China’s booming economy has had a very positive effect on high-end restaurants in major cities. Previously, restaurants in Beijing, Shanghai, Canton, and Xian served fine Chinese (mostly local) cuisine, and a few mediocre, at best, European wines.
Today the situation is markedly different and much improved. In Shanghai, a city with a population of over 17 million, a gourmet has an unprecedented choice of white tablecloth restaurants from local cuisine to Italian specialties and American style steaks. If you happen to be fond of French cuisine you have a great choice, and sushi lovers can choose one of the many restaurants that specialize in it. Should you prefer Thai food, a few fine restaurants will satisfy your cravings, ditto for Italian foods.
The Bund along the Yellow River that bisects the city boasts many restaurants, from fast food outlets to haute-cuisine establishments.
What is best about these in abundance is the design and unobtrusive, “telepathic” service they provide. Servers are polite, knowledgeable, quiet, well trained and “read the guest’s mind”. They appear from the background with whatever you were going to ask for or order. Should you inadvertently drop your napkin, a clean starched one appears instantly.
The servers know the taste of each wine on the menu, recommend a bottle that complements your food order, within the price range you indicate, and never pour more than 1/3 of the glass to provide sufficient space for aromas to evolve. Needless to say, all wine glasses are carefully chosen, immaculately polished, and above all, prices are reasonable.
Servers appear from nowhere to replenish your wine glass when you just consume the last drop.
The restaurant scene is so buoyant that owners of Michelin 2-star rated Jardin de Sens restaurant in Montpellier, France, invested considerable amounts to open a fine restaurant on the Bund, which is the commercial hub of Shanghai.
At Jardin de Sens in Shanghai, the food is prepared properly, all ingredients are fresh, and presentation is impeccable. Even the butter is the best that France offers and flown in weekly. Servers know how to take an order properly, and serve with care, paying attention to all details, know about wine and the wine list, composed 0f Old- and New World wines that could compete favorably with any fine menu anywhere.
The Grand Hyatt Hotel – Shanghai, features on its 55th floor, a huge seafood buffet, and on the other half of the floor a steakhouse. Seafood platters are artistically displayed on crushed ice; the food is expertly prepared and served deftly. Steaks are flown in from Australia and sold by weight.
The wine list is long, contains a wide range, but could benefit from a little rearranging. Servers need at least an introductory course on wine, and alcoholic beverages in general. Service is erratic and unsure.
If you want a leisurely lunch, try the fifth floor restaurant in the Bund Center. Here you will be served royally and can select from a short but seasonal menu. The setting, layout, comfort, food quality, presentation, and service, are simply impeccable.