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CO-WRITTEN / PARTNER | Staff Reporter, Hong Kong
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Elite Concepts' yè shanghai -The Enduring Flame

yè shanghai was created to celebrate the nostalgia of Shanghai’s glorious past heyday.

Since the discovery of fire, man has aspired to master its flames. The successful came to be the elite. In China, the elite continued this mastery with the creation of awe inspiring experiences through their development of fireworks and the Eight Culinary Treasures. Now as it was then, Elite Concepts Hong Kong has mastered the flames and fanned them into a bushfire of inspired culinary experiences that is successfully spreading across Asia. Inspiration, passion, and comfort all have their fire. And like the Olympic flame which came from the heavens and was given to torch bearers to carry across the lands, Elite Concepts Hong Kong has emulated that excellence since they opened their first flagship restaurant in 1991. Now, with brands such as NINETEENFORTYNINE, Nanhai No. 1, Eyebar, Duck De Chine, Deng G, they have kindled the flames of inspiration, passion, comfort, and delight through culinary excellence throughout Asia.

The yè shanghai experience
Elite Concept’s strongest and steadiest flame, though, is yè shanghai. Celebrating its twentieth anniversary in its Hong Kong Island store, Mr. Damien Chang, General Manager of Yè Shanghai Group shares, “yè shanghai was created to celebrate the nostalgia of Shanghai’s glorious past heyday, where the East was seducing the West with a blend of decadence and romanticism. Our twentieth anniversary renovation was intended to evoke the spirit of those glorious days,“ he said. “We want the diners to experience the feeling of dining in the past whilst in a modern and stylish environment, hence our motto, ‘Now as it was then’. Old Shanghai, the birthplace of greatness, yè shanghai continues to instill the joie de vivre of old Shanghai with its other locations in Tsim Sha Tsui, Taipei and Shanghai.

When asked if dining at yè shanghai was gastronomic or epicurious, Mr. Chang replies, “A combination of both really. You can’t define your guests by either of them. We cater for all kinds of guests, families, business groups, tourists, curious, and critics.” Much like the heyday of Old Shanghai where all were attracted to Shanghai’s flame. Industrialists and financiers, refugees from Europe, Chinese from the countryside, artists, politicians, seekers, finders, and celebrants; now as it was then, all dine at yè shanghai taking in this spirit.

Today, the ambience at yè shanghai though modern resonates with the greatness of the past. One can easily visualised characters from the past dining in yè shanghai. In one corner of the dining room Tian Han and Nie Er are collaborating on a song for “the Children of Trouble Times” movie. Opposite them Pan Yuliang, just back from France, sits at a table in front of a nude painting studying the center of the room seeking inspiration. Black and white photo collages share captured moments of life in Old Shanghai.

Movie handbills featuring future icons Rita Hayworth and Marlene Dietrich announce their Shanghai premiere. Throughout the spacious main dining room would be the likes of China’s own movie stars Wang Renmei, Qin Yi, and Gong Quixia all celebrating in the company of mysterious well to do men. Jazz, cigars, and liquor were plentiful. Mystery and intrigue were rife in Old Shanghai. Greatness was on the horizon.

Mastery of flame
And there is no greater way to nurture greatness than with the cuisine of Old Shanghai. Greatness is at yè shanghai.“My personal favorite at yè shanghai is the Braised Sea Cucumber with Scallion. It’s a simple dish that is hard to standardize and perfect as it is a delicate dish that takes up to 4 days to prepare. It shows great skills to be able to deliver the same delicious dish every time. It’s quite healthy dish, great for summer,”recommends Mr. Chang.

yè shanghai’s cuisine requires a mastery of the flames to braise, roast, quick-fry and steam. It also requires the best and freshest ingredients to achieve culinary greatness. “At yè shanghai we strive for quality. We have a back office that sources the freshest ingredients, and then we rely on our seasoned staff to keep improving,”he adds.

yè shanghai’s dedication has earned them ten Michelin Stars since 2010. That mastery is spreading throughout Asia bringing opportunity for new inspirations. “Having 4 venues in different cities, we get the opportunity to do research and see the viability of, for example, bringing crabs from Yang Cheng River, or special teas from Taiwan for our Chakeli.”continues Mr. Chang “To update on our menu we worked together with famous chefs: Zhu and Ge. They brought fresh eyes to our menu improving some dishes, adding news ones. It’s also very important that our chefs learn new ways of cooking and different skills.“

Mastery of flame
In Hong Kong one could dine at a different restaurant for every meal of the day without repetition for many years. Mr. Chang shares yè shanghai’s philosophy on their success, “In the F&B industry, you have to listen to your guests, but also innovate. It is a balance between knowing your market, and also how to disrupt it, by improving their dining experiences. But the most important factors are the consistency of the cuisine we are serving, as well as the quality of service we provide. Our staff has been with us for a number of years, they all recognize our regulars by name, know their families and friends. That makes the decision easy for many guests.”The flames of comfort are kept by Mr. Chang who has been there from the beginning.

“We are always looking for new ways to innovate. We are working on it. At the same time there are brands within yè shanghai, like Chakeli that we will be pushing early 2018, so watch out! Be prepared for 2018, because it’s going to be amazing! yè shanghai, Now as it was then, enduring and ever brighter.” Elite Concepts, the group behind yè shanghai is a recipient of this years Hong Kong High Flyers Award for Innovative F&B Concepts category.  

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