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Shanghai stars

The Michelin Guide published its first edition on the Chinese mainland for 2017. China Daily's Xu Junqian asked the chefs of several starred restaurants in Shanghai to pick a dish they think helped them win their awards.

Restaurant: Kanpai Classic (one star)

Dish: Wagyu beef and sea urchin sushi roll

Kanpai Classic is the only yakiniku (Japanese grilled meat) restaurant to have won a star in the inaugural Michelin Guide Shanghai.

Chef Ryo Ishihara believes that the dish that helped his restaurant stand out among the hundreds of others in the city is the Wagyu beef and sea urchin sushi roll. While marbled beef has long been a favorite on the grill because of its fat content, chef Ishihara believes that it is the leaner part of the meat that has been underrated. He says that he decided to pair the meat with sea urchin, a coveted seafood in Shanghai, because it added a different flavor dimension and visual appeal to the dish.

"Cooking is like math. Mediocre cooking is doing addition. Good cooking is about multiplication," says Ishihara.

Restaurant: Jinxuan Chinese Restaurant of Ritz-Carlton Pudong, Shanghai (one star)

Dish: Braised Chilean cod with mushroom and spring onions in casserole

If there is one thing chef Daniel Wong has learned during the 24 years he has spent in Cantonese kitchens, it is that the freshness of fish is determined by the minute. For Wong, that means fish should only be steamed.

To preserve freshness, however, Wong has his fish delivered braised, a quick browning step over high heat; then he adds a little liquid to finish cooking the fish. The dish has become a year-round favorite.

"To qualify as a chef, you only need hands to follow the rules and cook. To excel, you need everything above your neck," says Wong.

Restaurant: Yong Yi Ting of Mandarin Oriental Pudong, Shanghai (one star)

Dish: Braised lobster with gnocchi and winter bamboo shoot in sour broth

Chef Tony Lu isn't quite sure if "gnocchi" is the appropriate term to use, since the food, pronounced "mian ge da" in Shanghai dialect, is a low-budget dish that is mostly made at home as an "emergency food" when a housewife has little time to prepare for a proper meal. Regardless, the dish has proven to be a crowd favorite. He has tweaked the taste profile of the dish by using marinated yellow peppers from Southwest China's Guizhou province for spice and lemon for sourness. These ingredients, he says, are more effective at helping diners stay warm during winter.

"I am often asked if this or that is quintessential Shanghainese cuisine. The essence of Shanghainese cuisine is, like the city, inclusive and adaptable," says Lu.

Restaurant: Sir Elly's (one star)

Dish: Sea-salt smoked black cod

Most of the dishes on the menu at Sir Elly's are available for just three months but the smoked black cod is an exception because it is "feminine", jokes chef Hans Zahner, by which he means it is healthy, refreshing and light. Zahner uses olive oil and tomato consomme instead of butter and cream to achieve this lightness. He uses mashed green peas as the base and smokes the cod with only sea salt in order to maintain the natural flavor.

"I don't sauce the fish. I like to sauce around it, on one condition only-the fish is good enough," says Zahner.

Restaurant: Phenix Eatery & Bar of The Puli Hotel and Spa (one star)

Dish recommended: Compressed Strawberry 95

Chef Michael Wilson notes that he isn't the creator of this hit dish at his restaurant. Rather, he got the recipe from a fellow chef in Amsterdam after being captivated by the aroma and flavor of the basil cake.

Having made a few tweaks to the recipe, the Compressed Strawberry 95, a seasonal special, has since been immensely popular with diners. The dessert features strawberries, crushed ice, yoghurt and vanilla, with a sprinkle of meringue pieces and basil leaves to add a little excitement, he says.

"This dish looks simple, but it's actually not that simple to make," says Wilson.