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2014: Shanghai's Favorite Eats & Drinks

We asked Shanghai chefs, restaurateurs, and other Shanghai F&B industry insiders what their favorite meals and drinks of 2014 were.
Last updated: 2015-11-09

Jamie Barys, Chief Eating Officer, UnTour Shanghai

"This was an excellent year for restaurant openings in Shanghai, and several of these newcomers accounted for the best meals of my 2014: Moules night at Pirata with a couple too many jugs of sangria, those green-lipped monster mollusks and some good company; the first time I tried the venison tartare at Coquille; a bottle of Lambrusco and the Coreano pizza on Bottega’s patio on one of the last warm days of the year. I also had some great meals from old favorites, like the “introduction” degustation menu at Napa Wine Bar & Kitchen from their new Danish chef. And for a little dessert: my first Strictly Cookies’ Snack Pack back when it was just a cookie of the month in April."

Sean Jorgensen, Executive Chef Liquid Laundry & Boxing Cat Brewery

"Most of my meals are eaten in the back hallway of Liquid Laundry, because that's as far as my leash allows. In the rare opportunities I get to have meals that are for enjoyment—not just to keep the machine going—I surround myself with friends. Whether it be late night yakitori street side with Austin and Sandy, steaks at Fifty 8º Grill with Turley and Dave, Ultraviolet with Kelley, Duck, Gaylen, and Oakley, or Ajiya with Anna, sometimes it isn't about the food but the time spent unwinding, complaining about business, or simply getting our feed on, after all that's what it's all about, right? Good time spent with good people. As I said, I don't get off the leash much, and there's a whole lotta places if like to eat...but most of the time you'll find me wrapped around a bourbon at either Senator or Union...drink up, bitches."

Brian Tan, Founder, HoF

"Old-world classic omakase at Maison Asano and the modern Omakase at Aoki; the duck with foie Gras at Coquille; baba au rhum at Paris Rouge."

John Liu, Owner, Coquille & Scarpetta

"It was my birthday. Chef Lin from Pirata brought an entire paella pan over for me, cooked just how I like it: nice and crisp at the bottom. Chef Brian Tan from HoF made two desserts. He also used Iberico ribs to make bakuteh from spices his mother brought from Malaysia. I made Iberico ribs two ways. My best friend and I made suckling pig. It was epic. Truly."

Dominic Ngai, Dining Editor, City Weekend

"One word: Ultraviolet. This wasn’t just a meal but also a performance, with the dishes serving as individual chapters of a very intriguing story. There are so many moving parts, but they all come together to form a cohesive plot line. The experience was so satisfying; it was almost like I had just devoured a great book (or an entire season of House of Cards) in one sitting."

Anna Bautista, Executive Chef, Coquille & Scarpetta

"It would have to be the dim sum and the must-have crispy suckling pig at Imperial Treasure (on pre-order / half or whole, served two ways). The skin is served Peking duck-style with hoisin sauce, soft bun, leeks and chili. Meat and bones are then all chopped and wok-fried with chili, garlic, salt and pepper.

Reason: Its just GOOD. It's always a great excuse to get a group of people together just so you can order a bunch of things. To top it off, for the quality of ingredients, the atmosphere and surprisingly really good's truly a great bang for your buck."

Stefan Lange, Owner, Fat Mama

"French blue mussels in Sichuan broth at Petit Seafood Bistro. I dislike fusion with a passion. Don't do it if you are not Narisawa or Nobu. Any fresher and the mussels would be dancing French Cancan. The Sichuan broth numbs your mouth for just a second without killing their fragrance. Every time I had them they were perfectly cooked.

A burger special that Sean Jorgensen did at Liquid Laundry:
Two kinds of slowly roasted pork meat, baked apple slices, Sriracha mayonnaise, sweet pickles, some sort of green to soak up the fat (sounds weird but it was one of the best parts) on a bun that was slightly crispy INside and soft OUTside. I'm may be Sean's biggest, fan but when it comes to pork you cannot beat that guy."

Rob Jameson, General Manager, Maya & Mayita

"I hand-carried a ridiculous wedge of Cropwell Bishop Blue Stilton lumped together with a handy spread of unsalted Lurpak butter served on a M&S water biscuit. One week later and halfway into my stupidly big wedge, I opened the fridge at 3am, and my wife happened to buy herself some plump red imported Napa grapes. BINGO! Tock’s thin fries poutine with cheesy goodness and smoked meat shavings topped with awesome gravy has to equal it."

George Chen, Owner, Roosevelt Prime Steakhouse

"The most interesting meal I had all year in Shanghai was hosted by Desmond Chang of Homebase fine China fame. There were some real creative dishes that were original enough to be inspirational. My favorite was a sea cucumber draped with a braised cabbage and sauce perfumed with black really worked. Another was Wagyu beef cheeks with infused smoke and Laphroaig whiskey. Even a hand-pulled tomato broth ramen dish was simply classic and tasty."

Nat Alexander, Former Brand Manager, ASC Fine Wines

"One dish I've eaten a lot of times that I can't help ordering is the "tachos" (tater tot nachos) at Union Trading Company. I've usually already had dinner and have no need for more food, but they go so well with strong brown drinks. I've also convinced myself they mitigate the hangover, so I have another justification."

Fung Lam, Co-Owner, Fortune Cookie

"David, my business partner, and I only give ourselves one night off per week unless it's a very special occasion, so I haven't been able to eat too many meals away from Fortune Cookie.

My most memorable meal this year—and perhaps will be one for the rest of my life— was at a small Shanghainese restaurant called Xiao Bai Hua (小白桦). It was perhaps my third or fourth time there but, this time was very different.

My family was in town from America, and so was my girlfriend's family from England. It was right around Thanksgiving, and we decided to show our families one of our favorite local Shanghainese restaurants.

The food is pretty good and the owners are great people. However, it's really our favorite because almost to the day two years ago, we met each other there. It was a big group dinner hosted by a mutual friend. We hit it off and the rest, they say, is history.

Anyway, I showed up a little late to the family dinner, and I asked my girlfriend to meet me outside in that small courtyard area. She came out a little annoyed that I was late. I asked her to marry me right then and there. She was totally shocked and ecstatic. The best part was that our families were right there to celebrate!"

Monica Liau, Former Food & Drink Editor, That's Shanghai

Every year, Shanghai gives me more to fall in love with. That cheeky octopus and hummus salad at Pirata, crowned with fennel and touched up with white balsamic. Chi-Q's ridiculous mandoo, stuffed with kimchi and foie gras. Languorous curls of pasta at Bottega, laced with anchovies and crunchy breadcrumbs. Five Star Hainan chicken, falling off the bone and scarfed up with fat-laced rice and, for good measure, toast slathered in kaya butter. Escargot at Coquille, swimming in that kaffir lime, lemongrass and ginger-laced butter. Not to mention all of those ridiculous dim sum extravaganzas at Tao Heung, where the table played host to more durian puffs and chicken feet than people. Oh, and watching my best friend eat her first drunken hairy crab at Jesse's. Priceless.

Fanny Cervera, Co-Founder, Cuivre & T for Thai

"My best dinner this year was at Jade on 36, when Franck Eli was still chef. We were six people on a Sunday night and wanted to try his new a la carte dishes. Franck Eli sent us an eight-course set menu. I don’t remember every thing that we tried, but I remember the scallops in a glass jar full of smoke served with mackerel. The all experience was WOW. It is a shame that he left, because I think that he was the best chef in Shanghai for fine dining."

Daniel Taytslin, Co-Founder, Gotham East Spirits

“Drinking here, I could be in London.” New products and venues, increasingly creative bartenders and curious consumers, Shanghai’s drinks scene is “growing up,” remarked one of my brand owners on a recent visit. One real sign of maturity is that bartenders are dipping into the Chinese pantry to create drinks unlike anything anywhere else. Before leaving MaltFun to helm Barules, Sam Kuan created my favorite drink of 2014, a flip based on silky, botanical Citadelle gin, accented with malty Jenever, Taiwanese Osmanthus Wine, Dandelion Burdock bitters, lemon sugar, and garnish of Chinese flowers and indigenous citrusy pepper. Shanghai is indeed growing up; it’s also without equal. Cheers to a wet 2015!"

Jason Oakley, Chef de Cuisine, Fifty 8º Grill

"Hai: Brad Turley’s foie gras bread pudding with confit duck and red wine sauce. One of the only dishes I ate this year and thought, "I should exercise more!"
Villa le Bec: Pate en croute. Great flavor, technique and execution of a classic.
Ultraviolet: Oyster. The appearance of a shelled oyster cracked open to find oyster brine and caviar while the aroma of the seaside was piped in was great."

Christopher Pitts, Chef de Cuisine, Table No. 1

"It would have to have been at my birthday this year in January. My girlfriend did a great job organizing a surprise birthday party with a bunch of friends at the now defunct Teotihuacan, what she failed to organize was who was bringing my birthday cake. Turns out half the people decided it was their duty and I ended up with 5 full size cakes. Lots of cake was had by all, and I've told her for next year I expect at least 6."

Brad Turley, Chef and Owner, Goga, Hai, Market 101

"In January, my very good friend from high school came to visit with his wife. He'd never been here before. We went to JG on a Tuesday night. It was low season, there was a table on the other side of the room. It felt like we had our own private dining room! Chef Paul came out and spoke with us and cooked some special dishes. My friend and his wife were very impressed. It was awesome. I felt like a big shot. We had a great time."

Kelley Lee, Partner, Cantina Agave, Liquid Laundry, Sproutworks

"After a particularly grueling weekend late night after work I was telling one of my managers, Laine, about how long it's been since I had one of my favorite Filipino dishes sisig. It's basically chopped up pig's head, brain and everything served up on a sizzling metal plate with chopped onions, cracked egg, fresh chili, and calamansi. The next day after brunch service, Laine walked up and told me she had a delivery coming. She'd ordered me some sisig from a local restaurant making Filipino food! When it came, I introduced the dish to Eddie, our GM and we scarfed it down in the back office of LL. While it might not have been the best sisig I've had, or even the most extravagant meal all year, but I was touched by Laine's thoughtfulness after such a long week. When we think about our favorite meals, it should be about the people you were with, and what it meant to you. It's not always about what you ate. For me, that meal made me think about family, my Shanghai family, and how we always take care of our own."


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: Best New Restaurants
2014: Best User Review Quotes
2014: Best Flyers
2014: Worst Flyers
2014: The F&B Memorial Reel