We rode on a wave of nostalgia in our recent visit to Shanghai Restaurant at JW Marriott Hotel Kuala Lumpur. I can still remember the distinctive flavours of some of the Shanghainese dishes I have enjoyed there in the past and to our delight, they are still on the menu. Even better we met up with Executive Chinese Chef Wong Wing Yuek, who has been with the restaurant since it started in the 1990s.
Shanghai has recently undergone a complete makeover with sleek lines in an elegant interior, standing out with a floor-to-ceiling Chinese painting of cranes, birds that symbolise happiness, good fortune and longevity.
The chef wowed us with his Chinese art painted with food colours on a plate for three Shanghainese cold and hot dishes – Drunken Chicken in Chinese Rice Wine, Japanese Cucumber with minced garlic and soy sauce and Deepfried Beancurd filled with shredded black mushrooms. These were delicate bites that burst with flavours. The Drunken Chicken was as I remembered it, embraced in aged Shaoxing wine. It was lush and fragrant, and I sipped up the wine in the cup.
Moist, tasty shredded mushrooms spurted out of the crispy Deepfried Beancurd while the Japanese cucumber delivered punchy, tangy and garlicky bites.
Bamboo Fish Fillet Soup with Wild West Lake Vegetables got us intrigued about the slithery vegetables with each stem and leaf shimmery with a transparent gelatinous film. They are from the famous West Lake in Hangzhou near Shanghai. They added an interesting dimension to the delicate, sweet superior stock with slices of soon hock in it.
Braised Spanish Dong Bo Pork with mini buns is a departure from the usual Dong Bo or braised belly pork as this uses Iberico pork. The pork was marvellously fat, melting but still holding at the bite, descending into the smooth, tender meat bathed in the aromatic, dark and sweet braising sauce. I would have loved to mop up the delicious sauce with a bigger bun.
Later Chef Wong affirmed the suitability of Iberico for Dong Bo Pork. “It’s the best meat for this,” he said. “It’s got the right balance of fat and lean meat, with the meat staying smooth through the braising. It also has fruity flavour due to the natural diet of the animal.”
A whiff of truffle oil trailed the Stirfried Seafood Noodles with Assorted Mushrooms and Truffle Oil as it was served. The noodles were lush with scallops, prawns, fish, mushrooms, yellow fungus and bamboo pith. They were flavourful with these ingredients and did not really need the truffle oil which tended to overpower the noodles.
A lunch at Shanghai would not be complete without Steamed Shanghainese Dumplings or Xiao Log Bao. This was perfectly done: thin skinned, the dumpling easily lifted from the basket with chopsticks and soup oozing out on bursting the skin encasing the meat filling. It was lovely.
Black Sesame Dumplings in Ginger Syrup and Steamed Shanghainese Layer Cake (Malai Koh) with Custard and Salted Egg Yolk were desserts that were faultlessly executed. I liked the hot sweet ginger soup with the dumplings, and the Malai Koh that was fluffy and had the right balance of salty and sweet.
But imprinted on my palate was the memory of Glutinous Rice Dumplings in Osmanthus-Flavored Rice Wine and the Chilled Wolfberry Cake with Osmanthus. I do love these fragrant , classic Shanghainese desserts.
We definitely have to come back for these, as well as the Smoked Duck with Chinese Tea Leaves and Herbs, Double-boiled Superior Fish Maw Soup with beancurd leaves and Chinese ham, Sliced Pig’s Ears with sesame oil, Flat Glass Noodles with Peanut Sauce and Braised Beef Tendons in Red Wine Sauce.
Shanghai Restaurant is on Level One, JW Marriott Hotel Kuala Lumpur, 183 Jalan Bukit Bintang, tel +603 2719 8288.