This has got to be one of the busiest come-back weeks in my career. With projects and crises boiling over, there was hardly time to breathe, let alone eat. So Friday night was a welcome treat, and of course catching up with people I have known for over 2 decades, OMG!! If I were to lie about my age, I would say that I knew that from my previous life.
I finally decided on going Shanghainese, and to take them to Shanghai Lu Yang Cun. An old hand who recently renovated along with the makeover of the World Trade Shopping Centre, the restaurant has taken on a modern look, and is no longer a noisy bustling place, but with segregated seating areas, making it more exclusive and more importantly, quiet. Acoustics could still do with a bit of work though. Service was brisk and efficient but not warm, unless you're a regular. No complaints though.
We started with 2 appetisers. The "hau foo" (四喜烤麸) which is essentially is gluten pieces braised with Chinese mushrooms, peanuts and wood ears is a healthy dish which is high in protein and low in fat. Lu Yang Cun's version is also not oily but very tasty. One of my favourites owing to the texture of the gluten and how it manages to soak up the sauces and take on a very different persona and completely mask its own.
The other appetiser of the chilled clove chicken （丁香鸡）is a specialty of Lu Yang Cun, and I was strongly advised to reserve it when I called for reservations. It is similar to Cantonese Sha Geong Kai (沙姜鸡) and the sauce has a strong hint of cloves with a tad of ginger, sesame oil. Although it was good - chicken pieces well steamed so that it was still moist, I would have preferred a wine-soaked chicken as a test of a good Shanghainese restaurant.
J hadn't tried hairy crabs before and I was hoping for some tail-end inventory but unfortunately she will have to wait till next autumn. We did have the flower crabs, which are in season, stir fried with edamame in a thick soya sauce. The crab was very fresh, with fall-off-the-shell sweet flesh, and extremely generous in roe, which the sauce complemented well, to take any hint of "fishiness" away, and to lend a creamy finish. Of course, the edamame is addictive with this sauce, and we continue to pick at them even after the meal is said and done.
The other dish you are advised to reserve is the stewed belly pork called Dong Bo Pork or 东波肉 for those who read Chinese. The gravy was impeccable and one can easily down 2 bowls of rice with it. Not an obvious pork gravy, it had hints of spices and wine, with a touch of sweetness. I was not that impressed with the meat though. While the skin was braised to a melt-in-mouth texture, the meat itself could have been a little more that way. I found certain parts still a little chewy for my liking, and detracted from a 100% enjoyment of the dish.
For J's benefit, who is on a low-carb diet, I ordered the broad mung bean vermicelli (Fun Pei or 粉皮) stir fried with seafood. I love fun pei, and can eat it all day long. The slightly chew texture is especially good stir fried with hand-picked hairy crab meat and roe but this dish wasn't bad either. Well fried to not retain an oily finish, it was tasty and absorbed the goodness from the seafood.
To finish, we ordered the 酒酿圆子 or mini rice dumplings in an osmanthus-flavoured fermented rice soup. Not for the uninitiated, the slight sourness from the fermentation process is an acquired taste, as S found out. Lu Yang Cun's rendition is pretty authentic and if you like this dish, it is not a bad place to order this.
A very decent venue with authentic Shanghainese goodies to catch up on more than 2 decades of friendship. My best wishes to J on hitting the big 4-0 before any of us, and also as she embarks on a new chapter with her family in Melbourne. Cheers!
11/F, World Trade Centre Shopping Arcade,
280 Gloucester Road,