CITYLIFE / Eating Out

Splendid scenes to dine among
By Theresa Miao (Shanghai Star)
Updated: 2006-06-30 13:21

The newly-opened restaurant called Fragrance in the Regal International Hotel might first impress diners with its splendid decoration rather than the menu.

With an unusually high ceiling, the dining hall of Fragrance is large and nostalgic. The interior designers seemed to have been inspired by traditional Chinese painting when choosing the wallpaper, curtains and even the lamps, which all feature a consistent black-and-white pattern with typical Chinese characteristics. Another traditional feature is provided by folding screens, which are made of opaque green and yellow glass and used by the designers to separate the hall into several rooms of different sizes. However, the straight lines of the folding screens and other fittings also reflect a different and more Western style of design.

Fragrance mainly offers Cantonese and Shanghainese dishes, typically served with refined presentation and culinary style. Most of the soups on offer are especially delicious, after being prepared in accordance with Cantonese methods, stewed at a low heat for hours. The slowly-stewed soups are also used as accompaniment for some of the hot dishes, for instance, tasty baby cabbages drenched in fish soup.

The stewed goose webbing with black mushrooms and vegetables I sampled was quite an impressive dish (128 yuan, US$16). It was served in a big porcelain bowl and the goose foot webbing was presented surrounded by black mushrooms and itself looked dark-red in colour. Although the dish looked a little greasy, the flavour was very good. The foot webbing tasted substantial and tender, even a little sweet, while the black mushrooms were large, heavy and well seasoned. The dish also contained a kind of condensed soup which tasted rather glutinous.

According to the chef, Ngai Hong Kin from Hong Kong, the goose webbings were initially stewed with ham for four hours and then steamed in a soup which contained a variety of ingredients, including chicken and pork bones, for even longer. The chef said by condensing the soup, the flavour of different ingredients was enhanced, making the goose webbings taste even more thoroughly seasoned.

The visually-splendid fried shrimp was another dish worthy of recommendation. The shrimp had first been sauteed for a short while on a high flame and then sauteed for a second time with Maggi Soy Sauce. The flavour was actually very different from that of home-made sauteed shrimps with soy sauce Shanghainese style, as the dish tasted more natural, mild and crispy. The shells of the prepared shrimps had also become delectably edible.

Dried beancurd with wild vegetable (22 yuan, US$2.70) is a common Shanghainese dish, which somewhat resembles Japanese sushi in appearance. The wild vegetables, which are called "Malantou" in Chinese and have a special savour, are cut into very small slices and then wrapped in dried beancurd. In this case, the flavour was not bad, but also not as good as I had expected, because the wild vegetables tasted a little dry and too bland.

The dim sum dish I tried in Fragrance was the steamed succulent pork dumpling in superior broth (28 yuan, US$3.50). It wasn't a huge success. What made the dish quite special was the fact that a single large pork dumpling was served in a small bowl with broth. Actually, it seemed rather weird eating the dumpling with soup both outside and inside the wrapping. But I broke the wrapping carelessly and the two different kinds of soup mixed together making the flavour somewhat disappointing and also too oily.

Location: 2F, Regal International East Asia Hotel, No. 516 Hengshanlu
Tel: 021-64155588