Amer­i­can cui­sine gets a French twist

China Daily (Canada) - - FRONT PAGE -

this spring, none spe­cial­ize in Amer­i­can sta­ples like cheese­burg­ers, French fries or ap­ple pie. But there are some cre­ative new off­shoots.

Pop at Three on the Bund bills it­self as the “first and only Amer­i­can Brasserie in town”. It opened ear­lier this year and has a de­cid­edly French in­flec­tion.

“I don’t see why a French chef can­not make Amer­i­can cui­sine, just as down­stairs, there is an Amer­i­can chef run­ning Jean-Ge­orges,” said David Chau­veau, Pop’s ex­ec­u­tive chef.

Chau­veau, who hails from west­ern France’s Mon­tre­vault, was re­fer­ring to the epony­mous eatery run by Miche­lin­starred French chef JeanGe­orges Von­gerichten, which is housed in the same build­ing.

“French cui­sine dom­i­nates the city, to­gether with Ital­ian cui­sine, only be­cause French food is for cel­e­bra­tion,” added Chau­veau, who spent over five years with Sir Elly at the Penin­sula in Shang­hai.

Pop is based on the premise that din­ers in the city in­creas­ingly want re­fined food in a non-fine-dining en­vi­ron­ment. As an Amer­i­can brasserie, it serves “a melt­ing pot of cuisines with a ca­sual style”, said the chef.

It sits at the top of a cen­tury old build­ing over­look­ing the Huangpu River and of­fers pre­mium burg­ers made from Wagyu beef, among other treats. Lo­cally based “food­ies” ap­par­ently can’t get enough of it.

Austin Hu, the Amer­i­can chef who started one of the first restau­rants of­fer­ing Amer­i­can cui­sine in Shang­hai, demon­strates a sim­i­lar pas­sion with his dishes.

Af­ter grad­u­at­ing from the French Culi­nary In­sti­tute in New York City and work­ing at restau­rants like Gramercy Tav­ern, the 32-year-old de­cided to open the restau­rant Madi­son pro­mot­ing “new Amer­i­can cui­sine” in Shang­hai in 2010.

He de­fined this as dishes that taste good and which are made from lo­cally sourced in­gre­di­ents.

“When we first opened, no one was ‘fool­ish’ enough to do that,” said Hu, who is eth­nic-Chi­nese. He was born in Wis­con­sin.

Five years later, he has brought lo­cal spe­cial­ties like

( three- yel­lowchicken) back to the din­ner ta­ble and helped to re-pop­u­lar­ize the idea of Sun­day brunch. San­huangji is made from a lo­cal breed of chicken with a yel­low beak, feath­ers and claws.

It is hard to say ex­actly how many Amer­i­can restau­rants there are in Shang­hai, but many put the num­ber be­low 50. In con­trast, there are over 90,000 restau­rants in to­tal in the city.

On the coun­try’s largest re­view web­site, dian­, there are 3,800 West­ern restau­rants listed in Shang­hai. Th­ese are clas­si­fied into nine cat­e­gories in­clud­ing French, Ital­ian, Mid­dle Eastern, Steak­house, Pizza Shop and “Other”. There is no cat­e­gory for Amer­i­can cui­sine so it gets slot­ted away un­der “Other”.

Not that Shang­hai lo­cals have lost their taste for Amer­i­can food. Ham­burg­ers sell as quickly as Chi­nese buns dur­ing break­fast time at many of the city’s 24-hour con­ve­nience stores.

But Huang Ji­ayun, who has worked in the food in­dus­try for over a decade, agrees with Chau­veau that many lo­cals are just wait­ing for the right ex­cuse to fork out on top-notch US dishes.

“We’ve all known how ‘food­sta­gram­ming’ (tak­ing pic­tures of your food and post­ing it on Instagram or Twit­ter) has af­fected the way peo­ple eat, or de­cide what to eat,” she said.

“So French and Ital­ian here are (for) show­ing off fancy eat­ing. Mid­dle Eastern fare is more ex­otic, street food is kind of freestyle and Amer­i­can food … is for maybe when you are busy or eat­ing un­healthily,” Huang said.

Han Han, per­haps China’s most prom­i­nent blog­ger, has in­vested in a fu­sion restau­rant chain called Nice to Meet You.

One menu item has proved a hit since the restau­rant opened. Billed as“The ribs from House of Cards”, it refers to the com­fort food en­joyed by the de­vi­ous politi­cian (played by Kevin Spacey) in the Net­flix se­ries of the same name.

Like the fried chicken from My Love from the Star, the city’s fa­vorite South Korean soap opera, the 32-year-old is grow­ing his restau­rant at a fast clip. There are al­ready 20 new branches in his home­town, just one year af­ter it first launched.


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