Sunday, July 08, 2007

Shanghai Day 3

The culinary experience in Shanghai so far is mixed but I'm having fun with it partially because I keep having language related incidents.

The first day I stepped into a local eatery chosen at random where they had English language menus but the staff did not speak any English. This resulted in me ordering two soups (won ton and a bamboo sprout and roast duck noodle soup) which was already funny. What was even funnier though was the fact that both soups came in portions that where apparently intended to feed a family of twelve. I must have looked hilarious sitting there fat and happy with enough food in front of me to feed a small village. In any case the won tons where very good but the broth they came in hardly tasted of anything. The duck soup was inedible. I remember meat soups from my childhood that where terrifyingly bad due to having been made from extremely fatty lamb. There would be a layer of fat floating on top of the soup and lamb fat was all it tasted of. This duck soup was exactly like that except that apparently they had let the duck go rancid first for added effect.

The evening was much better as I went with two friends to a Vietnamese restaurant called Foreign Culture Club (889, Julu Lu/By Changshu Lu. Bldg.11-12) that was quite an experience both because the food was great but also because of the surroundings. The FCC is located in an old colonial mansion in the French Concession. The restaurant has a patisserie, a med restaurant, and a H2O bar (servers bottled water from all around the world) and a modern Vietnamese which is where I ate. The food was modern versions of classic Vietnamese food so beef in tomato curry was served on a baguette not with rice which worked a treat. Other great dishes included Grilled Eggplant with Scallion Oil and Soy Sauce a very light and tasty dish and superb light cold egg rolls.

For lunch on Friday I had a noodle soup in a hole in the wall where no one spoke any English. It was the sort of place where pointing did not help as the menu (on the wall only) was in Chinese but I was saved by a patron who while he did not speak English did understand basics such as soup and noodle and pork. That is also exactly what I had a pretty thin soup with loads of noodle and nondescript pork.

Dinner on Friday was quite an adventure as I was out drinking cocktails and me and my allegedly Chinese speaking friend did not start looking for restaurants until late. So late in fact that most restaurants had closed in the neighbourhood we where in. As a consequence we ended up in a Xinxhuan restaurant that most definitely does not cater to tourists as they had no English speaking staff and the menus where in Chinese. Per ordered fried shrimp, stir fried beef and rice in his Chinese. I term his command of the Chinese language alleged because what we got was frog legs, some completely unrecognisable meat (most definitely not beef of any quality I've encountered before) and fried Chinese broccoli. Both the meat and frogs where in great big heaps with about equal quantity diced fried chilly. We where hungry so we ate all of it and apart from the morning after effects of all the chilli the food was not bad at all.

Saturday, I had lunch at the Westin hotel, where I'm staying, at a restaurant called EEST that offers Thai, Japanese and Cantonese food all in one neat package. They hype themselves as Shanghai's best Asian restaurant and have gotten some pretty good reviews. My experience suggest that they owe more to their corporate background that any desire to gain Michelin stars. I had tempura prawns, grilled miso blackened cod and vegetable fried rice of which the rice was the best dish. The prawns would have been good because they where using very light batter where it not for the old oil that they where using. Anyone who's ever tasted fish and chips in a chippy that does not get the need to change the frying oil regularly will know the taste.

The only problem with the cod was that it was neither grilled cod nor blackened cod. It was somewhere in between and it did not work either way. Rice was good though!

Dinner Saturday, anther Xinxhuan but this time apart from ordering way too much food we had a pretty good experience. The highlight was deep fried mutton with vinegar dipping sauce very unusual but quite good. Again loads of chilly.

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