By Mark Godfrey, SeafoodSource contributing editor reporting from Beijing, China
Published on 25 February, 2013
Oysters are seen as the new “sexy” food of China according to a Chicago chef running a successful oyster bar in Shanghai.
David Brode and his restaurant, the Plump Oyster, featured in a two-page spread in the local edition of GQ magazine, having served and explained to the GQ crew a plate of his finest oysters from around the world.
Since opening his restaurant in August last year Brode has also been pursued by a new wave of suppliers, including a Shanghai native who has supplies solely oysters from a particular oyster farm in New Zealand.
“It’s a very Chinese thing, they see there’s money to be made,” said Brode by way of explaining the sudden profusion of suppliers. The Plump Oyster works with seven regular suppliers.
Since August, Brode has served 22 varieties at the Plump Oyster, including French, South African and American product. The oysters from Ireland are among the most popular, he explains, “because the Chinese like a slightly fatty oyster, something with richness to it.”
His year-around best seller is a Kumimoto that he serves at CNY 53 (USD 8.50, EUR 6.50) per piece. Varieties from France sell for CNY 55 (USD 8.82, EUR 6.75) to CNY 80 (USD 12.83, EUR 9.82). He won’t serve local oysters, said Brode, “because they’re not tested, not reliable and not safe… Even when suppliers say they’ve tested the oysters and water for bacteria they likely haven’t.”
There has been a learning curve to business in Shanghai for the 32 year old, who said he’s struggled to find and train staff. Having started with the goal of being “as competitive as possible” he’s also had to tweak his prices upwards: “We were too cheap.”
Brode is also in demand as an advisor to the F&B trade and to culinary magazines seeking to join the oyster craze. He expects more restaurants to add oysters to their menus but believes the Plump Oyster will remain unique as the city’s only stand-alone oyster bar. While the new Waldorf Astoria hotel on the city’s famous Bund has an oyster bar “they don’t specialize…they don’t show the oyster culture like we do.”
A lounge as well as an oyster bar, the Plump Oyster is located in Taikang Terrace and Brode believes demand will be year-around, given he has a patio, a rooftop terrace – and late night opening hours.
“In China oyster demand isn’t seasonal, it’s year-round and we’ll be catering to that.”
To get the word out, Brode plans to invite more Chinese media to taste his oysters and sees a busy 2013 for purveyors of China’s new “sexy” food.