If Japan had a gourmet equivalent to the Academy Awards, it would be The Tabelog Award 2020, one of the biggest annual restaurant award-winning events that always draws the eyes of foodies. This year's event was held Wednesday at The Okura Tokyo.
Tabelog (taberu means to eat in Japanese, coined with the word blog) is the most popular restaurant review portal in Japan, listing almost 900,000 restaurants across the nation with more than 10 million monthly views. Users appreciate the site’s convenience in restaurant searching and booking, serving up photos, addresses, open hours, honest reviews and rankings. The annual award ceremony invites restaurants nominated by the users for Bronze, Silver and Gold among the restaurants ranked four or above, five being the highest.
Other awards are Best New Entry which goes to the most glowing new nominations, Best Regional Restaurants which recognizes the cuisine of remote eateries where users would even travel a long distance for, and Chef’s Choice honored by the top Japanese culinary masters. Best Hospitality and Best Sommelier did not reach the required number of nominees this year.
Unlike the other sophisticated restaurant awards, Tabelog Awards are recognized not by professional connoisseurs but by the general yet food-conscious public users. Another beauty is that it covers the whole country and therefore some nominated local restaurants are in a provincial area only for those in the know. It’s a great way to shine a light on these restaurants that don’t necessarily promote themselves.
The invited restaurant owners are handed sealed envelopes upon arrival with either Gold, Silver or Bronze written inside. They are not allowed to open them until the official announcement is made toward the end of the ceremony. Among the 629 nominees for 2020, 34 restaurants made it into Gold, 102 restaurants won Silver and 488 took home Bronze. Only the gold winners are announced and brought up onto the stage - for the record that’s only 0.06% out of 900,000 listed.
Kaiseki “Yamazaki” won a gold just 18 months after its opening. Eight ramen noodle shops made it to the ceremony, while one gelato shop and more restaurants outside major cities earned places in the winning categories this year.
Chef Shuzo Kishida of modern French cuisine “Quintessence” was in the spotlight, accepting the Chef’s Choice award. He is renowned for supervising all featured dishes on a recent TV drama, “Grand Maison Tokyo” which revolves around the lives of two chefs who start a restaurant and strive to win three Michelin stars. Kishida said: “It was a great experience but I don’t ever want to do it again.” He also secured his fourth consecutive gold award to add to his impressive collection.
Guest Yuki Ota, an Olympian and twice silver medalist in foil fencing, expressed his excitement to be in a room with “so many medalists of food. Olympians don’t have a chance to get together all at once.”
Jimon Terakado, a comedian and guest “talent,” described the ceremony by saying, “Chefs and owners don’t usually have lateral ties, so it’s a spectacular opportunity for everyone to connect here.”
Another comedian, Ken Watabe, who served as the main emcee for the event, said: “I’m honored to stand in front of the top chefs of Japan. It’s not easy to get reservations for any of these restaurants!”
Well, it will probably be even harder now to visit these medalists. But foodies will surely want to try as many as possible.
Tabelog website (English): https://tabelog.com/en/
The Tabelog Awards 2020 List of Award Recipients (English): https://award.tabelog.com/en/restaurants?lang=en© Japan Today