Saturday, February 06, 2010

Highlight #280: Early last century meets early this century - Restaurnt: Fu 1088

If this looks like someone's home, well it was. Specifically, it was the Shanghai home of 李鸿章's (one of the most influential government figure during the time of the last emperor. He was in charge of international affairs) youngest son. There are three billionaires among Li's descendants. I am not sure if this youngest son is one of them, but I know for sure that he is wealthy.

This Shanghai home is now transformed into a restaurant named after its auspicious address (1088). The Fu in front of the number refers to happiness and prosperity. Prosperous, the restaurant certainly is, although it is difficult to tell from the street (there is no main dining room and the entrance is very private with only a few black uniformed valet drivers.) But all of its private rooms, renovated from the former mansion's bedrooms and sitting rooms, are always booked during meal hours.

The menu is a study in refined dining rooted in Shanghainese cuisine.

Even the street fare dishes, such as this drunken chicken, is dressed up here with a fine shaving of soy and yellow wine flavored ice.

The vegetarian goose received major praise from my father-in-law. Indeed, the crispy soy skin nicely approximate the crackling of the real thing and the savory filling held massive flavor.

This simple shrimp dish was all about texture. Each little shrimp was bouncy and slippery. I enjoyed popping them one at a time with just a few drops of the light vinegar.

The hairy crab cream was served here out of the shell. It definitely saved one from all the digging and judging by the amount of roe, lot of crab died for this cause. A bit of western influence took form in the toasted soldiers on the side.

This is hands down the most refined way to serve the humble red cooked pork I've ever seen. Each glistening piece was equal part lean, fat, and skin. The ones who like to pick off the lean should just skip this excellent dish, because eating anything less than the whole is an insult to the heritage, the chef, and the establishment.

The baked cod is very much a Chinese interpretation of the miso cod. I enjoyed it, but no more than the Japanese version.

The fish soup noodle, on the other hand, was magnificent. Judging by the milkiness of the soup, you might think that some sort of cream product was involved in its making. Nope. It's all from the fish. I've learned the trick from quite a few failed attempt to make a similar fish soup at home. The key is to sear the whole fish at the right temperature with its skin on, then adding water directly to the pan. Just a few minutes of simmering releases the milky liquid from the fish. If the fish was boiled without searing, you'd end up with a clear fishy soup even after hours of boiling. This one is not just creamy and sticky, it's also intensely umami, almost like a curry. The hand pulled noodles soaked up the soup nicely.

We also had a number of very fresh veggie dishes, but they were as special to show.

The meal ended with a passion fruit ice cream that melted into a layer of black sesame paste. Quite nice and refreshing.

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