From the Flair bar atop the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Pudong, under July’s leaden skies; the futuristic skyline of Pudong contrasts with the elegant colonial style of The Bund on the Shanghai side. Shanghai is a city that has that magic romantic attraction blended in well with elegance, glamour, and sheer sense of global economic standing. The city used to be known as 'The Paris of the East'. While some old fashioned people may still refer the city with its nostalgic title, I however believe that this city has surpassed even the delights of New York and London (these two cities are not even close to where Shanghai is...in terms of everything...economically, culturally, and for beauty too). You realize this when you visit places such as the well renowned MINT club (you never know who you may bump into there). When you are in Shanghai, it feels like the center of the world (it really does).
The changes to the city in the last three years have been enormous. I used to live in Shanghai and nearby Suzhou for a number of years, and miss it so much. Make a point of coming here for a holiday, have lunch at the Yi Cafe at the Shangri-La Pudong (read this); afternoon tea at the Peninsula Hotel (read this), dinner at Le Sheng (read this!), have a drink at Hyatt on the Bund (read this); and then bop it off all night if you wish at the MINT nightclub or at Bar Rouge with some good company. Then bask in the history of the city which is spearheading China’s incredible growth.
Breakfast in Guangzhou (Shiqiao)
No tea or coffee today...sometimes I can be VERY Chinese in my approach to lifestyle. A glassfull of fresh cold milk (taken from well fed local Chinese cows in Guangzhou!), and a couple of delicious Cantonese Egg Tarts did the trick.
Lunch in the air (somewhere over Shaoguan, Guangdong)
Afternoon Tea at the Shangri-La, Pudong (Shanghai)
Shanghai is romantic, hectic, elegant, and nothing short of standing by it motto of being 'The Paris of the East'. From the Jade 36 bar atop the Shangri-La Pudong hotel, under July’s leaden skies; the futuristic skyline of Pudong contrasts with the elegant old-world style of The Bund on the Shanghai side. Go and see it as soon as you can...and enjoy the Afternoon-Tea at the Shangri-La, Pudong.
The MEET is a contemporary steakhouse located on the 2nd floor of the Kerry Hotel in Pudong, Shanghai. The restaurant has a rather unusual foyer where dinars can see the meat cuts well placed behind a glass. At first, it appears to look rather like a cross between a glamorized butchers shop, a nightclub, and an upmarket restaurant. It’s no surprise that they do stock the largest selection of meat in the whole of Shanghai, and it’s easy to see why.
The restaurant, with it’s 112 seats which also include a private ‘Masters Table’ for 14 people, shimmers in warm shades of red, burgundy, and brown. It’s a very masculine-looking dining room with leather banquettes and booths, mahogany wood tables and floors, and a sense of warmth. There is a real zest of luxurious settings in place, and it’s a message to welcome the classy white coloured dinars I suppose. It’s thankfully not as noisy as one would imagine it to be (as noisy as steakhouses can be sometimes), but still good enough to create a family gathering atmosphere.
The staff seem very proud and attentive, and some of them are even eager to recommend some dishes from the menu for you. The menu, which comes with some cheesy messages like ‘don’t forget to order the side dishes!’, is actually one that delivers more than a hint of your average steakhouse.
The first bites of the evening are of ‘very tender grilled baby abalone’, and ‘oysters rockefeller’. The former is a canapé style dish where the abalone is neatly covered with red peppers garnished with lemon juice. While the latter is basically consisting of high quality oysters. These oysters are first class in terms of freshness and taste. A good quality oyster such as the ones provided at the MEET can provide up to 222% of your Recommended Daily Amount (RDA) of Zinc in 100 grams, and would provide just under 1 gram of Omega-3. These two properties alone would be enough to provide a healthy lifestyle if you eat them every day. Nevertheless, it’s still good to get a one-off experience and eat fresh good quality oysters.
One thing I began to notice is that the dishes at the MEET are all very colourful, quite perhaps the most colourful I have seen for some time when doing reviews. This can only indicate one or two things. The food at the MEET is absolute fresh and it is brought in from especially organic farms in China. Apart from the meat, most of the other dishes are not imported.
Next up was the rich, creamy, flavourful, and colourful in bright yellow ‘Boston lobster bisque’. What made it even more appetising was the shredded minute sprinkling of the parsley and chives. Absolutely wonderful. As close as you can get to Michelin star quality.
Sticking with the theme of seafood, we decided to go for the recommended ‘jumbo lump crab cake’. This dish a traditional American dish, and the best jumbo lump crab cakes derive from Maryland. The key to the true flavour of this dish is to not have many breadcrumbs, but have a rich amount of the jumbo lump crab- a larger sized variety of crab known for its rich juicy meat. What really impressed me was the rich bright colour of the dish.
The steak was a winner too. We went for the ‘MEET signature Ningaloo tomahawk marbling score 4+’. This massive piece of meat was both delicious and, heavy in weight. The 1.8kg to 2.4kg serves 2-4 people. The steak had been marinated in rich OXO sauce, red wine, hoisin, garlic, and ginger. It, too, was tender, and ridiculously scrumptious. Very impressive. For the side dishes we had the oven roasted tomatoes, potato wedges, and sautéed broccoli. At it’s best, MEET, is very good indeed. You just can’t argue when someone is cooking big platefuls of heartiness at dinner, can you?
Located in the futuristic part of Shanghai’s Pudong district, the Kerry Hotel, which belongs to the Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts group, is a fine example of where China’s high lifestyle is heading. With the rather unattractive looking Shanghai Exhibition Centre located right on the hotel’s doorstep, some people may argue that the location is not as glamorous as that of Bund, or even as nostalgic as that of the French Concession. To put it bluntly, it just looks like any other bog standard office building from the outside. There is not a single indication that some architectural genius has mastered this piece of boring concrete. OK, so the outside of the building may be an actual failure in terms of design (well done to the unmentionable architect). Nevertheless, just step inside and you’ll be exposed to a rather different world. Can looks really be that deceptive, I wonder? Let’s find out.
The journey time from the point of arriving at Shanghai’s Pudong airport, where my chauffeur sent by the hotel met me, must have been less than 40 minutes at the most. Upon arriving at the hotel, I was quickly whisked away to my room where I was showcased the hotel’s revolutionary paperless check in procedure using iPads. It saves the approx. 80,000 pieces of paper being used every year , and an innovative initiative by the hotel management to make the future bright as they say. First impressions of the hotel are that this place is spacious, very chic, and feels fresh. There is definitely an air of elegance around as one takes a short walk around the lobby.
The cheery on top of the cake has to be the rooms themselves. Split into five categories, the hotel’s 574 well-appointed guestrooms and suites are generously spaced between 42 to 168 square meters. Each rooms provides fascinating views across to the Century Park or the rather unattractive Shanghai Exhibition Centre which looks more like a mini airport when standing at the 31st floor, the hotel’s highest. What really impressed me most was the generous space of the rooms, and the modern amenities that come with it. Take toiletries by L’Occitane, a massive rain forest power-shower the size of two London telephone booths, a Jacuzzi, wireless internet, Nespresso machines, 40-inch flat television screens, iPod docking station, complimentary mini-bar drinks for the first round, and even a notepad and pencil next to your toilet seat (now, you didn’t think they’d have that did you?).
Those fortunate enough to fork out the money and stay in any one of the seven floors dedicated to the Clubrooms are rewarded a 24-hour butler service, and with complimentary accesses to the Club Lounge. With delicious snacks, and beverages including the hotel’s own brewed beer, available all day long, this Club Lounge is like no other in the city. There is a potpourri of food on offer, including various pots of yogurt, juices of various kinds, cereals, fruits, alcohol drinks, delicious chocolates, and cheesecakes to die for, and endless cups of tea and coffee. In addition, with things like a ‘wine vending machine’, there is definitely more variety here and it’s a place to savour for as a city getaway from the hustle and bustle of the crowds. Take a drink, forget the outside, and just salute the future of this city.
The Club Lounge is not for lunch or dinner, which is why I wandered off to have a drink at the BREW, then dinner at the MEET restaurant, and then had lunch the following day at the COOK restaurant. The latter is perhaps not the place to go to if you are vegan as it specialises in steaks, and meat is the key attraction here. Judging from the display of a ghastly array of meat chops, including a few lambs legs, hanging behind the red lantern lit room I it does make ones stomach churn. It’s look like a cross between a luxury restaurant and a glamorized butchers shop all in one. But, fear not, as the MEET is perhaps one of the best steakhouses you’ll visit in this city (it really is).
The Kerry in Pudong is proud to have their own small craft brewery located inside the actual bar called the BREW. The 153-seat BREW is a beehive for city yuppies looking to while away the evening in good company. The bar specialises in brewing their own six signature beers, and a cider. You can either try all six of them if you want. The two favourite ones are the ‘Indian Pale Ale’, and the ‘Pils’. Both of these are also widely available in the Club Lounge, in the mini-bar or in any of the restaurants at the hotel. On the other hand, the COOK is a flamboyant hall made up of open kitchens that highlights the best dies from around the world. Indian, Malaysian, Japanese, Chinese, Western…vegan, you name it and it’s all there. The best thing to do is to purchase a card from the counter, and try bits and bobs of everything. The cost will then automatically be added to your hotel room bill.
After all that heavy food, I decided to wander off to the gym to have a look what’s on offer. I was in for a surprise. I was expecting a small averagely sized hotel gym. The large Gym, which is open 24-hours a day, 7 days a week, is big enough to house at least 300 people at one time. Guests can book their own personal trainer, and have a personalised measurement area to see how fit they are and which are suitable for them. One thing I did notice was that the area seemed to be full of expatriates, and not as many residing guests as one would have thought. For sure, the Kerry is definitely more of an up market apartment style for the expat community, and that’s why they also have one tower just for Kerry residences (again mostly for expats). They even have a dedicated children’s ‘Adventure Zone’, almost like a mini Disneyland or Thorpe Park but without the Disney characters. This is the place where rich parents can leave their kids for the day (so they don’t have to bother with them), and go to work or shopping.
The Spa offers a pro-active and multi-disciplinary approach to physiotherapy, restorative massage, and skincare all inspired by the Chinese martial arts of Wudang Wushu. What’s interesting about all the spa treatments here is that they all begin with a Tai Chi exercise. Not too difficult, but it’s designed to loosen up the tired muscles and to make the legs and arms a bit more flexible. After the initial Tai Chi exercise, it is time to go for the actual massage treatment which itself is a journey that provides a sheer heaven for the sense. Does it make you look younger? Maybe not, but it defiantly makes you feel younger!
With those thoughts in mind, I can say that the Kerry Hotel, Pudong is more fun and jazzy compared to other hotels in the city. So yes, looks can indeed be deceptive. Just make sure you don’t come here intending to take photos of a beautiful building from the outside though.
I have been reviewing Chinese restaurants for quite a long time that it doesn’t take too long to find out if the place is more of a glamorized version of your local Chinese takeaway or if really the place the befits an emperor. Nevertheless, since this was the Shangri-la hotel in Pudong, I was hoping to have my eyes set on something a far more grand than would be on offer. So here I was at the beautifully decorated Gui Hua Lou
Even though the hotel has been open since 1998, the 160-seat Gui Hua Lou only came into existence in 2006. The key to the success of the restaurant has to be in the hands of Chef Gao Xian Sheng, who brings with him not only the 22 years of culinary experience, but a real charm to surprise even the most experienced of dinars. This place is packed, and that’s also a testament to its existence.
It’s difficult to list all the dishes that we tried, but some of the highlights were “curried prawns”, and the “Xi’an style local noodles”. It’s seems hard to believe but the smooth and ultra thin noodles are handmade to perfection. When you take each mouthful, the noodles don’t break that easily even though they are thin and are seem to appear fragile. The curried prawns are equally tantalising, both for the tongue and a feast for the eyes.
The ‘hot and spicy’ sauce served with the dishes achieved a delightful balance so perfect between the heat and the sesame that it was not so spicy after all. The only thing about the Sichuan style spicy chicken is that it came with bones. Call me spoilt, but I like my meat with bones, and without the skin. Though to balance the argument, I am aware that if the meat is not served on the bone and skin, then it ain’t the real deal! In addition, it’s not like your average chicken dish, the meat is crunchy (because of the fried spices on it), and tenderly succulent. It’s the kind of dish that you can keep eating endlessly if there was no stomach lining.
To my delight I found out that Chef Sheng is from Yangzhou, famous for the ‘Yangzhou chou fan’ (egg fried rice), and so it was with without mention that I asked him to present me an authentic dish of this traditional and simple dish. I am a huge fan of ‘Yangzhou chow fan’, and it somewhat bought a huge smile on my face when the chef told me that he will prepare the dish. ‘Please wait, I’ll be back soon’ Said Chef Sheng. He did not fail in his task, and produced one of the best ‘Yangzhou chow fan’s’ I have had in times in memorial.
This was not my first time to the Gui Hua Lou, and I am sure it won’t be my last either.
It's that time of the year when Chinese people give each other moon cakes as a gift.
Based on Chinese legend and cultural traditions, the Mid-Autumn Festival is to commemorate the selfless act of Chang’e, the wife of a merciless ruler. Many centuries ago, she drank the elixir of immortality to put an end to her husband’s evil intentions. The Mid-Autumn Festival is also fondly known as the Lantern or the Mooncake Festival. The festival, celebrated on the 15th day of the eighth month in the Chinese calendar, has no fixed date on the Western calendar, but the day always coincides with a full moon. This year the Mid-Autumn festival falls between the 27th September to the 2nd October. The Chinese have been celebrating the Mid-Autumn festival since the beginning of the early Tang dynasty (618 – 907). In times in memorial, people would make offerings of fruit, alcohol, and other foods to the moon god, to express gratitude for a bumper harvest. The festival is now associated more with bright red lanterns and the eating of moon cakes.
If you are in mainland China during the Mid-Autumn Festival, it will be impossible not to notice moon cakes being sold everywhere. If you own a business in China or in the Chinese diaspora, and you are not selling moon cakes then you are not in (period!). These delicious (yet heavy) cakes are usually round shaped and are believed to have originated from Yuan dynasty (1206-1368) revolutionaries, who are said to have used the pastries to pass secret messages between each other.
Usually moon cakes are infused with one or two embedded egg yolks (two are better), and lotus seed- these two ingredients alone make the moon cakes heavy and too many can give you a big belly!. During this period, the countries of China, Taiwan, Macau, and Hong Kong serve up an exciting assortment of creative moon cakes in a variety of flavours during the Mid-Autumn Festival (there are even low-sugar options). Every brand in the Food and Beverage industry wants to be unique and take their share in the market by showcasing the best of these moon cakes. You can try the iced moon cakes, Starbucks moon cakes, and various flavoured moon cakes such as red bean paste, cheese, chocolate, pork, beef, sesame tofu, sweet potato, silky smooth milk tea, black truffle, mango, strawberry and caviar.
My favorite style is the Häagen-Dazs iced moon cake. Redicliously delicious ice cream melts all over your fingers and hands. It's so good that it's difficult to resist from licking ice-cream off your fingers and hands clean!
All across the country, people will be gathering for family meals and enjoying lantern displays and a festival atmosphere in the light of the full moon. Similar to the American Thanksgiving Day, the Mid-Autumn Festival is a festival to rejoice and spend time with loved ones. I am glad to witness the event here in mainland China.
It is true that the moon cake is a multi-billion industry, and it can be a very successful business IF you tap into the right taste and fend off your competitors. Oh, and meanwhile as I gobble down another moon cake, I am reminiscing on how lovely to see that the Chinese people thankfully have not lost their culture and tradition despite moon cakes being made by foreign companies such as KFC, McDonald’s, and others. Its just another food for thought. Or it is perhaps another case of ‘How do you eat yours?’…..enjoy!
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