December 16, 2011

Cassoulet in Shanghai

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I'm in Shanghai for a short weekend, just to hang with B and showing her some of my favorite places in Shanghai.  The point was to have proper Shanghainese, but I have one free meal and felt like something a little different.

I had heard about Mr. and Mrs. Bund some time ago, and after a little research I realized that the chef used to be at Jade on 36.  My good friend Dr Poon used to rave about the restaurant at the Pudong Shangri-La, but I never got the chance to check it out before the chef's departure.  Now that Mr. and Mrs. Bund has been voted No. 7 among the Asia's Top 20 in the Miele Guide, I figured I'd give it a try.

I landed around dinner time, rendezvoused with my friends and headed to the restaurant for a late dinner.  I was thinking that the building looked familiar, when I realized that it sits just below Bar Rouge.  Memories of a few years ago...

We were a little overwhelmed by the menu initially.  It was divided up into different sections, with the "Rookie Menu" at the front.  After a while it dawned on us that this was essentially the most popular dishes, or a sort of "greatest hits".  The rest of the menu were categorized by the main ingredient, but we paid particular attention to the section titled "Very French".  Here were a selection of very homey dishes that Mr. Locust and I love, which we didn't expect from a place like this.  Pot au feu, cassoulet, tripe, trotters...  I could easily have ordered half of this section alone.

Quite frankly, we were a little surprised.  Given the chef's reputation at Jade 36, I was expecting something more modern, perhaps not quite to the point of molecular but certainly more "refined".  What I saw on the menu were the classics and a lot of what we would call comfort food.

The bread basket came, and there were little baguettes with very long and stretched "nipples".  Pretty-looking, but unfortunately not so interesting in terms of quality and taste.

There was a tin of foamy spread, which I think was made with salmon (?) and a little lemon.  Mr. Locust was in good form today, and pretty much inhaled the entire tin by himself before we had a chance to taste much of it...

We decided to order all main courses and shared them.  As it turned out there was still a little too much food...

Black cod truffle new meunière - I had an itty bitty bite of this.  Not bad.  Mash with truffle sauce on the side.

Tripes "sauce piquante" - well, this was definitely piquant, with the acidity coming from capers, tomatoes and black olives.  Not bad.  Didn't quite get the presence of new potatoes, though.  Oh, and definitely better with the butter they provided on the side...

Cassoulet royal - the minute I saw this, I was sold.  Mr. Locust wanted it, too, which was why we decided to share our dishes.  We were told that this would a portion for 4-5 diners, but we ordered anyway.  Well, it was definitely heavy, but not as big as we initially feared.

Besides the beans, there was a whole duck confit that had been cut into pieces, plus chunks of petit salé, the pork skin, little cubes of foie, slices of sausage and boudin noir, and slices of truffle.  Lots of goodness.  The only problem was that the whole thing was just too damn salty.

French fries - not bad at all.

I was stuffed, but there was still dessert.  I ordered the orange and orange tart PP, one of the signatures here.  Peeled orange wedges, orange curd, sorbet... and sablé were stuffed inside a candied whole orange rind shell.  Not bad at all.

2001 Beaucastel - Mr. Locust very kindly brought this bottle, which was purchased by his wife at the château itself a number of years ago.  The nose took a few minutes to open up, and showed lots of ripe fruit, oak and other wood scents.  Sweet and lovely.

We all thought this was a pretty good meal, and if I lived in Shanghai I would definitely go back time and again.  Do I think it deserves the No. 7 spot on the Miele Top 20, ahead of Alvin at Bo Innovation, Umberto at Otto e Mezzo and Chris at Mozaic?  Not a chance.  For homey French peasant food, I'd take my friend David Lai from On Lot 10 and Bistronimique any day.

One gripe: why does the restaurant insist on turning into a nightclub?!  After 10:30pm or so, they dim the lights so that it looks like a lounge club.  Well, many of us are still eating, and we'd like to be able to see our food, not to mention photograph it.  Make up your mind about which type of establishment you are, please...


Michelle Chin said...

maybe they want to combine both pub and restaurant together??

Shanghai Travel Guide said...

Enjoyed reading your blog it is very funny how you always seem to be able to include reference to food or drink ( eating been one of your pastimes) The Cassoulet royal did sound delicious enjoy.


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