The Chinese proverb “Food is the God of the people” remains ever true, reflecting the unceasing pursuit of culinary excellence across generations in China.

Today marks the unveiling of the 2024 Black Pearl Restaurant Guide, a coveted list celebrating the pinnacle of Chinese gastronomy. Now in its seventh year, this prestigious guide features 341 restaurants from 30 cities worldwide. Shanghai continues to dominate, boasting 66 listed restaurants and maintaining its position as the city with the most recognized establishments.

The 2024 edition also introduced the inaugural “Dish of the Year” award, spotlighting regional cuisines like Chu, Yunnan, and Chaoshan, further enriching the tapestry of Chinese culinary culture.

Emphasizing Value for Money Spurs High-Quality Growth in the Culinary Industry

The Chinese dining scene is evolving from opulence to refined, nutritious, and healthy choices. This shift towards value-driven, high-quality dining has spurred growth in the industry, with the Black Pearl Guide playing a pivotal role in highlighting these trends.

In Shanghai, 43 of the 66 Black Pearl-listed restaurants serve Chinese cuisine, including 19 specializing in local Jiangsu and Zhejiang dishes and 10 in Cantonese cuisine. Notably, Zhejiang restaurants in Shanghai increased from 3 to 5, marking their debut in the top five cuisines.

The number of Black Pearl-listed restaurants has steadily grown, with over half of the cities achieving record highs. Shanghai, a trendsetter in refined dining, sees a third of its new entries focusing on value for money. For instance, Shi Lu NOBLE, a newly listed one-diamond establishment, saw a 10% increase in customer traffic in January. Manager Wu Bing attributes this to offering Black Pearl standard services and ingredients at accessible prices, with 30% of their menu updated annually.

Beijing’s 38 listed restaurants include a unique one-diamond Chinese restaurant, setting a new standard in refined Chinese dining. Guangzhou’s 19 entries not only celebrate Cantonese cuisine but also introduce Hunan and other regional cuisines, showcasing the city’s diverse and refined culinary scene. Shenzhen, with 17 entries, leads in new additions, while Wuhan, with a 66% increase, is the fastest-growing city, spearheading refined dining in central China. Wuxi, a newcomer last year, added one restaurant, indicating strong growth in high-end dining.

Newly participating cities like Fuzhou and Nanchang, with two entries each, enrich the Black Pearl’s culinary map and bring local specialties to a broader audience.

Zhang Chuan, Senior Vice President of Meituan, commented on the promising future of the dining industry. The Black Pearl Guide is set to enter a phase of high-quality development, reflecting consumers’ evolving tastes for refined dining. The guide will continue to encourage restaurants to focus on authenticity, taste, local ingredients, and sound management practices, aiming to offer high-value culinary experiences to a wider audience.

“China’s Taste Buds” Celebrates Local Flavors with the Debut of the Top Ten Annual Dishes

The rejuvenation of China’s distinguished culinary culture in contemporary times is largely attributed to an abundance of talent and a surge in innovation. To recognize and encourage exceptional chefs in the culinary field, the Black Pearl has been awarding individual honors to those with significant achievements and potential. From this year, the Black Pearl is also introducing the “Dish of the Year” award to foster innovation in dish development and the use of local ingredients.

Adhering to the Black Pearl’s “China’s Taste Buds” standards, the 2024 Dish of the Year award identifies ten dishes based on uniqueness, culinary skill, and market recognition. These include offerings from eight major Chinese cuisines, as well as regional specialties like Chu, Yunnan, and Chaoshan cuisines.

A notable example is the “Snowflake Chicken Naohu” from Sichuan cuisine, a dish that embodies the concept of “chicken hidden within,” masterfully created by chef Zhang Yuanfu. Using Qingguo olive oil from Sichuan, this dish features cloud-like chicken that’s soft and delicately seasoned. Another celebrated dish is the “Yunnan Tree Tomato with Snow Swallow” from the one-diamond Cui Fu Restaurant in Kunming. This dish uses locally-sourced tree tomatoes, prepared with a low-temperature cold infusion technique and honey to reduce bitterness, becoming a favorite among younger patrons. Each of these annual dishes showcases the years of dedication and skill of the chefs behind them.

Xiamen-born Wu Rong, with his dish of scallion oil-braised taro, has not only won the inaugural “Dish of the Year” award but has also been honored with the “Chef of the Year” award in the 2024 Black Pearl Restaurant Guide. He leads both Yu Wai Tan (BFC Bund Finance Center Store) in Shanghai and Yan Yu · Fujian Hui Guan (Xinjing Center Store) in Xiamen, both achieving two-diamond status in the 2024 guide. Wu Rong is the first chef in Black Pearl’s history to achieve such a grand slam, contributing significantly to the training of Min cuisine chefs and the promotion of Min cuisine culture.

Yang Chao, the post-85s head chef at the one-diamond Yu Xuan restaurant in the Shanghai Park Hyatt Hotel, has been awarded the “Young Chef of the Year” by the 2024 Black Pearl Restaurant Guide. Known for his distinctive style, he draws inspiration from the culinary traditions of Shanghai, Zhejiang, and Jiangsu, creating a set of creative Jiangnan dishes that blend cultural depth with artistic flair, making him a standout among the new generation of chefs.

In recent years, the emergence of regional cuisines within the Black Pearl community reflects the national affection for local culinary culture. Generation after generation of chefs adapt to the times, innovating while preserving traditions. Through their dishes, they convey the cultural confidence of Chinese cuisine.

Shanghai’s list

Further Transparency in Anonymous Scoring and Standards to Promote Fair and Just Evaluation

Transparency, fairness, and justice form the cornerstone of the Black Pearl Restaurant Guide’s evaluation process. For seven years, the guide has adhered to a set of criteria focused on “culinary output, service environment, and heritage innovation” to create a food list that truly represents the Chinese culinary scene. It recruits anonymous judges from the public, ensuring that those with direct interests are not involved in the evaluations.

Starting this year, the Black Pearl has further refined its judging system. The total number of judges has increased by 26.8%, with a faster rotation every five years. This diversity among judges allows for a more comprehensive assessment of each restaurant, enhancing the credibility of the list and ensuring fairness and justice.

At the recent event, Tang Yan, the head of the Black Pearl Restaurant Guide, publicly disclosed the anonymous scoring criteria for the first time. The evaluation process covers the entire dining experience of a guest, interpreting the three main criteria. “Restaurants serve diners, and it is essential to guide their offerings, service, and environment based on customer satisfaction, aiding in their long-term success.” From the initial thought of visiting a restaurant to the completion of the meal, every critical aspect of the dining experience is considered by the judges. This includes key elements like menu design during the ordering process, the appeal and taste of the food during the meal, and value for money as a part of post-dining satisfaction.

To foster knowledge accumulation and sharing within the fine dining industry, this year’s Black Pearl event will include discussions on topics like ingredients, culinary techniques, supply chains, service management, food pairing, and kitchen management. Tang Yan states, “In the future, we will continue to refine our evaluation system and make our standards more transparent, helping the industry to grow rapidly. Together with the restaurants, we aim to tell the new story of Chinese culinary culture.”

The full list is published by and is in Simplified Chinese.

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