A picture of Shang's Singapore Slaw, sent out as promotional material years ago.
Susur Lee may have launched Shang in early December, but his first foray into the big bucks Manhattan fine dining scene has not been reviewed by either the NYC dailies (the Times, the Post) or weeklies (New York Magazine, Village Voice, TimeOut New York).
Oh, there have been the usual puff pieces ("I live in Toronto, which is such a small city, so we don't really have uptown") and celebrity profiles ("I love chicken feet"), but no reviews of his food. That didn't stop Mr. Lee from placing 43rd in a rating of New York's top chefs in November even though Shang had yet to open its doors.
While print media have yet to shing the praises of Shang, the blogosphere has been all over Susur since day one. Former New York magazine resto critic Gael Green was the first to weigh-in on Shang:
"What is it like? ‘What are the Beatles like?' you might have asked before hearing the Liverpudlian four. Like no one, would have been the answer. Susur Lee's magical tour has taken him from Hong Kong, to Toronto, to Singapore with its triangle of influences - Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia - back to Toronto and now he hopes to woo New York with these lyrical inventions," writes Green of the chef who "looks like a movie star and talks like a poet".
GQ food critic and blogger Alan Richman also has trouble keeping it in his pants:
"Chef Lee is pony-tailed, pleasant, and on-premises. According to one of my female guests, he is also "so hot," which I probably wouldn't mention had we been north of Houston Street, where such dining attributes are considered superfluous. His food is being promoted as ‘global Chinese,' but I think it's absolutely the opposite, totally individualistic, one man's admirable and elevated version of Chinese."
The anonymous posters at Yelp have also been extremely enthusiastic ("YOU CANNOT MISS their TURNIP CAKE!!!") although the Chowhound crew characteristically come up clueless ("I was a little confused why the water came with a lemon slice already in it. Do they think NYC tap water tastes bad?")
The New York Times' make-or-break critic Frank Bruni has yet to give his thumbs up in the pages of the Old Gray Lady, but his year-end wrap-up of the best restaurants of 2008 suggests that Shang is sure to make the grade next year:
"There are restaurants that came along at the end of the year that might well turn out to have as much merit as anything on my top 10 list; they just haven't been open long enough for me to review them. There's some excitement out there, for example, about the John Dory, a British seafood restaurant from the team behind the Spotted Pig, and about Shang, where the acclaimed Toronto chef Susur Lee is making his New York debut. For the purposes of my top 10 rankings, they belong to 2009."
To see what all the fuss about, here's a copy of Shang's opening menu, which of course, this being the Big Apple and all, isn't available on the resto's website.