Shanghai offers the world on a platter
The city's lively dining and nightlife options just keep getting better, with an average of 15 new restaurants and bars opening a month
Ambition often gets the better of reason in Shanghai and sometimes the results can be extraordinary.
The city will have the world's tallest building next year that will house the Park Hyatt, opposite the Grand Hyatt which is now the highest hotel in the world, and more than 20 five-star hotels will be built before 2010.
Three large dining and entertainment venues will open on the riverfront and elsewhere this summer. Look at the Bund to witness the changes that have swept Shanghai: in three years, a crumbling cluster of state-owned companies has been transformed into a lively dining and nightlife venue.
M on the Bund set the tone for fine dining in the city when it opened in 1999, and 21/2 years later the ambitious Three on the Bund opened across the street. Three, which houses Jean Georges and the Whampoa Club, already feels like an establishment.
Imitators have followed suit with a formula of art galleries, spas and fine dining eateries. And in the near future, the entire riverfront strip might be devoted to retail and food.
But investors and chefs have their sights set on other parts of town, using the same laws of attraction to draw people to Pudong and the once-deserted Suzhou Creek area. Restaurants, nightclubs and retailers are creating a synergy of commerce and clout to pull people in - and it is working.
Across the water from Three on the Bund and Bund 18 lies the new tower of the Pudong Shangri-La, which cuts a clean, angular form in Pudong's wacky cityscape. But the hotel's new addition features a lot more than guest rooms - it has 12 new restaurants and bars, capped by
Jade on 36.
There, chef Paul Pairet creates adventurous fine dining as patrons admire the view in a space designed by Adam Tihany, one of the world's foremost restaurant designers.
An average of 15 restaurants and bars opened in Shanghai each month, said hotel general manager Philippe Caretti, and each wanted to be different and better than the last one. 'So it was natural to include a range of trendsetting restaurants and bars as part of the Shangri-La's new tower,' he said.
At Jade on 36, diners can start with a drink at the bar which resembles an upside-down jewellery box, before passing by a giant 'deconstructed rice bowl' and large glass 'snuff boxes' into the dining room. The food, available from several tasting menus, is just as conceptual as the space - so much so that certain dishes might challenge the palate.
Creamy foie gras coated in caramel and served at the end of a long stick like a lollipop is served with a drink of hot, spiced tea topped with a layer of icy champagne foam. The tea melts away the sweetness of the dish after the champagne foam cools the palate. For dessert, a crunchy brulee sits atop creamy avocado, topped with Nutella and truffle oil - obviously, such dishes are not for everyone.
While Jade is the showcase, the hotel also offers palatial venues such as Yi Cafe, where chefs toil in 10 show kitchens, and the artfully designed Nadaman, where modern kaiseke menus complement the raw granite slabs and glass of the minimalist dining room.
Shanghai has recently been shaken up by another massive undertaking - the Pier One complex on the banks of Suzhou Creek, a once-forgotten stretch of factories and residential high-rises in the north.
Dominic Yee, owner of sports bar Malone's and Mint, a popular nightclub, found an old brewery designed with striking 1930s art deco lines and realised the potential for a project in this up-and-coming part of the city.
Pier One is enormous. It has a club, a rooftop cocktail lounge, a boutique hotel and the Mimosa Supperclub, a stunning venue for casual fine dining in the airy main hall of the brewery.
General manager Richard Lofthouse said: 'There's nothing that I've ever done and nothing that I've seen that compares to this.'
Mimosa Supperclub has about 150 seats and the ceiling is nearly 15 metres high. Unfinished edges peek out of the ultra-modern decor.
Michelin-star chef Stefan Stiller has created three, four and five-course tasting menus. Each course features one ingredient (such as beef, lamb, foie gras, black cod or tomatoes) served three ways in tapas-sized portions. So a meal can stretch for hours, as five courses become 15. Despite having opened only a few weeks ago, its standard of service and cuisine are impressive.
But will people make the trek north with so many restaurants closer by?
'Absolutely,' said Mr Lofthouse. 'People need to eat and we serve thoughtful, well-cooked food. And then they can stay for the evening, enjoying great cocktails and the terrace in our lounge, Monsoon.'
Jade on 36 is at the Pudong Shangri-La, 33 Fucheng Lu, (086) 21 6882 8888. And Mimosa Supperclub is at Pier One, 82 Yichang Lu, (086) 21 5155 8130