FooDiva’s China Trail
Friday, 27th August, Shanghai: Wow what a contrast….Japan, a master of perfection, and China, admittedly I have only just seen Shanghai, absolute craziness where disorganisation rules, but ever so atmospheric.
Anyhow, ‘Neehow’ from Shanghai and our Chinese main course! I am blogging from the 50th floor of the Royal Meridien overlooking People’s Square with a spectacular bird’s eye view of the city. Only downside is it’s raining….it poured it down last night as well. And you know me, rain and FooDiva don’t go very well.
We somehow managed to grab the last taxi in town last night and headed to ‘Three on the Bund’, a culinary destination that sports a different restaurant on each of its seven floors – all overlooking the world-famous Bund strip. We opted for Whampoa Club on the 5th Floor that serves Chinese cuisine marrying Sichuan, Hunan and Shanghai flavours into one helluva huge menu. Decor is a tad ordinary to be honest. I know it sounds cliche but I had to order the pork in sweet and sour sauce, given our Dubai restrictions…it was more a honey sauce rather than sweet and sour, but tasty anyhow. Accompanied by fried rice with strips of beef and prawns…yummy and a nice change from Japan’s steamed number. My mum sent her first dish back (stir fried chicken with chilli) as it looked like it had come out of a deep fat fryer – but ended up with a lovely black cod…perhaps we should not have left Japan after all. Having polished off a few glasses of Cabernet earlier, the calming effect of osmanthus flower oolong tea (nice and sweet) was the perfect accompaniment.
Overall though, not a venue I would spend more time blogging on – I am hoping Shanghai has more to offer. We popped in to nosey around some of the other restos on Three on the Bund; Jean-Georges (yes a la Vongerichten) on the 4th floor, Laris (owned by the ex-chef of London’s Mezzo) on the 6th, and New Heights right at the top (more of a lunchtime venue). I say you can’t go wrong with the French…Jean-Georges, perhaps next time…
With the clouds still opening up and no taxi in sight, we returned to the hotel in a motorised rick-shaw – love them!
On a sightseeing front, do take the time to visit the Jade Buddha temple (sorry no pics were allowed), as well as the Yuyuan Gardens and so called ‘Old Town’, a lovely area to wander through if you don’t mind crowds…ooh and with lots of food stalls…very China-town. And of course the Bund. From there, take the underwater sightseeing tunnel to cross to Pudong. Meaning east of the Huangpu river, Pudong exemplifies new Shanghai, but if I can say, lacks atmosphere – opt to stay on the authentic Chinese west-side. I also very accidentally walked into the Waldorf Astoria Shanghai on The Bund which is in soft-opening (only the suites are open) – gosh it’s stunning as you can see (can’t take the PR from the PR girl…). Would be perfect for afternoon tea, or a cocktail at the Long Bar. Zaijian!
Saturday, 28th August: Well after last night’s experience, I can certainly vouch that Shanghai has a great foodie culture if you know where to go. Or in my case, where friends knew where to go – always helps to know the locals, or the Shanghai expats in this case – thank you Emma and Chris. ‘Pin Chuan’ in the French Concession district offers Sichuan cuisine renowned for its use of red hot chillies in every dish – spicy! Housed in a beautiful converted building, 18th century I think, we were surrounded by true locals – always a good sign. Mini lettuce leaves lightly dressed with what I would call peanut butter sauce, scrumptious!…dry fried juicy green beans…stir fried melt-in-your-mouth eggplant…spicy chicken with peanuts…deep fried and very fiery prawns…and I think my favourite, slices of smoked duck sandwiched with sticky rice if my memory serves me correctly. In Sichuan cuisine, you round off your meal with noodles – apparently you fill up with the exotic, expensive dishes, and leave the cheaper, more filling food until the end incase your stomach is rumbling. Quite how with such a feast, I don’t know. Chrysanthemum tea, which has a spicy almost cardamom taste, balances the spiciness of the food. It helps to like some spice in your food, but the dishes were very palatable and the chillies did not overpower the flavours. I would definitely return, and so should you.
A short walk away is Sacha’s, a relaxed bar/ lounge/ restaurant venue…perfect for your favourite after-dinner tipple, in my case, last night…passion fruit martinis.
We spent a few hours rambling through the so-called Taikang Road Art Centre in Xintiandi today – a community of art galleries, boutiques, cafes. Ever so quaint, and a definite must-see for anyone visiting Shanghai…I could have spent all day there. Popped into ‘Chami’ a contemporary take on a traditional tea house that lets you relax and sample before purchasing your favourite tea tipple. Really beautiful shop, where the owner mingles with shoppers. The osmanthus oolong tea was my fave, and the stunning packaging is worth a purchase alone.
Monday, 30th August, Beijing: Since I last signed off a couple of days ago we left Shanghai fo fly to Xi’an, and onwards to Beijing – we’ve been taking in the sights more than the food (as well as lots of airport time – every Chinese flight is delayed!), but my last Shanghai dinner is worth sharing. On Saturday night, we visited ‘Ye Shanghai’ in the beautiful
cafe-strewn Xintiandi district. As the name implies the speciality is Shanghainese cuisine – and like with all restaurants here has a huuuuge menu – complete with beautiful photography (and stunning decor including the wooden high backed chairs). Pan-fried beef with scallions (nice but a far cry from the tenderness of Japanese beef)…stir-fried prawns…fried green beans with bean curd and laced with minced pork (officially my favourite Chinese dish so far)…steamed pak choy…fried rice with beef. I think that’s it. Delicious, with one but….the dishes are served in no particular order so if you want to combine your rice and veg with your meat or fish, it’s highly unlikely. Just eat as you go along. Imported wine is relatively well priced in China – slightly better value than Dubai even though it’s also highly taxed. Europeans will find it expensive. Chinese brew their own vino too, but I am told it’s not worth a tipple.
Xi’an, a two hour flight inland from Shanghai, at the terminus of the Silk Road, is world famous for its Army of Terracotta Warriors unearthed by a farmer drilling a well in 1974, and frankly the only reason you would want to visit. The archaeological find yielded thousands of life-size terracotta soldiers and horses in battle formation – I hope my photos capture the moment. Don’t expect culinary heaven here.
Just arrived at the Great Wall for an overnight stay – more later!