May 27, 2022

Asia’s 50 Very best Dining places: What it is really like to consume at Japan’s ‘Den’

(CNN) — Tuesday evening, Den in Tokyo was given major honors by the World’s 50 Best group, recognizing it as the greatest cafe in Asia.

Den is no stranger to accolades. It has two Michelin stars and has been in the prime 10 on the World’s Very best list in years earlier. But it also just takes place to be where I ate a person of the very best meals of my life.

Going to fantastic dining eating places can be daunting, particularly to a solo traveler. Some of the big-name eating places I appeared at for my November 2019 trip to Tokyo would not even settle for a reservation for a one diner.

I put my title on the wait around list at Den, while, and a week ahead of the vacation got a cellular phone phone confirming I’d scored a seat thanks to an odd-numbered social gathering at the desk subsequent to me. It was like obtaining out I was heading to a cool kid social gathering or currently being acknowledged into my “achieve” university.

Left: Chef Zaiyu Hasegawa with his beloved pup right, a pillar at Den in which buyers leave thank-you messages.

Lilit Marcus/CNN

Even though I was thrilled to get a reservation, I was also nervous — would the working experience be stuffy, formal, and comprehensive of component names I’d never ever read of? Would I go away the cafe experience like I might just crossed something off of a checklist, or would I essentially love the foods?

Delightfully, I can say that the solution was the latter.

Den is large-stop meals with a silly feeling of humor.

In the salad, carrots are sliced thinly and lower in the condition of smiley faces. Japanese-design and style fried rooster arrives in a mock fast foodstuff takeout box lined in jokes and a goofy photograph of the chef. Just one study course comes with each and every diner’s national flag caught in it — a swift survey about the compact dining room that night time displayed little American (hello), Chinese, Japanese and Canadian flags, which make for terrific souvenirs of the meal.

A serving of "Dentucky Fried Chicken" at Den.

A serving of “Dentucky Fried Chicken” at Den.

Lilit Marcus/CNN

And that just isn’t all.

Chef Zaiyu Hasegawa isn’t the sort of male who hides out in the kitchen area and lets the foods do the conversing. He’s funny and chatty, with his long-haired chihuahua Puchi usually in tow when he pays a go to to the eating room.

Tokyo is just one of the world’s great food items metropolitan areas. During my weeklong journey — my initially-at any time pay a visit to to Japan — just about anything I ate was tasty, from minimart onigiri to late-night time ramen to super-high-priced sushi well prepared in front of me.

Now, I can say that a single of the most unforgettable eateries I have at any time frequented has been voted the most effective cafe in all of Asia.

But I can also say that my night at Den was a total large amount of enjoyment.

Asia’s 50 Ideal Eating places for 2022

1. Den (Tokyo)

2. Sorn (Bangkok)

3. Florilege (Tokyo)

4. Le Du (Bangkok)

5. The Chairman (Hong Kong)

6. La Cime (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. Mingles (Seoul)

17. Sezanne (Tokyo)

18. Joo Ok (Seoul)

19. Ensue (Shenzhen, China)

20. Meta (Singapore)

21. Masque (Mumbai)

22. Indian Accent (New Delhi)

23. Les Amis (Singapore)

24. Caprice (Hong Kong)

25. Blue by Alain Ducasse (Bangkok)

26. 7th Door (Seoul)

27. Mosu (Seoul)

28. Da Vittorio (Shanghai)

29. Sushi Masato (Bangkok)

30. Onjium (Seoul)

31. Samrub Samrub Thai (Bangkok)

32. Mono (Hong Kong)

33. Gaa (Bangkok)

34. Wing (Hong Kong)

35. Ministry of Crab (Colombo)

36. La Maison de la Mother nature Goh (Fukuoka, Japan)

37. Zen (Singapore)

38. Logy (Taipei)

39. Ultraviolet by Paul Pairet (Shanghai)

40. Labyrinth (Singapore)

41. Burnt Finishes (Singapore)

42. Ete (Tokyo)

43. Cenci (Kyoto)

44. Cloudstreet (Singapore)

45. JL Studio (Taichung, Taiwan)

46. Raan Jay Fai (Bangkok)

47. Wing Lei Palace (Macao)

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

49. Megu (New Delhi)

50. Dewakan (Kuala Lumpur)