Choice cuts

Updated: 2016-08-23 07:34

By Xu Junqian(China Daily USA)

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An enterprising butcher turns his European 'meat vacation' into an appealing new shop in Shanghai. Xu Junqian reports.

Liang Jiahao is still carrying what he labels "new store opening weight" - 10 kilos, two months after My Butchery was opened.

It may not be a bad thing, the 25-year-old Shanghai native jokes: his weight may make his first entrepreneurial venture more "legitimate and convincing". It's solid evidence of the goodness of the quality beef he has been trying to showcase for Shanghai over the past year.

Choice cuts

Choice cuts

Choice cuts

"I am a meat-lover by every definition," says Liang, who previously worked at a wine import company in Shanghai. "More than that, I take great interest in seeing and finding out how meat is prepared before it arrives. But in Shanghai, the latter part of my hobby barely gets realized."

He has traveled all over Europe and paid as much attention - and tribute - as possible to local family-vibed butcheries, "like many tourists visit museums".

"If I learned one lesson, it's that butcheries don't have to be all dirty, bloody and smelly. And I want that in Shanghai as well," says Liang, comparing the notoriously greasy butcheries tucked in the corner of wet markets in the city, and elsewhere in China, with what he saw in other countries.

Choice cuts

Despite the small space, Liang got Max Trullas Moreno, the designer behind names like Spanish restaurant El Willy and Nike, to recreate a bright and sleek shop with white tiles and blackboard walls.

Beyond the wide variety of cuts, ranging from rib-eyes and ground beef to pork chops, the shop also offers homemade pickles, cheese, sausages and - unsurprisingly, given Liang's backround, wine that is more than reasonably priced.

There is also a special smell filling the air of the shop: from the rotisserie chicken in the oven, sparkling with a golden shine reflected in the potatoes below. It's become an unexpected hit that has lured in many passers-by.

There is no lack of trendy butcheries in Shanghai. Yasmine's Butchery, which has been on the Shanghai's carnivore map for years, has recently renovated its space and expanded it into a butchery and steakhouse. Nicolson's Butcher & Seafood, just a few steps from My Butchery, offers not only what its name suggests but also homemade sausages and bacons. The Swiss Butchery promises "a world-class meat experience" with the reputation of its owner, Swiss master butcher Markus Wermelinger, and arguably Shanghai's most extensive menu of meat.

Liang is finding his place in between, and he's having an impact much larger than his less-than-30-square-meters shop. His target market is very direct: young Chinese, or people like him.

"We grew up eating red-braised pork, fried pork chops, pork ribs in soup, till one day when we stepped out and found there is a whole other world of meat: steak," says Liang.

With the growing number of steakhouses in Shanghai, Liang detected a rising interest among his friends and peers to pan-fry a steak at home, and his shop fills the gap between overpriced offerings from import supermarkets, which have "as a cold service as its freezer", and the greasy market counters.

"Essentially, I hope My Butchery could become a chain," he says, "which could define the word and image of butchery for our younger local generation."

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(China Daily USA 08/23/2016 page9)