This month saw the release of 2 magazines with lists on top restaurants, the Conde Nast Traveller's Hot List (which only includes new restaurants) and Food and Wine's Go List. Well, let's go straight to the lists:
Food and Wine:
Beijing - Han Cang, Lan Club, Mei Mansion, Qu Nar, Shan Zhai, S'Silk Road, Hazara
Shanghai - Chuan, Guyi Hunan, Laris, Lost Heaven, T8 Restuarant, Whampoa Club, Indalo, Sun with Aqua
Beijing - Lan Club, Green T. House Living, Jaan, JiuMen XiaoChi
Shanghai - Ai Mei
There are a number of Hong Kong restaurants on both lists, but since I am not familiar with that city, don't want to go into it too much. However, both HK lists feature outposts of top restaurants, both include Nobu while one goes with Joel Robuchon, the other goes with Pierre Gagniare. Also, Conde Nast lists Il Teatro, one of the restaurants in Steve Wynn's new Macau casino.
The first thing that is noticable about the Conde Nast list is the lack of Shanghai restaurants. Don't know what it looked like last year, but I'm wondering if this Beijing-centric list has anything to do with the leadup to the Olympics and a (temporary?) switch from Shanghai to Beijing as China's hottest city. Continuing with Conde Nast's traditional preference for hotel restaurants (why is this the case anyways?), it includes 2 of them (Ai Mei and Jaan). There is also the shock pick of JiuMen Xiaochi, a tiny place that doesn't sound 1. very new or 2. unique from any of the other small, hidden places around Beijing. And then there's the inclusion of the newest branch of the Green T. House, which, like the original, is far more about show and interior design than the most important thing when it comes to a restaurant, the FOOD! It is fusion that has gone out of hand.
Both lists include Lan Club and I think with good reason. It is the first real "bigtime" restaurant in Beijing, a huge Phillipe Starck design where it seems more about the design than the food, though the food is still pretty good. Plus, it is one of the few top restaurants with such an impressive room that has a Chinese chef in the kitchen. Note to Green T. House, this is how you do fusion!
As for the Food and Wine list, it struck me that it was a little focused on "On the Bund" and Xintiandi locations in Shanghai, however I was appreciative for the choice of Laris over the far more hyped (and not as tasty) Jean Georges. It's also interesting to note that the lists are heavily focused on minority (or foreign) cuisine.
Qu Nar is a decent choice, it has the appropriate buzz in that its owned by the famous artist Ai Weiwei. S'Silk Road was actually on Conde Nast's list the year it opened (2003?) and its remained a popular place (and a constant fall back when I'm in need of a good choice). Shan Zhai left me a little disappointed. True, it is a "Go List" and Shan Zhai definitely fits the bill as THE hot place in Beijing right now, with all the Chinese and expat scenesters lining up and hoping to catch a glimpse of the famed owner (who I'm not a fan of) Zhang Ziyi. While I hate Zhang Ziyi, the food was pretty good, especially for the price. Plus, its one of the only restaurants I know in China where all the produce is certified organic, a trend that will hopefully grow.
So has anyone out there dined at any of these places? Any complaints? I'd be especially curious about reactions to the Conde Nast list, are there any new restaurants that deserved to be on the list instead of their choices? Are they just filling a quota of Chinese restaurants or do they really match up to the top restaurants in major cities around the world that got on the list?