December 25, 2009

Christmas in Shanghai day 3: classic Shanghainese

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I had planned to go hit another xiaolongbao joint for lunch today, when my friend Julia suggested that we go to Fu 1088 (福 1088) instead. Turns out this is just on the block next to the house…and I didn’t even know it! This is the big brother of Fu 1039, with much the same menu but supposedly more upscale, so I was happy to have a chance to try it.

We were typically Chinese and wanted to order half the menu. Fortunately the waiter suggested that they set us up with tasting portions of the cold starters, which can accommodate up to 5 different dishes per plate. This turned out to be a really good idea, although this convenience comes at a premium. The 5 starters were:

Deep-fried fish in sweet soy sauce (老上海燻魚) – this came out warm instead of the standard cold version, so that the texture of the black carp was soft and silky inside while the outside was crispy. Very yummy.

Tea smoked egg topped with caviar (黑魚籽煙燻溏心蛋) - this was served cold instead of the lukewarm versions I’m used to in Hong Kong. As a result the outer edges of the egg whites were a bit harder and “rubbery” to the bite.

Black fungus with sour chili sauce (涼拌木耳) – this was nice and pretty, as the fungus they chose were round and ball-like. A nice contrast came with a couple of small petals of lily buds as garnish – white in color – against a mound of black beneath.

Pea starch noodle rolled wild vegetable with sesame sauce (胡麻醬涼皮野菜卷) – kinda interesting and a little more modern. I didn’t get too much out of this one-bite portion besides the obvious sesame flavor, other than I think it was a bit spicy. Might have been some XO sauce on top?

Marinated jelly fish with cucumber in sour chili sauce (陳醋海蜇頭) – no cucumber here, just a bit of red chili as garnish. The “head” of the jellyfish was crunchier in texture.

I can’t walk into a proper Shanghainese place without ordering the braised pork with soy and rock sugar (香溢紅燒肉), so in came a nice collection of fatty pork with layers of skin and fat. Very nice…although it will always take its place behind the pork at Jesse (吉士酒家)...

The rest of the dishes came in quick succession – very Chinese style – which meant we didn’t have time to properly enjoy them before some of them got cold. I always forget to ask them to pace the dishes, and this is what happens.

The sautéed hairy crab meat, served with toast (清炒蟹粉伴吐司) was very, very good. The big plate of crab meat/roe combination came with long sticks of toast. I greedily scooped the orange paste into my bowl, dipped the toast in, opened wide and devoured it like it was manna from heaven. It was really yummy, and my friends weren’t eating their share…so guess whose belly it all ended up in?

I initially rejected the waiter’s suggestion of baked cod fillet with sautéed egg white and caramelized black vinegar, but went ahead and ordered it when we needed a fish course and my friends didn’t agree to the Reeve's shad (鰣魚). The presentation and cooking style was very modern. The bed of egg white at the bottom was surprisingly hard – I had imagined something like 賽螃蟹, another Shanghainese favorite. There were a couple of bits of unripened mango on top, which provided an interesting touch.

For veggies we had sautéed sweet pea with minced ham (火腿豌豆). This was pretty OK. The peas were tiny and sweet.

There was no way we could have finished everything on the table, so I packed away the leftovers – especially the pork! – and look forward to bringing them back to Hong Kong. This was an excellent lunch, and the food was definitely at the top level in Shanghai. I left the restaurant stuffed with lots of hairy crab meat and roe…

Dinner tonight was with Uncle Benny and his friends. We worked together a long time ago, and he’s my go-to guy in Shanghai for a lot of things. We went back to 1221. Benny knows the owner Michelle well, and he first took me here more than 10 years ago. I always thought the food here was pretty decent. And this is definitely a more laowai restaurant as a significant portion of the clientele is not local Shanghainese.

The starters:

Shredded chicken in sesame bon-bon sauce (棒棒雞) - OK

Mashed broad beans (雪菜豆瓣酥) – not a fan. It’s like taro/potato mash except that it’s cold.

Crispy eel (脆鱔) – pretty well done although it’s cold, not warm the way I prefer.

Shanghainese smoked fish (燻魚) – ho hum.

Mixed chilli with black bean sauce (尖椒泡豆) – not bad.

Braised beef tendon (拌牛筋) – pretty spicy, to my surprise, but very soft.

The mains:

Pan-fried chunky beef steak with garlic (蒜香煎牛柳粒) – ho hum.

1221 2-ways stir-fried shrimp (鴛鴦蝦球) – pretty disappointing, especially the plain ones…they were just bland.

Sweet and sour mandarin fish (松鼠桂魚) – my least favorite way to prepare fish…and the Shanghainese love it for some reason.

Crispy duck (de-boned, 香酥鴨) – probably the best main dish…nice and crispy on the outside, with a bit of fat in the middle.

Sweet and sour pork (咕嚕肉) - OK

Tofu with hairy crab roe (蟹粉豆腐) – I guess I’m jaded after having a ton of crab roe in the last few months, so this didn’t impress.  But upon reflection, this dish also didn’t cost an arm and a leg, and for the money I paid it’s pretty OK.

Stir-fried mushroom with XO sauce (XO醬百靈菇) – the slices were a little dry, but flavor was OK.

Pea sprouts in broth (上湯豆苗) – these sprouts looked tiny and really young, so why was the texture a little tough?

Won-ton chicken soup (餛飩雞湯) – the soup had plenty of chicken flavor, but fell just short of being really rich so it’s probably a bit healthier for us.

The complimentary dessert was made with pan-fried sticky rice that’s studded with some watermelon seeds, with some bananas in the middle.  The rice was pretty nice, although I can’t imagine why watermelon seeds were used…

It was still pretty early when we finished dinner, and although my face was already red from the yellow wine, we moved on to another round of whisky and pool to finish off the night.

1 comment:

B said...

看來挺不錯的,值得試試! 有那些菜色,絕對不該錯過?


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