mardi, janvier 31, 2012

T8 Fusion Cuisine Restaurant, Shanghai

T8 Shanghai

I haven't told you about T8. Hub brought me there - was it in November? Goodness, time does fly, doesn't it? We are now moving into February...

Anyway he went there once with a few colleagues for a business dinner and thought that I would enjoy trying it out. It's sweet when Hub displays such little acts of thoughtfulness. After more than a decade together, you fear sometimes that you have become part of the wall paper together with the resident spiders and flies. But if he still wants to bring you out to dinner and share every order, you know that he still cares. Hub's not into gifts and sweet words, but he's big on gourmet cuisine.

Still, I thought that maybe we hadn't needed to go for the big tasting menu @ 1398rmb pax. The kids are growing up really fast and one may go to college soon - and we have nothing saved up yet. But Hub said he may die of a heart attack tomorrow and would rather enjoy life while he could. So we ate and we drank.

Spiced and roasted pumpkin soup

Salmon Tsunami

The restaurant specialises in serving European food with an Asian touch and is located in the trendy Xintiandi area. It had dim lighting which while creating atmosphere spelled doom for food photography. It contained an open kitchen in the middle of the dining hall and you could catch the cooks in action. Like 2 of them (Chinese) taking turns to shuck oysters - and not managing it.

Cold lobster lasagna

Shanghainese hairy crab meat with squid ink pasta

The serving staff was friendly and good looking - but as usual sometimes clueless. The high turnover in Shanghai with jobs aplenty probably doesn't help create trained personnel no matter where you go, whether it be a restaurant or an electronics store. And many of them have no concept of hygiene, etiquette or product safety, like this cleaner I saw the other morning cleaning the glass walls of a swimming pool - dipping her scrapper in it...I digress as usual.

Passionfruit sorbet

Australian Wagyu beef striploin grade 9+

The food was good as were the wines that came with every dish. I still dream of the wagyu beef grade 9+ that came in a very small portion but melted in my mouth...I must admit that I've never really eaten wagyu beef before because it tends to be so expensive, but once I've tasted it, I keep thinking that I must eat it again soon! And as luck would have it, we were invited to dinner in an Italian restaurant the other evening and I had wagyu beef grade 6 for my main course. Better than lobster, in fact it did cost more than the latter actually. Another expensive taste on the way to being cultivated, I fear.


Chocolate soufflé with sour pear sorbet

Xintiandi on a wet evening was actually pretty crowded as expats and rich Chinese turned out for the trendy restaurants, jazz bars and European cafés. Times like these we regret that we do not live in Puxi, but when you have young children Pudong is definitely a nicer option with its green space and cleaner air.

T8 Shanghai
Tel : 021 6355 8999

lundi, janvier 09, 2012

A Weekend in Suzhou with JW (Part 1)

-- Chinese saying.

I must have mentioned somewhere that we get quite a lot of visits here from both friends and relatives. Dieting, for a start, is as such impossible. After MIL returned to France, it was JW's turn to visit - this time from Italy. Though for those of you who have been with me for a while, we all know that JW's very English, buttered scones and all.

She first came to Shanghai about 7 years ago and the city has metaphor-sized since. Pudong probably was still partly farmland then and the exciting stuff only happened in Puxi. This time she landed at Pudong airport and was picked up by our driver Ju. In those days I still had an ayi to vacuum and mop so I was seen in my full glory so to speak. Hub even timed his business trip to Europe quite nicely (a coincidence really) so that we had the car most of the time.

It was nice to see J. To know that I have not been forgotten by friends in my last destination.

Traditional pingtan performance

With most afternoons paralysed by the kids and their schoolwork, I tried to make it worth J's visit by keeping us occupied most mornings. We visited a couple of tourist spots, shopped a bit, attended a xiaolongbao 小笼包 cooking class, lunched at nice places, taught the neighbours how to make pasta, and made a short weekend trip to Suzhou.

Inside one of the gardens in Shantang

Even before coming to China I have heard of Suzhou (Jiangsu Province) and the beauty of its meticulously designed classical gardens that have been added to the UNESCO World Heritage list in 1997 and 2000. Once here I was told that it is an important centre for silk in the country and the location for an industrial park set up by Singapore.

Xuanmiao (a Taoist temple, Song Dynasty architecture)

It would have taken about 2 hours to reach Suzhou from Shanghai if there had not been a traffic jam. We stayed at the Holiday Inn Jasmine which I would recommend. The hotel was conveniently located in the heart of own, offered a good view of the surroundings and was clean and very comfortable. The breakfast spread was decent and my only complaint was the noise that came from the streets below that plagued us through the night.

Candy floss near the temple

Street food : meat skewers and haw sticks

There is quite a lot to see and do in Suzhou, I do not know how anybody could do it justice by staying just a day. In our case we spent our first afternoon there visiting a Taoist temple (Xuanmiao 玄妙观) and the famed pedestrian shopping street before it, followed by the 1200-year old Shantang Street 山塘街 which has a canal with old elegant bridges running through it. We returned to Shantang street the next morning for a cruise and a traditional Pingtan song performance and only had time to visit the famous Humble Administrator's Garden 拙政园 before we had to return to Shanghai. I would have liked to visit the Silk Museum but I guess it'd have to be for another time.

Biscuit seller (with moving fly swatter)

Potato chips, anyone?

The very touristic Shantang street seemed to be succeeded by a dirty, seedy street only frequented by locals. We decided to check it out and found it quite interesting, with its own micro world filled with fishmongers (selling fish out of pails in the street), biscuit and bun sellers, knitters, small boutiques, poultry shops, restaurants etc.

Leather jackets, hats and slippers

Woollen jumpers made-to-order

Live poultry

Otherwise Shantang street itself was quite charming with nice little shops many of them selling silk - but we nearly expired from the horrible smell coming from stinky tofu which seemed to be sold almost every where!

According to our boat master the waste is collected, not drained into the water

snow vegetables 雪菜 drying outside

View of the Shantang Street village from the boat

Lunch was in an old local noodle shop 陆长兴 - a difficult moment for J who had little time to get used to eating local. We did better for dinner, going upmarket at the 2-century old Song He Lou 松鹤楼菜馆. We didn't realise that the portions were enormous there and ended up eating way too much. I had a bout of the tourista that evening, killing my enthusiasm for local food the next day.

The kitchen

JW's beef noodle soup (and a very starchy gongbao chicken)

My fried fish and pork rib noodle soup (so-so)

We were our fellow passengers' object of interest on the sightseeing boat. It turned out that we were all born in the year of the rat (though not necessarily of the same decade), they were excited to have 2 foreigners in their midst and of course we found ourselves part of a photo album to be pointed at and talked about in the years to come.

Canal at 7-mile Shantang

Old theatre


On our way back to Shanghai on the second day we thought of visiting the sex museum in Tongji. But were thwarted in our plan by the high entrance ticket prices (just for the old water village, museum not included yet). A resident of the village turned up and offered to bring us in for a reduced price (an example of corruption at the local level), but we decided not to collaborate so we gave it a miss. We left her screaming at our backs, seemingly frustrated at having missed the chance to earn a quick buck.

(probably a spinster) posing for a photo in ancient wedding gear (no groom in sight)

I would want to return to Suzhou for another visit in the near future. There are still pagodas, temples, gardens and of course the silk museum to discover.

Lanzhou La Mian Somewhere in Puxi

My bowl of delicious Lanzhou La Mian

I have been AWOL for quite a while, haven't I? I have stopped announcing to the whole world that I would be away before I would be away, does it not prove that I have other things to do with my life than spend it blogging?

Actually, I haven't had the time to blog, period. And with the Chinese New Year round the corner, I do not want to tempt fate by announcing on the WWW that my house would be empty. I was told that crime rates are particularly high in the city when the CNY approaches as many migrants return to their hometowns during this period and many would be hard pressed to do so bearing gifts of goods and cash. So if they hadn't accumulated enough in the months before, they may be tempted to steal, snatch, burglar or cheat - or risk going home looking like a failure.

As it was I left my house to my ayi (aka cleaning lady) in our absence and ended up firing her with an sms when I was skiing in the French Alps last month. So I am currently busy unpacking plus I have to do my own housework. Tough luck.

I might as well tell you the story lest I need to email the curious separately with it. I am normally a trusting person. I believe what most people tell me, mainly because I think that everyone should be responsible for their own thoughts, words and actions. So for many months now I have always believed all the excuses that my ayi had given me for not coming to work regularly during the periods I was away - even though I had paid her for it plus given her at least half the time off. Hub wouldn't stop telling me that I sucked at managing domestic help.

The Christmas holidays had been the last straw because not only did she not turn up to work on the days we agreed upon, she had taken to keeping my key even though I had forbidden her to do so. I just felt that this was a classic case of give an inch and take a mile. Since I no longer felt that I could trust her, I decided to terminate her services on the last day of the year.

The weeks before we left for France had been busy too because JW came over from Italy for a visit. I've also been going around doing things with my 2 favourite neighbours, not to forget catching up with friends from all over Shanghai before everyone broke for the holidays.

Not a very inspiring shopfront

On one such outing with a local friend and her best friend, I was brought to a Lanzhou La Mian eatery somewhere in Puxi for lunch. I have yet to find the courage to eat in a local place, but somehow I've managed to eat lanzhou la mian twice (and a third time not long after - on my own) in a few months.

Cutie bum pulling noodles very expertly

My fascination with Chinese Muslims probably helped toughen the stomach lining, plus don't spices help to some extent to kill germs? As if it were fated we were seated right in front of the cute young man pulling noodles for our lunch. The guy had a pair of strong hands not to mention a tight round bum. I made a comment at some point about those hands probably being good for a massage and he promptly offered to let us have a try. I know I sounded like a dirty old woman, but like I said I've always had a thing for these exotic-looking Chinese Muslim men. They made me think of Mirlanbek from such a long time ago...

With a plate of extra beef

The noodles were really quite good, very al dente, and so cheap. But all my shameless flirting didn't win me their secret recipe for the broth. Meanwhile I've discovered another eatery in another part of Puxi that I felt did an even better broth though the noodles were definitely better at cutie bum's.

The other lanzhou la mian shop where I ate solo

I feel that I am going to embark on a lanzhou la mian adventure here in Shanghai. And why not? I have decided that I must see more of Shanghai a pied in 2012.

And Happy New Year, by the way!