David Thompson's Bangkok restaurant nahm is now officially Asia's best restaurant, but the understated Australian-born chef says he's cross.
"I've lost money. I bet against myself," says Thompson.
"I had several bets and it's ranged from two bottles of sauce of Sriracha, a bottle of fish sauce, to quite a few hundred dollars. Damn," he says.
With dishes ranging from smoked fish, peanut and tapioca dumplings, to salted threadfin perch with ginger, chili and green mango on betel leaves, nahm's fiery menu is hailed as a shining example of fine Thai cuisine.
Moving up from third place at last year's inaugural S. Pellegrino & Acqua Panna Asia's 50 Best Restaurants Awards, Thompson says he hopes the honor awarded at last night's glittering ceremony at Capella on Singapore's Sentosa Island, will provide a positive boost during what has been a troubled few months in Thailand.
"Bangkok, as you know, is going through a little bit of a fractious time," he says.
"Hopefully this will help to sustain us, but also show that Thai culture still continues on despite the political disturbances that are occurring at the moment."
nahm took the top spot at the 2014 S. Pellegrino & Acqua Panna Asia's 50 Best Restaurants Awards.
Celebrating excellent food and the top chefs of the region, the list of Asia's 50 Best Restaurants is an off-shoot of the prestigious World's 50 Best Restaurant Awards, one of the highest accolades in the industry.
"That might sound obvious because we're in Asia, but there's been a lot of Western influence especially at the fine dining end of the market, a lot of European influence," says William Drew, awards organizer and editor of the UK's Restaurant magazine.
"But I think that perhaps is waning and Asian cuisine is forging a stronger identity in international terms."
Back to our roots
Drew says the best chefs are embracing their unique histories and using them as a basis for creating contemporary, innovative dishes.
One example is the recipient of The Diners Club Lifetime Achievement Award which went to Ivan Li, executive chef and co-owner of Family Li Imperial Cuisine, in Beijing's Shunyi district.
Following in the footsteps of his great grandfather who oversaw the imperial kitchen in the Forbidden City during the Qing dynasty, Li delicately reproduces the recipes passed down through his family for four generations over an oven fire.
"Asian food is very unique," says Li.
"But we have also lost a lot of the traditions of the food culture. Now we're trying to rediscover and recreate some of the traditions."
More than 900 global food experts including chefs, restaurateurs, food writers, food critics and other well traveled gourmands have judged the awards, each choosing their top seven restaurants.
"We don't give them any criteria. It's entirely up to them," says Drew.
"So one judge might be looking for the perfect plate of food, another judge might be more influenced by the atmosphere and the vibe and the whole experience.
"We don't say it has to be about anything except the overall enjoyment of the restaurant," he says.
This year Japan leads Asia's 50 Best Restaurants with 10 of its dining establishments making it onto the list.
Singapore and Hong Kong both have eight restaurants in the top 50 and Mainland China has seven, including Robuchon au Dome in Macau.
Taiwan is represented on the list for the first time with Taichung City's Le Moût taking spot 24, and chef Lanshu Chen named Veuve Clicquot Asia's Best Female Chef.
Lanshu blends the local influences and ingredients she grew up with, with the French culinary traditions she later studied abroad.
Korea is also represented for the first time on the list, with Jungsik in Seoul named No.20.
Top 10 restaurants in Asia 2014
1. nahm, Bangkok
Toothsome pics just a perk of the job.
David Thompson's fiery and feisty menu is based on the century old cookbooks of Thai matriarchs.
nahm, Ground floor, Metropolitan Hotel, 27 South Sathorn Road, Bangkok; +66 2 625 3388
2. Narisawa, Tokyo
Named last year's top Asian restaurant, Yoshihiro Narisawa treats diners to dishes inspired by seasonal ingredients. One dish served in late autumn consists of burdock root sautéed with the soil still clinging to it, pureed with spring water.
Narisawa, Minami Aoyma 2-6-15, Minato-ku, Tokyo; +81 3 5785 0799
3. Gaggan, Bangkok
Indian food redefined with modernist techniques -- experimental, adventurous and fun. Gaggan Anand's inventively named dishes include "Green with Envy," in which green peppercorn chicken kebabs are combined with coriander foam.
Gaggan, 68/1 Soi Langsuan, Ploenchit Road, Lumpini, Bangkok; +66 2 652 1700
4. Amber, Hong Kong
Modern, imaginative and fundamentally French food. Sea urchin in lobster jelly, with cauliflower, caviar and crispy seafood waffle is one of executive chef Richard Ekkebus' signature dishes.
Amber, The Landmark Mandarin Oriental Hotel, 15 Queen's Road, Central, Hong Kong; +852 2132 0066
5. Nihonryori RyuGin, Tokyo
As delicious as it is colorful.
Chef Seiji Yamamoto combines indigenous ingredients with the precise techniques Japanese chefs have honed over centuries. The menu at this fabled Roppongi destination changes daily.
6. Restaurant André, Singapore
Chef André Chiang is guided by art and philosophy when conceiving his dishes. He was also voted the winner of this year's Chefs' Choice Award by his peers.
7. Waku Ghin, Singapore
Tetsuya Wakuda's plush Marina Bay Sands restaurant is private, personal and offers delights including whole abalone with aonori (seaweed) and fillet of Tasmanian grass-fed beef with wasabi mustard
Waku Ghin, Atrium 2, Level 2, Marina Bay Sands, 10 Bayfront Avenue, Singapore; +65 6688 8507
8. Ultraviolet by Paul Pairet, Shanghai
In an old Shanghai neighborhood, Ultraviolet is billed as the first restaurant of its kind attempting to unite food with multi-sensory technologies. Just 10 diners a night graze from a 20-course menu including dishes as unusual as a savory chocolate foie gras tartine.
9. Lung King Heen, Hong Kong
Hong Kong's most revered Cantonese restaurant is helmed by Chan Yan Tak, the first Chinese chef to earn three Michelin stars, and renowned for valuing texture as much as flavour.
Lung King Heen, Four Seasons Hotel, 8 Finance Street, Central, Hong Kong; +852 3196 8880
10. 8½ Otto E Mezzo Bombana, Hong Kong
Italian food, with a tweak.
Haute dining experience specializing in homemade pasta and other Italian dishes. Starters include lobster salad and oscietra caviar with celery jelly.
The other 40
26. Fu1015, Shanghai, China
41. Sawada, Tokyo
43. Sushi Saito, Tokyo