The very first Miche­lin Guide for Shang­hai has be­come the talk of the town and hasn’t gone down well with many lo­cal food­ies

China Daily (USA) - - SHANGHAI FOCUS - ByXUJUNQIAN in Shang­hai xu­jun­qian@chi­

The in­au­gu­ral Miche­lin Guide Shang­hai 2017 de­buted in China and it cer­tainly made an im­me­di­ate im­pact, though not nec­es­sar­ily a pos­i­tive one.

The 224-page guide is printed in Chi­nese and English and re­tails for 168 yuan ($25). Be­fore its of­fi­cial launch at 10:30 am on Sept 21, more than 1,800 copies had al­ready been sold on Tmall, China’s largest shop­ping plat­form. How­ever, sales fig­ures have stag­nated since, with only about 2,500 be­ing sold so far, ac­cord­ing to Tmall.

The culi­nary guide, widely re­garded as the most au­thor­i­ta­tive of its kind by food ex­perts around the world, quickly drew crit­i­cism for its less than ex­ten­sive se­lec­tion of din­ing es­tab­lish­ments.

In con­trast to the Miche­lin Guide Tokyo 2016, which dished out stars to more than 200 restau­rants, only 26 restau­rants in Shang­hai were awarded stars. How­ever, some ex­perts said that Miche­lin is usually con­ser­va­tive with its first guide for a city.

While 19 of these es­tab­lish­ments were Chi­nese restau­rants, many crit­ics lamented at how the guide had left out those that served out­stand­ing Shang­hai cui­sine, or ben­bang­cai, and in­stead had a skew to­ward Can­tonese fare. Fur­ther­more, only 25 restau­rants were listed in the Bib Gour­mand, de­fined in China as a se­lec­tion of din­ing es­tab­lish­ments that of­fer good food for un­der 200 yuan per per­son.

In re­sponse to the crit­i­cism faced by the guide, Claire Dor­land Clauzel, vice pres­i­dent of Miche­lin In­ter­na­tional, told China Daily: “We don’t target Chi­nese or for­eign din­ers. We choose qual­ity cook­ing, which is true all over the world.”

T’ang Court, a Can­tonese restau­rant lo­cated in Lang­ham Ho­tel in Shang­hai’s Xin­tiandi area, was the only restau­rant to be awarded three stars. The restau­rant’s Hong Kong out­let re­ceived the same ac­co­lade last year.

“Over­whelmed and un­ex­pected,” said Tan Shiye, chef of T’ang Court, af­ter re­ceiv­ing the award.

The Guang­dong na­tive at­trib­uted the restau­rant’s suc­cess to its ded­i­ca­tion to pre­serv­ing the orig­i­nal fla­vors of the in­gre­di­ents it uses.

Over in Shang­hai’s Xuhui dis­trict, Tai’an Ta­ble be­came the most short-lived Miche­lin­starred restau­rant in his­tory when it closed down just a day af­ter re­ceiv­ing a star. Lo­cal au­thor­i­ties said that the restau­rant had not been op­er­at­ing with the proper li­cences.

In a writ­ten re­sponse to the pub­lic, Ste­fan Stiller, chef and owner of the restau­rant, de­fended his din­ing es­tab­lish­ment by claim­ing that the space was mainly used to “en­ter­tain friends and have some food­ies and chef friends around to cre­ate new and cre­ative dishes”.

His state­ment, how­ever, seems to con­tra­dict what he said dur­ing an ear­lier in­ter­view with Chi­nese me­dia when he shared how each of the dishes on his set menu is pre­pared by up to six cooks who work 14 to 16 hours ev­ery day.

In ad­di­tion, cus­tomers at Tai’an Ta­ble fork out 998 yuan or 1,288 yuan for set menus of 10 and 14 dishes re­spec­tively. Most of the restau­rant’s din­ers are Chi­nese.

Be­fore the guide landed in Shang­hai, the word “Miche­lin” was enough to en­tice scores of peo­ple to at­tend events graced by Miche­lin-starred chefs. In 2011, when lux­ury ho­tel Park Hy­att Shang­hai first in­tro­duced its an­nual Masters of Food and Wine event by invit­ing a hand­ful of celebrity chefs in­clud­ing Alain Du­casse, the tickets to the celebrity chef din­ners were snapped up within days de­spite their price of al­most 1,000 yuan.

This ap­proach to lever­age the mag­netism of Miche­lin­starred chefs has since in­spired many other restau­rants and events in the coun­try to do the same. Last year, Savour, a four­day food fes­ti­val in Shang­hai, at­tracted tens of thou­sands of vis­i­tors who were ea­ger to try the dishes pre­pared by 15 Miche­lin-starred restau­rants.

“Miche­lin has de­vel­oped the mythol­ogy for more than 100 years, and it is trusted by peo­ple all over the world. To­day, the Miche­lin guide is the most unique guide in the world,” said Clauzel, about the guide’s rep­u­ta­tion and advantages over other food crit­ics and awards.

While the com­pany is fa­mously tight-lipped about the iden­ti­ties of its food in­spec­tors, Clauzel re­vealed that the ma­jor­ity of the in­spec­tors for the Shang­hai guide are Chi­nese. How­ever, only one of them is a Shang­hai na­tive.

Find­ing the right in­spec­tors has proven to be the big­gest chal­lenge for the Shang­hai project, which took a lit­tle over a year and in­volved some 500 restau­rants, added Clauzel.

Miche­lin had ear­lier in May an­nounced that it would fi­nally re­lease a guide for a city in the Chi­nese main­land, about nine years af­ter it pub­lished the first guide for Hong Kong and Ma­cau.

“We have been in Hong Kong and Ma­cau for al­most decade, it was time to come to the Chi­nese main­land. Miche­lin is an in­ter­na­tional com­pany and we look at ev­ery mar­ket as soon as the culi­nary scene is ready,” said Clauzel.

While Clauzel did not elab­o­rate on how Miche­lin de­ter­mines whether a mar­ket is ready for a guide, she said that the de­ci­sion to choose Shang­hai was not a dif­fi­cult one see­ing how it is “as ex­cit­ing and dy­namic a culi­nary des­ti­na­tion as Sin­ga­pore and Seoul” and is widely re­garded as the gate­way to China.

The Miche­lin Guide Sin­ga­pore was un­veiled in July this year and was also sub­jected to sim­i­lar crit­i­cism. Many Sin­ga­pore­ans had com­plained that the is­land na­tion’s fa­mous hawker fare was not well rep­re­sented enough in the guide. The guide for Seoul will be re­leased later this year.


Crispy ce­real lob­ster with curry leaves and chili padi, from Jin Xuan, Ritz-Carl­ton Shang­hai, Pudong ho­tel. The Can­tonese restau­rant was re­cently awarded with one Miche­lin star.

Steamed hairy crab in whole or­ange from Yong Yi Ting, the newly Miche­lin one-starred restau­rant that serves Shang­hai cui­sine.

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