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Whampoa Club, Shanghai

heroldra | | Aug 30, 2006 07:13 PM

This restaurant currently attracts lots of attention as an innovator in Shanghai cuisine. I looked forward to trying it, especially after reading a piece on the chef in a mid-August 2006 edition of Financial Times.

No doubt the place is interesting. Physically the restaurant is a lovely venue in the swanky 3 on the Bund building. However service is typically old-fashioned Chinese. The wait staff doesn't like to (or can't) explain the dishes very well. (And, by the way, I'm a fluent Mandarin speaker.)

We started, happily, with a light and tasty Peking duck appetizer. Just the flavorful, non-greasy duck and fragrant sauce, no baobing (crepes). Delightful.

Next was a signature dish: flash fried shrimp with wasabi coating. How this fits in to Shanghai cuisine was beyond me. That curiosity aside, the dish was very complex but not particularly satisfying. Interesting to try, yes, but I wouldn't order it again.

The two soups we tried were excellent: an intense chicken broth and a vegetable soup. As in almost any good restaurant in China, you can't go wrong with the soups here.

The veggy dish, qing chao (lightly stir fried) greens, was freshly delicious and light. No cloying corn starch sauce.

We finished with xiao long bao (soup dumplings). These were fresh and very good. Not the xiao long bao of my dreams (have to hit Taipei's Din Tai Feng for that), but quite nice.

Good wine list.

Bottom line: We had a good, but not life changing, dinner. Total cost for two with a bottle of wine was about 700 Yuan. Not expensive by US standards for the quality but in Shanghai you can find wonderful (though more traditional) similar dinners for much less -- however in modest surroundings WITHOUT good wine.

Somehow I couldn't make the leap and accept that this was Shanghai cuisine. It lacked the light, subtle touch that I have come to expect from top quality eateries in this city. Nevertheless Whampoa Club is worth a try for anyone interested in future direction of this region's cuisine.

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