gaggan, a Kolkata-born Taj alumnus who made Bangkok his home in 2007, is today at No. 3 of the Asian's Best 50 List, which was unveiled at a glittering awards ceremony at the Capella Hotel in Sentosa, Singapore, on the night of Monday, February 23. He's up by seven notches from his 2013 ranking, next only to the list leader, Australian expat David Thompson's Nahm (also in Bangkok), and the No. 2, Yoshihiro Narisawa's eponymous Tokyo restaurant. That makes Gaggan's, without doubt, Asia's Best Indian restaurant.
That's also where the good news ends. For, India's Best, Bukhara at the ITC Maurya, figures 24 notches below Gaggan's, at No. 27. And Indian Accent, which is the closest to Gaggan's in style and deserving of a far better ranking, is at No. 29, thankfully up by 12 notches from its No. 41 in 2013. I still cannot fathom how you can have Bukhara, the last outpost of predictable dining that hasn't changed as long as Mount Everest has been around, Gaggan's, Indian Accent, Nahm and Narisawa on the same list.
I also wonder why Zorawar Kalra's Masala Library (Mumbai), which is Indian Accent's most serious challenger, Abhijit Saha's Caperberry (Bangalore), Rahul Akerkar's Indigo (Mumbai), the magician Vikramjit Roy's gastronomical laboratory, Pan Asian at the ITC Grand Chola, Chennai, or the brilliant Mickey Bhoite's creative playground, Le Cirque at The Leela Palace, New Delhi, not on the list. The Indian jury seems to be terribly out of sync with the country's changing reality, or it's too five-star-centric, that too stuck between ITC and Taj.
India is represented by six mostly uninspiring restaurants -- Dum Pukht at ITC Maurya, New Delhi (No. 30), which has lost its creative sparkle; Varq at The Taj Mahal Hotel, New Delhi (No. 32), which has quietly given up any claims to leadership on the Progressive Indian front; Wasabi by Morimoto at Taj Mumbai (No. 36), which is without doubt one of India's finest restaurants; and the has-been Karavalli at the Gateway Hotel on Residency Road, Bangalore (No. 40).
India, like a patchy middle-order batsman, has been fumbling in the lower end of the list. Bangkok also has six names on the list, but the rankings of its restaurants, starting with Nahm and Gaggan, are far more impressive. Singapore leads the list with eight restaurants, followed by Japan with seven and Hong Kong with six.
Hong Kong's Fook Lam Moon, the unpretentious traditional Chinese restaurant that opened in Wamchai in 1948, has been the most spectacular climber, going up by 29 notches on a list where most restaurants have slipped. Barring Indian Accent, which has seen its ranking climb, the other Indian restaurants on the list have fallen behind -- Bukhara by one, Dumpukht by 13, Varq by two, Wasabi by Morimoto by 16 and Karavalli by five. The Best Indian Restaurant is now at No. 26, compared with No. 17 (Dumpukht) last year. But Indians at least have the consolation of savouring Gaggan's spectacular rise.