A crowning jewel in Maxim’s Group ever-growing restaurant portfolio, Shanghai Garden in Hutchison House has long been a reliable go-to for authentic Shanghainese cuisine. With this opening of this second branch just around the corner at Exchange Square, the eatery has reinvigorated both the decor – which is much more open, airy and contemporary – and the menu, unique to this location.
Shanghai Garden at Exchange Square focuses on “haipai” cuisine. Translating literally to “overseas”, this refers to Shanghai’s East-meets-West approach to Chinese cooking, utilising not only Western ingredients and techniques but also influences from other neighbouring Chinese provinces. What this means for us diners is that the dishes at this branch are lighter and less oily than typical Shanghainese cuisine, with more vegetables and cold dishes on the menu, plus seafood and meat that have been deskinned, deshelled or deboned, taking all the hard work (and some might say the fun) out of eating, say, a Chinese-style spring chicken or steamed whole fish.
We were treated to a gut-busting eight-course lunch. Here are the highlights:
Tofu-sheet dumplings with shredded vegetables ($90 for 5): The creative presentation of these little bundles was a showstopper, dry ice included! This was a light, delicate way to start our meal. We loved the texture of the tofu skin and the fragrant filling of finely minced Shanghainese vegetable ma lan tou dotted with pine nuts.
Sautéed freshwater shrimp with snap peas ($260): A typical Shanghainese dish, this was Westernised with the addition of tiny, oh-so-sweet snap peas instead of the usual Longjing tea leaves. Though smaller in size than their seagoing siblings, these petite shrimp had a very sweet flavour and al dente bite. We recommend mixing in a little of the accompanying black vinegar for a flavour boost.
Signature barbecue duck ($460 for whole duck) with second course of stir-fried duck cones ($148): A standout example of Peking-style duck, with thin, crisp skin, rich, tender meat and steamed Chinese pancakes that were just the right texture and thickness. The Peking duck was served two ways: in classic style, with cucumber, spring onion and hoisin-heavy Peking sauce, and also with innovative accompaniments of avocado, melon and a spicy homemade sauce. We swooned over both versions, but it was the traditional accompaniments that held sway for us (though we do recommend adding avocado for a refreshing change).
As good as the barbecue duck was, it is the duck cones that we are still dreaming about. With these, spring-roll skin was shaped into mini ice-cream cones, deep-fried and stuffed with a robustly seasoned minced-duck filling – simply sensational.
Deep-fried yellow croaker with pine nuts and sweet-and-sour sauce ($278): It was the intricate knife work with this dish that made it so impressive. The fish was first deboned, then carved to resemble a hydrangea flower, for which the restaurant is named in Chinese. Sometimes sweet-and-sour sauce can be gloopy and saccharine, but Shanghai Garden’s sauce was – despite being neon orange in colour – well balanced, with a pleasing tartness.
Pan-fried xiao long bao ($72 for 4 pieces): We can’t go to a Shanghainese restaurant and not order xiao long bao! Unlike the usual steamed soup dumplings, these were pan-fried so that the bottoms were crisp and golden brown – sort of a xiao long bao and sheng jian bao (pan-fried pork bun) hybrid. These were sizzling, juicy and delicious, but be warned: the soup inside is dangerously hot, so take it slow.
Our dining experience at this rejuvenated Shanghai Garden was a triumph. Without exception, the dishes were well executed, creative and beautifully presented; the attention to detail was noteworthy. The prices are reasonable given the soothing, stylish surrounds and quality cuisine. This would make an ideal spot for a special family dinner or when hosting guests.
Shop 402, 4/F, Exchange Square, 8 Connaught Place, Central, 2180 7288
This write-up is based on a complimentary media tasting provided in exchange for an honest review and no monetary compensation. The opinions expressed here represent the author’s.
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