Former El Bulli Chef Joins Napa Kitchen & Wine Bar

After last year’s tragic death of talented, young Chef Martin Bentzen, Napa Wine Bar & Kitchen has a new chef in kitchen. Chef Francisco Araya, a native of Chile who formerly worked at the acclaimed El Bulli, is cooking up seasonal specialties on the Bund. 

With this new addition to the Napa team, Philippe Huser, the restaurant’s owner, continues his streak of bringing young, creative chefs to the city. Since 2008, Araya has worked around the world at critically-acclaimed restaurants (including Spain’s Mugaritz, which has two Michelin stars and has ranked in Restaurant Magazine’s Top 10 Restaurants in the world for the past decade).

Along with two other El Bulli alums, Araya opened his first restaurant in Tokyo in 2012. 81 Restaurant serves “borderless cuisine” that ranges from European to Japanese (and occasionally the two together) using molecular cooking techniques that validate the owners’ experience at El Bulli. The restaurant received its first Michelin star the year after opening, when Araya was only 29, and the chef returned to his native Chile that year.

Napa marks the first time the chef has worked in China, and the new menu he’s brought with him reflects his globetrotting cooking style: tender Hokkaido scallops swaddled in a blanket of crisp Iberico ham, bite-sized matsutake pastries made extra earthy thanks to black truffle, crispy skin-on garoupa paired with tart ponzu.

Like all menus at Napa, the wine pairings for this introductory menu are sublime, most notably with the Angus beef short ribs. The marbled meat and slow-cooked tongue are paired with a 2007 Bordeaux (Pomerol) from Chateau Le Gay. Light without being delicate, the wine brings out the best in the beef – and vice versa.

In addition to a new chef in the kitchen, Napa has also added a page to the back of their menu with a list of their suppliers, noting that the foie gras come from Food In, the Blackmore Wagyu from White Strip Fine Food and the fresh black truffles from Yunnan’s Dian Qi. It seems like Shanghai has finally caught up with the dining trends of the past couple years in the West, with suppliers taking some of the credit for the excellent food on the table.

This month, Araya debuts a special "Introduction Menu" that will run throughout September featuring a seven course menu of these signature dishes at a special price of RMB398/person or a sumptuous 10-course menu for RMB 798. Optional wine pairing, of course, is available for both.

2/F, South Bund 22, 22 Zhongshan Dong Er Lu, near Xin Yong'an Lu. Tel: 6318 0057