Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants 2021: Essence Of Asia

Essence of Asia | Asia's 50 Best Restaurants 2021 | Food For Thought

For the first time the Asia’s 50 Best Restaurant is releasing an unranked list called the Essence Of Asia, bringing to you some of the best local flavours across Asia. Our very own Malaysia has four restaurants on the list, including eateries our of Penang, Kuala Lumpur, Ipoh and Kota Kinabalu.

PagiSore | Essence of Asia | Asia's 50 Best Restaurants 2021 | Food For Thought

What Is The Essence Of Asia?

This unranked list has been compiled across 49 cities and 20 contries across Asia, bringing to you the flavours of culinary Asia, from street food vendors, to age old institutions, community focused establishments, and progressive cuisine restaurants. This list was created based on recommendations from chefs from the Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants 2020 and 2021, 50 Best Academy Chairs as well as gourmands in the region.

Artisan Homemade Bread, Ipoh

Artisan Homemade Bread is run by Sam Lau, both a bakery throughout the day but has an amazing omakase lunch menu that is not only easy on the pocket, but on the palate. The not so humble omakase spots local ingredients and elevates local dishes such as their Sotong Kangkung and award winning Lor Mai Kai. Sam has been in the culinary industry for 16 years, ranging from London to Kuala Lumpur.

Bijan | Essence of Asia | Asia's 50 Best Restaurants 2021 | Food For Thought

Bijan, Kuala Lumpur

Bijan is a Malay focused restaurant serving elevated cuisine, bringing to you some of the most well-known regional flavours of Malay cuisine, all in one place. The restaurant is run by three women, namely Yuen Sze To, Lissa Yeoh and Way Cheng Yeoh, who delivers an updated but true to its essence quality of cooking.

For our previous review, see Bijan.

Kedai Kopi Yee Fung | Essence of Asia | Asia's 50 Best Restaurants 2021 | Food For Thought

Kedai Kopi Yee Fung, Kota Kinabalu

Located in Kota Kinabalu on East Malaysia, Kedai Kopi Yee Fung is known for their Ngiu Chap, a beef noodle soup dish; and their Sabah Laksa, quite similar to the neighbouring and more popular thanks to Anthony Bourdain Sarawak Laksa. True to the essence of Malaysia, our street food is engrained in our DNA.

Siam Road Char Kway Teow, Penang

Malaysia sees 4 restaurants appearing on the list, namely the notoriously long queued Siam Road Char Kway Teow in Penang, a street food vendor that needs no introduction. As Char Kway Teow is one of Malaysia’s unofficial national dishes, being the best in Penang says quite a lot. With the right ‘wok hei’ and balance of sweet savoury and umami, some would argue that the 1 to 2 hour queue is justified.

JinJi | Essence of Asia | Asia's 50 Best Restaurants 2021 | Food For Thought

The Essence Of Asia List


Haji Biryani, Dhaka
Kasturi, Dhaka


Nesat Seafood House, Phnom Penh
Lum Orng Farm To Table, Siem Reap
The Sugar Palm, Siem Reap

Mainland China

Li Qun Roast Duck, Beijing
Chen Mapo Tofu, Chengdu
102 House, Foshan
Longjing Manor, Hangzhou
Fuchun (Yuyuan Road), Shanghai
Lihuayuan, Wuhan

Hong Kong

Australia Dairy Company
Dignity Kitchen
Kau Kee
Pei Ho Counterparts Roots
Yin Yang Coastal


Bengaluru Oota Company, Bangalore
Mum’s Kitchen, Goa
Ahdoo’s, Kashmir
Shree Thaker Bhojanalay, Mumbai
Swati Snacks, Mumbai
Rustom’s, New Delhi


Babi Guling Pande Egi, Bali
KooD, Bali
Pagi Sore, Jakarta
Lupis Mbah Satinem, Yogyakarta


Natsukashiya, Amami Ōshima
Honke Owariya, Kyoto
Pasania, Osaka
Eatrip, Tokyo
Sincere Blue, Tokyo
Sushi Dai, Tokyo


Tamarind, Luang Prabang
Doi Ka Noi, Vientiane


Henri’s Galley
IFT Educational Restaurant
La Famiglia


Artisan Handmade Bread, Ipoh
Kedai Kopi Yee Fung, Kota Kinabalu
Bijan, Kuala Lumpur
Siam Road Char Koay Teow, Penang


Rangoon Tea House, Yangon
Shan Kitchen, Yangon
Shwe Sa Bwe, Yangon


Newa Momo Nepal, Kathmandu
Tukche Thakali Kitchen, Kathmandu


N’ecos, Karachi
Waris Nihari, Lahore


Farmer’s Daughter, Baguio
|Earth Kitchen, Manila
Hapag, Manila
Bale Dutung, Pampanga


Botanico at The Garage
Jin Ji Teochew Braised Duck & Kway Chap
Keng Eng Kee
Mr. and Mrs. Mohgan’s Super Crispy
Roti Prata
Naked Finn
Restaurant Kin

South Korea

Nangpoonbopsang, Jeju
Base Is Nice, Seoul
Guemdwaeji Sikdang, Seoul
Miro Sikdang, Seoul

Sri Lanka

Café Kumbuk, Colombo
Paradise Road: The Gallery Café, Colombo
Mettha’s Traditional Home Cooked Meals, Unawatuna


Akame, Pingtung
Yu Li Cultural Bookstore and Community Kitchen, Taichung
|Huang’s Lu Rou Fan, Taipei
Plants, Taipei


100 Mahaseth, Bangkok
Barefood Bangkok, Bangkok
Na Café at Bangkok 1899, Bangkok
Wattana Panich, Bangkok
Locus Native Food Lab, Chiang Rai
Samuay & Sons, Udon Thani


Pho Gia Truyen, Hanoi
Ngoc Suong Seafood & Bar, Ho Chi Minh City
Pizza 4P’s, Ho Chi Minh City
Madam Khanh – The Banh Mi Queen, Hoi An

Liqun Roast Duck | Essence of Asia | Asia's 50 Best Restaurants 2021 | Food For Thought

#50BestTalks Meets Essence Of Asia

With this year’s #50BestTalks, celebrity chef Gaggan Anand of Gaggan, Bangkok fame and Margarita Forés of Cibo will be giving their two cents of exploring and talking about the culinary scenes in their respective cities, Bangkok and Manila, providing insights into the food industry. Tune in at 4.00 pm on Thursday 18th March 2021 for Gaggan Anand and Saturday 20th March 20201 for Margarita Forés.

The Asia’s 50 Best Restaurant 2021 will be televised live on the 50 Best Facebook Page on 25th March 2021.

For all 50 Best related content, see 50 Best.


Nicholas Ng

Nicholas Ng is a restaurant critic and drinks writer and is the editor of independent publication Food For Thought. He has been a freelance journalist for the 15 years and has previously worked as a lawyer and in digital marketing. He currently is the Principal Consultant of A Thought Full Consultancy, a food and beverage marketing consultancy.

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