Last September we told you about Zagat collecting survey responses for their 2008 Shanghai hotel and restaurant guide. Well, the guide has just been published, and founders Tim and Nina Zagat were in town this week for its launch. We were on hand to get a first look a the guide and to ask some questions. Here’s a little summary of what we learned:
- Slightly over two thousand people filled out the online survey. 208 restaurants in Shanghai are included in the guide.
- M on the Bund was rated the most popular restaurant, while Hanagatami took the prize for best food. We felt a little sheepish when we learned of this, because we had never even heard of Hanagatami (it’s the sushi restaurant inside the Ritz-Carlton). Our take on the guide is that it tilts more towards the high end of the food spectrum, with a strong representation from the big hotel restaurants. The Zagats did say they were hoping to evolve into a guide driven by local residents as opposed to tourists, and were counting on the next iterations of the survey to be a wider canvas for local establishments.
- By a wide margin, survey respondents cited poor service as the biggest irritant to their Shanghai dining experiences (37%), followed by smoking (14%). Diarrhea was probably lumped in with “others” (6%).
- Chinese came in as the most popular cuisine (24%), but closely followed by Italian (22%), Japanese (16%), French (12%) and Thai (8%). Sichuan (35%) and Cantonese (24%) were the most popular Chinese cuisines.
- The guide currently does not have a sales distributor here in Shanghai. The Zagats are currently in discussions with local partners, but at this time the only way to access the ratings are through the website.
The restaurant industry here is so dynamic and fluid that any sort of annual guide that attempts to rate the scene will undoubtedly lead to omissions of worthy restaurants and inclusions of those that may be on the verge of closing. This is something that the Zagats and the local editors acknowledge. For followers of the local food landscape or those who have spent a decent amount of time here, the guide serves as a great conversation starter, but without any major surprises it really is for those new to the city looking looking for some direction.
With their footprint in 88 cities around the world, and with Zagat himself predicting that Shanghai would be the world’s greatest city in ten years, it makes sense for Zagat to start focusing on our fair little metropolis. Let’s hope that the next edition will stretch out to include some of our favorites that were neglected this time around. Either way, it makes for good debate, which always makes us happy. Oh yeah, and if any of you wants to sponsor a Shanghaiist dining experience at Hanagatami to validate the Zagat finding, you know where to find us.
Eric Hu is Shanghaiist’s Food Editor. Email tips, recommendations, and news and gossip about Shanghai’s food scene to food at shanghaiist.com.