The good, the bad and the ugly. The weird and the wacky. As is the That’s tradition, we’ve compiled our 2019 China Year in Review series. So sit back, relax and relive the highs and lows of the last 12 months.
The dreaded question every night: What’s for dinner? Luckily, Shenzhen isn’t short of restaurants. But which ones made an impression on our stomachs this year? Below, in no particular order, we share our favorite restaurants that debuted this year:
1. Royal Stacks
Image courtesy of Royal Stacks
Australia’s favorite fast-casual burger chain has arrived in Shenzhen! Royal Stacks is no stranger to China, and after experimenting with openings in Beijing and Chongqing, they have chosen to call Coco Park home.
When we arrived, there was a long queue snaking from the order window (despite it being 8pm on a Tuesday). No doubt about it, this place is in demand. We decided to try the ‘Single Stack’ (RMB46), the meat-heavy ‘Bacon Bacon’ (RMB78) and, to top off the calorific meal, classic fries and freshly-whipped milkshakes. While you can’t go wrong with either, the Bacon Bacon burger was particularly delicious, scoring top marks with the perfect ratio of bun to meat to cheese. Royal Stacks make all their patties with fresh 100% Australian beef, and it’s a difference you can taste.
Who’s going: Coco Park regulars, burger bums
Good for: classic roadside burgers, sweet shakes
Nearest metro: Shopping Park (Exit F), 10 minutes’ walk
Here, you won’t be finding your run-of-the mill breakfast plates. All dishes are thoughtfully prepared, using sauces made in-house and ingredients that subtly incorporate Asian flavors and ingredients.
We start with the ‘Auvers smashed avo’ (RMB68), which is topped with house-made furikake seasoning and dollops of sweet corn miso sauce (a tasty combination). The Auvers eggs benedict (RMB78) comes with smoky pulled pork, an onsen egg and hollandaise sauce atop a croissant. The flavor profile of this dish is on the sweeter side due to the corn salsa and the sauce from the pulled pork. If you like sweet and savory, then this is your jam.
Image courtesy of Auvers
An interesting dish that you perhaps won’t find at other brunch spots is the salmon terrine (RMB88). The smoked salmon (which was very fresh, no fishy taste or smell) envelops a creamy fennel creme fraiche filling. The best part is crushing up the crispy, squid ink cracker, which adds texture to the dish. Lastly, Auvers does a killer flat white (RMB32) along with plenty of other iced beverage options.
Who’s going: yuppies, foodies
Good for: quality brunch, coffee dates
Nearest metro: Gangxia (Exit B), 3 minutes’ walk
Image by Luis Campos for That's
Though Indian Curry Cafe has plenty of meat options for carnivores (including fish, chicken and lamb curries), we decided to take a ‘healthier’ route by only sampling the restaurant’s vegetarian options.
Our meal began with the vegetable samosa (RMB22) and the veggie pakoras (RMB38). Both starters were fried, crispy delights, though they were not as spicy as we would have liked. We suggest asking for extra spicy if you’re used to Indian food with a kick.
Who’s going: cricket fanatics, hungry veggiesauruses
Good for: swell samosas, cool curries, nice naan
Nearest metro: Shuiwan (Exit D), 10 minutes’ walk
Image by Jonathan Zhong/That's
If you’re as tired of browsing the same 10 generic pies at chain pizzerias as we are, you’ll be happy to know about a recent opening: The Pizza Factory, a DIY pizza restaurant from Guangzhou.
After chatting with our colleagues in Guangzhou, we decided to skip the shop’s set pizza options and order a 12-inch DIY pizza (RMB88) right off the bat. Food production at The Pizza Factory is refreshingly transparent and interactive, with your pizza made right in front of you in a five-minute process that’s comparable to a Subway sandwich shop.
If pizza isn’t really your slice, the restaurant has a variety of other options, from wraps to pastas and meat-focused dishes. The party platter (RMB60) is perfect for families and groups of friends and comes with 24-hour marinated chicken wings, crispy calamari, Cajun fries, cheesy sweet potato fries and baked mac ‘n’ cheese.
What really impressed us, though, was the BBQ pork ribs (RMB108). Glazed a deep brown, the meat is delicately prepared and provides an explosion of flavors and textures.
Who’s going: families, picky eaters, hungry shoppers
Good for: DIY eats, a quick and casual meal
Nearest metro: Hi-Tech Park (Exit A), 5 minutes’ walk
Image by Bryan Grogan/That's
One of a number of new restaurants to open in the newest MixC World in Nanshan District and within walking distance of Houhai Metro Station, Brownstone is an accessible and bustling destination for foodies and shoppers alike.
To begin our journey through the foodie plains of Espana, we tucked into Brownstone’s grilled Spain lamb chop (RMB58 for two pieces). Super juicy with a hint of cumin and just the right fat content, the meat comes topped with cooked sliced almonds. The outer texture of the lamb chops is flaky, and soft, succulent pieces of meat fall away with ease.
Who’s going: Spaniards, tired shoppers
Good for: tapas, selfies, a taste of Europe
Nearest metro: Houhai (Exit G), 10 minutes’ walk
6. Oy Oyster
Image by Luis Campos/That’s
Situated right next to Brownstone, Oy Oyster in MixC World is another of the shopping center’s ever-expanding food offerings. A smaller space in comparison to the many restaurants in the area, Oy Oyster may be intimidating to those who aren’t oyster lovers.
With a name like Oy Oyster, it doesn’t take a NASA scientist to figure out what is on offer at this mid-upscale restaurant. What is surprising, however, is the vast selection of ‘fruits of the sea’ that Oy Oyster has to offer.
Their oyster options alone cover almost 20 varieties of mollusks from all over the world. At the suggestion of the restaurant’s staff, we tried the French emerald (RMB39) and the Irish majestic (RMB39), a gentle introduction into the brave world of oyster eating.
Who’s going: fearless eaters, the Bourgeoisie, land pirates
Good for: decadence, slimy salty treats
Nearest metro: Houhai (Exit G), 10 minutes’ walk
7. Wagyu Lab
Image by Jonathan Zhong/That’s
The latest in a procession of so-called foodie labs in the city, Wagyu Lab recently opened at Wongtee Plaza in the heart of Futian District.
Although you can order certain menu items separately, such as the thick-cut beef tongue (RMB98), the truffle Futian shao (roast beef, RMB258), the braised Wagyu with sauce (RMB68), along with approximately 20 other options, customers are encouraged by staff to order a set meal at the eatery. The prices of the three available set meals, however, aren’t particularly customer-friendly. Depending on your selection, prices can range from RMB680 and RMB1,380 per person to RMB1,980, with each set consisting of around 13 courses. In addition, if you can’t read Chinese, the ordering process can be a bit challenging, as the restaurant currently lacks English translations or pictures of the food.
The establishment occupies a large space consisting of a number of private booths and a public area. Stylish art pieces adorn the walls, which, together with a giant pond in the outlet’s hall, ensure a tranquil vibe.
Price: up to RMB1,980, plus 10% gratuity per person
Who’s going: beef lovers, Futian dwellers, tuhao
Good for: Wagyu beef, friendly service, going bankrupt
Nearest metro: Gangxia (Exit B), 7 minutes’ walk
Image courtesy of Kokoni
Kokoni offers three carefully curated set menus: kaiseki (RMB1,800), an omakase option (RMB980) and a teppanyaki (RMB980) option. We opted for the nine-course kaiseki option for a full ride of the Japanese gastronomic experience.
The meal started off with a beautifully plated medley of seasonal savory tastes and textures from both land and sea. These little bites were a perfect introduction to the evening – we were particularly smitten by the grilled eel and the baked whelk dressed in rich herb butter. Next, the teppanyaki soup was concocted right before our eyes after it arrived at the table. Wrapped in a transparent cooking film, the soup is prepared directly on top of the teppan, which allows all the seafood flavors to fully meld (apparently this retains the nutritional value of the ingredients!).
From the large sashimi platter, the fatty tuna (otoro) stood out as an absolutely melt-in-your-mouth cut of goodness. The showstopper, lobster sashimi, had a delicate, sweet flavor and was well complemented by freshly grated wasabi.
Who’s going: sashimi lovers, Japanese food aficionados
Good for: fresh sashimi and sushi, Wagyu, teppanyaki
Nearest metro: Dengliang (Exit A), 10 minutes’ walk
To start off the night, we ordered a fail-safe option, chips and guac (RMB75). The guacamole tasted fresh, had the right amount of zest and came with plenty of chips for dipping. For our mains, we had an order of four tacos, split evenly between al pastor and beef (RMB75-95).
Image by That’s
The soft tacos came packed with lip-smacking seasoned meat and a generous sprinkle of cilantro and onions. To temper the hot sauce that we were dabbing onto our tacos, we tried the ‘Horchata Water’ (RMB30), which is best described as a milky cinnamon-flavored beverage, served cold. The carnitas (RMB105) were also recommended by our server and were essentially braised pulled pork simmering in its own juices and tucked away in tinfoil, with tortillas served on the side. Simply delicious.
Who’s going: festive friends, carnitas-loving couples
Good for: authentic home-cooking, tacos al pastor, tequila
Nearest metro: Shopping Park Station (Exit B), 4 minutes’ walk
If you’ve been in Shenzhen for a while, you’ve surely heard of local favorite, Magpie. You’ll be excited to know that the same team has opened up a new concept (in line with the bird theme) called Corvidae, at Coco Park.
Image by Phoebe Kut/That’s
Corvidae is described by Cadence Gao, chef-owner of Magpie, as “casual eating influenced by childhood memories of a Northerner.” When we visit the restaurant on a Wednesday night, Gao vividly recalled the story behind each dish. For instance, the ‘Spamwhich’ (RMB65) is a grown-up version of a treat that Gao’s grandfather used to prepare on a whim back when he lived in Shanghai.
Who’s going: hungry urbanites, yuppies
Good for: sweet and savory bao, fried chicken
Nearest metro: Shopping Park Station (Exit D), 4 minutes’ walk
For more 2019 Year in Review coverage, click here.
[Cover image via Royal Stacks, Luis Campos, Jonathan Zhong, That’s]