Maybe it was the adrenaline, but finding room for a feast after a 12-stop Tainan street food crawl was no problem at Shanghai Pavilion, a top-floor restaurant at the Shangri-La Far Eastern Hotel that features Huaiyang-style cuisine from chef Kent Su, a Taiwan native.
Shanghai Pavilion tops the Shangri-La hotel, a shimmering cylinder with panoramic views of what might be Taiwan’s most historic city, which pre-dates 17th Century Dutch colonialism. The restaurant, located on 38F, features communal tables shrouded with sheer beaded curtains, sporting glass lazy Susans, and in our case, a single-peony centerpiece.
The menu provided a good overview of Huaiyang cuisine, anchored in the city of Yangzhou, as “fresh and plain – neither salty, not too sweet – rich in nutrition and taste.” Maybe so, but there was nothing plain about the meal I experienced.
The menu also has a fun key at the bottom of the page, including a pig symbol for “Contains Pork Ingredient” and a chile for “Contains Spicy Ingredient.”
Salt and pepper prawns were the meal’s only miss, cool, with a pasty coating.
Cold, wine-marinated chicken was our sole appetizer, and it was juicy, with wolfberry garnish.
Crispy Duck Pie (NT$ 480 ~ $16) was spectacular, with rich scallion-flecked meat layered in crispy wrappers, joining fluffy steamed clamshell buns and tangy red sauce.
Sliced Pork Belly Pyramid Layered with Pickles (NT$580 ~ $19) featured “walls” crafted with thin roast pork slices that more or less melted into themselves, a juicy filling of chopped mustard greens, a pool of viscous rust-colored sauce littered with crunchy baby bok choy.
Shredded Dried Bean Curd, Chicken, Shrimp and Crab Roe in Chicken Broth (NT$ 380) graced cool, delicate noodles and
Braised pork belly arrived in a giant slab with sweet savory sauce and broccoli florets.
Steamed sliced beef was especially luscious, best spooned with tangy soy and scallion sauce.
Steamed Minced Pork and Chicken Jus Dumpling (NT $ 220) were good, with rustic skins, but chicken undercut xiao long bao’s signature porcine intensity.
A delicate netting of bamboo skin (pith) wrapped around pencil-thin asparagus and came slathered with funky-fun crab roe, contributing to an array of flavors of textures.
Creamy cubes of tofu bathed in a savory lima bean-studded crab roe sauce.
An earthy pot of baked chicken, chestnuts and garlic arrived in brown sauce, garnished with shaved scallions. The meat tasted good, but the texture was on the dry side.
Live fish like green grouper, marbled goby or coral trout are also available steamed, braised, in vinaigrette or steamed with chili. Live shellfish like mud crab, local shrimp or Australian lobster are also available with their own intriguing preparations, including baked with salted egg yolk, or stir-fried in Thai curry. Basically, Shanghai Pavilion is a wonderland for anything that oinks or swims.
We couldn’t resist ordering dessert, and Deep Fried Chinese Date Paste Pancake (NT$ 160) was great, with thin, crispy pastry, spiced dates, and a lining of black and white sesame seeds.
Our meal at Shanghai Pavilion amounted to about only $33 person, including drinks, a bargain considering the variety, quality of ingredients and unique preparations.
Note: My visit to Shanghai Pavilion was part of a government sponsored tour to promote Food Culture in Taiwan.