And this year was no exception. On March 24, the Oscars of fine dining in Asia saw swanky Singaporean restaurant Odette clinch first place for the second year running.
Launched in 2009 by acclaimed chef Manish Mehrotra, the restaurant is celebrated for its reinterpretations of Indian classics like puri, paneer, and spicy Goan curry. One of Mehrotra’s signature dishes is a coin-sized piece of naan bread stuffed with melted blue cheese.
Mehrotra began developing his concept for Indian Accent over a decade ago while working as a chef in London, where popular Indian classics like naan and chicken tikka masala can be found at eateries throughout the city.
The chef, now 46 years old, wanted to show the world that Indian food could be much more complex than simple curries.
“I don’t want to give a new identity to Indian food,” Mehrotra tells CNN Travel. “We just want to tell people that there is more to Indian food than what they know about.”
Medu vadai, or doughnut shaped fritters from South India, is one such dish he is keen to share.
They’re are presented on top of a banana leaf, as per tradition, but are made from tofu rather than lentil. The rings are lightly dusted with a spice mix he calls ‘gunpowder’ and served with colorful quenelles of baked beetroot and lentil chutney.
The manicured plates, often served as part of a tasting menu, are a clear departure from the family style dishes shared at many Indian restaurants.
“There were few restaurants which were doing high end Indian food,” says Mehrotra. “I wanted to do my version of high end Indian food.”
Relative to other restaurants in New Delhi, Indian Accent is not cheap. The chef’s tasting menu is an eight-course meal that starts at 3,900 rupees (around $53). Compared to many other restaurants on the 50 best list, however, it’s a steal.
Nonetheless, when it first opened, Mehrotra says many felt his menu was too upmarket and overpriced.
“Almost 10 and a half years back, this was something very new to this country… people were bit skeptical about it,” he says.
But over time, Mehrotra’s restaurant won over customers and critics alike. He’s received numerous awards and Indian Accent is now one of New Delhi’s hottest spots to eat and be seen. Recent guests include Priyanka Chopra and Bollywood actress Azmi Shabana.
The success of the New Delhi restaurant has led to openings of Indian Accent in New York and London — both of which have been received favorably.
For Mehrotra, the most important thing is the food. He just hopes more customers continue exploring the regional spices and delicacies of India.
“This is Indian cuisine done in a different way,” says Mehrotra. “It is taking the world along with us and moving forward.”