Photo by J.B. Forbes, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Private Kitchen

One of several regional Chinese restaurants to have opened in recent years, the Shanghai-focused Private Kitchen further distinguishes itself by its size — and I don’t simply mean its modest dining room. Lawrence Chen cooks; his wife, Emily, tends to the front of the house. That’s it — that’s the staff. There are some consequences to this setup. Reservations are a must, even for lunch. When you call to make a reservation, you should already know what you want to order. (The menu is available on Private Kitchen’s Facebook page.) What do you want to order? Start with the soup dumplings, for sure, and ginger-spiked Shanghai-style braised shrimp and, for a big finish, the sweet-and-sour spare ribs. It takes a little more work than usual on your part to dine here, but the Chens’ small miracle of a restaurant repays the effort tenfold.

Last year's ranking: New

Opened: 2015

Must order: Xiao long bao (Shanghai soup dumplings, $6.50)