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[Industry Nights]: Marc Johnson

Cracking, gnawing and slurping through SH with Marc Johnson of Humble Meats. Hidden izakayas, Sichuan crabs and Hi-Chews inside...
2013-01-10 14:36:11

Industry Nights is a semi-regular column featuring the haunts of chefs, restaurant owners, F&B managers, and other marginally sane people with good eating recommendations.

Marc Johnson's got a some impressive bullet points on his resume. He served in the kitchen of New York's Blue Hill before coming to Jade on 36 where he was a sous chef under Paul Pairet. After that, he opened the unfortunately short-lived Fulton Place, where he made some wicked head cheese.

Now, Johnson spends his days as an itinerant chef. Like Kane in Kung Fu, he roams Shanghai, hosting "pop-up" restaurants at random intervals in random places like Hai by Goga, The Grumpy Pig and even Munchies. And when he's not doing that, he magical pork products -- everything from pies to patés -- under his Humble Meats brand. You can usually purchase his wares at the Jiashan Market's bi-weekly bazaar.


Deng Ji Chuan Cai


"There are some great dishes at this Sichuan food spot but the real reason to come here is for the spicy crab. You pick out your live crab. It returns in pieces as a glistening mound of crustacean covered in a spicy sauce. It's a messy affair of cracking, gnawing and slurping. By the end I am chugging beer to cool my tongue while cleaning off specks of the sweat-destroyed napkins from my face. You think it is all done but then they bring out this noodle soup made with crab as an exclamation point to finish it all off."

Zheng Zheng Yin Shi


"When I first moved to Shanghai I lived across the street from this hole in the wall. Like every foreigner and chef, I was dumbfounded by the making of hand pulled noodles to the point that I thought the chef was a magician. The broth here is slightly tinged with curry flavor which adds some depth. They also have a good sliced boiled beef served cold with a bunch of coriander. I knew the place was a winner though when 3 different skittle colored Porsches rolled up and 3 dudes got out along with 3 girls dressed to the nine to eat 8rmb (price might have changed) noodles."

Bai Ba


"To my mind this is one of hundreds of cool izakayas littered throughout Gubei. They are hidden everywhere, waiting to be found. To find this funky izakaya you have to go past the prom queen karaoke hostesses on the second floor of this random building. The design is vaguely reminiscent of one of Jennifer Beals's dance sets in the the movie Flashdance. Once you get there though you are treated to tasty treats like sashimi, amiyaki wagyu beef, ramen, grilled chicken livers, simmered chicken with daikon, etc. The chef also gets in some seasonal dishes like matsutake mushrooms and special fish. He's pretty good at finding interesting ingredients. Always good; always fun."

Kedi / C-Store / Lawson


"Some people wake up in the morning after having a few too many and wonder who is sleeping next to them. I wake up, looking at a bunch of silver wrappers wondering what flavor of Hi-Chew I bought as I stumbled home. "Oh cool! It was a peach kind of night!" Some nights it's more of a Hi Chew fruit salad in which I buy multiple flavors including yoghurt flavor to make a fruity mix. This candy is the unequivocal exemplar of fake fruit candy flavors. Lately I've been good in controlling my addiction, but every once in a while I backslide."

Kappo Yu


"My favorite restaurant in Shanghai. Oyama, I love you too but the style of dining at Kappo Yu is my jam. Pull up to the bar, sit down and start sipping on some cold sake to watch Terada-san and crew serve up a wonderfully composed kaiseki-style dinner in a peaceful and relaxing setting. It's nice going into a place, leaving it in the hands of the chef and before you even start you know you are going to be pleased. I am always surprised when I recommend this place and people don't know it. People should know it."