Leading Tokyo restaurants rise in global top-50 ranking

Staff Report, Kyodo, Reuters

Japan-based restaurants rose in the ranks of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list, which was announced Monday evening in London.

Restaurant Narisawa, overseen by chef Yoshihiro Narisawa in Tokyo’s Minami-Aoyama district, placed eighth on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list, up from last year’s 14th place, while Nihonryori RyuGin, a restaurant located in Roppongi and helmed by Seiji Yamamoto, was ranked 29th, up from 33rd.

Noma, the Copenhagen restaurant that has been voted best in the world four of the past five years and which operated a pop-up outlet in Tokyo for a month earlier this year, was knocked from first to third place by Spanish restaurant El Celler de Can Roca.

It was a return to the top for the Girona-based restaurant, which took the crown from Noma in 2013. The Best 50 organizers hailed it as “a restaurant that has never forgotten its humble roots, its sense of familial warmth, or the need to serve remarkably delicious dishes and outstanding wines.”

The prestigious list, founded in 2002 by the British trade publication Restaurant and sponsored by Italian mineral water brands S.Pellegrino and Acqua Panna, is decided by nearly 1,000 chefs, critics and industry experts from around the world.

Narisawa, which was also named the best restaurant in Asia at Monday’s event, has consistently placed in the Best 50 since 2009. Nihonryori RyuGin has also ranked in the top 50 for five years.

Second place went to Osteria Francescana of Modena, Italy, run by chef Massimo Bottura, another talented chef who recently wowed Tokyo with his culinary creativity.

The other top 10 restaurants hail from Peru, the U.S., the U.K., Brazil and Thailand.

Overall, European restaurants dominated the top 50, taking 18 of the remaining 25 places, from well-established powerhouses in Spain and France to Russian restaurant White Rabbit, which was the highest-ranking newcomer.

The awards have become a coveted honor for high-end restaurants around the world and rival the popular Michelin and Zagat dining guides.

The event, traditionally held in London, was not without controversy. A French group calling itself Occupy 50 organized a public petition protesting the group’s male-centric agenda and hidden voting process.

The event will move to New York in 2016 as part of the organizers’ strategy to globalize it.