The elegant and spacious dining room captures the graceful decadence of colonial Shanghai beautifully, recreating that Belle Epoque, in silk and amber, like the songs from that era that haunt the room, sung in rich honey.
The cooking is equally elegant, with many classical Shanghainese dishes delivered with poise on gleaming bone white plates. The best of them all was the appetizer plate of wuxi crispy eel that stood out with crispy lightness, hardly a trace of oil from deep frying, and a perfect drizzle of the sauce, bearing in its restrained sweetness a nuanced play of the dark vinegar from Eastern China, complex with fruitty baritone flavours. This is an eternal personal favourite from the Shanghainese repeitoire, and I've yet to taste a better rendition.
Not all the cold appetizers pleased as much, but when they were good, they were very good. Bamboo shoots with sesame oil were soft instead of sharp and crunchy, and seemed to have suffered from canning. The braised gluten/kao3 fu1 was not bad, I just wished for deeper star anise and sugar.
The ruddy pink slices of smooth toothsome pork terrine were lovely, and I loved the beautiful echo of wine in the drunken chicken, the white flesh seemingly woven from silk.
Xiao3 long2 bao1, the signature Shanghainese dumpling, was admirable, with excellent soup and meat filling, even though the dumplings were a tad too big. The skin of the dumpling was slightly uneven, being most delicate at the bottom and thickening near the top.
Chinese cucumber (si1 gua1) is cooked soft, with a residue of slippery crunch and comes with crabmeat, a pleasant combination of jade green in a sea of red-flecked snow.
The crispy duck is the best I've had of its kind. Dry crispy skin over supple duck, and like the eel, not a single trace of grease. Simple and faultless and utterly divine.
Despite the high quality of the red bean pancake, the soup based desserts were better. The walnut soup was marvellous, its refined smoothness from exhaustive grounding, and its fragrant concentrated walnut flavour pure and lovely.
Rice makes a triple appearance in another bowl, soulful rice wine flavour with loose soft white grains and cute little chewy rice dumplings.
In a third bowl, perfect soft and bouncy rice skin enclosed another fragrant refinement, this time dark sesame.
I was heartbroken to hear that Changjiang, my favourite Shanghainese place in Singapore for over a decade had closed. The elegant cooking at Grand Shanghai isn't a stylistic replacement for the lusty dishes at Changjiang, but it is excellent in its own right and I am looking forward to cultivating a new favourite over the next decade.