Thursday, September 10, 2009

Highlight #230: Definitely the best view, but best food? - Restaurant: Laris (Shanghai)

What you see here is the view after "lights out" in Pudong, meaning this is what Pudong (the commercial area on the east bank of Shanghai) looks like when the majority of the lights are turned off or dimmed. Now imagine farmland covering all of this. That's what Pudoing looked like 15 years ago. The pace of progress in Shanghai is astounding.

I am viewing this from 3 on the Bund, one of the most happening buildings on the west bank. Like its neighbors, this Western style building, at the beginning of the last century, was a part of the foreign concession in Shanghai. It would look right at home next to any stately building or museum in DC or nyc. Most of these buildings on the Bund still house banks. But #3 has undergone massive internal renovation to become the home of Armani, Jean George, Whampoa Club, and Laris, where our belated anniversary dinner took place.

Laris is one of the top chef-driven western restaurants in Shanghai. Its Australian chef David Laris is on site almost daily and came to chat at the table this evening. The space on the 6th floor is large and decked out in white marbles, but felt warm under the soft lights.

Laris's beautiful plating is definitely on par with its class in the world and the view of Pudong outside the window is incomparable. Unfortunately, the taste department lags behind the two. Take these scallops. Despite their appetizing appearance were pretty bland and tasted deflated. The cauliflower puree did little to make up for the lack of flavor, although the popcorn looking fried cauliflower florets were interesting.

I think Jason ordered this soup purely for the fried frog legs. The base is a lime seasoned rice broth similar in idea to the Greek rice and lemon soup avgolemono. Perhaps because I grew up eating only savory congees, sourness and rice combinations never really appeal to me. With my bias, I found the lime not quite sharp enough to make a statement. The frog leg fritters, however, were super fabulous. Even coming out of the soup, they were impossibly crunchy. The meat was also tender and well-seasoned with salt and pepper.

I initially wanted to order something more unique, but ended up getting the miso cod because it is the chef's signature. It turned out to be a great decision and was quite different from the other miso cods. Rather than the white miso normally used for this dish, the chef chose to work with red miso, which has a much more assertive fermented taste. He also took a step back with the sugar level to let the red miso shine without much competition. The end result was intense, but not overpowering. A great dish.

While at dinner, our server booked a table for us at the roof top bar, where one can enjoy some live music and the bright Pudong lights. Jason got his cigar, while I sip away at my cognac. Not bad, not bad at all. :)

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