Once again, we turn the tables on the people we spend the rest of the year writing about: Shanghai chefs, restaurateurs and other tastemakers. Here's a rundown of their most memorable meals of the year....
George Chen (Owner, Roosevelt Prime):
"Hate to say it...there is a lot of good if not occasionally great Chinese food here and almost none of the chefs/food personalities you posted last year mentioned Chinese...that is truly sad as this is heart of China here. The Western food is very good here, but not world-class compared to SF, NYC, Paris, etc. That said, there are consistent winners for me and I go to these places every month or so like Spring (Chun) for home cooking, Jesse for traditional Shanghai fare, Fook Lam Moon for Cantonese, Jia Jia (old store) for xiaolongbao, etc. But if it was one meal (or 2) this past year has to be a tie between Kappo Yu and Ippoh. Both are Japanese and expensive (1500rmb+ per person) but both chefs personally wowed me with some real innovation with finesse when they personally cooked for my wife and me. I think it is the personal touch of the chef that people really like...GoGa with Brad behind the stoves daily is a great example!"
Hilary Ambrose (Chef/Owner, Modernist):
"Best meal of the year in Shanghai, that's a race between four things (not in any particular order):
1. My first experience at Cuivre - We had risotto, snails, pork and a salad, I think. I enjoyed it because it was a refreshing and surprisingly tasty meal, you don't really have those every time you go out.
2. A surprised home cooked breakfast - It was something & something with something, but it was real nice...
3. Uhh, when I first tried the homemade bagels from City Shop. I don't know if I had a craving for bagels, but it pretty good.
4. Di Shui Dong (if thats how you spell it) on a regular basis."
Jamie Barys (Managing Editor, Talk Magazine):
"Too many to name just one: an impromptu dinner party after a particularly fruitful trip to the Jiashan Farmer's Market, the brunch at Madison that time Austin got happy shaving some white truffles, the many many times the eggwich at Alchemist pulled me back from the brink, Amelia's bacon and homemade ketchup sammies straight out of the oven, an epic oyster feast at the Waldorf's Long Bar... Dammit! Now I'm hungry."
Kelley Lee (Partner, The Alchemist, Boxing Cat and Cantina Agave):
"Since I have the fleeting memory of a goldfish, I can only give my best recent meal. Too many in the past year to mention I suppose. The best meal that I've had in a long time was our late night Chef's dinner at Madison on Thanksgiving night. Maybe it was the exhaustion of having worked a 16 hour day, those 2 bottles of wine or 3 whiskeys that I had, seeing all my old chef friends together again at the long Thanksgiving table at 2am, the potluck mishmash leftovers from everyone's restaurant dinner, watching Brad Turley literally wheel in 2 expo food warmers from down the street, let's not forget Austin's Turduken Frankenstein, all the love and shit talk at the table and in the kitchen, nostalgia from old times past. These are the times in Shanghai that I will miss the most."
Nat Alexander (Former Owner, Fulton Place):
"In no particular order, the wife and I went to Sushi Haru for my birthday, had a fantastic dinner – omekase and ate till I was full, which I know isn’t the approach one is meant to take to sushi, but I am greedy, ok? The irreverent Haru (I assume that is the main man) and his staff are great, really good fun and they make for a fantastic evening.
The weekend after we closed Fulton Marc took Stephanie, Scott Lau (the designer of FP), our Canadian cook Newman and me to Lei Garden – now, I know Marc included this last year but that place really does run rings around pretty much any other Cantonese place in town. Forget about your expensive fish and immoral marine offcuts, go simple there and the quality shines through (tip: their corkage isn’t unreasonable – we took our own and drank very well). Finally, and certainly not least, it was wonderful to rediscover the pleasure of a home-cooked dinner with Stephanie. The pleasure of food is as much about situation and people and it’s very telling that my favourite meals this year were due to the people I shared them with and the reasons behind them."
Austin Hu (Chef/Owner, Madison):
"As most people who are familiar with me know, I don't really get out that much to eat. And I've always been of the opinion that who you eat your meals with are as important to the meal as the food itself. So for my vote for best meal of the year goes to a 2AM Thanksgiving gorgefest at my shop. It was composed of numerous friends, many of the hospitality inclination and for me epitomized what Thanksgiving is all about, great food and great friends. At one point there were four professional chefs and a restaurant owner in my kitchen cranking out food for about twenty of us. The tables were set by a combination of wine suppliers, restaurant managers, and food writers. Needless to say, wine flowed, food was devoured, and holiday cheer was in full effect. I can't ask for anything more than that."
Howard Quan (Owner, Avalon):
"As an operator of a restaurant, I do not get out to eat as much as I once did. Saying that, the very few times that we did go out for dinner. The occasion that I remember was at Fulton Place. They were very busy the evening we were there. We started off in the bar with some little plates and a few glasses of wine. Then moved to a table where we had a great meal. Their pork plate appetizer was fantastic with different textures and flavors. The lamb two ways was great and the presentation sublime. Nat and the gang were very hospitable and provided a very enjoyable evening out.
My wine moment of the year was a vertical of Mouton Rothschild at the restaurant. We had a tasting of 84, 87, 88, 85 and 86 vintages!! The 86 was a 100pt Parker wine. Not too often where you can try this level of wine at one sitting!!"
Monica Liau (Food and Drink Editor, That's Shanghai Magazine):
"Once again, I’m going to go with dishes instead of an entire meal because, well, I’m food-centric. The gorgeous cod napped in a cream sauce at The 5 Tables Bistro made me incredibly happy even though I was eating alone. The homemade chicken meat balls with the quail egg in the center at Kota’s Kitchen – I could eat a million if they didn’t send my cholesterol through the roof. Lurou Fan at Taibei Yongkang. Succulent grilled rack of black pig at Cuivre. Little fish stewed in a curry stock with chewy handmade potato noodles (RMB93) at Kongque. The entire experience at Kappo Yu – wish I could afford it more often. Oh, and those dainty little salted caramel macarons at la Maison du Macaron – yum."
"I always have a hard time answering this question because most of my eating is done outside of Shanghai. I don't get out to often in Shanghai. The most memorable experiences for me this year are:
Favorite Meal Experience: There were 3 occasions this year when I got to cook with my friends/colleagues. The coming together of the Shang-'HAI-5' cooking & celebrating life (looking forward to more this coming year!). The five chef series at the Park Hyatt, an elegant evening with six of the city's best in the beautiful Park Hyatt. The sommelier matched 12 courses w unique & exciting wines. Finally, Thanksgiving at Madison (after hours)- nothing says holiday more than friends & family gathered around a massive table with the best potluck turkey dinner with all the fixings!
Most inspiring dish: Tim's Kitchen in Plaza 66. Their take on a dried mushroom dish keeps me salivating, no matter how dehydrated I am.
Best food eaten: Jean Georges. When he came to visit last April, every dish was so flavorful and it just kept coming. That ties with a farewell lunch for my nephew at el Willy, again, everything was just so flavorful and each dish brought out an emotion of mmmmmm n aahhh!!
Best brunch: Jade on 36, all the luxury goodies you want to eat! Free-flow champagne, amazing cheese selection and fresh, great tasting food and great ice cream!"
David Brode (Chef/Partner, Osteria, The Plump Oyster):
"Shanghai is a difficult place to pin-down "the best," and I feel passe to include xiaolongbao, but who cares? My favorite meal this year was my second day in Asia, at Fu Chun, flying solo, ordering XLB. Delicious!
I have to include for Western food, Brad Turley's Goga is the most enjoyable, and el Willy has some of the best flavors around. Yet another standby, and one of my other favorite meals is "zhu pa bao" (猪扒包) at Pujing Cha on Wujiang Lu. Fried pork, roasted onions, super-crispy bread roll. Killer!"
Rheanna McGhee (Executive Chef, The Apartment):
"A table full of smiles, plates of raw meat and fresh veggies and all the beer you can drink at a good Hot Pot Restaurant (Gokohai) - you cant go wrong....Always my favorite."
Kyle Long (Partner/Guide, UnTour Shanghai):
"Factoring in convenience, the charcuterie plate at Franck gets my vote for most memorable food moment within stumbling distance of my house. And when I needed to relive my favorite dishes from a recent trip to Seoul, Ben Jia tickled my bulgogi bone like no other in (west) Shanghai could. Totally worth the trek. Also, my mother taught me not to ruin my appetite by snacking before dinner, but I seem to recall more than a few packs of Strictly Cookies flouting her sage words in 2011."
Gregoire Prouvost ("Idea Brewer," Cheers-In):
"My best meal in Shanghai in 2011 was at the Southern Barbarian on Jinxian lu with good friends visiting from France. It was the time we were almost ready to start Cheers In and were finishing to fill the shelves of the Yongkang lu shop. The great beers list of the restaurant was also an inspiration and an occasion to taste new brews. Yunnan cuisine with trappist beers and IPA, this is Shanghai, definitely THE world-city! Cheers!"
Gerardo Casamiquela (Partner, Mistral, Bikes & Friends, Toro Loco and Rico Rico):
"My best meals in 2011 started early... I get out of home at around 7am and will go running around the French Concession, when my legs can't run no more I usually do a "pit stop" at Nanjing Tangbao, a street food, hole-in-the-wall, family owned Nanjing Xiaolongbao specialist on the corner of Jianguo Lu and Gao'An Lu, those Pork XLB after running for an hour, drinking Mountain Dew while reading Shanghai Daily are FANTASTIC!
Another memorable meal and great discovery this year were the Fried Chicken and Curry at Cha's at Sinan Lu."
Geoff Ng (Dining Editor, City Weekend):
"Thanksgiving was definitely the meal of the year. I'm not American, so the holiday's never been a big deal to me, but I got invited to a potluck dinner with a bunch of other F&B folks and it was just nuts: plate after plate of some of the best turkey and stuffing (and Brussels sprouts) I've ever had, all slathered in criminally rich gravy. Great food, great company. Going to be hard to top that for a while."
Robb Pollard (Managing Director/Founder, Collective Concepts):
"Tough call to pick out a single meal as my number 1 for 2011... I do love the comforts of my own home and having my housemate/philanderer/ Argentinian on the BBQ grill cooking a big joint of beef for a big crew of us on a drunken Sunday afternoon. I also enjoyed a Team outing to Mr & Mrs Bund recently, food was excellent as was the service and company!"
Brian Tan (Owner, House of Flour, Hof, Tang Pin):
"Hao Chu in Xujiahui. This place is great and deserves more attention. I love their lamb belly clay pot (served in the winter). The crispy pork is great too, but be sure to reserve a dish, because it usually sells out before 8pm. Also, there is their oyster in clay pot(only available during autumn). Also, don't miss their Haochu Pao Fan, their signature soupy shrimp risotto."
Scott Melvin (Head Chef, Table No. 1):
"I’ve eaten in many great restaurants over the years and you could say as a chef, the most important thing is the food, and you wouldn't be wrong, but sometimes it's about location. It's about the people you’re with or even the occasion. It's about the small things, like having the service staff notice you!
When BRMC were performing at Mao Livehouse, myself, my girlfriend and her brother who was in town for a visit from South Africa had a meal at Boxing Cat (Sinan Mansions) - what a great start to an amazing night! Their ribs (simple food done well!) and beer followed by a rocking concert
And arguably the best meal was at Table No.1 when my parents visited and ate at the restaurant. Being Head Chef, it's probably the first time they really tasted my food! I was really nervous but the boys in the team did great...my parents loved it and it puts an emotional side to things."