Nanbantei of Tokyo [Shanghai] – closerd

After reading the reaming that City Weekend gave by Dan Ouyang wrote and Christopher St Cavish of SmartShanghai.com, I realize, perhaps I should rethink what I was going to say. I’m usually a pushover when it comes to Yakitori.

Though I am not a expert on Yakitori, I do know what skewers I like. I don’t necessarily go for the chicken heart, liver, or weird parts first. With my traditional Western sensibilities, I go for simple things like quail eggs, chicken meat balls, and chicken wings. But tonight, with the 6 of us, we order all types – from the thick beef tongue, to juicy sausage, to the standard hamachi collar, and to the simple scallops. Tonight was a mixed bag of review – some was good, some wasn’t, but overall, I think it was a good experience.

Nanbantei of Tokyo is an international chain of yakitori restaurants, with locations in Hong Kong, Singapore, and now Shanghai. Based out of their flagship restaurant in Roppongi, Japan, Nanbantei has a history of going back over 40 years.

Let’s start with what I enjoyed. I liked the chicken wings, the chicken balls, and the Hamachi collar. The wings were large, plump, and tasty. The balls were expected as savory (chicken) balls are. The hamachi collar was very good, but a little on the dry side. Then there was this miso leaf grilled pork skewer thing – it just had a funny taste. I made the mistake of ordering 3 skewers – with 3 pieces on each. . .I think less than a skewer was touched at all.

Then there were some things that we could have done without. The thick beef tongue was absolutely gross. I know, based on my friend’s word, that the beef tongue is presented this way, since it is grilled. I’m used to the delicate slices that we DIY grill yourself – sort of like the Korean BBQ’s. Then there was the cheese. . . it was practically on some many skewers, that I thought i was in a pizza joint. I know the unique and novelty of nature of cheese in Japanese and Asian culture. But why does it have to be this way. yes, I know I can cast my “vote” by not ordering or eating it – but I had to try it. Anyways. . .Cheese . . .not a fan with Japanese food.

Perhaps it is because of the diverse foreign crowd in Shanghai, that diners can be a little more picky than usual. The two previous reviews reflect palettes that were developed outside of Shanghai and China – as is mine. Understandably, Shanghai’rs demand quality meals from these establishments. Yet, I can see why they, as well as myself, would be disappointed from such as well-known chain. Anyways. . .its cool place in a great location – but the food, as I agree with the two guys, left a lot to be desired.

What to Order: hamachi collar and chicken wings
What not to Order: Pork, Beef tongue, and anything with cheese

Rating
0 Pigs
Price Range 2 $/¥/NT

南蛮亭
上海市徐汇区岳阳路1号
Nanbantai of Tokyo, Shanghai
1 Yueyang Road, Shanghai
+86 21 64375651
info@nanbantei.cn
nanbantei.cn

An Evening with Yue-Sai Kan 靳羽西

This past week, we got to meet the venerable Yue-Sai Kan 靳羽西. She graciously hosted us at her spacious home in Shanghai. Our professor, Peter Carnevale was able to arrange for an informal talk with her to talk about her experiences.

Yue-Sai, born in Guilin, was raised in Hong Kong. After attaining a degree in music in Hawaii, she moved to New York to begin her career in television, just around the time when the cable television industry was taking off. Yue-Sai created, produced, and starred in several popular television series, bilingually for both the US and China markets. She won an Emmy award with her ABC documentary China Walls and Bridges in 1989. With over 30 years of broadcasting experience, she is widely considered the most famous woman in China and the Chinese Oprah.

In the early ’90′s Yue-Sai dove into her next venture, cosmetics. On the suggestion from the Chinese government, Yue-Sai started a cosmetics company, since she felt that there wasn’t anything in the market catered for the Chinese woman. The company, of the same moniker – Yue-Sai, was sold to L’Oreal in 2004. Yue-Sai remains with the company as the Honorary Chairwoman for the company.

Just from her different experiences, styles, and philosophy, she could have taught our class. We were fortunate enough, to gain her insight into her business acumen, her views on life, and her mantra on happiness. I was particularly intrigued about her thoughts on happiness. I remembered how she maintained her positive outlook through different periods in her life. Its amazing how she has a excellent grasp on marketing herself through blogs, TV, books, and film.

The 4 Questions Yue-Sai Kan’s asks before making a decision
1. Have I Got The Talent To Do It?
2. Have I Got Enough Passion To Do It?
3. Does It Do Good To Other People?
4. Does It Do Good Especially To Chinese?
*For most of the people, the first 3 questions are enough, but for Yue-Sai, the last question is especially important

She also noted that once you attain a certain level of success, it is time to appreciate culture and help the fellow man. With her travels, you can see how she has appreciated culture, arts, and music. And in her work, she has been now more known as a philanthropist for underprivileged schools, disabled, and children.

Her sensibilities of different cultures allows her to relate with people from various backgrounds, such as our class. The famous Mototown music producer, Quincy Jones, considers Yue-Sai as a sister. Chen Luyu 陈鲁豫, the host of A Date of Luyu鲁豫有约, thinks of Yue-Sai as an inspiration – through a personal note she shared. And since 2006, she has been involved with the Shanghai International Film Festival, where she has been able to leverage her ties to the entertainment industry. As famous and accomplished as she may be, Yue-Sai was quite approachable and friendly.

靳羽西 with USC GEMBA VII from The Thirsty Pig on Vimeo.

Recent Interviews
November 12, 2010 ABC News
November 4, 2010 Businessweek Article
Charlie Rose Interview

Links
YueSaiKan.com
Her Blog on Sina.com
Her Blog on Sohu.com
Wikipedia entry

Note: Currently, I am enrolled in USC’s Global Executive MBA program in Shanghai. I’m part of the USC GEMBA VII class. For more information check out this link. And a special thanks to PR & Marketing Director and Special Assistant Uma Chu, Professor Peter Carnevale, and USC GEMBA Director John Van Fleet for setting up this event.

The University of Southern California Global Executive MBA

Yuxin 渝信川菜 [Shanghai]

Oh god, this place is good. Yuxin Sichuan Cuisine is where Sichuaners’ go to eat Sichuan food.

To be honest. . . I wasn’t a big fan of spicy food, or heck mouth numbing spicy sichuan food, before I moved to China. But after awhile, I realized that spicy food is actually pretty good. I almost crave for it. The thing about Chinese food is that it is all about taste. Not presentation – like the Japanese, nor heartiness, as Korean cuisine is. Hence, the delicate flavor, as I have said many times, and mouth feel experience, with the variety of different textures, has been the key aspect of Chinese cuisine.

Though a friend recommended this place, I still felt I had to do a little background research. Some of the expat sites indicated that people from Sichuan would go to Yuxin for a taste of their hometown cuisine. After reading that, it was determined. Oh this occasion, with some out of town friends, I found my reason.

The modest restaurant, located in an indoor shopping center, didn’t have the opulence of South Beauty or Lan. But on this weekday evening, the mostly Chinese and non-expat crowd, had filled the restaurant. I think Yuxin also has a couple other locations in and around the city.

The speciality of Yuxin is the famed mala spicy fish. Served in a big bowl, with vegetables, red peppers, and sichuan peppers swimming a oily clear broth. Though it seemed oily, it didn’t have the gross oily taste. The sliced fish, with only a few bones, decorated this great presentation. Lookingly spicy, it really was more Mala – meaning more mouth numbing that anything. The fish had the melded taste of the peppers, sichuan peppers, and vegetables. It was the long awaited last dish of the night.

In explaining what Mala from the resulting Sichuan pepper, it is a taste sense or almost a new flavor profile in itself. The sichuan pepper is slightly larger than a black peppercorn. Though only the husk is used, rather than the inner seeds. The husk produces a slight and temporary mouth numbing feel. In fact, I kinda like that mouth numbing feel. It almost mimics drug like addiction – since it is a sensory feeling.

Another dish that I liked was the steamed chicken in the spicy red sauce. The light chicken contrasted well with the thick spicy sauce. Known as Poor People Chicken, was served with mostly white meat.

I hope to return, soon. Yuxin is great for groups that like the spicy and numbing Sichuan food.

渝信川菜
静安区成都北路333号招商局广场3楼(近威海路)
yuxin1997.com

Yuxin Sichuan Cuisine Shanghai
ZhaoShangJu Square, 3F, Chengdu BeiLu No. 333, JingAn District, Shanghai +86 21-52980438

豫园 Yuyuan Garden Part 2 [Shanghai]

On my second trip to Yuyuan Garden, I was finally able to get a ticket and go inside the famed walled garden. A couple of classmates and I found a day to not only see the and taste some of the food vendors outside of the tourist attraction, but secured three tickets to see the garden and sample the tea’s at the tea shop.

After getting our tickets and walking in, we found the tea shop. We didn’t even know that we got to experience the tea shop with our particular tickets. The tea shop, part of the deluxe ticket part of 60 RMB, allowed us to try the the different teas. It appeared, mostly foreigners, were exposed to this tea education. I found out they offered the short 30 min interactive class in English and Japanese. There was about 8 different teas that we got to try, ranging from different flavors and health benefits. At the end, there was a hard sell on each of the teas – for about 100 RMB per bag. I was tempted to get some, but I didn’t want to return all the way back for refills. Yet, I still might just return to get a couple of bags.

Afterwards, we moseyed around the old buildings and garden. Yet, there wasn’t much of a garden or flowers. There were a lot of trees. This place reminded me of the Summer Palace in Beijing, in a small scale. It was quite astonishing to have such a historic place smack dab in the middle of the big metropolitan Shanghai.

As you walked around, you could see the thousands of hands touch and maul the handrails and walls, which seemed a bit worn (and a little bit gross). But I still enjoyed the experience. I am always fascinated by the old Chinese decor, architecture, and design. I liked the geometric accents found in each design elements. One cool thing was seeing the different animals on the pointed rooftops.

Anyways. . . Yuyuan Garden is a nice place to go once. . . But necessarily to return. Even on a weekday afternoon, it was quite crowded.

豫园 Yuyuan Garden Part 1 [Shanghai]

Yuyuan Garden is probably the most popular tourist attraction in Shanghai. Located in the middle of city, close the Bund, this spot was a private residence with a sprawling garden and reflection pools.

First built in 1559 by Pan Yunduan, the garden was a built over 20 years in honor for his father, Pan En, an official from the Ming Dynasty. Over the centuries the garden has been taken over, destroyed, and rebuilt. Then finally in the 1950′s the Chinese government took over and renovated the garden. Then it was open to the public in 1961 and made into a national monument in 1982. (taken from wikipedia)

Right outside the garden, there a large outdoor mall, with tall traditional Chinese buildings. On weekends and holidays, the walkways are packed with people. Since it is close to People’s square, it is almost impossible to find a cab. Thank goodness there’s lots of subways all around. There are lots of shops and and restaurants.

On this day, I didn’t venture inside the garden, but tasted several of the local treats. I was able to try the large Xiao Long Tang Bao, which you first drink from a straw. As large as a man-sized fist, the Bao was quite good. But the skin was a bit tough. I doubt I would try it again. Next, I tried this vegetable burrito, which was almost too hot to handle. If it wasn’t so hot and oily, I’d say this was quite refreshing. There’s lots of restaurants and snack bars all over the place.

Next time, I will venture into the garden itself.

豫园
Yuyuan Garden
No. 132. Anren Street, next to the Chenghuangmiao area
Shanghai, China

Shanghai Tang Cafe [Shanghai]

When I first heard that there was a Shanghai Tang Cafe, I knew I should look into it. But then when I heard they had a Sunday Brunch, I was more intrigued. Yet, when I found out that the all-you-can-eat brunch included drinks – Beer . . . I needed to get there!

Located near Xintiandi, right across the street, the Shanghai Tang Cafe is part of the Shanghai Tang fashion empire. There’s 4 or 5 of the eponymous boutique all over the city. Personally, with me liking the style and brand, the cafe was on my short list of places to try.

Once you walk in, you notice the bright color pillows and accents throughout the dining room. The dark hues of the traditional furniture contrast with the Shanghai Tang trademark colors, of orange, blue-green, and red.

For the Sunday Brunch, we were given a traditional menu to pick and choose the little dim sum plates – sort of like Chinese tapas. I think I picked almost 10 little dishes, before I realized there was only 2 of us. The menu featured Cantonese dishes with Shanghainese ones. Since Shanghai Tang originated from Hong Kong, I wasn’t too surprised by the dim sum offering. Some of the standouts was the fried dumplings – shen jian bao’s, fried shanghai rice cake, and the hot & sour soup. In this Sunday Brunch, the all-you-can-eat menu also includes drinks – such as beer.

I hope to return soon, since I didn’t get a chance to try everything. Since we were a bit pressed for time couple with the slow food, I was a bit disappoint – which was more my fault. Next time, I plan to go with a group of friends, to have beer, as well. Perhaps they might have a TV, so we can enjoy some sports or something as well.

Shanghai Tang Cafe
Level 2 & Level 3, 333 Huang Pi Nan Road, Shanghai, China
+86 21 6377 3333
info@shanghaitangcafe.com
shanghaitang.com

复兴汇 Fuxinghui [Shanghai]

Fuxinghui is fine dining establishment that specializes in Shanghainese cuisine. Located near the heart of the bustling HuaiHai Middle road, Fuxinghui offers up some an intimate dining experience.

As you walk in the converted courtyard, you see off to the left the main dining room, which can be used for private events. There’s a shallow moat, which presents serenity dining in this metropolis. I like how the restaurant appears to be one with nature with the large bay windows exposing the trees all around.

Tonight, our group, of two tables, had the best that Fuxinghui had to offer of Shanghai cuisine. At the top of any Shanghainese restaurant, is the Hong Shau Rou – translated into red pork meat, 紅燒肉, which the dish can be seen as sweet red fatty braised pork. Any restaurant claiming to be Shanghainese will have Hong Shau Rou . . .and Fuxinghui was no different. Most of the time, you’ll find some soy sauced hard boiled eggs dipped in the rich sweet syrup sauce, which I like. Fuxinghui’s presentation was not as tender as others I’ve had, yet this tougher texture was somewhat appealing. Sometimes, you want the proteins you eat to have a little toughness, not completely fall of the bone tenderness. Served in a large cauldron, you’d find large cubed sized pork with fat and skin slowly braised together. But, I realize the the 2 big ingredients in this classic dish – are lots of soy sauce and lots of sugar . . . A friend recently told me that he no longer enjoys this dish, for that reason. Yet, I will still gobble up all I can when it is available.

Shanghai cuisine is typically heavy with sauce and sweet in flavor and Fuxinghui dishes had both. The roasted fish had elements of sweetness that I wasn’t too fond of. Personally, I liked the green beans, the roasted duck, and diced soy strips in yellow sauce (sorry I don’t remember the name).

I enjoy the Ambiance, more so than other Shanghainese restaurants – such as Jesse and Fu 1088. But the food and taste was nothing more than ordinary. The presentation was nice with each dish featuring a unique style.

Rating
2 Pigs
Price Range 3 $/¥/NT

复兴汇
上海复兴中路1479号近淮海中路 +86 21 6433 6955

Fuxinghui Shanghai
1479 Middle Fuxing Road, by Huaihai Road, Shanghai +86 21 6433 6955

Lisboa Restaurant [Shanghai]

One would expect traditional Portuguese cuisine at a restaurant name Lisboa. Named after the capital of Portugal, this chain features Macanese cuisine – a combination of Cantonese and Portuguese flavors.

Not expecting much at all, from this 3 story food & restaurant court/mall. Lisboa appears like a typical Hong Kong cafe, with flashy menus and quick service. But what made Lisboa special is their preparation of pork, fish, and beef. This brightly colored restaurant – sort of a cross with McDonald’s and a 50′s style diner, features anything but American food. Located on the famed Wujiang Lu, where famous street vendors used to be, Lisboa is on the 3rd story of the large restaurant building complex.

The first dish we had was a stewed pork in light broth. Swimming in this clear broth were these thick slices of fatty pork. With about 30% fat on the meat, each bite you knew would be flavorful and juicy. This is a very good dish. Plus you would get the broth or consume to spoon up as well. Then we had another pork dish, which was stir fried with onions. This was good, but I felt, after the first one, it was almost a let done. Not as succulent as the first, but this one was more savory and went well with rice. Next we had a large bowl of tomato based sauce with thin slices of beef and enoki mushroom. Slightly lemony in flavor, you needed rice to offset the bold tastes. I like this one as well. Next we had another bowl, you could see the trend here, of braised or boiled chicken with large intestine. I didn’t try the intestine, kinda too chewy for my palate. To round it out, we had a fried fish that was served with a sweet sauce – which was very Cantonese and some stir fried vegetables.

I’d come back for a quick meal. Not bad, but not a destination restaurant. On another note – you can check out their other business Taipan Massage & Spa, on Dagu Lu. If you bring a DVD, you can watch it while you get your foot massage.

What to Order: Pork Stewed in Light Broth
What not to Order: Not a big fan of Large Intestine

Rating
2 Pigs
Price Range 1 $/¥/NT

CNNGO’s listing
Best Food in China Listing
Dianping’s listing

普京茶餐厅
Lisboa Restaurant
静安区吴江路269号湟普汇303号商铺(近茂名北路)
Jingan District, No. 269 Wujiang Road, Suite 303
+86 21-61361393

Racks – Grand Re-Opening on November 11th [Shanghai] – closed

I got to check out Racks before their Grand Re-Opening at their new location, from their Xintiandi location.

Though I’m not much of a pool player, I know this place almost invites you to play. With good music and drinks, Racks can almost seem like a nice bar lounge. The tables are the same, if not better, as the ones you’d find in the states at other finer pool halls.

The plush cozy interior features several pool tables on two floors, with a VIP lounge area for private events. There’s even an outdoor patio for enjoy the Shanghai skyline. There’s a full bar on both the 5th and 6th floor for all your drinking needs. They have a full bar with some of the more popular liquors you’ll find in bars in the states. The lounge area upstairs is ideal for a birthday party or a mixer with the centerpiece white pool table.

Rack’s is having their grand Re-Opening tomorrow Wednesday, November 10th. RSVP’s were required by yesterday November 8th. But if you call, you just might get reservations.

Tim Sher, one of the partners was generous enough to show me around the the lounge/pool hall. It’s really a small world when one of my current classmates is his childhood friend, while my old Shanghai friends have known him awhile, as well. When you stop by Racks, make sure you tell him that you saw my post.

Links
Live in Shanghai – live.shanghaidaily.com
Racks Facebook page
SmartShanghai.com

Racks
进贤路221号, 5-6楼, 近茂名路, 陕西南路
Floors 5-6, 221 Jinxian Road near Maoming Road and Shan’xi Road S.
+86 21-5212 5971
HOURS: Sun–Thu 11am–2am; Fri-Sat 11am–late
rackschina.com
racksmdb.com

The Succulent Moistness of the BBQ Pork at Crystal Jade 翡翠酒家 [Shanghai]

I was asking a couple of friends, one who is Shanghainese and the other from the North who’s lived in Shanghai for awhile, what are some of the better restaurants in town. Surprisingly they said they like southern cuisine, more specifically Guangdong, Cantonese, or Hong Kong dishes – could be considered the same. One of the finest in Shanghai is Crystal Jade.

This chain, surprisingly from Singapore, has some of the yummiest dishes. With locations in Hong Kong, Beijing, and other cities, Crystal Jade is popular and well known. I know friends in Taipei have been wanting expansion there as well. Though I have only been in Shanghai for 6 months . . . people keep asking what I think is good or what I like. Other than speaking of Xiaolongbao’s. . .I keep thinking Crystal Jade – time and time again.

Located at the popular Xintiandi, Crystal Jade has some of the best Dim Sum that I have ever had – even from Los Angeles, San Francisco, Taiwan, and even Hong Kong. The three delicacies plate with roast pork, bbq pork, and chicken. The BBQ pork was tender with the right amount of fat to meat ratio – for succulent moistness. The chicken was fine . . .but I think I ignored it after one bite. But the roast pork was the best I have ever had – and it wasn’t even the best dish I had for that meal. The crispy skin wasn’t too hard nor too chewy. The skin was light and crunchy . . . almost the same texture Mexican Chicharrón, but roasted with the meat together. The meat was almost an afterthought, since I have never experience greatness like this in my pie hole.

The other dim sum items . . .like the fried radish cakes, the flakey baked radish mini-pies, hot sticky rice wraps, steam pork dumplings, and pork spare ribs were all very good. I like the flakey baked radish mini-pies, which were delicate and tasty. The steamed pork and shrimp dumplings were as good as they ought to be. But, personally, I couldn’t tell a good one from a bad one.

The star of the day was the slow cooked diced beef with roasted garlic chips in black pepper sauce. This dish was awesome. Anything with roasted garlic chips – gives that great crunchy, and almost chewy texture, makes everything better. The slow cooked cubed beef was strikingly tender . . . not sure why I used strikingly . . .but I don’t think I have ever had beef for tender. The beef fell apart in my mouth before my tooth chomped right through. I look at pictures and still imagine this dish. Anyways. . .I know other restaurants have tried, but they can’t come close to duplicating this great dish.

Enjoy!

What to Order: Roasted Pork and slow cooked diced beef with roasted garlic chips in black pepper sauce
What not to Order:

Rating
3 Pigs
Price Range 2 $/¥/NT

翡翠酒家, 新天地店
湾区兴业路123弄新天地南里6-7号2楼(近马当路) +86 21 6385 8752

Crystal Jade
2F-12A, Lane 123, Xinye Lu (near Madang Lu), South Block Xintiandi Plaza, Shanghai 200021, China. Tel: +86 21 6385 8752
crystaljade.com/

Tai Thai 太泰 at Tianzifang [Shanghai]

First impressions are not enough for Tai Thai in Tianzifang. You’d almost miss it, if you walked by. But don’t look now, you’ll only notice a small Thai themed bar. The bar is probably not enough to get pique your interest.

Perhaps it was by chance that I was able to try Tai Thai. We were looking for a place to eat, and the Tai Thai’s bar looked like a decent place to grub. But once entered, they convinced us to have a table in the upstairs dining area. I didn’t expect much, based on the smallish bar. But through the creaky narrow stairs, which didn’t impress me either, we entered a spacious and inviting dinning room. With the vaulted ceilings, warming lighting, and intimate floor seating, Tai Thai could present a nice romantic experience. The floor seating was on one side of the room, which offered a more traditional experience – not necessarily something I would pick. There was even a nice small outdoor patio, for those rare temperate evenings.

We started off with the traditional Pad Thai noodles. Presented in a thin egg skin, the noodles looked appetizing. The thin egg skin was a nice touch that I had never seen in Los Angeles. For most Thai restaurants, this is basic item that you shouldn’t mess up or ignore, since Pad Thai noodles are the probably the most famous of all Thai dishes. Yet, there was disappointment with this dish. The texture and flavors just didn’t seem to be right.

Next we some nice vegetables, as the token greens and fiber dish. The stir fried greens were adequate and better than the Pad Thai.

Soon after, we were presented with some red curry, with steamed rice. The spicy curry goes great with rice, which is your could say is a filler dish. If you weren’t full before, the curry with rice will certainly top you off. The hearty spices in the curry provides a comfort feel, in an Asian sense. I thought this was the best dish of the night.

And lastly, the soup came. Thai soups are among my favorite soups, with the unique spicy and sour flavor combinations. But unfortunately, I was disappointed. It didn’t quite have the kick in flavor and spiciness that I came to expect and appreciate from soups.

Anyways. . .I think Tai Thai is a nice place to hang out and perhaps for drinks. If you go elsewhere for dinner, and then stop a Tai Thai for cocktails, you can’t go wrong. But for dinner – perhaps I wouldn’t suggest it.

What to Order: Any of the Curries
What not to Order: Pad Thai

Rating
0 Pigs
Price Range 2 $/¥/NT

Tai Thai 太泰
Tianzifang, Lane 248 Taikang Lu, near Sinan Lu.
田子坊泰康路248弄, 近思南路