50 shades of taste
“The World’s 50 Best” awards, the list of the best restaurants in the world, found their owners. It is not easy to squeeze the best of the best in only 50 places, so there is also a second 51-100 runner-up list in addition to the top 50 on the list. In addition, there are special awards, which seem to increase every year. Many restaurants on the list deserve their place truly, but whether all the good ones can make it to the list, or how accurate the ranking is, is always questioned. Still, it is certain that 50 Best is the most talked about list.
This year “The World’s 50 Best” awards ceremony was planned to be held in Moscow, but for obvious reasons, it was moved to London. The awards were presented by Stanley Tucci, which immediately drew my attention to Italy because of his CNN show, “Searching for Italy,” in a quest for finding the best tastes of Italy. Not to my surprise, Italy entered the top 50 with exactly five restaurants: No:8, Lido 84 (Gardone Riviera), No:10, La Calandre (Rubano), No: 12, Uliassi (Senigallia), No: 15, Reale (Castel di Sangro) and No: 29, Sat. Hubertus (San Cassiano). The striking point is all of them are not located in big cities.
Coming back to the list, as said, while the 50 Best does not necessarily cover all of the world’s best, but still, most of the restaurants on the list deserve their spot. But it is also certain that there are many who cannot make it to the list even though they were very good. This aspect is sometimes criticized, but nevertheless, no one can stay aloof from the atmosphere the awards ceremony creates, the list is always promoted with grand parties, with a series of events. However, reviews are not always positive. As soon as the list was announced this year, New York Grub Street critiqued, “This year the W50B is more ridiculous than ever.” In short, 50 Best has its fans, mostly the ones in its own circle, and those who dislike it, mostly the ones outside the gang. However, no one can remain indifferent, whether like it or not, everybody blabbers a few comments.
Looking at this year’s list, I realized that I actually wrote about some of them in this column. For Geranium, which sits at number one, I wrote on March 21 an article titled “Key to Perfection: Patience, Persistence and Perseverance,” following my recent visit to the restaurant for the tasting of its new menu, the one that went completely meatless, omitting also some of their top signature dishes with meat. Chef Rasmud Kofoed is a perfectionist, rivaling only with his own self, works non-stop with his obsessive nature and never gives up until he reaches his goal. I was also there when he received the La List award in Paris last year, I recall the joy when he hopped on the stage with his daughter, Kamille. He had been the first to receive 3-Michelin stars in Denmark. Years ago, we were all amazed by his unmatched success in getting all the medals of Bocuse d’Or in the course of six years, getting Bronze in 2005, Silver in 2007, and finally grabbed the Gold in 2011. He has the dedication and discipline of an Olympic athlete, so his top ranking in the list is no big surprise, and besides his own success, one big credit has to go to Virginia Anne Newton, the loveliest lady who is responsible for Geranium’s PR, who undoubtedly has a great contribution to this last victory.
While I was in Copenhagen, I also tried Jordnaer, a new entry this year and climbed to number 38. I asked my friend, Kristian Brask Thomsen, who passionately promotes the place, begging to find a table at the last moment. The whole experience was amazing, wrote the incredible story of Chef Eric Vildgaard and his wife, Tina, with the title “A True Fairy Tale.” In fact, it was so perfect that I was not surprised at all that they made it to the list, I am sure that in the future, he will jump up the steps to the very top.
I was not so lucky with getting a place in DiverXo, No:4 this year, when I was in Madrid for Madrid Fusion, but I had the chance to listen to Madrid-based Spanish chef Dabiz Muñoz on several occasions and wrote about his success when he received the first place in “The Best Chef Awards 2021” last year in Amsterdam. I also had the chance to the amazing presentations given by chef Virgilio Martínez Véliz of Peruvian restaurant “Central” in Lima, No:2 this year, and also awarded the best of South America. The third place this year has a very close place in my heart. Years ago, I celebrated my birthday there, and I still recall the delightful experience we had. I’ve listened to their chefs, Oriol Castro and Eduard Xatruch, both at Gastromasa in Türkiye and at Madrid Fusion, and I can say that I’m still very impressed with their innovative approach, and their humble personality.
Türkiye is not in the top 50 on the list. Mikla, who was 56th last year, is 86th this year. One row in front of Mikla is Raan Jay Fai, the tiny lady who is regarded as the street food queen in Bangkok. The chef, who is famous for the crab omelette she makes in her tiny shop, had previously also received a Michelin star. It seems that voters in the Bangkok area worked well, with Sorn in 39th place as well as Le Du and Sühring in 65th and 66th places successively.
While Latin America, and especially Mexico, constitutes a serious weight, the Asian continent is also on the attack. However, this is not the case for North America, Canada and Australia, although there are great chefs and restaurants, the presence of these regions on the list is for some reason very limited. Russia is not on the list this year for obvious reasons. I also think that there is always an imbalance in European countries. Between Spain and Italy, France seems to go unnoticed and somehow less-presented and Scandinavia always shines, while Central Europe remains in the shadows, Eastern European and Balkan countries are out of the list.
In the meantime, some chefs have visited Türkiye, almost in disguise, without making the headlines. Jay Fai and Chef Ton from BKK came, they toured the Spice Bazaar with me, they got on a balloon ride in Cappadocia. Ana Roš of Hiša Franko (No: 34), Slovenia, visits chef Maksut Aşkar of Neolokal often, also the new rising star Santiago Lastra of Kol (No:73) in London. Tim Raue (No:26) from Berlin came to Türkiye for a TV show last year, cooking Turkish food in food writer Hülya Ekşigil’s kitchen and then washed the dishes like an obedient husband, despite Hülya’s objections.
Bite of the Week:
Dolce far niente! This must be the motto of summer days. “Dolce far niente”, must be my favorite expression in Italian language, it simply means, sweet idleness, the joy of doing nothing. Now the Italian way of joy of doing nothing is in Eataly Istanbul every Wednesday between 17:30-19:30, a mid-week happy hour, with a delightful spread of Italian bites prepared by Claudio Chinali, my favorite Italian chef in town, all accompanied by Aperol spritz or other refreshing summer cocktails. There is a fixed fee of 400 tl, including the first cocktail, and all you can eat from a buffet of Italian tastes. Of course, one can continue the night with the amazing cocktails, with the music swinging on.
When talking about cocktails, another mention has to go to Nude Glass of Türkiye, one of the sponsors of “The World’s 50 Best”, also the sponsor of “World’s Best Female Chef” award, which was given to Colombian Leonor Espinosa, her restaurant Leo ranked 48th on the list.