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Book Review

Book Review: by Lang Reid

The Miele Guide

Another publication just released for the gourmets, The Miele Guide (ISBN 978-981-08-0781-8, Ate Media Singapore), which is subtitled Your Guide to Asia’s Finest Restaurants. Initially this would seem to be a very large ask! Asia is, after all, a very large part of the world, and restaurants inside Asia are innumerable.
In the front of the book, the editor Annette Tan describes how the voting process was done, with restaurants from 16 countries involved. She started the selection process by contacting 84 respected food and wine critics to nominate their 20 best restaurants in their own country. Then by a long and somewhat drawn out process, the general public was also invited to vote, followed by 1,500 food and beverage professionals. This resulted in selection of the top 320 restaurants in Asia from an initial list of over 2,000. Of these, the top 25 were then selected and blind dining was done, where the restaurants did not know they were being judged, the judges paid for their own meals, and the final 20 were selected and published as the top of the culinary tree.
This would appear, on the surface, to bring the best up to the top; however, there are some aberrations in this type of data collection. In larger countries, such as China (mainland, HK and Macau), with then more restaurants than smaller countries, there can be a skewing effect, and thereby appear to have a greater representation. Secondly, with the general public being invited to vote, areas that have greater numbers of population will also appear to have too great a say in the final selection process. The editor may disagree with me, but when attempting to compare like with like, you have to standardize all other aspects as much as possible, and ‘cohort’ groups should be as close as possible to size and constituents.
I believe that is confirmed by the number of pages devoted to each country, with China having 18, whilst Thailand only has six and Vietnam has three. I also note that in the top 10 classification, Singapore has four restaurants, China four and Indonesia and the Philippines one each.
The guide also states that there will be a Miele scholarship scheme to foster young talent, and this is an excellent concept; however, one scholarship is reserved for a Singaporean, and the other to someone from the other 15 countries. I would have liked to see this based on ‘talent’ rather than geography!
The reviews also do not indicate prices, and a quick glance at the Bangkok entries will show that many are from the top hotels, which are not inexpensive, such as the Mandarin Oriental or the Sukhothai, for example. It can be argued that when dining at the ‘finest’ restaurants one should expect to pay heavily, but that is not always true.
Whilst I have expressed some negatives in this review of the book, it is nevertheless a worthwhile purchase for anyone who does travel around Asia extensively. It is slim enough to travel easily, and at least you will know where you should get a decent meal.