Iggy’s is the 4th best restaurant in Asia

Posted on May 7, 2006 by Aun


photo courtesy of Iggy’s

Regular readers know that I’m a huge fan of Iggy’s, the fantastic Modern European, over-the-counter fine dining restaurant in the Regent Hotel here in Singapore. Owner Ignatius Chan and chef Dorin Schuster have, through perfect service, exquisite food, and a wonderfully serene setting, created what I believe is one of the region’s best restaurants.

I was thrilled, therefore, to recently receive in the mail the 12 April 2006 edition of Restaurant Magazine. This is the much-hyped, much talked about and much written about issue that contains the article, “The World’s Fifty Best Restaurants”. The list is based on surveying 560 “experts” around the world. The top fifty are profiled over 52 thrilling pages. Also included in the article are various sidebars. Two that peaked my interest were “Best Five in Asia” and “And the next fifty are…” According to the survey, Asia’s best restaurants are, in order, Buchara (India), Felix (Hong Kong), Spoon (Hong Kong), Iggy’s (Singapore), and Wusabi (India). In the “next fifty” ranking, Iggy’s comes in at number 98. It is, it must be noted, the only restaurant in Southeast Asia in the world’s top 100.

So, let’s all raise a glass and congratulate Ignatius and Dorin for this accolade. 4th Best in Asia. By implication, the very best in Singapore!

Now, while you’re all furiously punching +65 6732 2234 into your cellphones, booking hard-to-get seats at Iggy’s counter, I’d like to segue into a small rant. Because, despite being one of the 560 voters who took part in Restaurant’s survey, I have huge problems with it. The survey, once you examine who the voters are and where they are from, reveals itself as being Eurocentric and thus biased. Of the 560 voters, 280 are from Europe, 78 from the Americas, 47 from Africa, 31 from the Middle East, 31 from Central Asia and Russia, 62 from Asia, and 31 from Australia and New Zealand.

Further, when voting, the chosen “experts” are required to vote for / nominate 2 restaurants from their own appointed region and 3 from outside of their region. The Far East, comprising Brunei, Burma, Cambodia, China, East Timor, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Laos, Macau, Malaysia, Micronesia, Nauru, N.Korea, Philippines, Singapore, S.Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, and Vietnam, is amazingly considered one region. There were 31 voters from this region (As mentioned, I was lucky to be one of them). In Europe, however, France was a region on its own, with 31 voters. Similarly, the UK & Ireland; the Benelux countries; Spain & Portugal; Denmark, Sweden and Normway; Italy; Austria, Germany & Switzerland; and the Baltics were distinct regions, each with 31 voters. Greece, Turkey, Cyprus and Georgia had 16 voters; Eastern Europe also had 16 voters. If you consider that every voter was asked to pick two restaurants from their own region, we get a minimum 560 required votes cast for European restaurants. In Asia, we have only a minimum of 124 required votes. Further, voters hailing from the Far East region are barred from voting for any other restaurants from the 20 countries in this region. A voter in France, however, can cast his or her 3 extra votes for restaurants anywhere in Europe outside of France. S/he can vote for restaurants in Spain, England, Germany, etc. Anyone can see that this survey is thus biased towards restaurants in Europe. No surprise then that 39 of the survey’s top fifty are restaurants from Europe. From the “next fifty”, 35 of 50 restaurants are based in Europe.

To me, what immediately screamed out that there was something fishy in the pages of Restaurant Magazine was that there was not one restaurant from Japan among the world’s best 100 restaurants. After doing a little digging and a little math, as you can see, it’s obvious the survey is stacked against restaurants not located in Europe.

My challenge to Restaurant Magazine is to make this survey more equitable. If you are going to call the Far East one region, then Western Europe should likewise be one region. Let’s make the number of voters from the Americas, Asia and Europe more realistic and closer together. There’s no reason other than pure calculated unfairness that Europe should have 3 times as many voters as any other geographical area.

I’ll wager that if Restaurant makes positive changes to its survey, doing as I suggest, we’ll find next year that there are many more Asian (and American) restaurants moving into the top fifty. I’d even bet that Iggy’s would move up dramatically, if not into the top fifty (which I believe it deserves to be in), then at least a good 20-30 places. For now, at least, I can comfort myself in the knowledge that Asia’s 4th best restaurant is just a phone call and a 15 minute drive away.

Iggy’s is located at level three of The Regent Singapore. Call (65) 6732 2234 for reservations.

About Aun Koh

Aun has always loved food and travel, passions passed down to him from his parents. This foundation, plus a background in media, pushed him to start Chubby Hubby in 2005. He loves that this site allows him to write about the things he adores--food, style, travel, his wife and his bouncing baby boy!

What Others Are Saying

  1. khaokhaprowmoo May 8, 2006 at 1:49 am

    come on! Iggy’s one of the worlds best restaurant???? Gotta be joking ..for a connoisseur like yourself im sure you agree that iggy’s is just good in Singapore but mediocre at best in the world. What happened to JQ?? Le petite Cuisine???

  2. khaokhaprowmoo May 8, 2006 at 1:51 am

    joel rochobuchon must bee pissed when iggy copied his over the counter dining thingy!

  3. Chubby Hubby May 8, 2006 at 8:34 am

    Inna: Glad you enjoyed your treat at Iggy’s. Regarding Restaurant Magazine, I think posting my little rant is enough. Let’s hope they realize what they are doing. Further regarding Malay/Indo food, I enjoy it a lot. I also admit I don’t cook a lot of it at home. But I’d also really love recommendations for what you feel are the best Malay/Indo restaurants in town. Thanks.

    Khaokhaprowmoo: I disagree with you. As do many other people who have eaten at many more and better places than I. A friend of mine, a British food writer and also currently consultant for the Fat Duck, also loves Iggy’s (and I discovered recently was one of the British voters in this survey who voted for Iggy’s). In fact, last I heard he’s writing a piece on the restaurant for the Guardian. I would definitely place it among the world’s best. As for Iggy’s copying Robuchon’s L’Atelier, of course there’s a little bit of inspiration drawn from L’Atelier. But consider that Robuchon himself has admitted to have copied the idea from Japanese restaurants. Consider also that L’Atelier is not and was not the world’s first Western over-the-counter restaurant. The fact that it was opened by the man heralded in the late-eighties as “the best chef in the world” made it seem like he created the concept. Regarding Justin Quek, unfortunately he didn’t make the list. His Taipei-based restaurant is fantastic. And it was one of my 2 nominations for this survey. Sadly, the world’s food media just hasn’t picked up on Taiwan yet. Despite the amazing produce, everyone would rather write about Shanghai. Remember what this post is about — that this survey is inherently flawed. But since you are fan of JQ, please keep your eyes peeled. He’ll be launching his first cookbook this coming October. I’ve been lucky enough to steal a few looks and it’s beautiful.

  4. Nha May 8, 2006 at 11:39 am

    Wow. I love this post and how you are so right about the magazine bias! By the way, congrats on being of one the 560 experts. That is so cool :)

  5. tejal May 8, 2006 at 12:47 pm

    I love your new banner, the illustration is so cute! Who made it?

  6. Vivilicious May 8, 2006 at 12:56 pm

    Hey CH, Iggy’s is at the top of my list of must-eat places here, do you think going with more than 2 people would work? My evening at Robuchon’s was somewhat spoiled by the fact that I could only talk to my neighbour and not the other 3 friends I went with.
    Regarding copying ideas, let’s face it, there are practically no 100% original ideas out there any more, it’s all in the interpretation…
    As for Restaurant Magazine, it is UK-based and to be perfectly honest, it is very Anglo-centric. I vaguely know the editor and he’s a nice guy, decent writer, but VERY English if you know what I mean. That’s the problem with a lot of these top Western foodies, they don’t have a clue about Asian cuisine. Gordon Ramsay think okonomiyaki looks like a pile of vomit, it’s just a pancake for god’s sake! Thanks goodness for the likes of Tony Bourdain who redeem some of his brethren. All a very long-winded way to say that I agree with your rant wholeheartedly and hope “they” get wind of it somehow and get their act together for next year.

  7. aprilmei May 8, 2006 at 1:27 pm

    Hi Chubby Hubby, I love your blog; have been reading it for quite a while.
    I was also one of the voters on the Far East panel. I agree with your comments: our region was far too big to cover with just 31 voters. But I believe this is the first time they included judges from outside Europe so at least it’s a (baby) step in the right direction.

  8. Chubby Hubby May 8, 2006 at 2:24 pm

    Nha: Thanks so much. It was very amusing that Grant Thatcher from Luxe guides (who chose the Asian voters) eamiled both me and my wife, asking us to take part in the survey without knowing we were a couple.

    Tejal: Thanks. I doodled it over the weekend and thought I’d try using it as a header. So glad you like it. My wife thinks it’s too juvenile.

    Vivilicious: I’d recommend booking the corner of the counter, i.e. the “L”. That works if you have 4 or so people. 2 on each side of the “L”. Or else you can book one of the tables. They can seat 14 in the attached dining room, but it’s just not as fun as the counter. Hey, you should make Amy take you since Jacquesson is the house pour there. ;-)

    Aprilmei: Great to meet another voter from the “Far East.” Thanks for visiting the blog. Let’s hope next year there will be twice as many voters and for more regions within Asia.

  9. neil May 8, 2006 at 2:41 pm

    Ah, the gerrymander is alive and well ;-)

  10. gastrochick May 8, 2006 at 2:53 pm

    I agree that Restaurant magazine has an unfair bias towards euro-centric restaurants. Some of it’s inclusions are questionable, such as Mugaritz, I ate there at the beginning of the year and had a very underwhelming experience. It’s funny with all these guides that the people who write them seem to think that any thing that comes out of Europe, especially from France, is inherently better than elsewhere. I disagree with this foolish mindset, some of the best meals I’ve ever eaten have been in Asia, specifically in Australia. The so called arbiters of food taste should widen their horizons, and open their eyes to the rest of the world.

  11. Anonymous May 8, 2006 at 7:30 pm

    Hi, I’ve been visiting your blog for quite some time now and I realise that, most of the recipes you post on your blog are laden rather heavily with fatty products like cream and sugar. I’m currently overweight and I’m wondering if it could be possible if you could post some recipes that are generally not so damaging for the waistline but tempting nevertheless ;)

  12. pena007 May 8, 2006 at 9:54 pm

    Thrilled to hear (or maybe not, if its going to be more difficult to get a booking) that Iggy’s has got the kudos it so richly deserves. Iggy’s has become our special place – its almost a ritual for us to go on birthdays, anniversaries and the odd cheering up dinner. That’s 4 meals at least in a year, and we still can’t have enough! The food is one major reason, but also Ignatius, Dorin and the staff. I’ve already posted this on your site – but they are what makes this place so special to us. It feels like having dinner among friends. Ignatius has wonderfully introduced us to great wines at reasonable prices. Can’t complain.

    Lastly, I’d like to pose a different perspective to all the posts about the inherent bias and unfairness of the list. Bias is the key word here. Just as its near impossible to rank the top 100 artworks or best architectural landmarks in the world – same goes to food. The process of assessing something inherently implies that the person doing the assessing must hold a certain view or for lack of a better word, a framework, in which he/she makes a value judgement. OK this is a rather long-winded argument that should be saved on another site on the cognitive sciences or philosophy of thought.

    Let’s just end this by saying that I’d trust the Michelin Red guide implicitly for French food but ignore it if you are seeking guidance on ethnic food. Ignore too the latest spinoffs of Michelin NY etc.

  13. Chubby Hubby May 8, 2006 at 10:54 pm

    Tankeduptaco: Yah, almost as engineered as the PAP’s electoral boundaries ;-p

    Gastrochick: Well said!

    Anonymous: Um… I do have the word “chubby” in my title for a pretty obvious reason. I like rich and heavy food.

    Pena007: Great to hear Iggy’s is your favorite “special place.” It really is a wonderful place. Thanks also for the observations. You make a very good point about frames of reference.

  14. S May 9, 2006 at 8:21 am

    Dear Anon

    I am a lone soldier in the fight for healthier meals in this household. I like dipping into Yoshoku for somewhat healthier, yet scrumptious recipe ideas.

  15. J May 9, 2006 at 3:55 pm

    hiya, great post, and even cooler banner – although i must say you greatly exaggerate your actual hundreds-toned girth in the name of artistic license! brando asks if you’re holding a wagyu steak in one hand and a signature c.h. cheeseburger in the other ;)

  16. siewyuk May 9, 2006 at 9:27 pm

    I really enjoy reading your blog and your pictures of food are fabulous!

    You might want to include under your “press coverage” – that epicurious.com has named you one of the blogs they most like and included a link to your blog on their site – congratulations!

    Thought you would be a good person to ask – where can i get the Cuisinart food processor here? :-)

  17. Chubby Hubby May 10, 2006 at 12:30 am

    S: harummmph!

    J: Yup, a slab of wagyu steak and a chubby hubby burger keeps this greedy gourmet a happy camper ;p

    Siewyuk: Thanks. I’ve linked to Epicurious’ blog. It’s quite flattering to be on their list. Regarding Cuisinart, as far as I know, it’s not sold by anyone here. You could, alternatively, buy a Robocoupe at Sia Huat on Temple Street.

  18. inlandchi May 10, 2006 at 7:12 am

    Hi, just happened into your blog today for the entry on best restaurants. Thanks for pointing out the bias in the voting. I live in Japan and considering the quality of the restaurants here, even neighborhood ones, I also find it fishy that there are no “best” ones here or in China or Korea or Vietnam or Malaysia, all of which have famous cuisines. Maybe time for that magazine to do some first-hand research and articles on this part of the world, rather than gathering arm-chair votes.

  19. inna May 10, 2006 at 8:29 pm

    totally understand why you seldom cook the dishes at home – they are often very time-consuming and tedious. using any technological help will alter the taste!

    on another note – i often find the indo restaurants here are over-priced. but there is 1 at lucky plaza which offers very good quality at a very decent price. it’s called restoran “ria”, 3rd floor of lucky plaza (if you’re lost, ask the salespeople for an indo restaurant :)) the sambal used in -ayam goreng- is fabulous and it’ss going to make you sweat because it is so darn HOT. haha.

    there is a new one called restoran “jawa timur” at 1st floor of far east plaza. i have yet to check that one out tho!

  20. S May 10, 2006 at 10:50 pm

    Hi Inna

    But I will be making a change to that soon. I’m just working my way through a cookbook covering 10 Southeast Asian countries. We’ve been preparing the dishes for photography and I’ve found quite a few I’d like to try out again at home (like a fab Daging Dinding from Brunei and Rendang from Indonesia).

  21. inna May 10, 2006 at 11:11 pm

    ooh i shall eagerly wait to read about that! :D when my parents visit me here, they will always bring a jar of home-made sambal lovingly made by my dearest maid. oh yum. but one time – i thought it tasted different, not as nice. turned out that the maker had experimented by using a blender for the chillis! haha stick to the stone mortar and pestle. :)

    i myself have not finished covering the diversity of indo cuisines. java in itself, offers such different flavours. 1 down – 17,000 more to go! i’ve always thought that indo food is so low-profile compared to its s-e-asians counterparts like thailand or vietnam.

  22. Anonymous June 1, 2006 at 4:50 pm

    err.. i am really curious to know how iggy’s found its way into the top 100 restaurant ….. i believe it is no where near….it is simple a average resturant and many anonymous restuarants fared much than iggy’s… i really wonders….

    had a five course last week…. the foe grais…. the worst i have ever tasted…. i believe it is the bad quality of the foie gras used and absolutely can’t imagine it is foie gras….thot it was chicken liver or something, kind of new hybrid of fat free foie gras. ….at least it is healthy…. for a foie gras…. can u imagine the taste ??

    then the mouse…..mmm.. trying to imitate spoon’s… but failed terribly….. some mashy touful stuff with pumkin sauce……
    terribly texture and dunno what taste was that… teriible ..experience…. ..

    ok… the main course was quite ok..a little over salted… but still… dont think it is worth any commendation…

    dessert…. molten chocolate cake… can you get more creative??

    mortons does this 10 times better…

    the simplest….steam white asparagus….. in season.. ok… should be great… and cant go wrong…but still it is bitter… why ?? i dont know…

    overall… i think this is a sabotage…or a joke to have include IGGY’s in any top restaurant….. no way….near to Tetsuya or spoon or any decent fusion restaurant in Hong KOng…

    the olive bread is great though … keep it up..

  23. Anonymous June 1, 2006 at 4:51 pm

    err.. i am really curious to know how iggy’s found its way into the top 100 restaurant ….. i believe it is no where near….it is simple a average resturant and many anonymous restuarants fared much than iggy’s… i really wonders….

    had a five course last week…. the foe grais…. the worst i have ever tasted…. i believe it is the bad quality of the foie gras used and absolutely can’t imagine it is foie gras….thot it was chicken liver or something, kind of new hybrid of fat free foie gras. ….at least it is healthy…. for a foie gras…. can u imagine the taste ??

    then the mouse…..mmm.. trying to imitate spoon’s… but failed terribly….. some mashy touful stuff with pumkin sauce……
    terribly texture and dunno what taste was that… teriible ..experience…. ..

    ok… the main course was quite ok..a little over salted… but still… dont think it is worth any commendation…

    dessert…. molten chocolate cake… can you get more creative??

    mortons does this 10 times better…

    the simplest….steam white asparagus….. in season.. ok… should be great… and cant go wrong…but still it is bitter… why ?? i dont know…

    overall… i think this is a sabotage…or a joke to have include IGGY’s in any top restaurant….. no way….near to Tetsuya or spoon or any decent fusion restaurant in Hong KOng…

    the olive bread is great though … keep it up..

  24. scubagolfer September 11, 2006 at 12:32 pm

    Thanks to your fine blog, I visited Iggy’s in Singapore last week. Since my wife joined up with me after the 3-day conference, we decided to treat ourselves to a nice western dinner. The 9 course Tasting Menu there was creative, refined & delicious.

    I will certainly revisit this promising petite establishment whenever I’m in town.

    However, it’s situated in a hotel(The Regent)that is ageing & very happening. IMHO, Iggy’s will do even better on its own.

  25. scubagolfer September 12, 2006 at 1:33 am

    Correction on typo:

    “However, it’s situated in a hotel(The Regent)that is ageing & very happening. IMHO, Iggy’s will do even better on its own.” Should be “not very happening” instead.

    Cheers!

  26. michelle May 20, 2008 at 1:09 pm

    went iggy’s for a birthday meal, it was so so only. I think mosiac at bali is easily beter than Iggy’s. maybe my expectations were high as it is very highly regarded in your blog.
    the infusions of flavours for different dishes were very average. Overall, it is overated for sure.

  27. Chubby Hubby May 20, 2008 at 3:40 pm

    Michelle, I think all of us have different standards and tastes. I was just at Iggy’s again last week and had a fabulous meal. I also don’t have great impressions of Mosaic. Granted, I have only eaten there once — and I have loads of friends who love it to death — but I was not at all impressed. My dining companion at Mosaic had been there once before and she also said that both times were only so-so. Different strokes for different folks I guess.

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