I thought I had a pretty good sense of Shanghainese food.
After all, I've been to Shanghai before, and Boston actually has a couple pretty good Shanghainese restaurants (Shanghai Fresh, Shanghai Gate come to mind) that even my Shanghainese friends attested were authentic. However, Bryan kept telling me that, after several business trips to Shanghai, he found the food to be generally sweeter than other Chinese cuisines, and therefore, not his favorite.
Although he's right in that Shanghainese cuisine tends to steer towards being sweet, not all dishes are sweet. We had an opportunity to enjoy an authentic Shanghainese meal together at 1-Michelin starred Ye Shanghai, an upscale Chinese restaurant in the Marco Polo Hotel in Tsim Sha Tsui.
The restaurant focuses on food from Shanghai and surrounding provinces (Jiang Su and Zhe Jiang). The menu has a wide range of dishes - everything from steamed whole crab and sweet & sour deep fried fish to whole roasted duck, dumplings, and noodles. I enjoyed the menu because it included beautiful color photos of virtually every dish, which made ordering a lot easier.
We started with their signature tea-smoked eggs ($20 each), which had a lovely smoky flavor as well as a fantastic gooey yolk.
We ordered a couple small dishes off of the chef's recommendation "specials" list. This wheat gluten and celery dish mixed with a type of chili sauce was simple but very well executed. I loved the flavors.
The stir fried caulifower was another simple dish from the chef's recommendation "specials" list that was simple yet delicious. I loved the fresh flavors and the kick from the spicy chili peppers.
I knew river shrimp was something that's hard to get in the US and seemed to be yet another signature dish. I really enjoyed this dish. The tiny shrimp were super tender and "bouncy", with great texture and flavor. I believe there's a fancier version that's stir fried with dragon well tea. I really want to try that sometime (though this version is pretty awesome too).
The braised lamb was yet another seasonal special that was rich with lamb flavor. I personally found the lamb flavor to be a bit strong, but Bryan absolutely loved it.
I love stir fried rice cakes ($130 HKD) and it's something I have a hard time not ordering. I loved the texture of the fresh rice cakes (they tasted less dense than the dried or frozen variety), and the flavors were familiar, comforting, and oh-so-good.
General Thoughts - Ye Shanghai Hong Kong
I came away from Ye Shanghai thinking "I really like this place." I liked how the dishes were simple and authentic, yet executed with such precision and class. The prices aren't cheap, but you get very high quality in exchange. I would love to come back with a much larger group just so I can try many more things on the menu.
I guess it turns out we were able to order several dishes that aren't "sweet." If you do enjoy sweet dishes, though, I would highly recommend trying the crispy eel at a Shanghainese restaurant. The eel is addictive in a sweet + salty + crunchy snack sort of way . . . it's so good! I've never had it at Ye Shanghai but I can imagine they make an excellent version.
Ye Shanghai has four locations throughout Asia: one in Shanghai, one in Taiwan, and two in Hong Kong (Admiralty and TST). The TST location is the one that has the Michelin star.
Ye Shanghai Hong Kong
6/F, Marco Polo Hong Kong Hotel, 3 Canton Rd, Tsim Sham Tsui, Kowloon, Hong Kong
Level 3, Pacific Place, Admiralty, Hong Kong