Shanghai Tatler “Best” Restaurants

Bought the Shanghai Tatler Best Restaurants guide the other day and my takeaway after flipping through the Edipresse Group publication for about 15 minutes? Not very credible.

While that’s not to say the restaurants they’ve listed aren’t any good (in fact, most of them are excellent choices), but most of them are clearly chosen for the expats and upper middle class & above segments. That’s no surprise, of course, given that Tatler itself is a publication catered to the same segments, although I would like to see more “hole-in-the-wall” restaurants. Who says the uber-wealthy folks can’t and won’t enjoy a RMB 20 meal? I know many who do, and they’re definitely “Tatler”-class.

The problem with the so-called “Best Restaurants” guide is how the restaurants get rated in the first place. Of course, they don’t tell you how, but apparently (from sources I’d rather not elaborate) you can do the following:

  1. Artificially influence ratings by enticing your patrons to “recommend” restaurant to the guide; or
  2. Place advertisements in Tatler publications and VOILA! “Look, your restaurant just suddenly showed up! Its crazy!”

Hmm, no. Not the way to write a “best” guide.

Here’s a word of advice to the Tatler folks: You don’t put an advertisement of a restaurant on the cover of a restaurant guide (please see 1st photo). “Squilla with Pepper Salt of Noble” – Is that even a famous Shanghainese dish?! I’m afraid not. Perhaps, this dish would be more appropriate on the cover of Hong Kong Tatler Best Restaurants (or a Guangdong version).

6 pages of advertisements follows the table of contents, which is then followed by a 7-page advertorial of the top restaurants in the city, where some restaurants were conveniently mentioned … ehh, I don’t know about that.

In any case, I didn’t get a feeling the guide was unbiased at all.

“Squilla with Pepper Salt of Noble” … I’m sorry, I still can’t get over that. Where are Tatler’s copywriters?! Why would they even allow such ads to be placed on the cover? That’s almost as bad as English translation of local Chinese menu in Beijing before the Olympics (see 2nd photo).

Despite all of this, and in their defense, they did choose a handful of very decent restaurants: Art Salon Restaurant, Coconut Paradise, Cui Ting Xuan Chinese Restaurant, Danieli’s Italian Restaurant, Fu 1039, Jade on 36, Karaku, Lake View, Lan Na Thai, Lost Heaven, South Beauty, T8, Yi Cafe …

Just seems so sold out. Perhaps Tatler should just stick with their monthly socialite / celebrity photo album and leave restaurant reviews to somebody else.

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