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Peter Green

Across China with the vermin

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The chocolate cake Serena had would be the molten chocolate cake he's famous for? I've actually made that recipe--it's even available online.

And why didn't you caffeinate Scud? That would fix things, surely?

Also, Serena's going to be a little heartbreaker. Good luck, Daddy! :smile:


May

Totally More-ish: The New and Improved Foodblog

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I tried to get Scud to do a Red Bull, but that was the proverbial snowball in hell. Coke just trickles off him like water from a duck.

Nope, Scud was crashing and crashing bad.

On the bright side, it afforded me the opportunity to take embarrassing pictures of him! :biggrin:

Serena's cake was the "signature" cake of Jean-Georges, so it would be the same recipe. I was dumb....well, I was really busy before the trip, and didn't do the research I needed to on the menus and chefs in Shanghai.

In the postmortem, I'm suprised at the places I did end up at, but I'll cover that in the autopsy in a few days.

And as for Serena....anyone know a good convent?

Cheers,

Peter

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Peter, Mr. Green,

I'm addicted to this thread! Please keep writing! Write a book or travel guide or something! You're sense of humor along with fascinating pictures have me coming back for more everyday. :wub:


Iris

GROWWWWWLLLLL!!

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I tried to get Scud to do a Red Bull, but that was the proverbial snowball in hell.  Coke just trickles off him like water from a duck.

Nope, Scud was crashing and crashing bad.

On the bright side, it afforded me the opportunity to take embarrassing pictures of him!  :biggrin:

Serena's cake was the "signature" cake of Jean-Georges, so it would be the same recipe.  I was dumb....well, I was really busy before the trip, and didn't do the research I needed to on the menus and chefs in Shanghai. 

In the postmortem, I'm suprised at the places I did end up at, but I'll cover that in the autopsy in a few days.

And as for Serena....anyone know a good convent? 

Cheers,

Peter

:laugh::laugh::laugh::laugh::laugh:

Can't wait for the next post. :smile:


May

Totally More-ish: The New and Improved Foodblog

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The Man On The Flying Trapeze

This was one of the cultural events that I had no choice about, and no escaping.

Having said that, I ended up having a lot of fun.

We’d had a number of choices on which of the acrobatic shows to see. Luckily, as we had to have enough time to get Scud some shut-eye, Yoonhi had made the best of choices.

There was Era, a big choreographed over-the-top sort of thing that I’ve come to expect from China. “Tom Cruise watched this! So must you! L. Ron Hubbard wrote the script!”

Then there were a bunch of traditional acrobat shows. These were playing in a number of locations around the city.

Yoonhi was sensible. She asked our concierge where we would find the nearest one. We didn’t really want to hike back out to the Science and Technology centre area, or up North of town, or Lhasa, or any of these other places they seemed to plant these things.

I threw in my two bits worth, “which one is the seediest?”

The Nanshi Theatre Acrobatic Show.

We found ourselves on the south part of the old city, down on Yingxun Lu. Our final approach was me up front with the taxi driver chanting “It’s here somewhere. It’s here somewhere. It’s here somewhere……”

Where it was was in a fairly decrepit movie theatre. This was great. I have no idea if the troupe plays here every night, or if they just take over the joint from time to time. It still looked like the regular cinema was operating, with the ticket office shut off from the rest of us, and posters up on the wall for a selection of films we saw last January on airplanes.

There were card tables with small lock-boxes for the cash and tickets, and another card table for the popcorn, and another for the gimcracky.

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The theatre was built the way all movie theatres used to be, before the advent of the Cineplex. A big balcony, several sections, and rickety, stained velour seats.

And I could have a beer! Or four!

The crowd was a mix of about 70/30 Asian/Western. It was definitely on the tourist map, however, as, while people like us were coming in in fours and eights, there were at least half a dozen groups that came in by the busload.

The show kicked off, and pretty much followed the route one expects of these things. At least for the first part. They had young ladies with Herculean thighs doing all sorts of tumbling and gyrations, followed by several sections of spinning and balancing things.

While spinning stuff in the air has a certain inherent satisfaction, I have trouble getting too excited for too long. The one redeeming moment came when two fellows in chefs’whites did a plate spinning scenario. These two, with appropriate Buster Keatonisms, managed three levels of spinning dishes, while wearing chefs’ hats. I think that it just reminded me a lot of Sanji from One Piece (and if you’re not a fan of Japanese pirate anime and manga, you should become one….Now!).

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Something I did enjoy with this troupe….they messed up a few times. Nothing big (although it must have hurt when that girl on roller skates hit the stage when the thing around her neck broke), and they all got up and kept on performing until they got it right, but the simple introduction of human frailty into the equation made the entire thing much more enjoyable for me. Too many of these things are just too, well….perfect. It’s like knowing that Deckard is going to fly away with Rachael at the end of Blade Runner (“He should’ve shot her while she slept”, say I. “It would’ve been a perfect ending”. “Be quiet,” says Yoonhi).

Anyways, I digress.

What this is leading up to is that most ancient and traditional of Chinese acrobatic arts.

The Cage of Death Full of Motorcycles!

Plus, Guys With Capes!

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They actually got six bikes into this thing. The first one was cool if you haven’t seen this sort of thing before (none of us spent formative years below the Mason Dixon line), but it was when they got to three guys in the cage, and they introduced the fourth, that the crowd started going wild. The old guy sitting behind us was on his feet applauding like an epileptic thalidomide victim, howling “Whoa! Whoa!”, and so were my kids...so was I. This is where I really appreciated the re-introduction of the fear of fatality, and the frisson of a crowd waiting to see something bad happen.

It was a lot of fun.

(and no one got hurt.)

Heck, after the show I even bought the DVD.

We carted the boy and the girl back to the hotel, and got some food into them (although they’d stocked up on caramel popcorn at the show).

They had a pork and mushroom soup that was well-thickened, and took care of their immediate nutrition needs.

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And Scud also had some pork ribs that had been fried up. It was good, but he was obviously suffering from lowered enthusiasm levels.

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Yoonhi and I try not to let such dissipation affect us. Once the kids were duct-taped away, we were out and about for another look-see at what was on offer.

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We’d been told of Xin Tian Di, how it was the party spot of Shanghai, on the outskirts of the French Concession (where once we’d considered an apartment, many years ago). Now it was the place to be (or so we were told).

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The area, a conglomerate of clubs, cafes, restaurants, and stuff stores is built up from a collection of old tenement (it sounds better if you call them Shikumen houses) was hoping when we got there, the clock showing around 10 p.m. I was a little worried that the kitchens might be closing, but hoped that if any place was on the go, this would be.

My list of restaurants to try included Ye Shanghai. But, as usual, I was woefully unprepared. I had no idea just where to locate it, so Yoonhi and I took our chances, wandering around past Starbucks, and Latin clubs, and placing playing music way too loud for my elderly ears.

And then, with worried glances at my watch, I spotted a place that sounded familiar.

T8.

Okay, says I, it’s time to feed the wife. Otherwise I’m a dead man.

I conferred with the hostess, confessed that I didn’t have a reservation, but we’d be happy to eat at the bar; where we were seated.

We got off to a very bad start. Yoonhi had one shot of the beautiful open kitchen we were seated at, and then some suit came by and in a very brusque fashion told us “no photos”.

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I assumed from this that he didn’t want us taking any shots in the restaurant, rather than just having us abstain from showing pics of our kids around.

I don’t mind a “no photo” rule, but I do kind of prefer that it’s not handled in such a…well…rough manner. “Please” is always nice.

I felt quite repressed by this (I suspect you can tell, already) and Yoonhi asked one of the chefs if it was okay to shoot the food. His response was a much more friendly “sure, why not?”, and so we didn’t miss too much.

Due to this, I didn’t shoot the amuse, which was a pretty little thing, with a nice flavour of citrus, strawberry, and perhaps diakon, with a sorbet texture and a cheerful lavender colour to it all.

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After the amuse we had a tataki of sesame crusted tuna with a carpaccio of diakon radish and “Beluga” caviar. We watched as they squeezed it into forma and then rolled it on the sesame, and then did some squeeze bottle action quickly over the daikon whilie they flash seared the fish. This was appealing in presentation, and the diakon carpaccio was surprisingly good, giving a nice background to the tuna. However, what they were billing as Beluga sure wasn’t like any Beluga I’d had. Small and a little crunchy. I suspect this is more of the “Mandarin caviar”. It isn’t bad by any means, but it wasn’t quite the right texture for this dish. I might’ve stuck with the salmon roe that they’d interspersed, as this gave little pops of saltiness which helped a lot.

Oh, and as we were writing down what we were ordering, another suit came by and rather peremptorily told us that we didn’t have to write things down, he would give us a menu later. Sheesh!

Being late, we just split the tataki and made do with that for a starter. I’d ordered us a bottle of Hawke’s Bay Sauvignon Blanc to keep us occupied (Sacred Hill White Cliff Vine…..that name’s as bad as a Japanese video game).

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For a main, Yoonhi ordered the tandoori veal cutlet, prawn in “aroma”, veal shank korma (there’s that double whammy of veal again), and banana kumquat chutney. This was very good. I like the spiced flavour of tandoori (there was a salmon tandoori in Bombay I still dream about), and, as I’ve mentioned, I’m a fool for a shank. The prawn I could’ve taken or left.

Taken or left as I had ordered th Sichuan seared king prawns, octopus compote, garlic cream, and crab spring roll.

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This came with a wedge of jaundiced coconut rice on the side. In with this was some snow pea, shallot, and toasted almond. And I liked the plate, with that soft curve holding up the sauce dish while presenting its friends just a shade lower.

Obviously, my primary reason for ordering this was the octopus compote, down on the right. This carried the soft background taste of octopus very well, and while I considered the prawns just there, the compot made it all worthwhile.

Behind the bar, I was in love with the kitchen. Even if it wasn’t proper Beluga, it’s nice to see a chef with an open tub of fish eggs to work with. And they were running what appeared to be magnetic induction units for their woks. It also looked like there was some equipment there for sous vide work.

The bread was also very good, much more like a muffin in texture and taste.

I was in a mixed mood over the dinner. I liked what I saw in the kitchen, while I abhorred their front staff. The waiters, hostesses, and maitre d’ seemed much more concerned about the fact that they were “the front of the house” than they seemed to be about their customers. Or at least us customers. (I was to find out later that T8 made Conde Naste’s 50 Best or something like that…..mind you, so did Scirrocco in Bangkok, and I have yet to hear anything good about the waitstaff there).

And then we decided to try a dessert.

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The reason we tried it was because the chef behind the counter suggested it. As I said, I liked the kitchen. (This was, I believe, Dang, who has an excellent reputation in the Shanghai community for his cooking classes). He had a white truffle ice cream with organic honey, bitter chocolate, and pannacotta tapioca.

Oh, that was so good. The truffles beat down everything else with that wonderful earthy flavour. Sure, if you tell most people it was like throwing a handful of loam into vanilla, they’d stare at you like you’d escaped from somewhere, but you can imagine how this must’ve tasted.

This is one of those dishes that I’ll be talking about for a long time.

Obviously, we took our time with this. Unfortunately, the kitchen was closing, so the benefit of sitting at the kitchen bar was sort of lost by the time we finished licking the bowl.

We hit the street after that, immediately found Ye Shanghai, and decided that we probably weren’t going to be managing another meal.

We must be getting old.

Xin Tian Di is a lot of fun. Clean, new, but with the character of the old Shanghai. I could have a lot of fun here if I’d had more rest.

Instead we grabbed a cab for the crosstown trip back to our hotel. This rest was enough to reinvigorate me slightly, so I decided we could spare the time for a little wander. Most of the places advertised as bars were shuttered up, and looked like they’d been that way for quite some time, And then, I saw it, the Mini Bar.

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This was too good a name to pass up. It was right next to the Hotel Cheap & Clean (at least that’s what the sign says as I read it).

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The mini-bar fell solidly into the “nothing special” category, but it had it’s charm.

The waitress behind the bar was effectively non-verbal, but the guy running things was garrulous beyond expectations. It was his bar, but he was filling in for the night as his bartender was off somewhere. For his part, he ran a Chinese restaurant somewhere, but didn’t seem to feel it was necessary for him to be there for it to run.

He was a returned Chinese, coming back to make his fortune, or perhaps rather to lose it. We talked about ingredients, costtings, and why none of his bottles were open. The bar had been in place now for a few months, but it basically did all of its business in beer and Johnny Walker, the odd bit of vodka here and there. He had a bottle of XO just because you were expected to have a bottle of XO. And he had a selection of the glow in the darks (Parfait d’Amour, Crème de Menthe, etc) which he had no idea what he was supposed to do with.

The mini-bar had two rooms. The front bar which we were propping up, and then it turned out there was another room inside, which we noticed when the sole occupant started screaming into his cell phone.

I quite liked the place.

But, Yoonhi dragged me away after a few Tsingtao’s (stubby bottles), and we stumbled back to the room for a deserved night’s rest.

Next – The Poor Mouth

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Our Bunch has Brunch on the Bund

Easter Sunday and we arose to find the kids healthy and rested.

We’d been told that, despite its name, the Museum of Urban Planning was worth a visit. This was an easy enough target, just over at People’s Square. We had brunch reservations on the Bund, so this would work out logistically.

The museum is indeed worth the visit – that is, if you’re interested in the history of the city, and really, really, really keen on scale models. Scud, Serena, and I are all avid fans of such things, so no problems there.

It would, of course, be much cooler if they had working robots of Godzilla, Gamora, and King Ghidorah duking it out…..

There’s a thought. Can Shanghai really be a recognized as a leading city of the world if it hasn’t been a battleground for Japanese monsters (we’ll not mention the Imperial Army)?

Anyways, this was the place to go to see Shanghai. In fact, if you really want the best view of the city lights, this was it.

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From this we did a leisurely stroll down to the Bund, using the streets running parallel to Nanjing Lu to avoid the crowds.

And this led us to find KFC……Kung Fu Chicken!

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At first we thought maybe it was a new take on traditional martial arts, but no, once you looked inside it was obvious we were talking deep fried fast food here.

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It would’ve been fun to try and order something, but the clock was ticking, and they’d only fit us in at brunch at the last minute, probably due to my being so darned persistent (it helps to phone back every day for a week).

And so we found ourselves back at 18 The Bund.

Sens & Bund.

I’d been looking forward to this. Mind you, I look forward to a lot of things where food is involved.

I’d dined at the Pourcell brother’s Bangkok restaurant last year, when they put on a wine dinner around Chapoutier’s Languedoc wines. The meal was nicely balanced with the wines (they’d brought in Priscilla Teoh, they’re Singapore-born sommelier from Le Jardin des Sens in Montpellier). There the venue (D’Sens) is atop the Dusit Thani, with a fine view looking out over Lumpini Park at the lights of the city. (You can find the writeup under Eid and the Angels in post#10)

We entered the restaurant, high ceilings, columns, and tall, tall windows, and I was immediately recognized (I’d been in twice earlier in the week pestering the poor people). They took us up a short flight of steps, and we were dining on the verandah, with a view of Pudong and the Bund (albeit a hazy one).

Dining outside had its good point, and bad points. On the bad side, the weather was a little brisk, and Sens & Bund lacked the outdoor braziers I’d admired at New Heights. But, countering that, we had a very good waiter pretty much to ourselves, and he was quite attentive about keeping the champagne filled. And brunch did come with a free flow of Piper Heidseik Brut, a perfectly serviceable beverage for the variety of food on offer.

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(In case you’re wondering, Scud’s t-shirt de jour is “333 Half Evil”)

I’m a fan of brunch. But brunch has to have certain things. There must be wine, preferably champagne, there must be foie gras in some form, and things must be fresh. My favourite brunch on this planet is probably the Four Seasons in Bangkok. But the people at Sens were giving this a good go, especially considering that they had not attempted a family-style brunch of this sort before.

Having said that, they were doing a good job. They had a separate room set aside for the kids, with videos (as expected) but also with one of the kitchen staff there to help the kids with making chocolate eggs. We managed to force a bit of food into Serena, and then she was off to make new friends. A total lack of French skills would not stand in her way.

And it was a very Gallic crowd here, which I find makes for a nice buzz on a Sunday afternoon. Talking with the maitre d’, it seemed much of the French community was here today. With the children sequestered on the side, everyone was cheerfully engrossed in their food and wine, the restaurant free of deal making and cell phone chatter.

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The stay-warms were just being filled up (and annotated) as we entered the main serving area, so we looked to tasting these out of order, as they’re always best when fresh.

I tried the risotto, the lamb shank, the braised beef, and the seabass as an opening salvo. All were good, but, as feared, too filling if we intended to treat this as a marathon event (although Scud went back for several helpings on the braised beef and shank).

The cold tables were appropriately loaded. There was some smoked ham which I’d been dearly missing, shaved parmesan, cured meats, and plenty of things that once swam (more below on that).

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For the seafood, there was a sushi and sashimi section, but this wasn’t quite there. The sushi, in particular, suffered mainly from the rice, I’m afraid. But they had a sea mullet terrine with herbs that was very smooth, and which I went back for myself. And the tataki of tuna was very much a repeat of the night before, and just as good (although my plating is nothing on what T8 had done….I did like their carpaccio of daikon). And they had a nice ceviche of scallop served on the shell that perked up the back of my teeth. And the crab “brioche” on a skewer that helped to assuage that feeling (along with some champagne, of course).

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There were some very charming or d’oeuvres, and I found the same gazpachos in test tubes that I remembered from the Bangkok dinner. Unfortunately, these had had enough time to separate, so they were almost impossible to extract. What little I could tease out was excellent – peas, mint, and basil in the green – but that just made it all the more frustrating. The tomato gazpacho I couldn’t get anything out of until I used a skewer later on.

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And then there was a spread of very good smoked salmon, some blinis, sour cream, and (in the foreground) a tub of caviar. There was also some terrine of foie gras about, and I found them pan frying foie gras back by the carvery. This was the zone I would be spending my time in.

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Salmon, caviar, and foie gras. With champagne to refresh one’s palate. Isn’t this the proper way to spend one’s day? (The first 2 kg tub of caviar disappeared in fairly short order, and it took them, alas, a period of time to bring the next batch out, this time pre-portioned upon the blinis)

The dessert were….what would be the best word? Overwhelming, perhaps? But not in a bad way. It was somewhat like being in Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. After a short breather from caviar, foie gras, and meats, Scud shifted his attention to the sweets; which is more along his preferred manner to pass the afternoon.

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I must confess that even I took a slight detour in my feeding and indulged in a plate (or two) of calories. The little berry shooters were excellent with the champagne, and who can say no to chocolate?

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And the points on the meringue just looked too exquisite to be ignored.

And, after that, I went back to the salmon, foie gras, and caviar….with more Brut.

After what I’d written of the bathroom at D’Sens in Bangkok, I know I have to comment on the facilities here. Clean (obviously) and well appointed, with the set bowls and standpipes that have become so popular. But nothing particularly special. I think that Bangkok, where you have a view over the city as you take care of things, has to still come in first.

As you come from the facilities you have rose-coloured view of the kitchen.

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At night it would work well with the rest of the lighting, as there were walls of red about in the dining area, but at lunch it did have a sort of “war zone” look to it. According to the brochures I found near the entry, they do regular hands-on cooking classes here, so it’s good to see that there’s ample room to work.

I had to go back for some more dessert to finish upon. The crème brulee in particular looked too good to not eat, with its own crispy spoon to be devoured as part of the dish. And the fruit shooters I had already mentioned; raspberry and peach/tangerine gazpachos, but these were much more accessible.

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I took a small side-turn and tried a glass of the Grace Cabernet Syrah 2004. This wasn’t bad as an afternoon wine, but obviously the champagne was a better accompaniment. Still, it’s interesting to see how the Chinese are coming along in wine making as well as everything else.

By about two thirty we were winding down. We (and the rest of the restaurant) had been pleasantly grazing for the last three hours, and we had that satisfied, bovine feel about ourselves that comes from an extended feed. For me, that is always the best tim to call for the cheque and return to the pavement.

My overall feeling was, obviously, one of satisfaction. It had been worth my efforts to secure a booking for this. While there were some things that had not worked out (the unfortunate gazpacho) I could understand, as this was their first attempt at a major brunch. What works exceptionally well in a formal serving may not stand up to a buffet line. And Serena and her new found coterie of friends were more than satisfied with the attention paid to their needs.

My only regret was that I wouldn’t have the opportunity to see what they could do in a formal settting, as our Shanghai time was coming to an end soon. Some reviews talk about the feel being “cold” in comparison to the other Bund restaurants. I did not find that to be the case (beyond the chill of dining outside). Obviously, with the Francophone family crowd that was here, things felt very comfortable for us, but this must be taken as exceptional circumstances, I suppose. Still, it’s a pretty room, and I found the service excellent.

I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again, “so many meals, so little time”.

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Next: Do you need to understand Java to like MOCA?

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OMG!! That's the way to live! I'll have one of each please... :wub:

The meringue alone made me swoon! :blink:


Iris

GROWWWWWLLLLL!!

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Interlude

With lunch literally (I can't say figuratively - our figures are long since shot) under our belts we decided to take a stroll down Memory Lane and check out the Portman. We had a lead from M that there might be a shop there selling the Mandarin Caviar, and we were keen to see if we could pick up a tub.

It took awhile, with the cabbie getting a little lost at the beginning, but we finally pulled up in front of the gargantuan columns that support this combination hotel and residential complex. When we were here before it was the Portman Shangrila, and it was about the only place in town where an expat with a family could find a flat, and they were darned small flats, and darned expensive (we did see some nice places in the French Concession that were less costly, but in 1994 everything was expensive).

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It still looks much the same, but it’s filled out nicely with cafes and a good expat grocery store on the ground level. What it did not have, in either the grocery store or the nearby deli, was Mandarin caviar. Some lumpfish, but that was it. Oh, well.

Yoonhi’s normally the fiend for museums, but I wanted to see MOCA. It’s a private museum in the People’s Square with a rotation of performing arts and multi-media presentations. I figured anything involving screens, remote controls, and interfaces would keep the kids and I content.

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It’s a good way to spend an hour or so. The displays were interesting, and they did get the kids thinking. One they were running was a contained centrifuge with images flashed up on walls as you spun about, strapped in. Only a few weeks before I’d strapped Scud into a chair with his eyes taped back and made him watch Clockwork Orange, so he appreciated the intent of this exhibit. We left humming Beethoven’s fifth.

Upstairs - past the Mechano T-Rex - they had some phone things, including a pleasant, fairly serene video of people quietly enjoying themselves. This came with a number you could call (“Please dial this number to harass these people 1381 7794 345”) which would set off all their cells phones and have them madly scrambling to answer. After a minute, things would calm down again. I called. Repeatedly.

Atop the museum we were searching for restrooms (that was a lot of champagne) when we came across their restaurant – MOCA Caffee (that’s how they spell it) and Ristorante Italiano. I can’t really make any comments on the quality of food, as we still weren’t up for a meal, but they had a great verandah, and it’s nice to see a gallery that’s permanently at the ready with chilled champagne (and a good selection).

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This was a Sunday, and outdoors we found (to the best of our guess) the Shanghai equivalent of Speakers’ Corner, with clusters and swarms of people arguing and discussing things, both in Chinese and in English. Lively, and I kept looking around for the surreptitious “listeners” but nobody seemed to be at all concerned.

After a turn around the park we headed for the hotel, taking in the side streets as we headed for Suzhou Creek. This took us through the everything shops. Electronic supplies (resistors, bread boards), hardware, tools….and, oddly, everywhere there were abandoned playing cards littering the streets.

Home at the hotel the kids were content to loot the supplies of beef and pork jerky we’d bought, washed down with softdrinks that were near boiling point from the convenience store nearby. Then Yoonhi and I put on our fancy duds for a dinner out.

Next – Night and the City

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Note: this was a very striking meal, so I asked, and they very graciously consented, to provide some decent images for those cases where my low light shots just didn’t do justice. Obviously, all copyrights and such belong to them. (And a special thanks to Veronica Lee at Jade on 36 who took care of all of this!)

The Colour of Jade

The lotus is one of Buddhism’s most significant symbols. It’s roots are in the mud, while it’s flower blossoms above. When open, it is a symbol of enlightenment. When closed it holds the potential for enlightenment.

Jade on 36 was open.

This one was on the list. Of the small group of people I know in Shanghai who are in the business, Jade on 36 at the Shangrila was the one they considered a “must-eat”. “Paul Pairet is doing wonderful things in Shanghai,” they said.

We arrived by cab. I’d had grand ideas of getting the ferry across the Huang Pu. My grand ideas generally get countermanded for the better. The taxi dropped us off with a couple of minutes to spare; just in time to be shown to the elevator, and to ascend to the 36th.

What a great room. It’s a good compliment when the design of a room can hold up against the view of the Bund that you have from here. This is the work of Adam D. Tihany, who was also responsible for Keller’s Per Se, Le Cirque, and a host of other fine eating spots.

As you’ll read in the literature, the entry is through a sculpture of a deconstructed rice bowl, a blue steel lattice work with fanciful grains of rice lighting things from above. Hang a right, walk a bit more, and then we found ourselves gliding through and down the few steps into the lower level of the dining room. Overhead there’s a nice origami-like effect meant to be the folds of imperial robes.

Pretty.

We sat by the window. Clean design, subdued, and everything feels in place. We adjusted ourselves and considered the cartes.

I felt like a white (wine, that is) and in particular I was in a Kiwi mood. They had a Cloudy Bay on the list, but this proved to be finished. I went instead for a Mudhouse from Marlborough, but that was done. Finally we found a sister Marlborough – the Montana, a sauvignon blanc – to quench my thirst.

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Okay, at this point I do admit that the view from ouside took over and held onto me. As you’ve probably figured out if you’ve been following this thread, there’s something mesmerizing about the Bund at night. Is it just that it’s such an anomaly – both in time and space - amidst the bustle of modern China. I mean, really, these are just old bank buildings like we’d find in Vancouver, or Melbourne, or London. But there’s something about where and when they are, with the light playing upon them at night, that makes them something more.

I put away such imponderables (well, actually I can spend a lot of time being ponderous), and we took our amuse bouche, a foie gras bon bon.

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This was a pretty little thing of foie gras wrapped in a caramel coat, with a shot of champagne hot foam on top of Chinese herbals, tea, and honey. The foie came out perched upon a neatly geometric lever assemblage, the caramel sparkling in the light. The shot was a good little glass; the amber tea concoction under a solid toque of white champagne foam. I took the foie, and then drained back the shot. The herbals took me by the nose hairs before I could get the dram in my mouth proper, and reminded me of some of the really nice things I’d had in Singapore the year before. The foie gave a good crisp, and then that smooth fat took over.

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The sardine mousse and raisin bread came early on the heels of the amuse. This was very nicely emulsified, light and airy on the raisin bread, cheerfully served up in a sardine tin much prettier than the ones I recall – the pull tab jauntily acting as a backstop to the bread. There was a hint of lemon zest or lemon grass to this.

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The Kumamotos arrived naked of their shells, scantily dressed with ponzu granite and a slice of pickled ginger to allow them to retain their modesty, the vinegary taste of sunimono catching my teeth and going with the phlegmish consistency of the oysters that I like (and miss) so much.

Yoonhi’s Tuna and Yellowtail Dandelion Sashimi was a nice conceit (and I wish the photo had worked – in general, I tried to avoid using flashes here). The sashimi came out atop a long stick, with a dainty ginger foam emulating the dandelion in full, allergy challenged manner. (Yoonhi wouldn’t let me blow it).

Our menus converged at this point, with both of us getting to have the passion-choco foie gras opera, a recreation of the classic opera cake, pairing chocolate and foie gras together, with passion fruit and port wine jelly, and a touch of peanut. (I love peanut with foie gras - Sarah Schafer did a wonderful thing at the WGF in Bangkok last year when she put peanut butter with a nice piece of pan fried foie). There seemed to be a bit of truffle there, too, on top of the chocolate with the salt crystals.

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(photo courtesy of Jade on 36)

What’s not to like about this dish? It’s pretty, it’s fatty, and it has chocolate! I savoured each bite, and then looked expectantly at Yoonhi’s still only three quarter eaten piece…..but she had a knife.

I took a moment here to notice that not only is the Bund lit up at night, but so too is the Old Town. It was going to be hard to leave this city.

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(photo courtesy of Jade on 36)

Yoonhi had Bread next; truffle burnt soup bread. Great smell and flavour. The foam was a truffle meuniere, soft on the palate. The truffles they’re using are coming from the north of China, lacking the hard earthiness of a Perigord, very close to the ox livers that I’d been eating in Chengdu. The bread was cooked in a mushroom soup with the Chinese truffles. This was finally coated with “burnt bread butter” which is “bread roasted until it is nearly burnt, ground to a powder and mixed with burnt butter, salt and pepper” which reminds me strangely of rice powder from Luang Prabang. Completely different flavours, I know, but still…..

For my part, I had the consommé; Beef Irish Coco Strata – which appeared as an Irish coffee, topped with what looked to be salmon caviar. In this I was mistaken. What it was was a cognac caviar, which had set and gelled for hours. There was a lot of ginger in the coconut chantilly on top, and I came away with a Thai feel to things.

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This worked very well. Okay, I was a little put off that it wasn’t a big bowl of ikura on the side that I could munch down on, but the sharp flavour of the XO cognac set in these pearls worked very well against the Thai smoothness in the “cream”.

Next up was the spiny lobster for me. Unfortunately, this is another one where I was at the mercy of my consideration of others. Fortunately, this is another case where Veronica came through with the goods (at least of the lobster itself).

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(photo courtesy of Jade on 36)

A good piece of lobster - blushing red from a pan searing – with “a Chinese doughnut crouton and béarnaise” to give it a hat (not in this picture, though). I’ll describe it. The crouton is a pretty thing, the béarnaise riding atop like a chef’s toque. It had been deep fried (it is a crouton) with some balsamic. The lobster was wrapped in a sheet made from setting the reduced broth with agar.

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(photo courtesy of Jade on 36)

Meanwhile, my darling wife had made out like a bandit. Mason jars. The sort of thing you use for carny sideshows. I’d never thought of cooking in one. I don’t know if this is Paul Pairet’s oldest dish, but he pulled this off in 1996 when he was working in Sydney. The website has this as “the most copied dish” and I can see why. I want to copy it. I had to suppress desires to run back to the Shanghai Natural History Museum and clean out some of their displays for cooking aids.

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This is one case where I’ve used both pictures. The one Veronica provided for me gives a much better representation of the dish. But….there’s something sort of Twilight Zone (or maybe Night Gallery) about the look of this shot.

Anyways, this is a neat way to cook. It’s basically a down-south approach to pressure cooking. Put the ingredients in a jar, lock the seal down, and then steam it. This makes sense, as the steam’ll give a soft heat, so you don’t worry about cracking the glass. And working with something like a prawn, you don’t have to cook too high or too long.

Yoonhi had one major complaint, a very Korean thing, and that was that the prawn was not deveined. I’d be tempted to either do a Nigerian-airport style extraction (“happy spelunking”, says Scud) or else butterfly, extract, and then suture it back together with lime leaves or something.

The approach is very Thai. The prawn is skewered on a lemon grass stalk, which is something I’ve been doing regularly for the last year. The skewer keeps the prawn from curling, and then you get the direct transfer of the lemon zest smell to the prawn meat. With the fluids trapped in the jar, you get the citrus juices from the bottom and other aromas infused in the prawn meat.

(one of many great lines in the Fire Fly series, when confronted with proof of aliens in a mason jar; “cow fetus?” “Yup”)

Okay! What could top cooking in a mason jar? Cooking in a baggie!…..Okay, I still like the mason jar more.

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What Paul was doing here was to take a classic Chinese dish (which I’ve had many times over the years) – Black Cod – and do a different take on it. So he’s gone with a roasting bag, and used that to seal in the flavours; soy, anise, and sesame. It tasted like there was some shitake in there, too. Again, this is something that I’d want to do at home. What I want to try is a Thai hor mok trapped in a bag.

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I pondered some more. A controversial issue. What is genius? Is it the quantum leap that moves from here to there simultaneously? Or is it the incremental stepwise movement? Last year I went through Paco Rancero’s class in Singapore, and I came away with things that were fascinating, and amusing, but, as deBono says in describing the essence of humour, “once you see the false door opened, it is apparent”. Which is why much of the molecular gastronomy movement always feels either exhausted, or demonically possessed. For my part, I can work with possessions (it is 9 parts of the law, after all). I find in Pairet’s work a closer parallel to Sam Mason and what’s happening at WD50. It’s not just “shock”, but there’s food behind this. I was not only amused by what I ate, but I was getting full. And when you’re full, you’re happy.

The meat was coming up, so I figured we should order a red. The fact that we’d finished the white had nothing to do with it, I swear.

I went with a cabernet sauvignon from Concho Y Toro. I’ve gone through their wines twice in tastings, and they’re generally good value. The Don Melchor did very well in the tastings then, so I figured it was a safe bet.

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(photo courtesy of Jade on 36)

We’d moved from the Jetsons to the Flintstones. Beef short rib teriyaki presented on a bone to make Fred and Dino lustful. The banner on this was “braised meat that tastes like a roast”. To this end, it had been braised for a half day and lacquered with a “teriyaki-style” glaze, orange reduction, and served with lightly truffled, very thin mashed potatoes and some perky greens; asparagus and mangetouts.

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Nice flavour, and the Don Melchor cab was a pleasant partner. The meat separated well from the bone, and both the teriyaki and orange came through. Good. I just wish there was enough to cover the whole bone.

Meanwhile, Yoonhi had her shwarma (we disagree here on the spelling, but I stand by the Gulf Arab transliteration).

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A New Lamb Shawarma. They used a lamb terrine, zaatar, goat cheese, some lamb-braising liquor, and “shawarma sauce”. And then it’s contained in a taco shell of crispy goat cheese. This with a Med-type mix of cuc’s, tomatoes, onions, parsley, and mint.

This is not like the shawarmas we have here. It’s much more like a medley of the Middle East’s greatest hits, hitting upon the goat cheeses that we can find, and the taste of lamb. Funnily enough, while I’ve had zaatar for years, this is the first time I considered the ingredients – thyme, sesame, and olive oil. To me it had always been the “stuff inside those flat breads we get at the office every Wednesday”.

And that’s not to disparage this. It was good. This’d be fun anywhere.

Next was a palate cleanser – a tribute to Chinese food snacks - frozen watermelon on a stick. A snack has to come on a stick. This was worked with Aussie dessert wine, basalmico, and vanilla. It arrived at rest, inverted, cuddled against an ice cube in a flute. Taking a nibble, I found it like a sorbet, but with a greater flavour.

I always liked Keller’s approach. He looks for the familiar in our past, and tries to bring it back. Here, Paul Pairet has recreated one of my favourites from university days – spiked watermelon. Yes, this is somewhat more refined than everclear poured through a hole in the rind, but it still brings back memories……Hmmm…do I have many memories of what happened after one of those?

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Our meals coincided again after this. We were moving into desserts, with a Lemon & Lemon Tart. They’d taken a whole lemon and candied the skin, and removed the guts, replacing them with a lemon sorbet, lemon curd, a piece of grapefruit, and a vanilla chantilly with a lemon sablee, just to make certain that you tasted some lemon.

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(photo courtesy of Jade on 36)

When the dish arrives, you see a translucent lemon skin, orange from the candying, topped by the long, rectangular cookie resting atop. I had to disturb this Picasso-esque montage to roll the lemon over and see where the skin had been holed, and the corpse reinvested.

They let the skin sit for 3 days in sugar water, and then air dry it. Once this is done, they can treat it as a shell and refill it. Normally you would just cut it into strips and boil it, which is what I’ve done in the past.

The filling was fine, but it was the skin I loved. I ate the plate down to the bone (china), and then eyed Yoonhi’s dish.

From here we moved to the finales. Yoonhi had the Mango, Liquorice, and Dill. This was a sable tuille, passion fruit curd, mango, and liquorice gel, with a dill syrup. A construction that worked remarkably well, highlighting the natural goodness of mangos. If a few days go by without a mango in our diet, we get edgy, and this was our first in weeks.

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When I’d first looked at the choices this next dish had decided the moment for me. Strawberry Coca Cola Spaghetti.

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The coke comes across a little granity, like a coke-ginger sorbet. There’s some balsamic in there, too, in the coca cola syrup. There’s also raspberries, and mint, which does a great job of cleansing your mouth.

We lingered. We lingered and talked over the meal. First, we were full. There was neither nook nor crannie into which we were going to fit anything else. Second, we’d been having fun with every dish. A cross between magic tricks and honest comedy, where you laugh realizing you should’ve seen the answer coming.

There’s a great deal of molecular gastronomy at play here, but not to where the two basic points of a meal are missed*. MG is a tool here, as it should be. There’s also a lot of work looking at the local ingredients, and trying to do the most with the flavours at hand, while not discounting the benefit that can be achieved by really fine foreign flavours.

And the service had been very good. One of the tables nearby had had an issue of some sort with their wine. This was taken care of with neither fuss nor bother. And our intrusive questions were greeted with a great deal of equanimity, everything being answered, and never a feeling that we were intruding in the business.

And, when leaving we were presented with a pair of sturdy little boxes, smartly wrapped. In each was a ganache stuffed financier – which, I do admit, sounds suspiciously like a Wall Street broker on a chocolate binge.

Now I want to come back for the Rose and Mahogany menus.

* - The first point of a meal is that the hungry should be fed.

The second point is that eating should make you happy.

I was content with Paul Pairet on both counts.

(And the restaurant is so darned pretty).

Next: Shut the Door!

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Day 21 - When The Lights Go Out

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One thing we’d been sorely lacking this trip was night life. Okay, we had a couple of walkabouts in Yangshuo, eating out with Java in Chengdu, and the lakeside bars in Guilin, and there was the Mini Bar a couple of nights ago…….the Glamour Bar……Absinthe at I Love Shanghai…….

But what I mean to say was that we hadn’t indulged in a proper smoky-room-crowded-with-people-listening-to-the-blues sort of evening. That sort of thing.

And we were running out of time. This was our last night.

Still on a high from Jade on 36, I told the cab to take us to the Cotton Club.

Our cabbie said something which I have no physical capability of identifying or repeating.

Luckily, I’d had the people at Jade on 36 write out the address for me, so I pushed this through the cage to the driver and babbled on happily to Yoonhi.

The streets of Shanghai still go dark and quiet at night. It wasn’t all that late, perhaps pushing eleven, but it was real, real still out there. Yoonhi was growing concerned that our destination, on a Sunday night, might not even be open.

Our fears were put to rest as soon as we pulled up in front of the Cotton Club, one of Shanghai’s oldest live music venues (disregarding the Peace Hotel’s Jazz Bar. I did say “music” not “orchestrated wheezing”). This is not to indicate that there were crowds of well-heeled sophisticates thronging the door, but rather that the beggards appeared out of nowhere demanding alms.

Once through the door, though, we’d brushed them off, and I found myself in a happy place. A nice, dark bar. With a band.

We found a table, ordered some martinis, and commenced dissecting dinner while tapping our fingers to the music. The Cotton Club has a long standing house band, with people coming in and then heading out as time goes by. This night there was a very solid female singer, with that sort of voice for the blues that you only get with a few hundred pounds behind it. And she had the big woman happiness about her that let her control the house, cheerfully interacting with customers that were either getting more drinks, or heading out to get some sleep before work the next day (“Where you goin’? Somebody, shut the door!”)

It was a reasonable crowd for this time of the night on a Sunday. Lots of suits, with ties in suitable stages of disarray. About a 40/60 split on Asians and Westerners (in Shanghai, there’s no clue anymore on who’s an expat. Most of the customers looked like they belonged).

Tapping my fingers, bouncing my toes, I talked over our dinners and meals, drinks and debauches. We were coming up on our last day, and we’d been on the road for three weeks. Not the longest of trips, but one with a lot of moves. But, every spot we’d been in had been worth visiting, in one way or another.

Shanghai was appealing to me, though. Like Bangkok, there’s something about this town that makes me want to live here. The restaurants, the buzz, the clubs, and an inverse element to the size. Reading a lot of the mags, talking to people in the restaurants and bars; as large a city as it is, there’s a certain feeling of community about it that I like.

Would I put it ahead of Bangkok? Hard to say. Give me another dozen trips here, and then I’ll make up my mind.

The band played their last number, and we stomped, yelled, and made enough noise to get three more songs played. It probably helped to yell “lock the door!” when they tried to leave.

I ordered another martini.

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Next: The Most Correct of Male Geese

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We finally get to see what you like!

Now, onto the food. I have to say, my first impression of strawberry and Coke was...negative, to say the least.


May

Totally More-ish: The New and Improved Foodblog

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Milady,

I couldn't get a decent shot of that watermelon (and as is it's pretty grainy) without my ugly mug in there (and I was too lazy to get artistic with photoshop).

The Coca-Cola spaghetti was just too cool an idea not to want to eat it. Like the thread on deep fried Coke last year. I found it a bit "granity" on my part, I'd been expecting something more...well...fizzy, but it was still a nice finishing note.

Chufi,

Unfortunately, our time is almost run out, with only one more day to chronicle on the trip.

And I find now that I'm pressed to finish...or at least get onto the next day and upload more pictures, as the number of photos attached to this thread has hit the number 666, and I've noticed Scud's head starting to rotate (the gathering of ravens has been going on for years)!

Cheers,

Peter

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OH NO! Stay a few more weeks! I'll miss searching on 'vermin' in egullet!

I truly hope you plan on publishing something in the near future! I'll buy it! :biggrin:


Iris

GROWWWWWLLLLL!!

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Although this thread must sadly come to an end, it has been one of my favorite experiences on eGullet. I really hope that you will go another blog in the very near future!


-Sounds awfully rich!

-It is! That's why I serve it with ice cream to cut the sweetness!

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Peter,

This has been a most educational and entertaining blog. Thank you for your excellent writing and photography, and to Yoonhi and your delightful vermin for their endurance and entertaining antics travelling across three kingdoms.

Now, I would love to see you blog - and reproduce some of the dishes that impressed you the most! :biggrin:


Dejah

www.hillmanweb.com

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I have spent many hours neglecting my children, the housework and the husband while enjoying your adventures. Wonderful stuff.

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Peter, thank you so, SO much for a wonderful trip with your great family! I only hope "the vermin" bite you! :laugh:


"Commit random acts of senseless kindness"

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I have spent many hours neglecting my children, the housework and the husband while enjoying your adventures.  Wonderful stuff.

Cadbury, I'm proud of you. You have found the Way

And, for everyone, please stop with the eulogies! We're not dead yet.

I still owe you two more meals, some museums, and various ponderous ponitifications (I just have to work around Girls Scouts, the Nationals for swimming, Div2 baseball, and whatever else Yoonhi has the kids signed up in).

Cheers,

Peter

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I have spent many hours neglecting my children, the housework and the husband while enjoying your adventures.  Wonderful stuff.

Cadbury, I'm proud of you. You have found the Way

And, for everyone, please stop with the eulogies! We're not dead yet.

I still owe you two more meals, some museums, and various ponderous ponitifications (I just have to work around Girls Scouts, the Nationals for swimming, Div2 baseball, and whatever else Yoonhi has the kids signed up in).

Cheers,

Peter

Yippee!!! More Peter!!! More witty write-ups and fantastic pics!!! More vermin and Yoonhi!!!! :laugh:


Doddie aka Domestic Goddess

"Nobody loves pork more than a Filipino"

eGFoodblog: Adobo and Fried Chicken in Korea

The dark side... my own blog: A Box of Jalapenos

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Day 22 – Dining In The Tardis

Our day began with a serious element of déjà vu.

DING! DONG!…….KNOCK!….KNOCK!….KNOCK!

This time I was even more urbane in my response, “Awnowazzitnow?”

After picking myself up off the floor and checking the door, I saw it was, indeed, the boy.

“I threw up.”

“Did you clean it up?”

“Yup?”

“Okay. Go back to sleep.”

“Do I have to go with you guys today?”

“No, you can stay in.”

“Hooray!”

To this day, I wonder if I should’ve gone to his room and checked. Mind you, he could still claim he’d had so much practice cleaning up after Serena that he was able to ensure a spotless result.

We spent a bit of time packing, and then moved everything into one room. We were keeping it until the evening, when we’d check out and head for the airport. This was a fortuitous bit of luck on our part, as I hadn’t really factored illness into my strategy. I just wanted a final shower.

The girls and I grabbed a cab and headed out for the French Concession. Our first stop was to be Bao Luo on Fumin Lu. According to the book, it was typical Shanghai eating, and it was in the general vicinity of a couple of the museums we wanted to hit up.

Once we had a taxi, I was doing the normal dad thing, maps out, checking cross streets, following land marks, and then, triumphantly, I announced that we were here.

I had absolutely no idea where we were.

I walked up to the street corner and checked the crossing. Yes, this was the right place.

I spun the book around and checked our orientation. Yes, Bao Luo should be just across the street.

But, looking across the road, all I saw was a small shopfront for a store apparently called “Bavaria”.

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I was quite concerned.

Finally, Yoonhi cornered a passerby and made noises that sounded like Bao and Luo. The old lady we were terrorizing pointed a trembling finger down the street. Another old lady pointed in the other direction.

We walked across the street. I figured we could always ask at Bavaria.

As soon as we got within snagging distance, the people at the run-down counter waved us in, and, before we could say anything, escorted us inside.

It is just like being in a Dr. Who episode. We went in the narrow front hall, turned left past the wooden hotel-style front desk, turned right past the fish tanks, and arrived……

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Hey, this was a lot more upscale than those cheesy BBC sets! Faux alabaster lighting, tiled floors that are guaranteed to cost you a hip if you’re not careful, and fashionably uncomfortable seating! (and not a Dalek in sight).

We were escorted through the brightly lit main hall, in front of the signs for Bavaria beer (so that was it!), past the staircase to the second floor, and into the back room, where (I suspect) it was assumed we’d get a minimal amount of food on other diners and not be a major embarrassment.

Not that we were alone. It seemed every other table back here was full. This was a good sign. After Yoonhi turned mute to their inquiries, they brought us an English menu. Even better!

I liked what I read, and (as expected) ordered what I thought would be a respectable repast.

The “well done pork tongue” was a must have, as pig tongue had grabbed Serena’s attention in Vientiane back in January, and she couldn’t have it then (but that’s another story).

Braised pork hoof Shanghai style sounded too good to pass up. And when I pointed at a nearby table’s dish, they directed me to the boiled small dumplings with rice wine sauce.

And then they had Greedy God style dried goose pot with dried goose, needle mushrooms, Jew’s ear. Greedy God is a name that I’m hardly going to overlook, and I seldom come across goose on a menu, so I firmly and resolutely stabbed my finger at this.

To top it all off - as I eyed the Bavaria Beer signs on the walls and the Bavaria Beer glasses on the table - I went out on a limb and……ordered a Bavaria Beer.

They don’t carry Bavaria Beer. Why, oh why, was I not surprised.

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The tongue was first on the table, and was soft and chewy, with a heavy brown sauce to carry the oil. Serena and I savaged it mercilessly, as we hadn’t eaten yet that day.

There was some confusion amongst the waiters as they were looking at scraps of paper, but they finally decided, after a table by table check, that their burden needed to be settled upon our table.

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This was the braised pork hoof Shanghai style. It came out all of one piece, and they cut it up at the table. This wasn’t what we’d expected. We’d been thinking of the hoof itself, as in the Korean dish, but this was the entire lower section of the leg. The flavour was delicious, with a lot of soy in the braise and lots and lots of fat and grease, but was extremely heavy (surprise, surprise). I probably would’ve been fine just ordering this alone (although I like a little tongue, too).

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The dumplings met the visual expectations we had, mainly as we’d chosen this based on it being on a table beside us. Little wolfberries floated in the broth, and on the bottom was some fermented rice. Overall it had a sweet bean flavour to it. But the dumplings themselves were a surprise, as they were like Korean ddok, fairly firm rice cakes. Chewy, soft, perfect for pulling the fillings out of your teeth.

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The goose showed up last, and now I wished it had come first, as we were slowing down by this point. Still, I was able to soldier on, my appetite helped by the dish itself.

The long strands were noodles of tofu and enoki mushrooms. And then there was Mouse Ear fungus (I assume this is what the menu called “Jew’s ear” – a fungus found throughout the UK), and lotus root.

The meat on the goose wasn’t like anything I’ve cooked. It had a particular dryness and redness about it that put me in mind of a nice piece of ham the day after, once it’s had time to rest in the fridge, awaiting its appointed fate in my sandwich. This I kept on nibbling at.

Serena had decided to try something different for her refreshing beverage – Lily Juice. This came out in as an attractive a can as a can can be, but once poured looked, well, distressingly thick.

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I liked the ambience here. Beyond the typical slaughterhouse lighting and tiling, all of the tables around us had been full of people when we arrived, and those same people were still here, ordering one more dish after another, and talking, smoking, and eating in a wonderfully leisurely manner. You took the impression that, at this moment, there was nothing more important to these Shanghainese than enjoying this particular meal.

I should mention, also, that Bao Luo had the most impressively darned tablecloths. On not-too-close inspection you could see at least a dozen places where they’d patiently darned over cigarette holes that had been pushed through the linen.

As we took in such textile related delights, we planned out our afternoon. We needed to hit up two museums in order to keep Yoonhi in a good mood.

Our first was to be The Shanghai Propaganda Poster Art Centre

We followed the instructions in book in order to find the place. I tried out my putonghua with the driver, but he didn’t want to give me a beer, but once I showed him the characters he was fine.

Once he put us down, I wasn’t so certain. We were out in the French Concession proper, and in front of a fairly modern block of middle-class apartments. I pulled the book out again, looking quizzical, and the security guard for the complex came running out of his booth and handed me a card for the museum, with directions on how to get to the proper building.

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You end up walking almost the entire perimeter of the compound, and then descend into the basement of a perfectly innocent apartment building. It’s a completely private museum built up from the collection of one man. Contrary to the guide book (one of the few times I take exception to their write-ups) his English was quite good, and he was a help in pointing out some of the stylistic elements in the posters.

If you’re in Shanghai, and need something to do while you digest, this isn’t a bad little museum. It takes you through the early stylistic domination of the Soviets, with the extremely Stalinistic motifs, and then into the development of China’s own unique styles – culminating in the Gang of Four…..which actually was a great name for a band, but they weren’t referring to the Maoists. (Whatever happened to them? The band, that is.) There was also a Hong Kong comic by that name, if I remember correctly.

I’m digressing again, I know.

The shop had some fun stuff, but they were obviously pricing themselves for the tour bus that just showed up. I picked up an old copy of the Little Red Book, as I’ve wanted to go through it and see how much has been lifted from Sun Tzu and the 38 Strategies, but I passed on the English primer from the Cold War. On the one hand it’d be really useful to learn how to say “down with the lackey dogs of the Imperialists” as a conversation opener during my next meeting with our contractors, but at 200+ RMB it seemed a little steep, considering the tattered condition of the thing.

I did however, pick up some great postcard versions of some of the posters. If I can find them in this mess I’ll try and scan them and put them up.

The Toyota Coaster that pulled up flooded the place with a group of 20, so we picked up our purchases and headed on.

The Public Security Museum

I figure, we’re in a police state, the police should have a good museum.

And they did. It was just tough to find.

This was my second exception in the guide book (and in one day). They had the location in the wrong place on their map. Luckily, we had enough time, and found the museum two blocks away on the other side of a major street (Xietu Lu).

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This one didn’t seem to be on the major tourist path, as our arrival produced two giggling young ladies who needed a little time to figure out how to sell us a ticket.

Being the Department of Public Security, these guys had a pretty good setup. There were several floors, all filled out with display cases and dioramas. I felt a little bad that Scud wasn’t here, as he’d have enjoyed the armoury they had on display, which included cane rifles, cigarette case pistols, and a huge selection of things that’ll cut. There was one Astra 7.63 caliber that was all inscribed in detailed Arabic motifs, and they had Sun Yat Sen’s ebony handled pistol, too.

Plus, they had the usual forensics collection, including a skull that had been rammed through, front to back, with a pair of scissors. I did not allow Yoonhi to get in her “See, I tell you guys not to run with scissors or you’ll put your eye out”, but she was looking pretty smug). This isn’t as detailed as the Museum of Pathology at Siriraj Hospital in Bangkok (where they also have the mummified body of their most famous mass-murderer, Si Oui).

We wrapped up here with time to spare, it being only mid-afternoon, but then found ourselves stuck trying to get a taxi to take us back across town. It turned out we were on the wrong side of the street, so once we’d crossed over we were okay. Then it was revealed that our problem with taxis was due to the intersection at Xietu Lu being jammed up with a motor vehicle accident.

It was one of those tableaux that pass you by in car windows, when you wish you’d had a camera out and running. There was a smashed motorcycle lying on its side. A corpse lying in a pool of blood. Public security stood about looking generally bored. And a detective in the stereotypical long trenchcoat sat on the rear bumper of a paddywagon drawing down on his cigarette, smoke drifting skyward. It all looked like a piece taken from one of John Woo’s early flicks.

I did not draw Serena’s attention to this.

We had the driver put us down by Nanjing Lu, and we made a beeline for the new Cartoon World store we’d spotted a couple of days ago.

If you have ever given in and bought your kids a $25 Village of Konoha Ninja Forehead Protector (we’re talking Naruto gear, here), this place is going to make you feel really bad. They had a great selection of anime related stuff (although no anime with English subtitles), and the prices, finally, were good (forehead protectors – which you really, really need – were only 30 RMB. We stocked up on shuriken, posters, figurines, some cosplay costumes (200 RMB for a full Japanese kimono outfit?) and, most important, a flag.

All across China, we’d felt bad that all the other tour groups had flags, and we didn’t (Java had explained that tour groups of 20 and over needed a flag by the regulations). As soon as we saw the One Piece flag, we knew this would be our future tour group flag.

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(Although I would’ve killed for the chef’s skull, crossbones, and toque flag from the Baratie Floating Restaurant)

Back home, at long last, we debated our options. Kyle would be by to pick us up with Mr. Li at around 6:30 We had our room until 6:00. It was now a little before 4:00 p.m. It was physically possible for us to race back down to Nanjing Lu or the Bund and get a meal, but it was going to be tough. We could eat at the airport if we had to……

I was on the phone thanking some of my friends for their recommendations, and in so doing was warned off of eating at the airport. There’d been a rash of food poisoning instances there the week before.

So, we fell back on Pacican. They still had dishes we hadn’t tried.

Next - The Last Dinner

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I love braised pig hock Shanghai style!!! YUUUUUUUUUUUM!!!

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My favourite still was Pakxe, in the Panhandle (of Laos). There was this place..and, you have to understand...we were dying of heat...they had a/c.

As we were looking over the menu, we asked the waitress what was good, in my broken Lao.

She answered, in perfect MidWest Anglo "I'm not certain, but I'll ask my Mom".

I said,"you're not from around here, are you?" You see, I am perceptive.

Her mom advised that this particular spot, her sister's restaurant, did pork leg so good that the party aparatchiks in Vientiane would have it flown back.

And, I would agree, it was very, very good.

P.S. - we asked the waitress what she and her mom were doing there. They were Lao that had left for America before the Fall. She and her mom had come back to visit, but her dad didn't want to miss the ice-fishing season in Minnesotta. You gotta love the Lao.

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