Long story short: Big winners this year are street food and Anthologia, where an apparently legendary meal took place among several top chefs in the city. Read the stories and recommendations below, edited a little bit for spelling and grammar. We did our best. These are artists mostly unencumbered by the rules of grammar. Wonderfully so.
Michelle Garnaut, CEO - M Restaurant Group
"Hidden in a parking lot in Hongqiao, Sushi Naoki was a standout this year. You sit around a small sushi bar while Taiwanese sushi chef, Kevin Lin, serves you dish after dish of the most seasonal, fresh, and delicious sashimi, sushi, cold starters and warm dishes… those grilled baby squid, heaven!
…It’s all omakase and it’s all fabulous."
Carlos E. Sotomayor, Chef de Cuisine - Elefante
"There has been so many things going on this year that is difficult to say. But I remember back in June the initiative of Kim Melvin (Commune Social) and Jenny (Ginger by the Park) to try to gather many of us and go together experience Anthologia, night full of sake and enjoyment…
Thanks Justo (Pirata) and Lee (Boxing Cat): More sake please!!!!! Imagine 40 of us in a theater environment, music, visuals, limitless drinking and amazing food. Which led us to gather a couple of more times with memorable meals at Tai’an Table and Sabor. The latest gathering took place with us at the yearly Chefsgiving and all who came know how that one ended…
To our Shanghai F&B family, looking forward to a 2017 full of excitement!"
Bruno Ferrari - Chef & Founder of Bruno Ferrari Consulting
"Lynn : It's a fusion/modern style restaurant located at 99 Xikang Lu in Jing'an combining Shanghai traditional tastes and Cantonese way of cooking. It gives guests the feeling of creativity. Like the giant prawn tail how they prepare in Cantonese modern version, they mix the wasabi with mayonnaise and add melon on the side. When you taste it, it perfectly matches all the other flavors in your month. Another dish that amazes you is their slow cooked pork belly, Shanghai style. When you put it into your mouth, it just melts when you chew it -- you feel satisfied with it a lot. And also food here won't make you feel heavy so that you can try a lot of options.
But the important thing is the consistency of this restaurant, since the past 3 years the food still have the same consistent, taste, flavor, and quality."
Cat Nelson, Managing Editor - Time Out Shanghai
"I pretty much eat 10rmb Chongqing xiaomian in a Pudong car park on the daily and it’s the perfect meal. Other things I’ve eaten and loved in 2016: Kasper Pedersen at Pelikan made this insane turbot drenched in brown butter sauce with thyme and bitter sorrel. Maybe old news, but those rainbow-coloured xiaolongbao in Paradise Dynasty on the top floor of IAPM? Delicious. Actually, wacky-flavored soup dumplings really just did it for me in 2016 (exhibit b: the Sichuan lamb ones at Daimon Bistro, that new joint on The Bund by Alvin Leung).
Marc Johnson threw down some stellar vegetarian dishes during a Chef’s Table at EGG -- celtuce (莴笋) splattered with brown butter (maybe that’s the theme of my year) with toasted hazelnuts and an ultra-thick slick of yogurt. Out of control.
Oh, can we talk about booze, too? Greek bartenders The Clumsies made me want to holiday in Athens during their guest stint at 1515 West Bar with this insanely complex gin-based drink: chamomile, milk, honey and super sultry, earthy black truffle and smoky undertones – a meal in a glass. The Tom Khallins at Cobra Lily (basically the Thai soup, if you’re into that), a Crème Brulee drink at Revolucion and this new cocktail by Cross at E.P.I.C. that’s essentially a Funfetti cake covered in flowers."
Gonzalo Sainz, Head Chef - Sabor
"Most of the people think that chefs just eat in fine dinning restaurants but that's not even close to be true. We love places where we feel at home and where we can find true flavors. My top 5 will be: Tepito which is my favorite Mexican place in the city, and always a good option for lunch or dinner. For lunch also will recommend Mercado, they just opened, nice and fresh concept with a really good product. For brunch I don’t have any doubt, Elefante is the place, --there is not other place where I fell more relax that inside that tunnel in Donhu Lu. For dinner, I would say RAW -- amazing environment, great food and that Josper (charcoal oven) is enough reason to visit Juanito (chef) and Jon Iñaki (Manager). I will finish my list with any of the popups that Jenny G makes, I love her food and the way she shows as her hometown food."
Chef Jeremy Biasiol, Chef de Cuisine - Jade on 36
"I love exploring local places, which offers interesting flavors and textures that would inspire me in my cooking.
For one of Shanghai’s most authentic street food experience, I would head to Jinqiao in Pudong, which is near where I live, where I would be spoiled for choice with the array of street food on offer. Shao kao or street barbeque is my top choice for a lively experience with folding tables, plastic chairs and plumes of smoke carrying the irresistible aroma of sizzling seafood, meat and vegetable skewers paired with cold beer -- one of my favorite ways to wind down after a late dinner service.
Hot pot also features regularly on my to-eat place, you can find so many hot pot restaurants in Shanghai, but one of my favorite has got to my Holy Cow, my go-to place for high quality beef hotpot with a large variety of premium cuts. For local Shanghainese food, old Jesse is my top choice – Shanghainese home-cooking at its best – the Shanghainese braised pork and Yellow Croacker with Scallion Oil is out of this world."
Camden Hauge, Owner-operator - Egg
"My two most memorable meals of this year were at opposite ends of the spectrum -- the first was when around 40 chefs / owners invaded the newly-opened Anthologia. I would like to say that it started off as a civilized affair, but from the minute everyone was seated, Justo (Pirata) led a chorus of "more sake please!" every time a glass emptied. It was a loud, fun, messy celebration of those usually stuck behind the pass getting to celebrate a rare night off together. My other most memorable meal, equally dazzling but quietly refined and thought-provoking, was at Longjing Manor in Hangzhou. The restaurant is the ultimate OG in 'local + seasonal' -- they source almost all of their ingredients from farmers and suppliers within a drive from the traditional garden estate, listing all of the day's ingredients in a book guests are encouraged to examine. Everything is carefully prepared to draw out its essential flavors -- I never knew Chinese dishes could be so delicate + pure."
Daliah Spiegel, Chief Cat Lady In Charge - Daliah
"My best meal in Shanghai might also have been my worst. After a crazy night out (I will spare you the details) we bought ever item that seemed legit as well as every product that looked rather questionable from my trusted convenience store around the corner. We spread them all over my bed and ate like there's no tomorrow: a revelation was the non-perishable, vacuumed, sealed “astronaut-food” Tofu snack with mushrooms bits, as well as the variety of pickled, slightly spicy and mostly crunchy vegetable stuff that I would normally stay well clear of. Most of the rest was deceiving, but it was the kind of culinary adventure that makes life fun.
Now that I just outed myself as a true gourmet, I can continue raving about street food (especially Dan bing, Ci fan, Cong You Bing and of course Xiaolongbaos), as long as it looks clean and doesn't swim in too much old oil. If you want a more legit answer I regularly satisfy my mashed potato craving at Slurp... but in general I like exploring the city for local food rather than looking on food apps."
"Fu He Hui -- amazing how to bring Chinese vegetarian cuisine to the next level of refinement with lots of kinds of wild mushrooms, tofu and vegetables.
Anthologia -- great fun with Kabuki-style theater performance with visuals and contemporary Kaiseki cuisine.
Sabor -- great contemporary degustation menu with Spanish cuisine base. Perfect execution from chefs and front of the house."
"My most memorable meals of this year were dining at Hong Liao Li with my good friends from Henan and them introducing me to some tasty spicy pig's brain. In addition eating youtiao and Xian dou jiang at Taoyuan Village during the freezing cold months is always a winner. Nat's eclectic food at Yang Jing Bang always excites. Austin and Marc's awesome Banh Mi always reminds me of my years living in Vietnam. The chargrilled bread and foie gras at MMB on Bingo night was awesome. Finally a recent trip to Japanese Restaurant Adachi in Guyang Lu in Gubei eating the 350rmb set menu was an exceptional experience! Every dish was amazing! Drinks-wise Daniel's strong China China Sour he made for The Bar Beagle menu ticks all the right boxes!"
Ian L. (Personal Assistant to Xu Dongmei in the Love Bang Universe)
Best meals in 2016. Some highlights:
1. Every time I went to the Chaoshan Hotpot on Zizhong Lu that bumps techno all night.
2. The little Izakaya on Guyang Lu that serves the best tonkatsu in Shanghai.
3. Every single meal at Guan Guan Ji Muslim Restaurant, per Jackie's recommendation. That place is fire.
4. That white sauce pizza Nat Alexander is making. Look out for it at his new spot.
5. Every bahn mi from Saigon Mama. There were many.
6. Every hamburger from Nicholson's. Top class, that burger.
7. The chocolate salami at Luccio's on Danshui Lu, and every other dessert there. Tip!
I really wanted to go to The Cheesecake Factory in Disneyland with Handoogies, crush some chicken parm, and then walk back to the city center, but that never happened.
Christ Foste, The Rooster
"Here is my submission for the best meal of Shanghai 2017: Ughh... My stomach feels like it hasn't eaten in hours. The constant intake of liquid gold can only muffle the growls lurching from my once-bearded bowls. Must find sustenance to alleviate this ongoing spin-cycle....
I think it's here... Wait. Maybe this street. North? East? Zhang? Chang? This looks familiar. STREET CAT! COME HERE! Oh shit, there it is. Yisssss... Lady, you have the cure for this sir. NI HAO! Yao zhe ge, zhe ge, zhe ge, zhe ge hen duo, zhe ge, zhe ge. shi, shi, shi. xie xie. Yeah, that should be enough. The food gnomes hiding in my gut need something to munch on as well. Oh, hold on... LADY! Yao liang ping!
*Snarff* *glub* *glub* *snarff* *gulp* What is this? Did I order this? Doesn't smell that bad. *chompawomp* Yeah, that's what I'm talking about. Sweet and sour goodness. Savory meats with questionable origins. Something green because I'm f*cking healthy.
What is that ruckus? Damn! She hit him! Yeah, get in there, shi fu!
*nom* *nom* *nom* I can do this, I can finish it all...
Where is the bathroom? Other than the tree? Ok, fine.
The simplest of desires, late night Chinese food certainly leads to an interesting dining experience."
Christopher St. Cavish, Food Writer
[Ed's note: well played.]
Koen Vessies, Executive Chef - el Willy
"Asking me about my favorite meal in 2016 is like asking to choose between never having sex again or never eat again -- almost impossible to answer! As a chef you don’t get many chances to eat out since you are cooking most of the time yourself! Therefore when we get out we eat like pigs!
In 2016, I made several culinary trips abroad stuffing my face with almost anything I could find. I visited oyster farms in California, cooked my own catch in Australia, flew to Tokio and Hong Kong, had mussels and herring in my hometown Amsterdam and enjoyed my mum’s cooking.
The grass is always greener on the other side it looks like!
But then there is this tiny place just beneath my house on Yandang rd. Wei Xiang Zhai. Packed with people all the time, it caught my eye. After another exhausting lunch service, I elbowed my way in this busy place, and just pointed to what everybody else had on the table. “Sesame noodles” Májiàng miàn. I don’t now what it was, maybe I was just hungry but that bowl of noodles, sesame paste, scallions and spicy oil tasted so dammmn good!!! China should be proud of the great variety of their cuisine, hard to find elsewhere. The grass is not always greener on the other side!"
Betty Richardson, Food & Drink Editor, That's Shanghai
"2016 was the year I found out just how much seafood my body is capable of ingesting. Freddy Raoult at The Cannery is killing it. Those juicy smoked oysters? Made me a better human. Same with the black pepper crab, just be warned that it's messy -- I ate it with Shanghai Girl Eats and one of the staff came over to pick a piece of crab innard out of her hair. And they say service in Shanghai sucks…
A close second are the luxed out hairy crab noodles at Cerjerdary, which Chris St. Cavish has written about for you guys. Omg, I almost forgot about Union Trading Company's happy hour bar food. Their wagyu bacon cheeseburger is the best in Shanghai because they use processed American cheese singles, just like God intended. Defo the best 50rmb I ever spent."
Kim Melvin, Head Pastry Chef, The Commune Social
"After reading an article about the 40-seater Japanese restaurant Anthologia, an idea began to form in my head…. So I called up all my food and beverage industry buddies, and promptly booked out the whole place. Turns out it was great idea, not only did we get a show with your scrumptious meal, but with booking out the whole place, we got to swap seats and mingle. Be our rowdy selfs, and even got ganbei-ing away with their awesome staff, thus beginning a new tradition between us all, that has grown to include more friends, and the beginning of “checking out” the Shanghai restaurant scene with a similar like-minded group of people.
Restaurants that have had the “honor” of our misbehaved group, also include Tai’an Table by Stefan Stiller and Sabor by Diego Guerrero, they even went as far as opening on there off days to accommodate us, as so many of us F & B staff all have Monday’s off.
The group of friends I have made in shanghai over the years , their restaurants, and their staff have truly made 2016 a great year to be hungry."
Happy holidays, Shanghai. We wish you wonderful and plentiful eats in 2017.