Shanghai’s dining scene at times seems obsessed with Michelin stars. Any link, no matter how small, to a chef with a Michelin star may be used in promotional material to attract more diners.
Such tactics often work as many customers don’t realize the chef in question doesn’t actually work in the restaurant.
However, there are a number of restaurants in the city that have genuine links to Michelin stars like Jean Georges, Shang-Xi and Otto e Mezzo, says Da Guai, a famous food critic in town. He says such chefs introduce new ideas and thinking to the dining scene, especially in terms of creativity, ingredient sourcing and food consistency.
Otto e Mezzo is a new Italian restaurant on the Bund by chef Umberto Bombana, who was awarded three Michelin stars for his restaurant of the same name in Hong Kong. It has quickly become one of the most expensive and finest Italian restaurants in town.
“I concentrate on appreciating the beauty of nature and maximizing its flavors through knowledge, technique and passion,” Bombana says.
Celebrity chef Jean Georges Vongerichten’s Jean Georges has been open on the Bund for more than 10 years and is often credited with setting fine-dining standards in Shanghai.
Vongerichten is a three-star Michelin chef and has said his Shanghai outlet is one of his most profitable worldwide.
Some restaurants feature chefs who have worked under Michelin-starred chefs.
Andreas Fuchs, executive chef at Park Hyatt Shanghai, has worked with Alain Ducasse, Anne-Sophie Pic and Alain Passard — all influential chefs with Michelin stars — due to the hotel’s Masters of Food and Wine event, an annual weeklong series of Michelin star gala dinners. He has also worked in A Beauvilliers, a two-star Michelin restaurant in Paris.
“Working with these chefs has taught me about creativity and pairing ingredients,” Fuchs says.
“The upmost attention of detail to everything related to the dish is so important,” he adds.
He also credits these chefs with teaching him about the significance of consistency, service and restaurant ambiance.
Shang-Xi, the Chinese restaurant of Four Seasons Hotel Pudong uses a dim sum recipe created by Lung King Heen, the Chinese restaurant of Four Seasons Hotel Hong Kong, the world’s first Chinese restaurant awarded three Michelin stars.
Some restaurants use the Michelin label as a big selling point, but in these cases the chef is merely a consultant and not in the restaurant ensuring the exact standards are met.
According to food critic Da Guai, there are even some chefs claiming to have Michelin stars even though they have only worked part time in Michelin-starred restaurants. Such claims are used to inflate prices and take advantage of people blindly following the “food Bible.”
David Liu, a 29-year-old local, is a prime example. He says he chooses a restaurant with a Michelin background when on a serious date to show his taste and sincerity.
“A restaurant recognized by a French dining guide provides French elegance, doesn’t it?” Liu says.
Leaf Ye, who formerly did marketing and public relations work for several fine dining restaurants in Shanghai, says chefs with Michelin stars set a high standard, but if he or she is not based in Shanghai then the quality may not match the price.
“The quality of the restaurant really depends on how well the local team implements the chef’s strategy and follows the recipes,” Ye says.
This week we highlight six restaurants in town with a genuine connection to the Michelin Guide.
A taste for something casual
Celebrity chef David Laris’ latest restaurant, Beergrdn, opened earlier this year. With a casual and classical approach, the Australian-Greek chef is best known in Shanghai for Laris, a restaurant on the Bund (now closed) that was once one of the most popular dining destinations in Shanghai.
He has also worked at Mezzo, a restaurant in London with two Michelin stars.
His seared foie gras terrine with focaccia and seasonal jam is one highlight.
“About Bloody Time” is a light salad made with goat cheese, candied walnuts and watercress.
Laris also delves into some fusion dishes with “Local Hero,” two slabs of teriyaki glazed pork belly served with mantou (Chinese steamed bun).
As the name indicates, there’s also a comprehensive selection of imported beers from Vedett to Stella Artois.
Bartenders also use beer to make some cocktails.
Average check: 115 yuan
Address: 1/F, 183 Jiaozhou Rd
It’s about the ingredients
German Andreas Fuchs is the executive chef at Park Hyatt Shanghai, who has worked in Michelin two-star restaurants and been mentored by some of the most famous chefs in the world.
He says his food philosophy is about staying creative, finding new products and using local ingredients as much as possible.
Seafood dishes like leopard garoupa with finger limes and black garlic, and Brittany blue lobster with white asparagus ice cream and radish come highly recommended.
He overseas all restaurants in Park Hyatt although most of his signature dishes are served in the Dining Room.
Average check: 480 yuan
Tel: 6888-1234 ext. 4335
Address: 87/F, 100 Century Avenue
From Argentina with love
Colagreco is a restaurant and bar opened by Mauro Colagreco, the first Argentinian chef to be awarded two Michelin stars.
The restaurant features South American dishes and ingredients that are based on his Mediterranean and French culinary foundations. The bar area serves Argentinian tapas and cocktails.
Most vegetables are grown in the restaurant’s organic garden in Pudong.
The table bread is lovely and comes with an olive oil and lemon dipping sauce.
“The Forest” is an appetizer. The green sponge cake is made of spinach, yellow quinoia and white Parmesan cream cheese. It features a rich texture and delicate flavor.
The rib-eye beef is recommended for a main course. The meat is dry-aged for more than 100 days and is tender and juicy. Pair it with a fruity Argentinian Malbec wine.
End the meal sweetly with Colagreco’s ice-cream nougat.
If celebrating a special occasion, reserve a window table in advance to ensure night views of the Huangpu River and Lujiazui skyline.
Average check: 450 yuan
Address: 2/F, Zhongshan Rd E1
South American style
Weimar Gomez, executive chef at Four Seasons Pudong, once worked at restaurants Guy Savoy and Le Cinq, both of which have earned Michelin stars.
While overseeing all restaurant menus in the hotel, all-day dining restaurant Camelia features the bulk of his signature creations.
“Food represents my South American origins, mixing sweet and sour, earth and sea,” Gomez says.
His signature dishes include roasted black cod with watermelon and crunchy vegetables. The sweet melon contrasts with the savory cod. His crab meat cannelloni with radish and passion fruit is another highlight.
Average check: 280 yuan
Address: 1/F, 210 Century Avenue
French with an Asian twist
Jean Georges Vongerichten is the first Michelin three-star chef to open a restaurant in Shanghai. Jean Georges is where many locals first experienced European fine dining.
Vongerichten has previously worked in Thailand and is known for giving French cuisine an Asian touch.
Some of his favorite ingredients include citrus and chili to add something new to traditional French cuisine.
Jean Georges offers only set menus, which means fewer options for diners but does make ordering easier.
The caviar egg is one signature. The caviar is served with egg white and cheese in a hollowed out egg. The cheese and egg balance the rich and savory caviar.
King fish sashimi with spiced cucumber, soy sauce and basil is recommended to first time diners as it’s a good introduction to the chef’s culinary philosophy.
For the main course, pay an extra 998 yuan (price may change according to availability) for the Blackmore Wagyu striploin (marble score 9).
Last but not least, try the signature Jean Georges chocolate cake for dessert.
The sinfully delicious warm cake is ever-so lightly crispy on the outside with melted chocolate in the center.
It’s served with homemade vanilla ice-cream and the contrast in temperatures is divine.
Average check: Start from 700 yuan
Address: 4/F, 3 Zhongshan Rd E1
King of truffles
The Italian restaurant Otto e Mezzo is the creation of chef Umberto Bombana.
Bombana is known for taking family style Italian food and adding some flair. Most of the dishes on the menu in Shanghai are from the recipes used in the chef’s Hong Kong restaurant of the same name, which has been awarded three Michelin stars.
He is sometimes referred to as the “king of truffles” as he cooks some of the finest truffle dishes in town.
“Truffle is unique and prestigious — only available for a short season. No one can resist the temptation of white truffle, even pigs and dogs,” Bombana says.
White truffle and eggs is one of his signatures. The light and creamy dish brings out the full flavor of the truffle and is not overwhelmed by the egg.
Egg in ravioli is another recommendation. It’s mixed with ricotta cheese, hazelnut butter and topped with spinach and alba white truffle.
Other menu highlights include confit organic egg with chaterelle mushroom and romanesco and cavateli pasta with shellfish ragout and sea urchin.
Double check with the restaurant if you want to taste their seasonal truffle dishes. (Truffle season is generally from May through early September.)Average check: 1,100 yuan