December 16, 2010

A very jaded palate

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Jardin de Jade (蘇浙匯) is a fairly well-known restaurant in Shanghai, although I've never had opportunity to dine there on my previous trips.  Somehow we came up with this as tonight's dinner venue.  I had seen some of the reviews on the web so I kinda had an idea what I wanted to order.

Ko-fu (braised wheat bean, 本幫四喜烤麩) was pretty tough and chewy.  Given this consistency I can understand why the pieces are cut with a knife instead of being hand-torn.  Disappointing... Not a good start.

Marinated chicken with Shaoxing wine (花雕醉雞) - this was pretty decent.  Meat was tender without being too soft and mushy, although as others have noted, the taste of Shaoxing wine was pretty weak.

Sweet and sour ribs (特色糖醋小排) - meat was a little tough, and I was surprised by the prominent flavors of ginger.  Reminds me of the gingered pig trotters (豬腳薑) that Cantonese women use to restore their constitution after giving birth.

Thousand layers pork tower (寶塔千層肉) - looked impressive but execution was poor.  The thin layers of pork belly was, if you could believe it, tough and chewy.  The mound of marinated bamboo shoots was OK, but I was surprised at the big pieces of ginger in the mix.  Very disappointed.

Huangqiao sesame cake, salty (黃橋小燒餅,咸) - I asked for this to be served alongside the pork so that we could balance out the heavy flavors of the meat.  These were done very nicely, and were piping hot when served.

Soup with salted pork belly (腌篤鮮) - a very nice, wintery dish made with chunks of salted pork belly, bamboo shoots and knotted tofu skin (百葉結).  I've always loved this classic Shanghainese soup, and the salty flavors are perfect for the cold weather.

Stir-fried rosette bok choy, winter bamboo shoots and salted pork (塌菜冬筍咸肉) - I loooove rosette bok choy (烏塌菜) and will order it whenever I can find it during winter.  I can't get enough of that slightly-bitter flavor, although it was kinda covered up tonight with the saltiness from the pork.

Stewed pork belly with turnip, shrimps, mushroom and vegetables (紅燜賽人參) - this was one big piece of turnip!  It was stewed thoroughly but somehow retained a slight tangy taste.  It came a little too late and we were a little too full.

Pan fried pork buns (特色生煎包) - these were OK.  There was plenty of juice inside, but the skin was a bit too soft and the bottom wasn't thick nor charred enough.  A very, very far cry from Yang's Fried Dumplings (小楊生煎包) in Shanghai.

Pan fried jujube cake (棗泥鍋餅) - very nicely done actually.  The skin was crispy and yummy, and I love the taste of jujube paste.  A pretty nice way to finish.

The main event was actually wine, as usual, and we had 2 bottles of Burg.

1997 Baron Thénard Montrachet - I decanted this in the office 2 hours before dinner, and it showed a distinct nose of orange and minerals.  During dinner there were also notes of toasty corn and a little plastic.  For some reason I thought there was a shadow of German Riesling...  It was just a little sweet on the nose, with good acidity balance on the palate.  Later on it opened up a bit more and revealed tropical fruits like pineapple and floral notes which went along well with the chrysanthemum tea we were drinking.  With more aeration the nose got sweeter, and heavy minerals and toast became dominant.

1998 Mommessin Clos de Tart - initially the fruit was very subtle and the nose very elegant and soft.  A bit of smoked meats, forest, a little dusty.  When the wine sat in the glass for too long, the palate degenerated into something horrible.  Near the end of dinner the nose showed a little Chinese medicine... like American ginseng (花旗篸).

Honestly, I don't get what all the fuss is about.  For Shanghainese food, this place is average at best.  Some of the dishes failed pretty badly in my book.  I think I'll stick to my usual list for Shanghainese in town...

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