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The True Measure of a City’s Food Culture

Alan Tsen
Alan Tsen
1 min read
The True Measure of a City’s Food Culture

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When visiting a country, it's easy to get sucked into the TikTok and Instagram food culture of "Five spots you need to check out!" Contrary to what the 25-year-old influencer is telling you in a calming tone over some shaky video footage, the true character of a city’s food scene is revealed not by its highest peaks but by the consistent excellence found at ground level.

Take Japan, for example. You might spend years seeking out those three-star Michelin Guide ramen shops in Tokyo or Osaka. Yet, the real beauty of Japan’s ramen culture lies in the consistency and quality found everywhere. Step into any ramen shop, whether it’s a modest corner spot or a bustling chain, and you’ll encounter a bowl that’s not just good, but exceptional. The average bowl of ramen in Japan surpasses what many other places tout as their best.

Now think of France, where the quality of pastries sets a similar standard. Walk into any neighbourhood boulangerie, and you’ll find croissants that are crisp on the outside and buttery and flaky on the inside. It’s not just the Instagramable patisseries in Paris; it’s the small bakeries in every town and village, each offering their version of perfection. A random sampling of French pastries, from pain au chocolat to éclairs, will often surpass what many places consider their finest offerings.

When evaluating a city’s food, look beyond the glittering reviews and Michelin stars. The true measure lies in the everyday excellence, the meals that locals enjoy without fanfare. In cities like Tokyo and Paris, this high floor of quality makes every dining experience a testament to culinary devotion and mastery.


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Day: Looking for my next thing Night: investor in fintech startups + former chair of Fintech Australia, writer of Fintech Radar.