Michelin Guide Shanghai 2018 unveiled: Ultraviolet joins three-star category, but where is the local cuisine?

French chef Paul Pairet’s immersive fine-dining establishment joins T’ang Court in the top category and four new restaurants get their first stars, but critics say there are not enough classic Shanghainese restaurants included

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 30 September, 2017, 11:17am
UPDATED : Saturday, 30 September, 2017, 11:16am

The restaurants to be included in the second Michelin Guide Shanghai were announced last week, with 30 establishments receiving at least one Michelin star (four more than last year) and a further 27 awarded Bib Gourmand status, or “good food at a reasonable price” (two more than last year).

As with last year’s inaugural list – Michelin’s first foray into China – the 2018 results have drawn both compliments and controversy.

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The biggest news was the promotion of Ultraviolet, an immersive fine-dining restaurant from French chef Paul Pairet, from two stars to three, where it joins T’ang Court in the top category.

“We hoped we would get three Michelin stars, but it was [still] truly unexpected,” Pairet said. “I’m very proud of my team.”

Ultraviolet was the only restaurant from those starred in the 2017 edition to have its rating changed. Four new restaurants, however, made it into the one-star category: Wujie (The Bund), a vegetarian restaurant which moved up from the Bib Gourmand section; French restaurant Jean-Georges Shanghai from chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten; Yong Fu, which specialises in the cuisine of Ningbo in northeast Zhejiang province; and Bo Shanghai, by Hong Kong’s own “demon chef” Alvin Leung of Bo Innovation.

Critics, however, have complained that classic Shanghainese restaurants are under-represented, despite one more (Hao Sheng) making it into the 2018 guide’s Bib Gourmand section.

Food blogger Yuenong Lu says that several Shanghainese restaurants deserve to be on the list, particularly Xindalu – China Kitchen at Hyatt on the Bund; Gui Hua Lou at the Pudong Shangri-La; and all of the Fu restaurants (Fu 1015, Fu 1039, Fu 1088) on or around Yu Yuan Road.

“What if visitors think the restaurants [serving] Shanghainese cuisine are not good enough [because they’re not in] the guide?” Lu says.

Still, he points out, these restaurants can take it as an opportunity to improve. “It would be better for us to realise how many [of them] can reach the standards of the guide.”

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It is clear that Michelin gives certain restaurants on the list something to strive for. Take Wujie, for example. After The Bund branch – one of four Wujie restaurants in Shanghai – was listed as a Bib Gourmand in the 2017 guide, the owners decided they wanted to take it to the next level.

Manager Cheryl Lin says they invited Marcelo Ballardin from the one-star Oak restaurant in Gent, Belgium, to be guest chef at Wujie, where he taught the chefs how to use herbs, be more creative with ingredients, and improve presentation. Meanwhile, Sidney Schutte from the two-star Librije’s Zusje in Amsterdam visited Wujie in January this year to teach how to pair wine with vegetarian dishes (until March, Wujie did not serve alcohol).

“We choose the best ingredients and dishes and [give the best] service that we can,” Lin says. “The budgets are rising, but it’s worth it. Lots of guests from overseas have left wonderful comments on social media about our innovative Chinese vegetarian dishes, and they’re happy to learn about special Chinese ingredients.”

New one-star entrant Bo Shanghai has only been open for about a year. Unlike Bo Innovation in Hong Kong, which has three stars and whose “X-treme Chinese cuisine” focuses on nostalgic Hong Kong dishes, Alvin Leung’s food at Bo Shanghai plays tribute to the eight classic Chinese cuisines while using French and Italian techniques.

Because he didn’t grow up in mainland China, Leung says “inspiration requires a bit of research on my side”. He looks for information online and makes regular visits to other areas of the country.

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Unfortunately, not everyone understands that he is using different cuisines as inspiration, rather than trying to reproduce classic dishes.

“Sometimes there are guests who come from one of the eight provinces who comment that the taste is not the same as what they enjoy in their hometown,” Leung says.