At the inaugural awards ceremony for The World Restaurant Awards (WRA) in Paris on Feb. 18, Tokyo-based Inua took home the Big Plate award for Arrival of the Year, a prize for new restaurants that opened between Sept. 1, 2017, and Sept. 30, 2018. Of the five Japan-based restaurants on the 2019 WRA shortlist, Inua was the only one to win in its category.

The WRA presented 12 Big Plate and six tongue-in-cheek Small Plate awards. Big Plate awards included categories such as Atmosphere (Vespertine, U.S.), Ethical Thinking (Refettorio, Italy) and No Reservations Required (Mocoto, Brazil). The Small Plate awards included Tattoo-Free Chef (Alain Ducasse, France), Tweezer-Free Kitchen (Bo.Lan, Thailand) and Trolley of the Year (Ballymaloe House, Ireland).

Headed by Noma-alumnus Thomas Frebel, Inua (the Inuit term for the spirit or soul that runs through all of nature) opened to great fanfare in June of 2018. Hailed as “cutting-edge luxury dining” by the WRA, its cuisine is a blend of Nordic technique and local Japanese produce.

Fruit punch: Morsels of Ishigaki snack pineapple and citrus from Kochi Prefecture.
Fruit punch: Morsels of Ishigaki snack pineapple and citrus from Kochi Prefecture. | JASON LOUCAS

WRA director Cecile Rebbot, speaking about the award, said, “We are proud to have given a global stage to a diverse spectrum of incredibly deserving restaurants, teams, experiences and initiatives. We set out to create a truly international awards with a fresh approach, recognizing the full breadth and depth of the industry, but this is only the beginning in terms of the restaurant experiences around the world that we want to explore and discover.”

South Africa-based Wolfgat took both the prize for both Off-Map Destination and the coveted Restaurant of the Year, whose winner was selected from the Big Plate awards shortlist. The full list of winners can be seen online at