Selection by Du: Re-evolution of the “Amazing Chinese Cuisine”

In March this year, I paid my first visit to Selection by Du, the flagship of “Amazing Chinese Cuisine” located on the Bund. It reminded me of my last conversation with Mr. Du four years ago. Time flies in the blink of an eye. Amazing Chinese Cuisine has now expanded to four branches, but one thing remains unchanged: Mr. Du Jianqing’s obsession with quality, which is an unquestioned fact in the food community.

Backdropped by an invincible river view from the 56-story high rise, we discussed whether the restaurant, endowed with Mr. Du’s surname, was a kind of declaration. After all, it’s common to see restaurants named after their head chefs when you are abroad, which seems to be a display of commitment to and confidence in one’s craft. Mr. Du pondered for a moment, telling me there was hesitation because he didn’t want to induce skepticism or be seen as narcissistic. But eventually, he chose to keep the name, saying it was not just a name, but a reflection of his determination and aspiration.

Globally, it’s not uncommon for restaurants to be named after the owners or their family members. However, in China, people seem to be more modest and reserved regarding self-expression.

Mr. Du is steadfast in his approach, adhering to high standards from the outset in doing what he believes in. He aims for quality over quantity in all ingredients and all wares that come into contact with food. This restaurant embodies his 33 years of expertise and pursuit in the industry, including his dreams for the future. Thus, the layout of Selection by Du encapsulates his accumulated experience, as well as the lessons learned from the previous three branches.

Mr. Du Jianqing, Owner of Selection by Du

“The past four years are both long and short,” Du says. The restaurant, the team, and himself underwent significant changes. He believes that his team has grown, and his understanding of the culinary industry, the management, and the market has deepened. Especially after the pandemic, changing customer needs presents new challenges, prompting continuous improvement within the team. He also notices innovations and efforts made by Chinese cuisine in Shanghai’s dining scene, and the entire industry is evolving amidst competition.

When talking about recruitment, particularly after COVID, he frankly admits the difficulties. In high-end restaurants, staff now have to adapt to more rules and increased workloads, as well as facing changes in management and the market. This is particularly true for younger generations, who may handle pressure very differently. Luckily, the restaurant team has managed to find flexible ways of adapting to individual needs.

The year-long preparation for Selection by Du included two trips to Europe for purchasing and customizing Bernardaud tableware. The restaurant’s interior is simple, modern, airy, and bright, with a main color palette of beige and white. The space, reaching up to 4 meters in height, creates a sense of openness and comfort, aiming to make guests feel at home. The tea sets include some exquisite custom pieces from Jingdezhen, China’s celebrated capital of porcelain. The lighting is tailor-made after detailed discussion with renowned domestic designers, taking nearly half a year to complete. “What’s important is not how much capital is invested, but the pursuit of quality and passion for this work. To me, the restaurant is more than just a business; it’s my work,” Du says as if deep in thought.

A signature dish at Selection by Du is the Australian Pearl Meat Soup. A highly regarded delicacy, pearl meat is the adductor muscle of the pearl oyster. Once dried, it exudes a slightly salted, but refreshing aroma of the sea, making it a unique and valuable ingredient rarely used in Chinese restaurants. Mr. Du thinks pearl meat is an excellent ingredient and bought it already six months ago. When simmered with scallops, it results in a soup with a golden hue, a tangy flavour, and a sweet aftertaste.

Another signature dish is a unique blend of fish maw and pasta stuffed with prawn and pork paste. Since its inception, Amazing Chinese Cuisine has been renowned for its expertise in crafting fish maw dishes. The three-head butterfly fish maw is from South America, paired with pasta stuffed with fresh East China Sea hardback prawn and air-flown Chaozhou local pork, then slowly simmered in the restaurant’s time-honored Chao-style seafood broth to fully absorb the flavours. The fish maw is thick and soft, reminiscent of the texture of rice cakes, accentuated by al dente Italian pasta and the rich filling. For the umami seafood broth, I couldn’t resist ordering extra rice to pair with it – the savoury and rich flavour is just captivating and unforgettable.

Fish Maw and Pasta Stuffed with Prawn and Pork Paste

I asked Mr. Du what he thinks should constitute a great family banquet. “A family banquet is typically meant to treat very close and respected guests. The setting should be warm and intimate, comfortable and relaxing. Attentive and caring service is also crucial. As for the dishes, flavours can be homestyle but ingredients must be of high quality, the presentation refined but also delightful.”

On the menu, there’s a dish called Puning Tofu with Caviar. Since it’s designed fora family banquet, the dish hopes to capture the unique culinary traits of the Chaoshan region through professional cooking and pairing. The tofu is added with shrimp and local pork, deep-fried until crispy and golden outside and tender inside with an incredibly smooth texture. The caviar served on top adds a savoury note of umami.

One of the main dishes is Onion, Mushroom & Beef Cheek, which often gets a bad reputation for being overcooked and mushy in many restaurants. At Amazing Chinese Cuisine, they use fresh Chaoshan beef cheek, which is cooked to fork-tender for an easy bite with just the right texture to go with shiitake mushroom, dried daikon, and onion. In Chaoshan, beef cheek is a popular delicacy that requires advance reservations due to its particularity. Mr. Du spent years sourcing in Chaoshan before securing a stable supply.

Ending on a delicate and captivating French dessert is undoubtedlyjoyous. Yet, I can’t help but miss the salted lemon mung bean cake from the BFC venue, where the smooth and subtly sweet mung bean paste wonderfully intertwines with the salted lemon. I thought to myself how incredible this dessert can turn out to be if it blends in a hint of Chaoshan.

寧豆腐搭配魚子醬

Beyond a commitment to exceptional quality, every detail from logistics, kitchen operations, to meal preparation, and storage solutions, has been meticulously planned. Whether it’s a single cooking worktop or an entire room, custom-made warming sterilizers are equipped on site with calculated space to store all the plates and cutlery needed for a meal service in a private dining room. Such precise measurements are achieved repeatedly to ensure that the team can work with ease even during the busiest times. Finding a restaurant with this level of detail and consideration is like finding a needle in a haystack, even among the many top-tier restaurants I’ve visited around the world.

As long as it’s needed for operation, Du would give full support and spare no effort to inject resources. “I hope our team can work efficiently, provide excellent service, and have top-notch equipment that makes every task effortless and perfect. If there’s an opportunity to expand in the future, I will try to improve and make the results better. For me as well as for the team, we can continue learning and progressing, and accumulating more experience.”

The expansion of Amazing Chinese Cuisine expansion is methodical and to the point – each step is fully prepared and steadily made. The branches have their unique features, providing a model that can be referenced for the establishment of many high-end Chinese restaurants. The strategic differentiation of signature dishes at each branch avoids homogeneity within the brand.

In the realm of Chaozhou cuisine, Du Jianqing is a pioneer. He keeps exploring and innovating on the foundations of his hometown’s culinary heritage. “For any regional cuisine to establish itself in a first-tier city, it cannot remain unchanged,” he said at an interview in 2020. 

Overlooking the Bund from Selection By Du as the night fell, I saw the lights on both sides of the river weave together, with Pudong and Puxi each displaying their unique splendor. Whereas the river flows relentlessly, I guess transience and continuity would always co-exist in this “magical city” called Shanghai.

 
Author: Jocelyn 华姐

Photo: Allen Li、Selection By Du

Share your love
Jocelyn Chen
Jocelyn Chen
Articles: 314

Subscribe Newsletter

Stay tuned with us.

Please fill up your information.

Read previous post:
Overlooking the Wat Pho Temple, Nusara Walks from Past to Future

Earlier this year, I finally revisited Bangkok and had the pleasure of dining with Tam (Chaisiri Tassanakajohn), the co-founder of...

Close