A secret tropical idyll

(Shanghai_Star )
Updated: 2007-01-08 09:18

A secret tropical idyllIt feels so good to walk into a place full of tropical ambience on a freezing winter's day in Shanghai.

Trader Vic's, a polynesian-style restaurant and bar which originated in the United States, impressed me greatly with its primitive art figures and small wooden vessels hung around the walls. It is a unique and warm decoration.

The restaurant is located at an inconspicuous corner on Fengyang Road, near West Nanjing Road. The dining hall on the second floor is surprisingly large,covering about 1,200 square metres, and has been divided up into several parts with different functions for each.

Every diner who comes to Trader Vic's in Shanghai will be greeted by two large Maoriinspired wooden figures at the doorfront. In line with its tropical feel, the restaurant serves a special "island cuisine" which is said to have been created by fusing a mixture of American, European,Polynesian and Asian flavours.

When the first Trader Vic's was opened by a man named Victor Bergeron in California in the 1930s, it was then only a small bar serving rum, and mostly frequented by sailors on shore leave. Now it is a luxury restaurant brand with chains all over t he world, the latest being here in Shanghai, its first outlet in the Chinese mainland.When I visited this restaurant last month, it was still in a pre liminary operation and was set to open t his month. The dishes it served were generally in big portions and mostly featured various kinds of meats, such as chicken,duck, beef, pork, fish, shrimp and other seafood. I imagine the restaurantmust be particularly alluring for meat lovers who have a big stomach.

My companions and I started our dinner at Trader Vics with a g reedy appetite, butwe were soon filled up by the star ter,called Cosmo Tidbits, which included BBQ spare ribs, crispy prawns, crab rangoon, sesame pork and beef Cho-Cho. I liked the beef Cho-Cho the most because of its wonderful taste and the special way in which it was served.

The raw beef slices bunched on sticks were presented together with an alcoholburner on the table and diners can heat the beef by themselves on the fire. It takesless than a minute for the beef to become medium and tastes delectable and tender enough. They also served two different kinds of sauce, yellow mustard and tomato flavour, to go with t he beef and other sundry dishes.

The grilled scallop salad with sweet Thai chili sauce and another dish, crab cakes, were both creative delicacies. The scallops were fresh and rich, which absorbed t he chili sauce very well, and they tasted especially good with the creme fraiche.The
crab cake, which was made of crab meat, vegetable slices and a secret recipe sauce, tasted quite crispy and refreshing.

Teoh Koh hong, executive chef of Trader Vic's in Shanghai and who comes from Malaysia,said some of their dishes were inspired by Chinese cuisine and are now available in many other Trader Vic's outlets. The seared beef tenderloin with cilantro green chili sauce is one such dish. It was presented in typical Chinese fashion, with vegetables surrounding the meat and some chili slices on the top. The flavour was a bit heavy and greasy.

Another Chinese culinary element which the restaurant has introduced in Shanghai is their large wood-fired oven. Exhibited in a separate and transparent glass room, the oven is an important kitchen tool for Trader Vic's and makes it possible for diners to see exactly how their meat is being cooked.

"The food grilled in the woodfired oven usually smells and tastes much more savoury than those cooked in electronic ovens,"said Teoh.

The restaurant serves a Western- style menu of dishes, ranging from starters to desserts, but the food is not always served in a Western way. Diners around the table are encouraged to have their food on the same plate, and the portions are also big enough to share.

More than 80 kinds of cocktails are offered at Trader Vic's bar since the brand was established for selling alcohol,most of which are sea-faring combinations of rum and fruit juices. Like the food, many of the cocktails can also be shared by several people at the same time because they are contained in big bowls with long straws.

Actually, the bill at the end of our meal indicated that Trader Vic's is aimed squarely at the "higher-end" of the market, but its unique style suggests that it is also a suitable place for casual get-togethers, as well as business networking.

Trader Vic's
Address:598 Fengyang Road
Tel: 021-5228-3882


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