I've told you about my five favorite openings for 2010. This is what Shanghai's chefs, restaurateurs and food writers and other F&B gadflies have to say about their favorite meals of the year...
Austin Hu (Madison):
"Perhaps it's sacrilegious as a chef to say this, but I've always been of the opinion that who you eat your meal with is far more meaningful than the where or what. My closest circle of friends, my number one group, are united in a love of all things delicious and predilection for really bad inside jokes; even in the diviest restaurants or glitziest of settings we always have a good time laughing, catching up, and making general fools of ourselves. Collectively we've had plenty of great meals in Shanghai, but we have one constant fallback, whenever disappointed or unable to decide, at 7PM before heading out or 3AM with eardrums ringing we always find our way to Bellagio or Charmant. Between noodles, lu rou fan, the infamous mayo/shrimp/you tiao dish, there is something to please everybody; the price-point means that all of us, whatever the income bracket, can pig out guilt-free and really just get down to the business of merriment. They are our Peach Pit and our Central Perk all wrapped into one, my meals there are always full of joy and hopefully will be for many years to come. That, to me, is what makes it so unfailingly memorable.”
Brian Tan (House of Flour / Hof / C Cafe):
"Consistency is rare in this city. It's rarer still to have a Michelin-starred chef who actually cooks. That's why I pick Stiller's. His sous vide beef cheeks, coq au vin and foie gras are all out of this world."
"This is one of those questions I have trouble answering. Its like asking me what's my favorite breath ever taken. So I’ve got three. First, my daughter visited me here for a while, so every meal with her was special. Next, I was at home having crab with my girlfriend. I felt like I was back home in the islands for a while. Third, this year's upcoming Christmas Dinner, if Jah spares my life until then…”
Peter Zhou (Executive Chef, Hyatt on the Bund)
"In October, I attended this cooking competition sponsored by Food & Wine Magazine. I had this amazing dish by a guy named He Bin, the chef at the Haihong Hotel way up north in Hongkou. He called it his "signature snakehead fish". Really tasty! He slices the fish paper-thin."
Kenneth Walker (Owner Bubba’s BBQ):
"I stumbled across a fantastic xiao long xia place called Xia Man Tang on Jianhe Lu across from the Brilliance West Shopping Mall. I found it because I noticed a line forming at the place nightly in the late summer and the restaurant would actually put about a dozen chairs out front for people waiting for a table. If you didn't get there before 6 pm, or maybe even 5.30, you could face a two-hour wait. Inside were huge crawfish, the biggest I've seen in Shanghai, served in a couple different sauces, like beer, curry, and a Chinese 13-spice concoction. The crawfish were so big you could eat the pinchers on most of them like lobster."
Michael Ohlsson (Dada):
"Since Shanghai failed to impress me with even one meal this year, my winner goes to Taste Of Yunnan in Nanjing. It's worth the 70 minute train ride. It's tucked up on the 2nd floor of a golf driving range, but inside it's a gorgeous but laid-back Yunnan restaurant, with genuinely friendly service. Every dish we had was great, but the super star was the crossing bridge pork ribs -- slightly crispy outside, with tender meat full of juice and soft warmth, and easy to pull off with chopsticks. That was in spring, and I still think about this dish almost daily."
Franck Pecol (Franck / Le Petit Franck):
"My best meal in Shanghai for 2010 was a lunch session with some good friends (wine lovers), (lunch started at 1 in the afternoon and finished at 11pm) we had some very special wines, and I cooked some simple dishes, best ingredients found through my network of suppliers (fresh oysters from Britany, raw scallops, Aussie beef on charcoal BBQ in the garden, raw milk cheeses...)"
Kelley Lee (Boxing Cat, Cantina Agave, The Alchemist... :
"My best meal of 2010 is a hard call. Often though, I find that the most memorable meals are not always what we consider the "best". The most recent was a date at home with 10 hairy crabs, homemade nước mắm and movies. Enough said.”
Feng Jianwen (Southern Barbarian):
"The Kitchen Salvatore Cuomo. It was my son's birthday and we had so much pizza and wine. It was fantastic."
Nat Alexander (Fulton Place):
“Compared to my previous years in Shanghai, 2010 has probably been my worst year for getting out due to opening Fulton Place and being busy with that. As a result my best meals have been as much about circumstance as the food. Late night wontons at Y-Y's have been a semi regular post-work dinner and over several visits we've found that they go very well with wine, including Champagne on my birthday. Another unlikely wine-food combo has been Wulumuqi Lu guotie and shengjian bao (the best I've had that aren't Xiao Yang's) with some of the best Australian Pinot Noir (Bass Phillip). Delicious.”
Dan Bignold (Editor in Chief, Drink Magazine):
"In truth I have only been out for dinner about three times this year so my reference points may not be well enough developed for this kind of question, but the best food, in pure terms of cooking and flavor, was Table No.1. But the biggest surprise for me in terms of being a solid, all-round package – decently executed cooking, menu matching the ambiance exactly, and sharp service – was Dakota. The third place was KFC or something so I can't mention that."
Rudy Guo (Manager, Osteria / Oyster Afficionado):
“Can I pick three? First, Mr & Mrs Bund - I went to try this crazy late night deal they had from 11 to 4am, 200rmb - 2 course set! It was one of the most memorable meals of my life, and one of the best deals anywhere in the world. And you get two-for-one drinks during dinner! It’ll be my number one dining spot for taking out of town guests. Second, Goga. Chef Brad is just simply awesome! Great to see a great chef in action cooking with passion, we let him choose the menu for our group of 10, my wife loves his signature Asian inspire salad and my favorite was his Chinese kobe steak with purple potato & taro puree - wow that's local inspiration that I LOVE! And third, Madison. Chef / owner Austin Hu is just a lovable host! I had brunch there with my family along with 2 chefs friend from Canada. Their house-made bread basket and home fries were tasty!”
Jamie Barys (Executive Editor, Shanghai TALK):
"The best meal I had all year was at Kappo Yu in August. While the menu is always up to snuff, that particular week's seven course menu triumphed with the best grilled black cod I've ever had the pleasure of putting in my mouth. In hopes that this won't be just another culinary one-night stand, I will continue to stalk Kappo Yu for the moment this dish arrives back on the menu in 2011.”
"My best meal this year in Shanghai has been no doubt at Goga. The dishes we ate all outstanding. I really like his Hawaiian-California style with sharp flavors: Tuna, prime beef steak with potatoes and candied bacon, the lobster roll sandwich, carpaccio semi-cooked with soya, ginger, chili and lime. Apart from being a great chef Brad is a very fun chartacter. I love his Hawaiian shirts and 90s music.”
Philippe Huser (Napa / Chalet Suisse):
"I would say for me the best meal experience this year was in the countryside of Shanghai, near Sheshan. I don’t remember the name of the restaurant, but it was very local. The food was great, but that’s not why it was my meal of the year. I brought with me a beautiful wine (and proper wine glasses!!!) to pair with the food. Amazing. It was a mature Burgundy Premier Cru (Nuits Saint Georges, Clos des Forets 1999 from Domaine de L'Arlot) and it seemed to be just made for the dishes! The richness and relative sweetness of some of the dishes (like Hongshao Rou) balanced perfectly with the fresh red fruit and pronounced acidity of the wine. I couldn’t believe how perfect it was! A wine that was made 11 years ago in Burgundy seemed to be born to be paired with Chinese countryside food! Not to mention the amused looks of the staff that never saw such high and huge round glasses! I gave them some wine to taste and they seemed to enjoy it. But they still couldn’t get over the fact that we would want to drink out of those huge and very unpractical glasses. It made the experience all the more unforgettable.”
Paul Granville (Malone’s):
“First of all, Goga. Brad's style of cooking really does it for me. Simple, fresh, clean. Add a Turley Twist and that's some good eating. His love for food shows with every plate that comes to the pass and never in the years that I have known the big man have I had a bad meal or had to send anything back. This town needs more Turleys and my wife and I look forward to Goga 2 on the patio when it opens early next year. Then, Avalon. I've been several times and, as with Goga, they really care about what goes on your plate. Little touches like the fresh baked bread with bacon bits studded throughout. The Amuse Bouche (that even Kelley Lee admitted to stealing an idea or two from in a recent interview in City Weekend). The 48-hour slow cooked pork belly, the pork ribs, the hazlenut mash. The list goes on.”
Matt Robinson (Windows Scoreboard):
“About six years ago my Dad came to visit me here and I took him to New Heights for dinner. This was when Brad Turley was running the kitchen. My Dad raved about it. He visted me this year and was still raving about it, so I took him to Goga. Now, for the sake of full disclosure, I’m good friends with Brad. But still, it was a great experience. I didn’t even have to look at the menu. He just brought stuff out to us until we told him to stop. Awesome.”
Monica Liau (Food & Drink Editor, That’s Shanghai):
“I can’t choose an entire meal, so is it okay to just choose dishes? The sashimi plate at Mondo Sushi in Zhongshan Park, where the chef is a Nazi but knows his shit. Peppers stuffed with pumpkin and goat cheese and garnished with pomegranate seeds at Maya. Taiwanese beef noodles and cold tofu at Let’s Noodle. The Pavlova at
Zoe Clarke, Business Development Manager, Sherpas):
“This was actually harder than I thought it would be to write. I was thinking of writing some fluffiness about the delicate brininess of the tuna mousse which reminded me of a gentle sea breeze with a pinch of pepper. Then I started with some comparisons to Egghead Bagels with a hangover but I'm sure that would offend Mr. Pairet. Then came some drivel about some meal I had in France 20 years ago when I was eight years old, with my under-developed taste buds, so I scrapped that part as well so below is the pared down version:
‘My best meal of the year was easily Mr & Mrs Bund. It's a great restaurant with amazing food, wine list, service and location plus a cool soundtrack, too. I can't wait to go back there for my last dinner of 2010 in Shanghai!’”
Geoff Ng (Dining Editor, City Weekend / Obscure Sports Enthusiast):
"I had plenty of good meals this year, but Jing'an holds a special spot on the list. Everything is top notch there: some of the best service in town, excellent food and a good wine list. They have this foie gras with smoked chocolate ice cream appetizer that just sings -- it's super decadent but it's also topped with a potato chip that gives it texture and a sweet/savory combination I love. Pair it with a glass of NV Taylor's port. The two complement each other just about as well as anything I've had.”
Marc Johnson (Executive Chef, Fulton Place):
“I live and work on Yongjia Lu, so when we first opened the restaurant, I didn’t leave it very much. Then one night I went to Lei Garden in Pudong with a few friends. It almost seemed like a vacation. Irene, a friend from Hong Kong, ordered spot on. Roasted pork...like crack. Soup of the day was pork pancreas...surprisingly awesome. Fried fish head...damn good. Baby ducklings...yeah, baby ducklings are good. All in all just really well executed Cantonese food with good friends. Second place: Thanksgiving at KIN. 32 people, 2 turkeys and a huge spread of food. Me carving and eating a lot of heavily seasoned, well-cooked turkey.”
Brad Turley (Goga):
“I really love the Chicken Methi and black daal at Kebabs on the Grille. I only had it for delivery once or twice, but when it’s done right, I just want to pour it all over me. It has a fragrance of fenugreek and black cardamom that is insanely good.”
David Laris (Yucca, Fat Olive, Purple Onion, Downstairs ...):
“If I had to pick a best meal in Shanghai for 2010 and if I stay away from the usual chef answer and say my favorite little local noodle or Xiao Long Bao shop, I would have to say it was my 41st birthday dinner at Mr & Mrs Bund, I had a bunch of my close friends, literally 30 bottles of Champagne and all of Paul's signature dishes, in particular his rib, which never fails to disappoint. It was an old-school orgy of food and bubbles and has to stick in my mind as my favorite dinner in Shanghai from 2010. It was preceded by a limo ride over there and several bottles and ended with me in a food and Champagne coma in Bar Rouge at whatever early hour of the morning. If I had to pick a second it would be Table No. 1, it is great to have Jason's touch in town."
... Many thanks to all who contributed. Happy Holidays!