Villa du Lac sits on the southeast corner of Huangpi Nan Lu and Xingye Lu, overlooking Taiping Lake. The restaurant is part of the hip dining and shopping area of Xintiandi, one of the places to see and be seen in Shanghai. Formerly a private members club, Villa du Lac still retains the feel of a “members only” establishment. The restaurant sits in a restored three story shikumen, and eating here feels like dining in someone’s home. With private rooms on the first and second floors, it can seem like you have the entire place to yourself. The third floor is a large open room, perfect for events and big groups. Doors from the third floor open onto a sizable terrace looking out onto the lake and the surrounding skyline.
Villa du Lac prepares food in the Huaiyang style, which means cuisine from Jiangsu province and the areas surrounding Shanghai. Huaiyang cuisine is known for its sweetness and involves a lot of fish and shellfish from the waters around Jiangsu and Shanghai.
My dining companion and I were feted with information from the general manager, Vincent Yap. He guided us through a ten course set meal, highlighting some of the specialties of the kitchen. We started off with a cold combination plate, of which the best parts were the small pieces of drunken chicken (a house specialty) and small river prawns covered in a delicious orange citrus glaze. Following that was shark’s fin soup, fragrant and tasty with its fish and chicken stock broth. Plate three was the began the main dishes, and first up was wok-fried prawn curry with broccoli. This was definitely the highlight of the evening for me. A sizable chunk of prawn, the white meat beckoning from its open shell, lay on a bed of tasty and slightly spicy curry. Had I been home alone I would have definitely licked the plate clean. Excellent!
The fourth plate was sautéed crab meat with egg whites, which tasted nice, although I think there was a little too much egg and not quite enough crab. Following that was stir-fried Kobe beef, with mushroom cubes and sweet bell peppers. Now, I’m a sucker for good beef, and this dish definitely hit the spot. Next came deep-fried Soon Hock fish in soya sauce. The fish, not filleted, had quite a few small bones to get through. The flavor was nice, but picking the bones out was a bit tiresome. To round out the main dishes came braised mustard leaf in superior broth. The mustard leaf was tender and sweet, nicely complemented by the light broth.
The main course was homemade fine noodles in superior fish soup. The noodles were thin and expertly made, and had a warm, seafood flavor after arriving in the fish soup. It was worth a slurp straight from the bowl. Finally, to round out the meal, was the dim sum. First came the chef’s dim sum platter, the highlight of which was the xiaolongbao. One of the best I’ve tasted in Shanghai (and I’ve had quite a few), this xiaolongbao was filled with the customary broth along with a special treat – foie gras. It was exceptional, to say the least, and unlike any other I’ve tasted in this city. For the obligatory cleansing of the palate came a plate of fresh fruit that finished the meal off quite well.
The menu is accompanied by an expansive wine list that carries bottles from vineyards all over the world. The attentive staff hovers in the background, anticipating your needs, filling your glass when it gets low, and generally being helpful and available for whatever you may need.
Enjoying Villa du Lac is by no means inexpensive. Anticipate spending 600-700¥ per person, without drinks. But if you’re looking for a sophisticated and elegantly simple atmosphere, a place to enjoy yourself in a private room while feeling like the resident of your very own mansion, this is the place. Great for a business meeting or a romantic evening for two, Villa du Lac shines with its exemplary Huaiyang cuisine and fine dining atmosphere.
Villa du Lac
Location: 383 Huangpi South Road, by Xingye Road
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