Old School Chinese Charm and Showstopping Presentation as Grand Shanghai Re-Opens (Review)
The 20-year old Grand Shanghai restaurant has recently undergone a grand renovation befitting of its status as a mainstay of King’s Centre on on Havelock Road. Now looking like a Shanghainese restaurant straight out of a vintage film, Grand Shanghai gives off plenty of nostalgic vibes from the moment one steps into it, with a spacious main dining hall with crystal chandeliers hanging above, complete with a stage for live singing and entertainment while guests dine, coupled with chinoiserie such as porcelain bases adorning the plush green velvet seats.
Towards the back, private dining rooms are furnished with art deco motifs and oriental memorabilia, from a vintage gramophone to a grand piano, that brings to mind the 1930s, one of Shanghai’s most romantic eras that fully immerses diners into the ‘Paris of the East’.
But as old school as its appearance suggests, its brand new revamped cuisine is anything but, as Master Chef Jacky Tang reimagines classic Shanghainese cuisine for the modern palate, with culinary affairs that are often a feast for both the eyes and the tastebuds. At a tasting we attended, we got a chance to see and taste this brand new menu, starting with their unique appetiser. Inspired by the four ‘tastes’ in Chinese cuisine (sour, sweet, bitter and spicy) that in turn represent life’s ups and downs, the simple dish helps whet the appetite, each bite a burst of flavour.
Our first dish of the night was a gorgeous Fresh Sliced Abalone with Pomelo Vinegar and Sake Jelly. Served atop a glistening shell with mist wafting around it from dry ice, this was a dish that was made for food photographers to appreciate visually, with the sake jelly looking like precious gems. While the individual elements were good, coming together, they masked the natural taste of the abalone, something we wished they’d emphasised more.
We followed with a medley of cold dishes – Drunken Chicken with Chinese Wine Jelly, Sliced Pork wrapped around Cucumber, Fermented Garlic and Chili, and mushrooms and carrots wrapped in a vegetarian beancurd sheet. Amongst these, the standout was definitely the reinterpretation of the traditional drunken chicken, replacing liquid Chinese wine with jelly to give the dish a different texture, and a much more potent, concentrated flavour in every bite. When eaten together with the chicken, the two complemented beautifully.
The showstopper dish of the night however, was no doubt the ‘Light and Shadow crispy duck’, dramatically served like a small pillar of syrupy goodness, catching the light just right (hence the name) with slices of duck skin and lotus root nestled within it, and again, with dry ice mist wafting up. There’s sense of majesty you can’t help but admire from this miniature work of art, which is prepared on the spot with every order, and makes for some spectacular photos. The duck itself is crispy enough, smoked with a hint of wasabi to add that extra kick of flavour to each bite. Later on, the remainder of the smoked duck was served as well, to be wrapped in a steamed bun much like the traditional Peking Duck. The meat proved to be succulent and of good quality, making this the dish to order if you want to impress your guests at the dinner table.
We followed up with our soup dish – the Shanghainese chicken soup in claypot, pork wonton. Both the chicken soup and pork wonton were very well-prepared, and we learnt that the soup was actually boiled for hours overnight to achieve the rich taste. We only wish that the taste of bok choy in the soup was less pungent, as it ends up overpowering the taste of the soup altogether.
For our next dish, we were served scrambled egg white, fresh crabmeat and carrot puree with truffle oil. This medley of flavours and textures came together well, with a medley of flavours from the rich, quality ingredients used, with the truffle oil used to add an aromatic splash to the otherwise plain egg white, matching well with the crabmeat.
As with any Chinese banquet dinner, we were also served our vegetable dish – fried string beans with minced pork. Unlike the usual version of this dish however, the string beans were also topped with sakura ebi to give each bite that extra crunch and sweetness to complement the savoury minced pork, a dish that was simple but done well.
With our final main dish of the night, we were served fried green bean noodles, with prawn, minced pork and snow cabbage, a good way to wrap up the meal and fill us if were in any way not full (we were). We ended off with two desserts – the souffle egg white filled with red bean paste and banana, and an osmanthus pudding with gold bark and wolfberry, a satisfying sweet end to our big meal.
With this innovative new menu, Grand Shanghai seems to still be finding its feet with its experimentation, almost getting the right formula for most of them, but requiring just a few more tweaks to get it just right. What they do offer however, is the promise that a meal here will certainly be unlike any other Chinese banquet, with its showstopping visuals and exquisite plating that ensures your guests will be stopping to snap photos before tucking in.
Of note would also be the enthusiastic service from Brenda Chong, who took the time to explain the significance behind each dish to us, all-smiles and attentive when we were giving her feedback to relay to the chef. Having staff like her is definitely one of the big reasons why we’d come back to Grand Shanghai again, and coupled with the attractive decor and unusual menu, is sure to mark some grand changes for this restaurant in time to come.
Grand Shanghai is located at 390 Havelock Rd, Level 1 King’s Centre, and is open on Tuesday to Friday, 11.30am to 2.30pm for lunch and 6.00pm to 10.00pm for dinner, Saturday & Sunday, 11.00am to 2.30pm for lunch and 6.00pm to 10.00pm for dinner. The restaurant closes on Mondays. For more information, please visit www.grandshanghai.com.sg or call 6836 6866.