Sichuan Pepper – Huang Fei Hong

The Sichuan Pepper or Szechuan Peppercorn is a unique breed of spice. When eaten, it gives, not a spicy, nor savory flavor, but a distinguishing mouth numbing feel. This unsettling feeling is the basis for Sichuan Cuisine. Known as Chuan Cai (川菜), without the “Si”, is one of the 8 great Chinese Cuisines. I recently visited Yuxin, in Shanghai, for some of the best Sichuan cuisine.

Not really a peppercorn, since it looks like one, it is really is a spice, but often categorized as a spice, in its usage. It is called Hua Jiao 花椒.  This pepper has to be roasted for a bit to bring out its numbing taste/feel.

Lately, I have had a fascination with this strange but addicting spice. I have had this kick for this snack call Huang Fei Hong – named after a famous Chinese hero with the same moniker. Inside these snack bags, are peanuts, red peppers, and sichuan peppers. After ripping opening the bag, I will see ignore the peanuts and red peppers and go after the sichuan peppers, alone. I could pop a few of these in my mouth every 15 minutes or so. I think this physical addiction is similar to that of illegal substances or drugs, since after awhile you kinda crave this feel. You can find this snack in various stores in and out Shanghai – and I’m sure all over China.

Heck, you can even purchase them online in the US at

Martini Thursday at David Laris’ Yucca [Shanghai] – closed

Martini Thursdays is event brought back by David Laris to help promote his new lounge at Sinan Mansions, Yucca. My personal favorite is a Vodka Dirty Martini, with any vodka except Grey Goose. I never liked Grey Goose.

I also put up a couple of announcements about their 2nd Fat Olive location in Sinan Mansions. Also, be sure to check out the Xmas and Holiday set menu at Purple Onion.

RMB 25 for Apple, Lychee, Dirty, and More.

思南公馆 复兴中路519号 近重庆南路
Mansions 26F, Sinan Mansions
Fuxing Lu, near Sinan Lu, 3F
+86 21 3368 9525

The Brazilian Pot Pies at Wood Spoon [DTLA]

When I was last in Los Angeles – in August, I had put together a list of places that I wanted, rather needed to feast on. On this list, and near the top, was Wood Spoon. I had heard that this downtown Los Angeles Brazilian restaurant had a pot pie that was worth the visit.

But with my limited Brazilian cuisine knowledge, I wondered how a Brazilian style pot pie would look and taste? Would it have the beefy and meaty attributes of those of a churrasco? Perhaps Wood Spoon was combination of American influences of the south and south american with traditional pot pie? Then you realize the Latin cuisines feature many baked goodies, such as empanadas.

Wood Spoon’s pot pie includes moist and juicy rotisserie chicken. The creamy sauce with the buttery crust almost makes you think of American ones. I’m a real big fan of savory baked pies and foods. I know in Northern California, there’s a mobile food truck called The Pie Truck, which also features yummy pies. The salty olives and roast corn, not found up in the American pot pies, was really good. Unfortunately, they only had one choice of meat for their pot pie. I bet a juicy pork one or a hearty beef/steak one would be quite good as well. Heck, if done correctly, lamb would be fine as well.

Anyways. . . Wood Spoon, with it simple sign of a wood spoon, also has a great pork burger and fish sandwich. I was also looking forward to the pork burger, which should come to a surprise. It was tasty with grilled onions. The fish sandwich was ok. . . wasn’t my favorite.

I’m not sure if I would visit again, if I had only had a week in Los Angeles. But I was happy that I had a chance to try the pot pie. Another note, the ventilation in Wood Spoon sucks. . .it was so hot when we had our dinner there.

1 Pigs
Price Range 2 $/¥/NT

Wood Spoon on Urbanspoon

Wood Spoon
107 W 9th St
Los Angeles, CA 90015
(213) 629-1765

Di Shui Dong 滴水洞 [Shanghai]

When I see a yellow pepper and a red pepper, my instinct is the red one is the more spicy and dangerous one. Westerns, with my upbringing, are more familiar with the big and slightly spicy bell peppers with bold colors and flavors. Rarely will we associate a yellow pepper with heat and spicy.

Yet, when I had the famous Hunan steamed Fishhead at Di Shui Dong, with half yellow and red peppers, I was in for a ride. This lake fish, prepared split open, features the bright diced peppers sprinkled over the fish. Di Shui Dong prepares the fish with in mind those who can take the spiciness and those who want to take it up a notch. The fish, served in a light shallow broth, enough to keep it moist, is the title dish, the headliner, and the money-shot. Served last, the peppers separates the boys from the men. I was quickly warned by my two Hunan dining companions that the yellow ones were to avoided. Heck, Miss. Y wouldn’t go near the the yellow side, and she loves to eat spicy foods. So, I notes and stayed away. Though after a few swigs of beer and an aloof motion toward the dish, my mouth soon rewarded my senses with alarming feeling.

What a dumb foreigner, my friends must have thought. After finishing the rest of my Suan Mei Tang 酸梅汤, I gulp down the rest of my beer. Suan Mei Tang 酸梅汤 is a mild sweet plum drink that offsets spicy flavors, though not as effective as milk. Surprisingly the beer goes down quite well with spicy foods. But after awhile, I was munching on the yellow peppers, as if they were nothing. I know that my lips were on fire soon afterwards.

Earlier in the meal, we started off with the mild and cold sliced pork with garlic. This was specially ordered for my assumingly weak palate. I would have a little of the pork here and there, just to rest my taste buds from the heat.

Next we had spicy duck tongue. As one of the 8 famous cuisines of China, known as Xiang cuisine or 湖南菜 or 湘菜, duck tongue is delicacy favored almost everywhere in China. Personally, I had never tried or even wanted, too. But tonight, I decided to impress my friends of my food eating skills. I tried one, which was small, yet bony. It had little meat, with cartilage in which you spit out. The spiciness enhanced what little flavor there was, since it was more about the texture of the tongue – yes I know it sounds gross

We had another cold dish – the seaweed. Laced with red pepper and seeds, this was quite spicy, but delicious all the same. These three cold appetizer dishes boasted flavor and heat, all while being served cold.

Then with the hot dishes, we began with spicy pig’s feet. With little meat, with lots of fatty skin and cartilage & collagen, this is dish more about flavor and texture, rather than about filling. With red peppers and a rich thick sauce, this dish is served in a bowl. Diced up into bite sized pieces, after eat bite, you’ll need to spit out the remaining bones. I doubt many westerner would like this dish. I only had a couple pieces myself, since I am still getting used to the idea about eating for the idea of texture.

Next we had the famous spicy frog legs. While simmering over a flame on the table, this offering had colorful red peppers, diced green onions, yellow ginger, and chopped frog legs. As the saying goes, it tasted like chicken.

Right before the spicy fishhead, we had the spicy pork with snow peas. This was a pretty good dish. It was standard, if not spectacular.

I am not sure how I survived with all these spicy dishes, but I realized my tolerance for spicy foods is now pretty high. You could say this is similar to one’s tolerance of alcohol. I think I can take Mexican and Korean foods a lot better now.

What to Order: Spicy Steamed Fishhead
What not to Order:

3 Pigs
Price Range 1 $/¥/NT

Zagat Listing
Dianping Listing
Dining Secretary Listing
Shanghai Eats Listing

Di Shui Dong
2/F, 56 Maoming Nan Lu, near Changle Lu, Luwan District, Shanghai, China
+86 21-62532689/62181476

M1NT [Shanghai]

M1NT is where the celebrities play with the stars overlooking the glamour of Shanghai.

If you own a shark . . . that’s pretty cool. But when you have a tank of them . . .you’re pretty much a badass in my book. With the swimming sharks and the title as THE hottest nightclub in Shanghai, M1NT also has a fabulous restaurant.

Started in London, M1NT now has club locations in Shanghai and Cannes, with plans to open in Singapore and Beijing. The concept of M1NT being a shareholder’s club was originated from London, it is now located in Shanghai and Cannes, with the next two opening soon in Beijing and Singapore). The membership works just like a standard country club membership, with access to the lounge, restaurant, nightclub with the shark tank, and also privileged benefits. As shareholders, you not only enjoy the membership status but also the potential dividend payouts.

Apart from the spacious high ceiling partying nightclub, there’s the restaurant & lounge area. I never knew there was a restaurant until I wandered around in my buzzed stupor. With the open kitchen spanning across, you can see the mastery of the international cuisine. Towards the back of the venue, there’s a semi-private interchangeable dining area overlooking the spetacular skyline of Shanghai with both the Bund and Pudong by your side – this is the perfect place for private and corporate events. It’s actually really cool, the walls move around to form either four private dining spaces or one large one. Then there’s the private chef’s dining room lined with surrounding glass wine cellar. Let’s not forget the lounge area, also with magnificent nighttime views. With eclectic seating areas, I personally prefer the intimateness of the lounge more than the nightclub. Above it all, is the outdoor rooftop lounge. Twinkling with the sky, the rooftop lounge is my favorite place at M1NT, if the weather is right. Unfortunately, it’s for private events only.

. . . ’cause the night will start with or without you at M1NT.

We started with the Kumamoto oysters with our small group. Small in size, but big in flavor, they are arguably the preferred choice for oysters. My dining compatriots loved the oysters. Then we had the tuna tartar, which was especially tasty. With avocados, this appetizer felt almost south Pacific or Hawaiian or Japanese. But then I was told that the executive chef – Grant Brunsden, a Londoner, spent years in Japan cultivating his Asian fused creations. Just then, I noticed Caesar Liu, the restaurant manager, chatting and describing in details the many great dishes with the members and shareholders. Next we had the Peking duck and foie gras with the squid ink chips. This little dish turned out to be one of the favorites for our group. The entrees of the tuna steak, wagyu beef, and black cod came out. With high expectations from what I heard and read, the Australian Wagyu Beef was the big rave. Let me first say – I don’t usually order steak or like steak all that much. . .but M1NT’s steak was really good. The crispy char on the outside with the moist medium rareness was something to write home about. The steak had accentuated flavors with the homemade mayo, BBQ, and mustard sauces. I liked the buttery miso black cod, but it was more about texture than flavor with this dish. Unfortunately, I didn’t enjoy the black cod as much I could have. Since under normal circumstances this typical Japanese fish would have been my choice pick. But coupled with the bold flavors of the steak and tuna, it seemed my taste buds were all confused and wanted more out the black cod. We also had a couple of side dishes of the boiled spinach, the roasted garlic potatoes, and siumai with black cod. And I almost forgot desserts featuring the banana bread pudding with vanilla ice cream. The panna cotta and hot fudge chocolate volcano were also standouts.

Tonight, M1NT is where you need to be.

As the festivities moved to the nightclub, we were introduced to Damien, the operations manager, who’s in charge of making sure everyone is having a good time. And tonight wouldn’t been complete without Vanessa, the events manager and Katrina of ThruColorfulEyes.

Make sure you reserve early for the 2010 Christmas Eve Dinner for 888RMB/person. Featuring . . .
Cauliflower Puree. Beluga Caviar & Chives
Kombu & Shiso Cured Salmon With Apple & Mustard Dressing
Cherry Valley Duck Consomme with duck liver dumplings
Turkey Ballotine. Roasted Potatoes, Brussel Sprouts, Truffle Sauce & Shave Truffle
Tradional Christmas Pudding With Brandied Anglaise
A glass of Champagne on arrival
With Vegetarian options availbe/Order in advance
+86 21 6391 2811 for bookings

What to Order: Angus or Wagyu Beef
What not to Order:

3 Pigs
Price Range 3 $/¥/NT

上海市黄浦区福州路318号高腾大厦24楼 200001
No. 318 Fuzhou Road, Huangpu District, China, 200001

Katrina’s Blog

David Laris’ Yucca, Shanghai – closed

I recently got invited to Yucca – David Laris’ latest hot spot – Yucca. Coined as a micro-lounge, Yucca is located the Sinan Mansions 思南公馆. Yucca is a Mexican inspired menu and venue. Perhaps will be known for lounging and drink, Yucca’s food/appetizer/tapas was actually pretty good.

In the slight 3rd floor space, with loft space, Yucca features an intimate setting. I can’t see large groups, of 6 or more, enjoying this place. Dates or small after dinner groups would like it much better. I liked the low slung seats at the bar, which allows for closeness. Next time, I will try to grab those seats.

Tonight, on this soft opening, we tried a few of the signature appetizers. We started off with a spoonful of . . . what I would call an avocado mash. I am not exactly sure what it was, but it had spices and flavors that reminded me of some Los Angeles Mexican restaurants. Perhaps I should have written the name down. Then we had a shot glass of a spicy ceviche with a creamy avocados. This was also quite good. One thing I miss, while I am Shanghai is good Mexican food. Sometimes, I don’t dare try the Mexican food in Asia, since I know it won’t be the same in LA. . . But tonight, Laris’ take at Yucca, was surprisingly refreshing. Next we had a little deep fried taco. A bit crunchy and moist, this actually my favorite one of the night. Lastly, we had the mini empanadas, which were my friend’s favorite. These little goodies were spiced just right and had a nice crust.

In addition to the little tapas. . . we also had a few drinks. My friend, unwisely chose or was it my recommendation, the Mexican Mule. I had the S.A. Piloto which featured Cachaça and Cabernet Sauvignon with black berries and orange juice, which my friend promptly stole away from me. This drink was a little sour but more tangy.

Anyways. . . I hope to visit again, soon.

City Weekend’s Listing

What to Order: Empanadas, S.A. Piloto
What not to Order:

2 Pigs
Price Range 2 $/¥/NT

David Laris’ Yucca
思南公馆 复兴中路519号 近重庆南路
Sinan Mansions, 519 Fuxing Zhong Lu, near Chongqing Nan Lu, Unit 26 A, Shanghai
+86 21 3368 9525

Special thanks to Christina Kao, of David Laris Creations, for some of the pictures.