What it’s like to eat at the best restaurant in Asia

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By Lilit Marcus, CNN

On Tuesday evening, Den in Tokyo received honors from the World’s 50 Best group, recognizing it as the best restaurant in Asia.

Den is no stranger to accolades. It has two Michelin stars and has been in the top 10 on the World’s Best list for the past few years. But it’s also where I ate one of the best meals of my life.

Going to fine dining restaurants can be daunting, especially for a solo traveler. Some of the great restaurants I visited for my November 2019 trip to Tokyo wouldn’t even accept a single dinner reservation.

I put my name on the waiting list at Den, however, and a week before the trip, I received a phone call confirming that I had secured a seat through an odd party at the table next to me. It was like finding out I was going to a cool kids party or getting accepted to my “accessible” college.

While I was thrilled to get a reservation, I was also nervous – would the experience be stuffy, formal, and full of ingredient names I had never heard of? Would I leave the restaurant feeling like I just crossed something off a list, or would I really enjoy the food?

Delightfully, I can say the answer was last.

Den is upscale cuisine with a silly sense of humor.

In the salad, carrots are thinly sliced ​​and cut in the shape of smiley faces. The Japanese-style fried chicken arrives in a fake fast food takeout box covered in jokes and a goofy photo of the chef. A dish arrives with each restaurant’s national flag stuck in it – a quick look around the small dining room that night displayed tiny American (hi), Chinese, Japanese and Canadian flags, which make for great memories of the meal.

And that’s not all.

Chef Zaiyu Hasegawa isn’t the kind of guy who hides in the kitchen and lets the food do the talking. He is funny and talkative, with his long-haired Chihuahua Puchi often in tow when he visits the dining hall.

Tokyo is one of the world’s great foodie cities. During my week-long trip – my very first visit to Japan – just about everything I ate was delicious, from mini-market onigiri to late-night ramen to super-expensive sushi made in front of me.

Now I can say that one of the most memorable restaurants I have ever visited was voted the best restaurant in all of Asia.

But I can also say that my night at Den was a lot of fun.

Asia’s 50 best restaurants in 2022

1. Lair (Tokyo)

2. Sorn (Bangkok)

3. Miscellany (Tokyo)

4. Le Du (Bangkok)

5. The President (Hong Kong)

6. The Peak (Osaka)

7. Suhring (Bangkok)

8. Odette (Singapore)

9. Neighborhood (Hong Kong)

10. Nusara (Bangkok)

11. Sazenka (Tokyo)

12. Fu He Hui (Shanghai)

13. Ode (Tokyo)

14. Villa Aida (Wakayama, Japan)

15. Narisawa (Tokyo)

16. Mele (Seoul)

17. Sezanne (Tokyo)

18. Joo Ok (Seoul)

19. Suite (Shenzhen, China)

20. Meta (Singapore)

21. Mask (Bombay)

22. Indian Accent (New Delhi)

23. Friends (Singapore)

24. Whim (Hong Kong)

25. Blue by Alain Ducasse (Bangkok)

26. 7th Gate (Seoul)

27. Mosu (Seoul)

28. Da Vittorio (Shanghai)

29. Sushi Masato (Bangkok)

30. Onjium (Seoul)

31. Thai Samrub Samrub (Bangkok)

32.Mono (Hong Kong)

33. Gaa (Bangkok)

34. Wing (Hong Kong)

35. Ministry of Crab (Colombo)

36. The Goh Nature House (Fukuoka, Japan)

37. Zen (Singapore)

38. Logy (Taipei)

39. Ultraviolet by Paul Pairet (Shanghai)

40. Labyrinth (Singapore)

41. Burnt Ends (Singapore)

42. Summer (Tokyo)

43. Cenci (Kyoto)

44. Cloudstreet (Singapore)

45. JL Studio (Taichung, Taiwan)

46. ​​Raan Jay Fai (Bangkok)

47. Wing Lei Palace (Macau)

48. 8 1/2 Mezzo Bombano (Hong Kong)

49. Megu (New Delhi)

50. Dewakan (Kuala Lumpur)

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