Those of us living in China might have been spared the tumultuous drama that our US counterparts have experienced in 2017, but like always, the Middle Kingdom has had its own fair share of attention-grabbing headlines. From the boom of shared bikes to a presidential visit from The Donald, our team has put together a list of 2017’s most unforgettable viral stories, recounting major events that defined the worlds of sports, tech, arts, fashion and food. Here’s to another year of eclectic, weird and wonderful life in China, we wouldn’t have it any other way.
For more, follow our full 2017 Year in Review coverage.
After saying goodbye to 8 beloved local establishments, it's time to help ring in the new by celebrating some of the best restaurant openings of this year. Below, find our picks for Guangzhou's most impressive new stops for Japanese, Moroccan, Turkish, Ethiopian, Cantonese and more.
We’re big on tapas, especially exotic ones. You get loads of delightful variety, and as Mama always says, sharing is caring. By the masterminds behind Le Saint Maxime, this part restaurant, part lounge, part nightclub on the sixth floor comes blessed with expansive, uninterrupted views – reason enough to turn heads. Its varied, modern menu is designed to share, as is most of Cocina’s food, which we quickly realized is as stimulating to the eyes as it is to the palate.
Down some anticuchos (skewers) to whet your appetite for more solids – try the salmon cubes (RMB48/2) drizzled with a peppery sauce (amazing), followed by some of the most delicious ceviches you could imagine this side of town. Be sure to try the Pescado (RMB48): fish of the day served in a small bowl with peppers, onions, corn and micro herbs in a bath of leche de tigre. It sounds strange, but we would fish and/or swim across the Pearl River just for one bite.
Who’s going: those with trained taste buds
Good for: ceviche, tempting tapas and late-night patio parties
After opening several branch restaurants around the world in metropolises like New York and Hong Kong, Inakaya has finally brought its treasured fireside cooking to Guangzhou, setting up shop in IGC mall last November. Located on the fifth floor of the luxury shopping center, Inakaya invites patrons past a wooden Japanese-style facade towards an interior that boasts eight private dining rooms, a killer view of downtown Guangzhou and a second story for parties of up to 150 people.
The price of a spread at Inakaya, not surprisingly, is spectacularly high – well, at least for the majority of China’s laobaixing. “This is imported from Japan – it’s 88 kuai,” we’re told of a sweet potato. Though brutal on the wallet, the teppanyaki course (RMB680 for one person) is well worth the splurge and includes an appetizer, salad, seasonal seafood (scallop in our case), roasted king prawn, beef tenderloin chops, fried rice with beef, seasonal vegetables, miso soup and fruit.
Who’s going: the well-off, foodies following Inakaya’s fame
Good for: teppanyaki dishes, sweeping your date off their feet
3. La Medina
It used to be craft beer (Tipsy) and specialty coffee (Pressroom) that brought us to 289 Art Space. Now, it’s falafels, hummus, lamb tagine and cocktails, in a setting that works just as well for lunch as it does late-night drinks. La Medina – named after the maze-like medina (or ‘old city’) quarters in Morocco – is set away from the road in a quiet section of the park, making its outdoor patio secluded enough for working or gazing into the eyes of your unexpectedly chivalrous Tinder date.
It’s also one of the only establishments in 289 with its own bathroom, so you don’t have to trek halfway across the city when nature calls.
Ordering a round of tapas is essential to experiencing all that La Medina has to offer. Try the shrimp chermoula (RMB58), marinated in a pungent herb sauce, and, for large groups, the mezze platter (RMB110), a collection of homemade hummus, carrot chermoula, taktouka (a zesty puree of tomatoes and green pepper), homemade marinated olives, Moroccan salad and homemade merguez, or mutton- and beef-based sausage.
Price: RMB250 for dinner, drinks
Who’s going: anyone who misses homemade hummus, falafels and couscous
Good for: Moroccan cuisine, an intimate bar experience
Earlier this year, we announced with great excitement and relief that Guangzhou now has a Morton’s of its own – excitement because the setup in IGC looks absolutely stellar, and relief because we finally have a restaurant that fills the gaping void between lackluster Western pub food and unaffordable five-star hotel fare.
Morton’s famous happy hour is on every day from 5-7pm, serving a selection of drinks at RMB38 and bar bites for RMB28-48 instead of the usual RMB78-98. If you’re looking for the legendary free-flow steak sandwiches offered at locations back home, however, you may be disappointed to learn that the Guangzhou branch (like Shanghai’s) doesn’t offer the complimentary snack. But don’t fret: every meal begins with a generous loaf of warm onion bread free of charge.
Who’s going: anyone serious about steak, local high-rollers
Good for: the tastiest red meat in South China, epic city views
A bizarre, yet wonderful, hybrid of Hook’s ship and your standard high-end Japanese eatery, Diaoxi Haichan caught our eye the second we walked passed. In the center of the restaurant sits a junk- or perhaps pirate-inspired vessel, set in a shallow saltwater pool filled with all manner of fish. This is where things get gimmicky: if you so wish, you can actually fish from your table on the boat for dinner. Fishing rods are provided and chefs will prepare your catch.
The food here is spectacular, albeit pricy. An order of salmon sashimi comes with three pieces and costs RMB46, which, although more than you will pay at a hole-in-the-wall sushi shop, seems fair considering the quality and thickness of the cuts.
The pork and kimchi ramen (RMB58) is Diaoxi Haichan’s choice noodle offering, with ample meat and pickled cabbage arranged atop a pile of noodles soaked in a savory broth. The BBQ pork ramen in pork bone soup (RMB58) was disappointing by comparison, although it still offered generous portions of meat.
Price: RMB200 per person
Who’s going: sailors, fisherman and selfie aficionados
Good for: catching your dinner
Zagol, located a two-minute walk from The Paddy Field on Huale Lu, features four tables inside and a patio that’s always packed. Avoid the headache of deciphering the menu and just ask for the Zagol special: one spoonful of every dish on offer plus a dollop of cheese in the center – all plopped atop fresh injera (RMB80). One of these generous specials (pictured above) is enough for two to three, and injera is graciously replenished throughout the meal at no extra cost.
If you’re still hungry, simply tell the staff which sample you liked best and order a full serving for between 60-80 kuai. Lamb, beef, chicken, egg and veggie dishes as well as lentil- or bean-based sauces are all prepared fresh in the back kitchen. First-time diners will love the doro wat (RMB70), which combines chicken and a boiled egg cooked in spices, onion, garlic, tomato juice and ginger.
Who’s going: Ethiopians, in-the-know foodies
Good for: injera imported from Ethiopia; wats, tibs and coffee ceremonies
Have you ever been to a place and thought “Damn, am I really in Guangzhou?” That's exactly what comes to mind at Fuel, where endless attention, serious comfort and carefully orchestrated pleasures abound. An inspired French restaurant with an uber-cool bar and rooftop lounge in Party Pier, this fine two-floor spread is chic and swanky, with avant-garde furnishings and a classy vibe that transports you to what is to come.
Pushing the boundaries of technique is the tomato gazpacho (RMB88). Though not traditionally French, the combination of king crab, avocado puree and cold, refreshing soup poured over it is comforting.
For mains, the Fuel black cod (RMB288) is a must-have. The powerful depth of the black olive paste and natural sweetness of the caramelized onions adds an elevating dimension. Beef lovers will adore the slowed-cooked veal shank (RMB198) in a rich, piquant tomato cumin sauce.
Who’s going: foodies on an empty stomach, well-traveled gourmands
Good for: lushly presented dishes, imaginative flavor combinations
8. Yun Pavilion
Foodies, take note: if you dig Michelin-quality dishes and are looking to throw down on a fine dining experience that promises to be impeccable from start to finish, then Yun Pavilion at the newly-opened Conrad Guangzhou might just be the place to splurge.
At Yun, all the usual menu suspects are in evidence, from double-boiled soups and sea cucumber to premium bird’s nest and barbequed pork, so one may start to wonder how the chef will demonstrate his culinary prowess through such common dishes.
The rock salt baked chicken (RMB338/whole, RMB168/half) is elevated by the artistic technique of using a rock salt base to lock in the moisture and flavor to create juicy, tender morsels. If seafood takes your fancy, opt for the Shunde-style steamed mandarin fish with rice flour sheets (RMB338), with slivers of chili and scallions. It may seem simple to describe, but at Yun, it’s a taste to behold.
Who’s going: molecular gastronomists, those with deep pockets
Good for: Cantonese with a twist, designer recipes, artistic creations
Isolated and embellished by a garden of verdure, Xintian Botanic Life Restaurant is a vegetarian eatery tucked away behind the Liuhua Expo Center across the road from the China Hotel. Finding it isn’t difficult: after entering from Gate No. 1, look for the green plants on your left – its front door is adorned with scores of them.
The waiters here are warm and helpful in elaborating on the ordering procedure as well as dishes. Kung Pao lion’s mane mushroom (RMB68), one of the most ordered dishes, is a slightly spicy, sweet and sour treat with ‘lion’s mane mushrooms,’ cashews and bell papers. Cooking skill is demonstrated with another popular dish: Wanwu Shengzhang Shala 万物生长沙拉 (literally ‘all things grow salad,’ RMB56). Presented as a potted plant, it is made of mustard-flavored Cocoa Krispies and Rice Krispies as the base and poached okras, mushrooms and carrots as the plants. The taste? If mustard is to your liking, this is a satisfying dish.
Recommended by the waiter (who is wearing a leafy plant adornment atop his head), is the wheatgrass detox drink (RMB40), made from wheatgrass grown on the premises.
Who’s going: vegetarians, in-the-know Chinese
Good for: spicy vegetarian dishes, green dining environment
10. Grand Trunk
Back in November, we embarked on the relatively painless metro ride to Foshan with one burning question: why would a fast-casual naan burger concept from Washington DC choose Foshan, China of all places to launch its second shop? It turns out moving to China was an unexpected leap of faith for cofounder Kamran Cheema as well. “Expanding was always the goal, but China right off the bat? Probably not,” he said.
Invented by Cheema and his brother when they were kids (and often had to cook for themselves while their physician parents worked long hours), naan burgers are undoubtedly the main attraction at Grand Trunk.
We preferred the classic beef version over the Washington ‘Capital Chicken,’ as the former packs a punch of seasoned flavor (both RMB88 for a single patty, RMB148 for double).
Who’s going: Foshan visitors and expats, affluent locals
Good for: naan burgers, home-style South Asian cuisine
Honorable Mention: Mado
If you didn't guess by the photo above, Mado is all about ice cream (though it also offers a huge variety of baked goods, brunch, sandwiches, soups, salads, pizza and pasta). The ice cream recipe is unique given that it’s Turkish, and combines goat’s milk, sugar, salep (flour made from the root of wild orchids) and mastic (“a resin that imparts chewiness”) to create a stickier version of our favorite frozen dessert.
It’s so sticky that you can actually hang chunks of the stuff (at low temperatures) and carve it with a knife like you would Brazilian barbecue meat.
Dondurma, or Turkish ice cream, is served in flat ‘layers’ – not scoops – and is priced at RMB18 for one layer, RMB36 for two and RMB58 for four (or one ‘portion’) at Mado. We advise you splurge on a full portion, which works out to roughly two scoops of ice cream by traditional measurements.
Who’s going: anyone who likes ice cream, those who know the Mado brand
Good for: delicious dondurma, Turkish baked goods
For more 2017 Year in Review coverage, click here.