What does it take to
make our first fab gold list?
Taking our pick from the very top establishments from Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam and Japan over an exhaustive 16 months search, Le Chief divulges some insights into our selection process and the defining qualities of the establishments inhabiting our inaugural FAB GOLD List.
Top 10 Hotels
The defining qualities of our Top 10 Hotels are excellent service, outstanding facilities and breathtaking designs. We have visited over 30 hotels in 9 Asian cities before settling on the 10 hotels that are all-round exemplary establishments in our estimation. Most of the hotels are fairly newly built or recently renovated, with the exception of Park Hyatt Tokyo, which despite its age is still one of the most enigmatic hotels in operation. Capella Hanoi is the most opulent entrant on the list, a stark contrast to the minimalistic Zen milieu of Intercontinental Osaka. There are 3 Hyatt properties making this list, with the resplendent Park Hyatt Jakarta taking pole position. Shangri-la Singapore and The Sukhothai are the other 2 grandees amidst a sea of debutantes, attesting to the adage - old is gold.
Top 10 Resorts
Beyond service, facilities and designs, our crop of top resorts must also be set amidst magnificent natural elements that make them alluring retreats from our urban realities. Unsurprisingly, 8 of these winsome resorts are planted on lush tropical islands, with 6 of them hailing from Bali. Our top pick is the resplendent Regent Phu Quoc, a stunning resort that is also top of the class in service delivery. Raffles Bali comes in a close 2nd, a matchless haven that just needs time for its grounds to grow lusher. All the resorts inhabiting this list are as different as chalk and cheese, even the ones from the same island. Alila Uluwatu is a modernist resort with the most stunning oceanic vista, Mandapa is a romantic escapade with rustic vibes and Buahan is a remote retreat enveloped by primordial elements. The only similarity they all share is their commitment to excellence and guest satisfaction.
The Service Awards
One of the biggest question that begs answering is why the winner of our Top Service Award isn't even on either of the Top 10 Lists. KAI Matsumoto is a small traditional Onsen Ryokan with under 20 rooms. Clearly it is operating on a different scale with resorts that are behemoth by comparison. Nonetheless, the dedication to service by the tiny team at KAI Matsumoto is exemplary, with immediate undivided attention from the team should you be requiring it. Whether you are slightly late for an excursion or needing directions to the bus stop, a member of the staff is with you all the way, doing what needs to be done. This level of service delivery is simply unthinkable anywhere else.
For our selection of Best Club Lounges, service delivery is also our prime consideration, and the club lounges on this list all delivered guest satisfaction with carefully laid out processes and heart-warming personal touches. We have to present a tie in 3rd place because both Intercontinental Osaka and Hotel Gaia Bandung delivered excellent aspects of grand service through their daily operations.
The Culinary Awards
With so many excellent restaurants and bars in Asia, we have to expand our culinary awards into 3 categories in order to include more deserving winners on the lists. There are 5 fine dining restaurants on our top list, and the establishments listed are all helmed by masters in their field. Tang Court is the restaurant to watch with chef Chong Kooi Sam's refined and expert updates on classical Cantonese surprising and masterful. Aperitif in Bali headed by chef Nic Vanderbeeken is another surprising find from our travels, its culinary odyssey stretching from bar to table deliciously sophisticated.
What is a casual restaurant, some might ask. In our estimation good food doesn't need to be serious dining affairs and what is served simply with sincerity and great thoughts can be unforgettable as well. The diminutive diner at Garrya Yogyakarta is an excellent example; its expertly rendered traditional dishes like bbq ribs and crispy duck are some of our most unforgettable culinary finds in 2023. The seriousness of RIN Kyoto in enhancing the ramen experience is also deserving of recognition; with only 2 soup bases to choose from, we are resolutely hooked.
Capella Hanoi's dramatic Diva's Lounge has the outrageous concept and the right mixologist to win the top-spot. Centara Grand Osaka's Automata is a ground-breaking self-serve joint that is pushing the bar genre to a new high. Ojo Bangkok is simply sensational with its resplendent interiors and rapturous views, drink or no drink.
The Wellness and Design Awards
Spa is big business in the hospitality industry and a grand spa should be a mini retreat in itself where one can luxuriate for hours on end. Our top pick is the stunning Spa at Park Hyatt Jakarta that features sumptuous treatment suites that are superbly inviting and hydro facilities rooms that are duly impressive. The massage treatments are also top notch. Resort elements envelope the Spa at Regent Phu Quoc, with a serene koi pond already calming the senses at the entrance. The luxurious Bastien Gonzales nail studio here further augments the pampering rituals of this spa.
We would like to include more design awards in our future gold lists, possibly best suites and best villas but at current time the competition is simply too uneven for us to make a selection. Contrary to popular opinion, resorts don't always have the best pools and big isn't always better. Regent Phu Quoc's multi-tier pool did win us over with its surrounding lushness but Mondrian Singapore's small but inviting rooftop pool with the magnificent view also caught our attention. Sharing the top spot in this category with Regent Phu Quoc is Capella Hanoi's resplendent art-deco vision.