Miche­lin rocks the boat in Shang­hai

China Daily European Weekly - - Front Page - XU JUNQIAN in Shang­hai xu­jun­[email protected]­nadaily.com.cn

In what ap­pears to be a re­sponse to those who have deemed the Shang­hai Miche­lin Guide too mild and bi­ased to­ward Can­tonese and French restau­rants, the 2019 edi­tion, which was re­leased in late Septem­ber, has rocked the boat a lit­tle by strip­ping three restau­rants of their stars.

The most no­table of the three was Tang Court, which re­ceived three stars in the first two guides. It is now a two-star es­tab­lish­ment along­side the likes of L’Ate­lier de Joel Robu­chon and Can­ton 8, which made head­lines for be­ing the cheap­est twostar restau­rant on the planet in the in­au­gu­ral edi­tion.

This down­grade also means that Ul­tra­vi­o­let by Paul Pairet, which serves in­no­va­tive cui­sine by com­bin­ing food with mul­ti­sen­sory tech­nolo­gies, is the only three-star restau­rant in Shang­hai.

Jin Xuan, a Can­tonese restau­rant in the Ritz Carl­ton Pudong, and Kan­pai, a Ja­panese-style es­tab­lish­ment on the Bund, both lost their only stars in the cur­rent edi­tion.

A to­tal of 34 restau­rants were awarded Miche­lin stars in the 2019 edi­tion, up by four last year. The win­ners this year in­clude one new twostar restau­rant and five debu­tants in the one-star cat­e­gory.

Al­though some have pointed out the de­par­ture of Tang Court’s chef as the rea­son be­hind the loss of its star, in­dus­try in­sid­ers told China Daily that it is not so much a mat­ter of the restau­rant rest­ing on its lau­rels but more about the guide’s re­sponse to crit­i­cism in China.

Each of the guide’s for­mer editions has been slammed for over­look­ing Shang­hainese and other types of Chi­nese cui­sine and in­stead dish­ing out stars to Can­tonese restau­rants. Statis­tics from the Shang­hai Tourism Ad­min­is­tra­tion show that nearly a quar­ter of the 43,000 restau­rants and eater­ies in the city of­fer tra­di­tional or mod­ern Shang­hainese cui­sine, also know as ben­bang­cai, yet these es­tab­lish­ments ac­count for less than 10 per­cent of the win­ners in the in­au­gu­ral guide.

Spicy Sichuan cui­sine and re­fined Huaiyang cui­sine, both of which can be eas­ily found in Shang­hai, also had a lim­ited pres­ence in the in­au­gu­ral guide.

The lat­est Shang­hai Miche­lin Guide seems to have ad­dressed these is­sues with diver­sity. Among the new en­trants in the one-star cat­e­gory are Moose, which serves Huaiyang cui­sine, Xin Rong Ji, which spe­cial­izes in Taizhou cui­sine from East China’s Zhe­jiang prov­ince, and Amaz­ing Chi­nese Cui­sine (Jing Xi Hui), a Chaozhou cui­sine restau­rant.

Bruno de Fer­audy, pres­i­dent of Miche­lin China, said at a news con­fer­ence that the restau­rant scene in Shang­hai could be best sum­ma­rized by the words “dy­namic” and “global” as the city of 24.8 mil­lion res­i­dents has ac­com­mo­dated not only the most tra­di­tional and mod­ern cuisines, but also a va­ri­ety of foods from all over the world.

He ex­pressed hope that lo­cal food­ies could use the Miche­lin stars to ex­plore the dy­nam­ics of Shang­hai as well as China, con­sid­er­ing that the guide was re­leased in Guangzhou, Guang­dong prov­ince, ear­lier this year.

But the guide is not merely ex­pand­ing ge­o­graph­i­cally in China. In May, Miche­lin an­nounced a strate­gic and long-term part­ner­ship with Chi­nese e-com­merce gi­ant Tmall, which will at­tempt to “lever­age the power of on­line re­tail­ing to ex­plore pos­si­bil­i­ties of lo­cal­iz­ing global del­i­ca­cies”.

As part of this part­ner­ship, three Miche­lin-starred chefs in Shang­hai have been com­mis­sioned to cre­ate nine recipes us­ing im­ported foods sold on Tmall, such as New Zealand sal­mon and Aus­tralian wagyu beef. Sup­ported by in­struc­tional cook­ing videos, the recipes have been spe­cially de­signed for the coun­try’s young and tech-savvy house­holds who value home cook­ing as a health­ier, in­stead of cheaper, al­ter­na­tive to eat­ing out or or­der­ing in.

Stiff com­pe­ti­tion

Miche­lin’s move to ex­pand its foot­print in China comes at a time when the com­pany is fac­ing in­creas­ing com­pe­ti­tion from brands such as World’s 50 Best Restau­rants and lo­cal com­pa­nies such as Dian­ping.com that have their own food in­flu­encers. In fact, the web­site launched its own China restau­rant guide ear­lier this year and uses di­a­monds in­stead of stars for rat­ings.

Called Black Pearl, the guide has sin­gled out 28 one-di­a­mond restau­rants as “must try once in a life­time” din­ing es­tab­lish­ments, with five of them lo­cated in Shang­hai. Ac­cord­ing to Dian­ping.com, each restau­rant fea­tured in Black Pearl has been

re­viewed by at least three judges. About 200 anony­mous judges, onethird of whom are chefs, are part of the judg­ing process. The bills are cov­ered ei­ther by the web­site or the judges them­selves. None of the judges are paid for their ef­forts.

“It takes pas­sion, cash and pa­tience to cre­ate a guide like this. And we are not plan­ning to make money from it,” says Wang Xing, CEO of Dian­ping.com.

Af­ter all, the Shang­hai-based com­pany is hardly short of cash. In 2017, the com­pany — it has more than 250 mil­lion ac­tive users and list­ings of 7 mil­lion shops and restau­rants in 2,800 Chi­nese cities and coun­ties — gen­er­ated trans­ac­tions worth 360 bil­lion yuan ($51.9 bil­lion; 45.7 bil­lion eu­ros; £40.6 bil­lion).

“Black Pearl is not try­ing to be the Chi­nese ver­sion of the Miche­lin Guide. Rather, it is aim­ing to be a world-class list com­piled by Chi­nese for Chi­nese,” says com­pany Vice- Pres­i­dent Zhang Chuan.

But it is not the only com­pany that is try­ing to in­flu­ence Chi­nese din­ers.

An­other new com­peti­tor is Ctrip, China’s largest on­line travel agency. This year, the com­pany in­tro­duced its Ctrip Gourmet List for Shang­hai, with editions for dozens of other cities to fol­low. But un­like the Miche­lin Guide, which is renowned for main­tain­ing the anonymity of its in­spec­tors, this list has proudly dis­played its judges, who in­clude Dong Keping, the con­sul­tant for China’s most­watched food documentary A Bite of

China, Chi­nese celebrity chef Liu Yi­fan and Chi­nese singer-turned chef Lin Yilun.

In Jan­uary, Ctrip also an­nounced a col­lab­o­ra­tion with US on­line restau­rant reser­va­tion ser­vice provider Open Ta­ble to fa­cil­i­tate book­ings at tens of thou­sands of restau­rants across North Amer­ica.

A poll con­ducted by Ho­tels.com in 2017 found that food was the third­most im­por­tant op­tion for Chi­nese trav­el­ers af­ter safety and sight­see­ing.

PRO­VIDED TO CHINA DAILY

Aus­tralian wagyu beef with mango, a sig­na­ture dish at the twostar Yi Long Court in Shang­hai.

PHO­TOS PRO­VIDED TO CHINA DAILY

Pres­i­dent of Miche­lin China Bruno de Fer­audy and a mas­cot un­veil the lat­est Shang­hai Miche­lin Guide.

PRO­VIDED TO CHINA DAILY

A to­tal of 34 restau­rants were awarded Miche­lin stars in the 2019 edi­tion of the Shang­hai Miche­lin Guide.

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