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Shang


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I liked Shang, but not nearly as much as I liked Susur, which I truly loved. I have a hard time believing that Shang as constructed is Susur's dream restaurant. His concept is good, but as evidenced on this topic not clear to a lot of people. I would have thought that by now some of the kinks in the restaurant would have been ironed out.

You're very correct Doc. It's the space and location he desired but the food is slowly being introduced with caution and care to see what flies and what doesn't. As soon as some benchmarks are established - look for a tasting menu to be introduced.

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You're very correct Doc. It's the space and location he desired but the food is slowly being introduced with caution and care to see what flies and what doesn't. As soon as some benchmarks are established - look for a tasting menu to be introduced.

If that was indeed the plan, it strikes me as a flawed strategy, because a wave of adverse word-of-mouth is building up while he fiddles around.
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You're very correct Doc. It's the space and location he desired but the food is slowly being introduced with caution and care to see what flies and what doesn't. As soon as some benchmarks are established - look for a tasting menu to be introduced.

If that was indeed the plan, it strikes me as a flawed strategy, because a wave of adverse word-of-mouth is building up while he fiddles around.

If certain people enjoy these flavor profiles - they'll tell others and return to eat again. Many customers are eating there for curiosity factor without having any experience or knowledge of his culinary point of view - from a menu standpoint (mainly price points) I'd say it's an excellent strategy. Introducing something more unique than mainsteam to what's arguably the toughest restaurant market in the country? I think he's making wise choices.

If any adverse word of mouth is building, it's mainly service related. Something I have less of a tendency to be critical of when spending $50.00 for a meal rather than $150.00

Edited by GordonCooks (log)
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If any adverse word of mouth is building, it's mainly service related.

That's not what the pro reviews and quite a few of the amateur ones are saying. That doesn't mean I agree with them—I liked Shang—but I can certainly see the pattern.

The people I've spoken with who've dined there (some Torontonians and some New Yorkers but all having eaten at Susur and or Lee previously) have enjoyed it. Maybe not head over heals loved it but hopefully, time and experience will change that.

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There's usually a range of reviews and a few outliers, but overall I'd say Shang has been a critical bomb.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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There's usually a range of reviews and a few outliers, but overall I'd say Shang has been a critical bomb.

Critical bomb? That's a little harsh. I think the New Yorker liked it more then the Times but I can't think of many places hitting NY for the first time and hitting a home run right off the bat in the first 60 days. Not even your beloved ADNY if you recall.

Edited by GordonCooks (log)
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There's usually a range of reviews and a few outliers, but overall I'd say Shang has been a critical bomb.

Critical bomb? That's a little harsh. I think the New Yorker liked it more then the Times but I can't think of many places hitting NY for the first time and hitting a home run right off the bat in the first 60 days. Not even your beloved ADNY if you recall.

Ducasse was a critical bomb too. It ultimately survived for six years, but most places pilloried that badly do not. I wish Shang all the best (reminder: I liked the place), but this is an inauspicious beginning. That much can't be denied.

Edited by oakapple (log)
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There's usually a range of reviews and a few outliers, but overall I'd say Shang has been a critical bomb.

Critical bomb? That's a little harsh. I think the New Yorker liked it more then the Times but I can't think of many places hitting NY for the first time and hitting a home run right off the bat in the first 60 days. Not even your beloved ADNY if you recall.

Ducasse was a critical bomb too. It ultimately survived for six years, but most places pilloried that badly do not. I wish Shang all the best (reminder: I liked the place), but this is an inauspicious beginning. That much can't be denied.

I'm not throwing stones at anyone's palates. I do have an issue that everyone seems to think it doesn't live up to what their preconceived notions of what it should have been. Have I eaten at Susur and Lee and enjoyed it? Yes. Do my fellow diners like Shang more than either? No. Do they think Susur has something on which to build on? Yes. I've heard some very valid criticisms regarding food temps and spicing. All things that can be addressed as the staff gets more seasoned and learns more about his food. But some of the mincing is like going to Moto and saying they have lousy japanese food.

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Gordon --

The New York print media aren't like Michelin (or not anymore, anyway). They don't start a new restaurant out with a low rating with the expectation it will get better as it develops. For one thing, there's no longer any practice here of periodic re-review, so in general, a restaurant's initial rating is it. Shang got its single NYT star, and unless it substantially changes its format, that's what it's going to be stuck with for the foreseeable future, even if the food and/or service improve. (And it seems clear to me that most of the drubbing Shang has been taking in the press has been over the food.)

Thus, if a new restaurant doesn't "hit a home run right off the bat", it's pretty much cooked.

We may not like it, but that's the way it works here now.

Edited by Sneakeater (log)
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In fact, the deplorable common practice here has become for a restaurant to open with all guns blazing, and then cheapen and dumb down its menu after the review cycle is over (without lowering prices -- instead often increasing them).

Chef Lee is to be commended for not doing that. But his apparent opposite approach is just wrong-headed in the current NY media climate.

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Ducasse was a critical bomb at the Essex House -- possibly the highest-profile critical bomb in the history of New York restaurant reviewing. I happen to think almost all the critics got it completely wrong and that it was one of the best restaurants in the history of New York, but that's a separate issue. In the case of Shang, if anything, I think the reviews overall have been too kind. I'm under something of a gag order but when I read the review by the critic I dined there with, I was amazed at the generosity of the review given how weak the meal was (then again there were other visits without me, I guess). Out-of-town chefs in general tend to win some and lose some here. Per Se is arguably the best restaurant in New York City right now and Keller, though he had a career here long ago, is basically an out-of-town chef running a branch of an out-of-town restaurant here. He was very well received when he opened here. Le Bernardin was originally in France, wasn't it? Masa in California. I think that makes for a majority of four-star restaurants with out-of-town origins. If Susur Lee had opened a great restaurant I have little doubt it would have opened to critical raves. He didn't. It didn't.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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But some of the mincing is like going to Moto and saying they have lousy japanese food.

I'm not sure I (a) understand or (b) agree with this. moto isn't a Japanese restaurant - that I know for sure. So, yes, going to moto and expecting and evaluating it as a Japanese restaurant is a faulty line of reasoning.

But Shang IS a "global Chinese" restaurant (as Frank Bruni described it).

Can someone tell me what exactly what that is?

Because, as an outsider who's never eaten at any of Susur Lee's restaurants, I'm thoroughly confused before I even walk into the restaurant. As a consumer, I'm not sure Lee has done a sufficient job of convincing me that HE knows what be wants this restaurant to be.

And, people here, who have been to the restaurant (and seem articulate and intelligent enough to explain and describe with some accuracy and competence, and often wit), seem also unable to nail down what Shang is supposed to/wanting/trying to be.

So, what I'm saying is, I'm not sure how Shang is supposed to be evaluated, if one is to do so. But what I am hearing is that whatever people think Shang is supposed to be, it's present state is far from solid.

Edited by ulterior epicure (log)

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Not to discount how hard it is to open in NYC, but this seems to me to be the inevitable result of Susur leaving the protective Toronto bubble. He's an immensely talented chef who's not faced a whole lot of criticism in the past. Back home, he could do no wrong, but, not having eaten at Shang, the criticisms that one would levy on the restaurant were pretty predictable based on my experience in Toronto. When it's not on, Susur’s food can be frantic, over-complicated, unfocused, overworked etc. In Toronto, these problems were over-looked. In NYC, during a period where even the best complex food is greeted with skepticism, Susur's inconsistency is deadly. Don’t get me wrong, I like Susur Lee's work. He is responsible for some truly memorable dishes that I've eaten. Despite this, I think he's been protected in Toronto and has never had to address some of the flaws in his cooking. I still plan on eating at Shang and wish Susur all the best. But that doesn't mean that I'm surprised by the critical response.

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Out-of-town chefs in general tend to win some and lose some here. Per Se is arguably the best restaurant in New York City right now and Keller, though he had a career here long ago, is basically an out-of-town chef running a branch of an out-of-town restaurant here. He was very well received when he opened here. Le Bernardin was originally in France, wasn't it? Masa in California.

Both Le Bernardin and Masa closed in their original locations, and the chefs moved here permanently. Among those who've opened NYC restaurants without moving here permanently, the track record is pretty bad—at least in terms of reception. Keller is about the only successful high-profile example I can think of in recent memory.
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Out-of-town chefs in general tend to win some and lose some here. Per Se is arguably the best restaurant in New York City right now and Keller, though he had a career here long ago, is basically an out-of-town chef running a branch of an out-of-town restaurant here. He was very well received when he opened here. Le Bernardin was originally in France, wasn't it? Masa in California.

Both Le Bernardin and Masa closed in their original locations, and the chefs moved here permanently. Among those who've opened NYC restaurants without moving here permanently, the track record is pretty bad—at least in terms of reception. Keller is about the only successful high-profile example I can think of in recent memory.

Ironically, the other Canadian superstar chef who opened in NYC, Toque's Normand Laprise, was met with praise by at least the Times at Cena. How long did he last even with a 3 star review? Funny how things work out.

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Not to discount how hard it is to open in NYC, but this seems to me to be the inevitable result of Susur leaving the protective Toronto bubble. He's an immensely talented chef who's not faced a whole lot of criticism in the past. Back home, he could do no wrong, but, not having eaten at Shang, the criticisms that one would levy on the restaurant were pretty predictable based on my experience in Toronto. When it's not on, Susur’s food can be frantic, over-complicated, unfocused, overworked etc. In Toronto, these problems were over-looked. In NYC, during a period where even the best complex food is greeted with skepticism, Susur's inconsistency is deadly. Don’t get me wrong, I like Susur Lee's work. He is responsible for some truly memorable dishes that I've eaten. Despite this, I think he's been protected in Toronto and has never had to address some of the flaws in his cooking. I still plan on eating at Shang and wish Susur all the best. But that doesn't mean that I'm surprised by the critical response.

I'm not sure where you got this idea but he's as revered and he is criticized up north. My friends up north are split up the middle as far as love/hate. But then again, we're the same way when talking old world vs new world wines. He's under the Joanna Kates wunderkind umbrella but he still gets some bad ink now and then.

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Both Le Bernardin and Masa closed in their original locations, and the chefs moved here permanently.

Susur Lee seems to be living here now, and he closed Susur to open Shang. I'm not sure that matters, but if anything he has followed the path that earns love for out-of-town chefs. None of which is enough to compensate for a weak restaurant.

Ironically, the other Canadian superstar chef who opened in NYC, Toque's Normand Laprise, was met with praise by at least the Times at Cena. How long did he last even with a 3 star review? Funny how things work out.

Cena's failure was surely a business issue unrelated to the restaurant's quality or reception. The food was superb, as were the reviews. I think they got customers. I bet they had an untenable financing arrangement or something like that, because all the ingredients for success were there. There have always been amazing restaurants -- not just in New York, but in New York Lespinasse and Cello are good examples, as was Ducasse at the Essex House -- that have up and closed for behind-the-scenes reasons having nothing to do with how good they were.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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If you can find a bad review written by Chatto, Kates, Mallet, or Pataki, please forward it to me. And the Toronto blog/board community isn't as developed as it is here. Criticism on the major international food blogs in nonexistent. I think Susur could have benefitted from a closer examination.

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I think Susur could have benefitted from a closer examination.

I'm sure that's true (ditto for Lumiere in Vancouver) but Susur was nonetheless a great restaurant (Lumiere too). Shang doesn't seem to have the potential for greatness. I hope I'm proven wrong, though.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Both Le Bernardin and Masa closed in their original locations, and the chefs moved here permanently.

Susur Lee seems to be living here now, and he closed Susur to open Shang. I'm not sure that matters, but if anything he has followed the path that earns love for out-of-town chefs.

My understanding is he closed one of his two Toronto restaurants (Susur, not Lee), and intends to open another one in the space Susur formerly occupied. I also believe that his move here is not permanent, but like anyone he is spending extended time here during the early period.

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Ironically, the other Canadian superstar chef who opened in NYC, Toque's Normand Laprise, was met with praise by at least the Times at Cena. How long did he last even with a 3 star review? Funny how things work out.

That was a shame. I had a wonderful dinner at Cena during its brief existence. At the time, I thought it was one of the best meals I had had in New York.

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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Does anyone have an idea of how much Susur has actually been at and running Shang? Besides Keller and Per Se, the only other non-resident marquee chef that has been successful in NYC is Robuchon. NYC generally doesn't take kindly to "outposts" unlike Las Vegas. In addition to Ducasse, witness Ramsey as another example.

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