BEIJING, SHANGHAI & HK - TOP 3 IN EACH??
I've searched thru all of the past recommendations on this board - thank you all for sharing your indepth accounts of the highs and lows of your recent meals in China... I have compiled many of your accounts and feel well equiped for my own eating-excursion...
That said, it would be helpful if any of you can list out your top 3 - "must-not-miss" spots in each/any of the below cities (no parameters = any price, any cuisine (hopefully not much on the western-tip))...
I hope to share some thoughts of my own upon my return!
It is tough to name just 3 for Hong Kong as I regard it is in its own league as one of the best culinary cities in the world. There are just too many good restaurants but if I have to choose just 3, I will choose one for Cantonese food, one for Chiu Chow food, and one for private kitchen.
For Cantonese, my old favorite used to be Victoria Harbour, but on last trip, the quality has deteriorated and I was later told that the chef has moved to 富聲魚翅海鮮酒家, which is getting rave reviews. I am going to try this place on my next trip. My current favorite would be Lei Garden. Both the IFC and Wanchai branches are very good. Foo Lam Moon is also very good if you are willing to splurge. But there are just so many good ones around that it is difficult to just name one.
For Chiu Chow food, I will pick either Sheung Hing Chiu Chow or Pak Loh Chiu Chow. Both are excellent. But quite frankly, both are not tourists-friendly. I hardly see any westerner there. I don't even know if there is English menu or even spoken there. No atmosphere as well, especially Sheung Hing, which is quite run down. But Chiu Chow food is something I will never miss when I go to Hong Kong and I am actually really surprised at the lack of review on this cuisine in Chowhound.
The last one is Da Ping Huo, a very spicy Szechuan cuisine in private kitchen setting. This one is very tourists-friendly. I actually don't see many Hong Kong residents coming here because the food is simply too spicy on the local Cantonese tastebud. Most of the visitors are actually mainlanders, expatriates and tourists. There is no ala carte menu but just tasting menu with probably 8-10 dishes. Very reasonable pricing at HK$250 per head.
Again, there are just simply too many good restaurants here, I still have many "favorites" that not able to squeeze into top 3.
I will write about Shanghai and Beijing later as I have run out of time. Need to go for my lunch appointment now.
In Shanghai, my top 3 spots if I go there would be:
1. Guyi Hunan. I have written about Guyi a few times in previous thread so you can read there. http://www.chowhound.com/topics/456996
2. Xin Guan. Since you have said that price is not an issue, this will be one of my top 3. Be prepare to pay RMB800 per head. Xin Guan specialize and serve only crab throughout the meal. It is basically a crab feast, you started with crab roe shark fin soup, then cold crab with vinegar, crab roe Xiao Long Bao...and I cannot even remember the rest since it was 3 years ago when I went there. Many Japanese tourists love to go there as well.
3. I will pick the last spot for Shanghai cuisine. There are many good ones: Shanghai Uncle, Sophia's, Xin Ji Shi, Xiao Nan Guo, 上海人家. Any one of them is just fine for the last spot.
On other note, I would love to hear from Xiao Yang his top 3 spots in Shanghai. I would definitely not miss Xiao Yang's favorites.
For Beijing, which is not among my favorite culinary place, my top 3:
1. Made in China at Grand Hyatt. Many have said that Dadong has the best duck in Beijing but I have not tried there before. But I do think that the Beijing Duck in Made in China is better than Quang Ju De. Others may disagree. There are also many northern food here that you can sample in a comfortable environment.
2. Dong Lai Shun东来顺 . This is winter time, so I will come here at this time. A place that specialize on lean mutton serves on a hot pot. There are other dishes as well. Just think of Japanese Shabu Shabu northern Chinese style with mutton instead of beef.
3. South Silk Road. Yunan cuisine.
I'm only familiar with Shanghai these days (it's been 10 years since I worked in Hong Kong). Even in SH, I usually eat "local" in the company of my wife or in-laws or using my limited grasp of Shanghainese (competent enough for street foods and "small eats").
However, for a visiting Westerner, I suppose I would point to Shanghai Uncle (often mentioned here) and, though it pains me, Din Tai Fung. I don't think DTF's xiao long bao are any better than the way less expensive Jia Jia Tang Bao, but it offers a fuller sit-down dining experience, a navigable menu, and will at least provide a benchmark for what constitutes top quality xiao long bao (listen up, you Joe's Shanghai fans!)
It's somewhat troubling to me that neither of these two are truly local, one founded by a Chinese-American and the other a Taiwanese chain. I know that some of the excellent and affordable local standbys have English on the menu (this was true even on my first visit in 1992) but don't recall off-hand which ones did.
I wish I could tell you the location of the restaurant serving the dishes below (can't find my notes). It was a word-of-mouth find by my wife (from one of her mahjongg cronies), and it's somewhere at the other end of the Dapu Lu tunnel, I believe in the Zhou Jia Du neighborhood. It's typical of many new local restaurants serving somewhat innovative takes of traditional Shanghai dishes at a third of the price or so of Shanghai Uncle -- but with no English on the menu and no guidebook listings to get you there.
Oops, can't add photos in "Edit Post" mode, so I'll put them below.
You want to have a eating excursion in China?Lt me give you some suggestion.At any city of the three,if you find a suitable person to accompany you,you can almost enjoy all the cuisines of China.I live in Beijing.So I say something about Beijing.For roast duck,the must have try dish of this city,you can choose QUANJUDE or DADONG, QUANJUDE has a branch at the Wangfujing Street,the most famous downtown business distict. Dadong has created a special cooking method to ease the grease feeling of the roast duck fatty skin of traditional method. Because lots of foreigners come to these two restautants ,they have a better way to serve you,such as english menu.Local citizens have much more choices for eating roasting duck,much cheaper and the same quilty. The second recommendation is to enjoy abalone,shark fin,bird nest,rare fish dish in high end restautrant.These cooking materials have the same status as truffle or caviar in western cuisine,They do not show in ordinary peoples daily life even most restaurants.If you choose a braised dried abalone(fresh abalone is cheaper,but not as delicious as dried one.Drying abalone is a an art, just some Japanese master that.That is why its so expensive.)in a high end restaurant,one big size abalone for one person costs 200-300 dollar.But these dishes are parts of our cuisine,and you can not enjoy them in you country.So you can try. You may go to Tanfucai(In Chinese 谭府菜）restaurant in Beijing Hotel, a very famou and old line hotel near Wangfujing, or you can go to some famous Cantonese restaurants in Beijing to try these abalone, shark fin,bird nest ,rare fish(such as Napoleon wrasse)dishes.The third recommendation for you is to enjoy authentic local cuisines in the restaurants runing by offices in Beijing of provincial governments.such as CHUANBAN CANTING(川办餐厅),by Sichuan provincial government.It locates at Jianguomen(建国门）area,where lot of foreigners living or working at.They provide very good Sichuan cuisine dishes and prices are very reasonable .So maybe you have to wait a long time to have a table.So you can have lots of choices: Yunnan provincial,Zhejiang provincial,etc.Usually,southern Chinese have a better reputation in cooking.Northern people have limited cooking skill,they can cook better noodle or dumpling (such as 刀削面，兰州拉面 or dumplings of 陕西）.It is a pity that there is not an very good and comprehensive book of Chinese cooking in the world .Such cooking book published in western countries are most written by descendents of overseas Chinese,they are not familiar with the true situation here,and they are not professionel. While in China,good cookers do not have English language skill.So that is the situation now.As for western foreigners,their tastes for our cuisine need time and training to enjoy the true good thing.what dishes you like most just like our childrens taste.You need time to get the acquired taste.Chinese cuisine is very rich and deep.You trip worth it. Wish you have a pleasant adventure.
If I have to stake out 3 "must-not-miss" spots in each city for a first-time visitor, they have to be:
1. The Courtyard - fusion-Chinese restaurant in reconstructed siheyuan sitting on the edge of a moat, with East Gate of the Forbidden City at spitting distance;
2. Red Capital Club - dine in the former home of an Imperial prince amidst Communist/revolutionary memorabilia;
3. Li Jia Cai - over-priced, over-rated family-owned restaurant which serves Imperial Manchu dishes purportedly passed down by the owner's grandfather who was security head overseeing imperial kitchens.
1. Whampoa Club - modern Shanghainese food on the Bund, with a view of the glittering Pudong skyline;
2. Either Lu Bo Lang at Yu Yuan Gardens (even Fidel Castro & QE II dined there) or Meilongzhen for "heavy", traditional Shanghainese. A bit touristy, but what the heck - you are a tourist;
3. Yongfoo Elite - really delightful mansion which evokes my rather romantic ideal of 1920s Shanghai.
1. Yung Kee - roast goose heaven. The other Cantonese dishes on the menu are excellent, too;
2. Luk Yu - REALLY old-fashioned atmospheric HK-style teahouse with booths & brass spittoons on the floor. Serves great dim sum in the morning;
3. Pierre. OK, it's French - but it's the best restaurant in town at the moment, and the views are to-die for.
I chose the spots not strictly on the quality of their food (each city has dozens upon dozens of restaurants which offer better cuisine), but that the places will give you the quintessential experience of the cities you're visiting.
Hi klyeoh: "Pierre. OK, it's French - but it's the best restaurant in town at the moment" You must be joking with that comment, right? With so many great Cantonese and Chiu Chow restaurants in Hong Kong, you pick a French one as the best??? While I have not tried Pierre, the review among serious fodies (read CharlesYu's threads) were subpar. Even among fine dining scene, Latelier Robuchon, Spoon and Gaddies were consistently ranked superior. Did they miss something? Why did you love it so much?
Maybe he was just referring to French restaurants in town? But even for that, my vote would go for L'Atelier which is consistently excellent. Pierre for me is more hit or miss. Been there 3 times and 1 was excellent and the other 2 so-so. My fav in town is still Tang Court or Lei Garden in Wanchai.
I guess Pierre, with its take on molecular gastronomy, offered something "new" to the HK dining scene (although Bo Innovation/Bo Innoseki was also good when I last tried it in 2004)
I liked L'Atelier very much as well, but I'm a regular at the Roppongi Hills oulet in Tokyo, and I somehow felt that its Japanese counterpart put more effort into the presentation of the dishes.
Spoon was very, very good when it first opened and I was there in its first week. but standards were not consistent, and the last couple of times, I went away a bit dissatisfied.
Haven't been back to Gaddi's since 1997!!
But Le Caprice at Four Seasons was the revelation during my last trip to HK though. Very classical French, and superb wine list.
But for French/continental in HK, I'd still recommend Pierre, just as I liked El Bulli & Talaia Mar in Spain, Fat Duck in UK, and even Jade 36 in Shanghai - it's something for the jaded tongue.
You're right - one does go to HK for good Cantonese & Chiuchow. One's still hard-pressed to find a Cantonese/Chiuchow outlet with good ambience though. Hutong is great, but it's Beijingese, no?
For molecular gastronomy, I prefer Bo Innovation as the food are really tasty. For Pierre, my experience has been that a lot of thought and work went into the preparation of the food, i.e. 4 preparations of a single ingredient, but it just doesn't taste that good. If you are into this, what about trying the Krug Room at the Mandarin? I have yet to find the occassion to splurge for it since I think the minimum is HK$20k but am sure I will do it at some point this year.
I still have not been to Tang Court after you first recommended a few months ago. I guess I was just too lazy to cross the tunnel when there are still so many good restaurants on Hong Kong Island side. But just curious: what are the "cannot miss" signature dishes in Tang Court?
I have always liked Lei Garden. I have stopped going to the wanchai branch ever since they opened in IFC. Is there any difference between the 2 branches now?
On this trip, wanted to try Bo Innovation but decided on L'Atelier instead. Look forward to read your review on Krug Room soon.
You are sure a gourmet expert on fine dining! I have not had the luck to try all the above restaurants so appreciate your brief summary review of them.
Caprice was featured in dininginfrance.com as one of the top 10 French restaurants outside of France but the review seem to be mixed among my friends who have tried it.
For my personal preference, ambience is not an important criteria when I choose a restaurant unless I need to impress my guests. I think that is also one of the key differences between Asian and Western dining. But you are right about Chiu Chow outlets; Sheung Hing is one of my favorites but yet probably has the worst interior/exterior among the places I frequented. But it is a different story with Cantonese outlets, there are quite a few places that have pretty good atmosphere: Golden Leaf at Conrad, 1 Harbour Road at Grand Hyatt, Spring Moon at Peninsula, China Club at Bank of China Building.
I have not tried Hutong but from the menu that I reviewed on its website, I don't think native Beijing residents will call that Beijing food. I suspect the place caters more for the expatriates/tourists market, and the young hip crowd. Which is why the emphasis is on the ambience.
Was your Caprice and Pierre experience a recent one ( ie., less than a year )? I tried them both about a year and a half ago and was not that impressed with the food. My be I am being unfair, trying to compare Pierre with the meal I had at the 'flagship' Pierre Gagnaire in Paris. As for Caprice, I did not pay much attention to the wine list since on that particular evening I was extremely fortunate to be treated to a bottle of 1955 Haut Brion by my relative host. As for the food, I remembered the lamb was quite good. But that's about all!
Have you tried Toscana in the Ritz Carlton recently? How's the food?.
re: Charles Yu
Hi Charles, I was in HK in October enroute back to Singapore from San Francisco. I've not had the opportunity to try Pierre Gagnaire in St Etienne yet, but tried his other venture, Sketch, in London back in 2003. It was so good that I became a Gagnaire fan then.
Toscana has always been my favourite Italian restaurant in Hong Kong, as I've been stayed at the Ritz-Carlton HK whenever I'm in town for the last decade or so. The food is exquisite - it may not be the best in HK, but the staff knew all my likes/dislikes, so it's very convenient.
Here's a link to the wine list at Toscana:
The fact that Toscana has the same chef de cuisine after all these years is also very reassuring. Here's a write-up on Umberto Bombana (he once cooked a giant 1.5 kg white truffle for Gordon Wu who got it from an auction):