Author/Photo credit : Jocelyn Chen
The Pine at RuiJin is located at Shanghai’s 100-year-old RuiJin Hotel. Its chef, Johnston Teo, is a Malaysian Chinese who had previously spent much time working in Singapore. The Pine, named after the pine trees in front of the restaurant, boasts its diverse Asian elements, featuring Shanghai’s historical architecture, Western cuisine and the Singaporean style. It is truly a creative restaurant that well worth your visit.
Chef Johnston Teo is good at finding the different possibilities of ingredients. For instance, for a cucumber-based starter, he would explore the different shapes and flavors of cucumbers. He is also very creative, such as adding foie gras to a dish of fruit, corn and steamed eggs. The Pine not only presents delicious dishes that are both balanced and fun, but offers excellent service. The restaurant is particular popular among its Asian guests. Its pastry chef Justyne, who used to work at Le Moût in Taiwan, also guarantees top-notch pastries.
Chef Johnston Teo and pastry chef Justyne Wu
Johnston Teo used to work as the development chef at the two-starred Michelin restaurant Odette, and as the sous chef at the one-starred restaurant Iggy’s in Singapore. Believing in less is more, Johnston Teo is particularly good at combining natural ingredients. Menu at the Pine strives to present natural and simple ingredients while delivering gorgeous food plating, a technique known in Western cuisine.
Johnston Teo mixes and matches, combining elements of different culinary traditions. Dishes at The Pine neither belongs to Western cuisine nor Chinese cuisine. He calls his dishes modern Asian cuisine.
Humble and hard-working, Johnston Teo never had the opportunity to learn the different seasonal ingredients as he grew up in Singapore, a country without the classic four seasons. He had to learn it all by himself. At the age of 18, Johnston Teo entered a culinary school and started working at restaurants at 21. Those experiences taught he what it was like working in a farm-to-table restaurant, and how to provide customers with seasonal menus in a country that experiences no distinction between the four seasons. Johnston Teo once contacted Julien Royer and asked to work at Odette. To have more opportunities to work on the core ingredients, he volunteered to work as the development chef. I had asked Julien Royer in private how he think of Johnston and he told me he thought Johnston was very talented.
Having worked with Julien Royer, Singapore’s famous two-starred chef for three years, Johnston learned to design everything from the manufacturing end to creating valuable customer experience in a more holistic way. Later, he began thinking about his own style and, as a Chinese descendant, he decided to explore the future of Chinese cuisine. He then traveled around China to explore Chinese culture and local regional dishes. It was during this travel he met his future investor and opened The Pine.
Johnston had chosen Shanghai to open his restaurant because it is where all the wonderful seasonal ingredients can be found, and where he can enjoy the freedom to explore. He was surprised to find how people in Shanghai were open to differences and possibilities, and the same attitude applies to food as well. Johnston hopes his dishes represent the new Chinese cuisine, showing guests how local ingredients can be transformed to such modern dishes.
Johnston positions dishes at The Pine as modern Asian cuisine for he refuses to limit his dishes within the framework of Chinese cuisine. As a chef, Johnston Teo values consistency the most. For him, every day sets a role model, so everything should be kept and done according to the highest standard. Sounds easy? It actually requires extremely hard work to achieve.
Overall, The Pine delivers excellent performance, great wine and food pairing and smooth service – all these demonstrate the restaurant is highly potential for garnering a Michelin star. If The Pine continues improving, it definitely has the potential to become a Michelin-starred restaurant.
There are quite a number of dishes worth mentioning. For example, LOBSTER tastes just like an upgraded version of Hainanese chicken rice – creamy and very delicious. The degree of doneness of the spiny lobster is just perfect. Surrounded by the pine trees and gorgeous sunshine, dining at The Pine is just pure joy!
The Pine at RuiJin
Address： Block No.11, Ruijin Hotel, No.118 Rui Jin Er Lu, Shanghai
Opening hours：Tue to Sun 12: 00 – 22: 00
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