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Perfectly Pan-Asian

Shanghai's financial success has created an urban swell, attracting millions of immigrants and émigrés from around Asia (and the rest of the world) to the city of opportunity's shores. They bring their local gastronomic traditions along with their hopes of striking it rich, and Asian-inspired restaurants have become the bread and butter of Shanghai’s restaurant scene. The world’s largest and most populous continent, Asia’s culinary diversity is globally unmatched, so we decided to go on a Pan-Asian gluttony fest, checking out Shanghai’s best restaurants that have their roots in the continent we are currently calling home.


What: California fare with Asian flair

Why: You want your food and your chef to come equipped with larger-than-life personalities

Where: 1 Yueyang Lu, near Dongping Lu. Tel: 6431 9700

Brad Turley’s illustrious culinary career has spanned continents and decades, and is now culminating in a tribute to one of the most famous spanners: the Golden Gate Bridge. Goga, the (abbreviated) name of the San Francisco-born chef’s first independent venture, seems to be on the lips of everyone who has ever dined on Turley’s bold fare.

To say Goga is intimate is like saying China has a lot of people. The space is infinitesimal; from anywhere in the dining room you can take two steps and touch Turley hard at work in the open kitchen, a welcome change from all the absentee restaurateurs Shanghai has been attracting of late. The personality that exudes from the Cali-Asian inspired menu is pure Turley: fresh, flavourful and fun. We parked ourselves atop Goga on the breezy terrace, and asked the chef to give us what’s good. He delivered, in spades.

To start, we devoured the sizzling snapper sashimi, a plate of thinly sliced fish drizzled with yuzu and truffled soy, then kicked up a notch by a pickled jalapenos. The ginger was a winning touch and cilantro balanced the flavours nicely. As a born and bred East Coaster, we were sceptical of the 'West Coast Lobster Roll', but the epic coastal feud melted away after the first bite. Half an ear of roasted buttery corn saddled up to the side, bringing the Midwest into the mix and making this dish one all-inclusive bite of America.

Just to prove that his culinary chops extend beyond the surf, Turley pulled a Kansas-imported rib-eye out of his toque for some medium rare turf action. It’s not on the menu for reasons of beefy international dispute, but don’t miss the spice rub on this mean cut of meat or the duck fat potatoes that accompany it. Not one to forget the produce section, Turley also sent up a “salad” of summer squash bathed in basil, parmesan and lemon and finished with a sprinkling of toasted almonds and tomatoes. While the tomatoes could have been a bit riper, the rest of the bowl tasted like a supremely al dente spaghetti pesto and tricked our taste buds so artfully that we found ourselves accidentally slurping julienned squash.

Goga’s close quarters, lack of on-site bathrooms and potential elbow-bumping don’t make it the ideal place for a romantic evening for two, but it’s a haven for foodies who like to see their chefs in action.

Kappo Yu

What: High class fare that runs the gauntlet of the Land of the Rising Sun’s culinary traditions

Why: Chef Oyama proves he’s mastered more than just sushi with this new kaiseki concept

Where: 33 Wuxing Lu, near Huaihai Lu. Tel: 6466 7855

Just off of Huaihai Lu on the western fringe of the French Concession is the abruptly short one-way Wuxing Lu – a quiet street that draws few cars and even fewer pedestrians, but now there’s an appetizing reason to head over to this sleepy thoroughfare and step behind a bright red door flanked by a bamboo grove. No sign lets passers-by in on the secret: enter through this crimson gateway to discover Kappo Yu, Oyama-san’s 20-seat eatery with a menu full of sumo-sized flavours and bite-sized delights.

Dinners are served in kaiseki ryori style, a traditional multi-course dinner that is as much an art form as it is a meal. From the individually-chopped, handwritten menus to the mismatched sake servers, Kappo Yu’s attention to detail is brilliantly apparent. Oyama handpicked Yohei Terada, a culinary school classmate and alumni of the renowned Nobu and Nadaman kitchens in Tokyo, to take over counter service and maintain the high quality expected of restaurants he puts his stamp on.

Kappo Yu’s ingredient integrity is the stuff Japanese legends are made of. Fish deliveries come every other day from fishmongers in Nagasaki. Come hell or high water, 100 per cent of the fins are imported, and Oyama has closed up shop rather than serve inferior products when a typhoon interrupted his delivery. His produce is often organic, and that wasabi on the side of your sashimi plate? Yeah, the root is being ground into a paste by one chef while the other plates your fish. It’s quality and freshness you can taste.

While the degustation menu is an 11 course compilation that is constantly evolving with the freshest ingredients, regulars will find familiar ingredients in new preparations. Bright orange uni spoonfuls almost always make it onto the menu, as do juicy cuts of Kobe beef, bright pink slices of yellowfin tuna and sinfully tender bites of foie gras, but the indisputable winner of our week’s menu was grilled black cod with black pepper. Marinated for three days in two types of miso, the white fish arrived slightly charred on the edges and obscenely moist.

Kappo Yu’s price tag might be a bit off-putting for those who don’t consider themselves epicureans, but the bill doesn’t just include a deliciously diverse dinner. It encompasses a demonstration of true culinary art (if you sit by the counter), a taste test of the freshest ingredients on hand and an education on Japanese cuisine. Now that’s practically a bargain.


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