Looking back on the restaurant openings that made a difference in Shanghai this year. This is our list of the city's top five new restaurants.
For years, I could count on one hand how many restaurants in China were worth waiting in line for. Thanks to Five Star, I have to start counting on the other hand now, too. This is probably the best Hainanese chicken rice I've had in town. Owner Xander Ang's recipe yields a rich, succulent, tender bird with an irresistibly fragrant bowl of chicken stock-infused ji you fan. What's more, Five Star isn't just a one-trick-pony. Their kaya toast slathered with a mix of coconut, egg, and pandan syrup and is to die for. As is their teh tarik, or "pulled tea." Order all three with some sambal stir-fried water spinach and thank me later.
Take a look at our user reviews. You'll see that LL has its fair share of lovers and its haters. That just goes with the territory when you're a popular restaurant. I fall in the former category. I could do without the DJ booth, but pretty much everything else about this place is solid, especially the "from scratch" ethos the drives the place. Plenty of places bake their own bread, but how many other restaurants around town make their own bacon and sausage? Moreover, in a city glutted with pizza, these guys do a truly standout pie. And the beers. Don't even get me started. Brew Master Michael Jordan has truly turned a corner, with an ever-changing selection of saisons, IPA's, stouts, and Belgian-style brews.
I didn't even want to tell you guys about this one. There are nine seats here, and every new convert to this place is one less seat I can get when I want to on primo sushi. Thankfully for you, I don't get paid shit. So it's a moot point. If you've got the coin, don't miss out. Chef Kunio Aoki's sushi is pure artistry, with helpings of tender braised octopus, pungent mackerel, and salmon roe sprinkled with yuzu zest. He also surprises with servings of Japanese red-haired crab served with a wedge of lime or grilled bream with purple pickled ginger shoots. Then sometimes it's just the simplicity of crunchy, chewy slices of cherry wood-smoked daikon, which, incidentally, is a fantastic match with a selection from Aoki's excellent sake collection.
Restaurateur John Liu made this list two years ago with his first restaurant, Scarpetta. His sophomore effort, a French seafood bistro, is no less impressive. That's thanks in no small part to his recruitment of Chef Anna Bautista, who enjoys some Michelin cred from her stint at Madera in northern California. What makes Coquille great is its ability to make staid standards of the French canon seem brand new. Much of the menu is gracefully suffused with the flavors of Southeast Asia, like escargots with red curry, lemon grass-ginger butter and kaffir lime leaf or yellowtail tartare marinated in coconut milk and lime juice with cucumber, and apple. And where the menu skews more traditional it stands out with fresh, top quality ingredients and unique presentations.
1. Villa le Bec
This was, with out a doubt, the opening of the year. The fact that it even opened in the first place is an impressive feat. Renowned chef Nicolas le Bec shocked many a food enthusiast when he abruptly shut down his two Michelin-starred restaurants in Lyon, France, announcing plans to go east to Shanghai. And after two years past, many of us here in Shanghai were beginning to wonder if he was going to follow through on his word. But after a fire and several months of bureaucratic limbo, Villa le Bec opened phase one, a bistro named Bistro 321 le Bec, with pretty spectacular results. le Bec has created a menu that is reverent toward tradition—think: classic forcemeat focused dishes like paté en croute or bavette au poivre—but eager to experiment with local ingredients and flavors—think roast pigeon in a caramelized soy glaze. Pair that with a beautiful century old villa on a serene tree-lined street, and you've got a clear winner. Now, lets see what they do with phase two, their upcoming fine dining concept.
For more of our year-end content, check out:
2014: Best And Worst Shanghai Art
2014: Best And Worst Music/Events
2014: China's Best Albums
2014: Shanghai's Favorite Eats And Drinks
2014: Best User Review Quotes
2014: Best Flyers
2014: Worst Flyers
2014: The F&B Memorial Reel