Not to be outdone by Michelin, TasteAtlas.com came up with its own list of restaurant rankings. Another list of recommendation to follow?
For anyone to come up with a list like this is courageous. When BBC came up with the 50 things to eat before you die, there’s this backlash about the cuisine and suggestions on the list. TasteAtlas.com is like the Wikipedia for everything food, for them to come up with a list like this was appropriate. However, what’s the criteria for the list? Taste? Age? Uniqueness? Global appeal?
From small, family-run eateries to esteemed Michelin-starred establishments, these restaurants all share a commitment to culinary authenticity. Here, the focus is on real food with robust flavours, often using time-honoured recipes passed down through generations. These are some of the 150 that I have been to, listed below.
No.2 Katz’s Delicatessen, NYC USA (1888) – Pastrami on Rye
Katz’s claim to worldwide recognition was when Harry met Sally there for a pastrami on rye. However this Jewish delicatessen has been making this New York signature sandwich, and feeding the community since 1888. How good it was? Orgasmic.
No.3 Warung Mak Beng, Sanur, Indonesia (1941) – Ikan Goreng
Sanur in the surfing paradise of Bali was a stop for all going to the wharf nearby to catch the bumboat to the nearby islands for a day in the sun. And before going to those inhabited islands, the tourists would eat at Mak Beng. There’s only one thing on the menu – a piece of fried fish and rice. Its mouth-burning sambal and sour fish soup have been on the minds of tourists and locals alike since 1941.
No.9 Hofbräuhaus München, Munich, Germany(1589) – Schweinshaxe
It was the first German dish I knew other than sausages. Schwein for pig, that I learned from watching WWII movies, and haxe I knew from the German lessons I was taking.
Munich is known for its beer halls, and the most celebrated of them all is Hofbräuhaus (literally “Central Beer House”). Formerly the royal brewery, Hofbräuhaus is now owned by the state government and serves thousands of revellers a year who come to raise a stein of beer and listen to live music.
Hofbräuhaus is located in central Munich, at Platzl 8. This was a visit almost 30 years ago, when I was so much younger and so much into Germen hefeweizen beer.
Visitors can choose from a variety of seating areas, including the historical Schwemme, where the beer was once brewed; the enormous festival hall, which was built by Duke Wilhelm V in 1589; and the outdoor beer garden. And the Oompah band plays every night in their Lederhosen.
No.28 Din Tai Fung, Taipei, Taiwan (1958) – Xiao long bao
They didn’t invented xiaolongbao, but they popularised it around the world. Din Tai Fung 鼎泰豐 started as a pushcart along Yongkang Street and then moved into a restaurant in that street where students went for tuition classes. So these snack foods were great for a quick bite between lessons. The second generation made the process into a SOP that can be replicated across the world, and patented the 23 folds on each dumpling and 7g of filling in each tongue-scotching parcel.
No.41 Quanjude, Beijing, China (1864) – Peking duck
Quanjude 全聚德 is Beijing’s oldest roast duck restaurant, being founded in the year 1864. The name “Quanjude” is synonymous with Peking Duck but it was not the poster child of this Beijing signature dish. There are so many other Peking duck restaurants so much better than them.
No.80 Jumbo Seafood, Singapore (1987) – Chilli Crab
I wrote a long post about the chilli crab in Singapore, and Jumbo was definitely a baby on the block when it comes to this dish. It was invented by Mdm Cher Yam Tian of Long Beach, and developed into the taste we know today by Chef Hooi Kok Wah of Dragon Phoenix. Jumbo has better management and is now a successful restaurant group. Now they have expanded overseas, including many branches in Shanghai and a joint-venture in Tokyo. And their chilli crab sauce is now made in a central kitchen so the consistency is there, but the taste is not.
No.139 Mak’s Noodle, Hong Kong, (1920) – Wonton noodles
Originated from Guangzhou, China in 1920, Mak’s Noodle 麥奀 was founded by Mak Woon Chi and renowned for its wonton noodle. Its founder had served this dish to the Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek. During the WWII, Mak moved to Hong Kong and started the very first Mak’s Noodle in Central, Hong Kong. The main store in Central was just behind my office back then, and it was the most expensive wonton noodles in the area. But what they made up for the price was the quality of every component of the 細蓉 sai yong. Again, there are so many better wonton noodles stores in Hong Kong, you need not go there unless you want a bout of nostalgia.
The list of restaurants is quite interesting, with many national dishes and century-old eateries that have remained in the ownership of the original families. They are more a tourist and cultural destination, but not necessary a culinary one.
You can read the full list here.
Written Jul 2023