Cruisin' for a fusion

Updated: 2013-12-29 08:22

By Xu Junqian in Shanghai(China Daily)

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The food served at Unico by Mauro Colagreco is neither Spanish, nor French, nor Argentine, nor Chinese.

Like its founding chef Mauro Colagreco, the 37-year-old Argentine-born Italian who started his culinary career in France and is now developing his interest in Chinese ingredients, it's a fusion of all.

"It's very difficult to describe my food. It's very personal, and the only rule is (that) the products must be fresh," says the newly awarded Michelin two-star chef, when making his visit to Shanghai to prepare a four-hand dinner for local diners. The other two hands are "borrowed" from arguably the most popular young chef at Singapore's Jaan at the Swissotel, Julien Royer.

 Cruisin' for a fusion

Mango rosemary Caipirinha. Provided to China Daily

While what is offered at the 10-course dinner is not available daily, the regular menu features a selection of creative dishes with elements from this country or that culture.

The sharing bread, as a start, is a family recipe from Colagreco's grandmother, who spent most of her life in the Spanish countryside. The recipe is nothing special - butter, flour and an extra touch of olive oil. But for the chef, it's all about sweet holidays waking up in the aroma of bread baking.

A must-try from the rather thick menu is the spicy tomato consomme with prawns, an upgraded version of the Spanish cold soup, a broth bursting with refreshing sweet tomatoes freshly picked from an organic farm in Shanghai and never refrigerated, zesty tiger prawns and the subtle flavors of spices.

For the main course collection, the meat is as well-selected and carefully cut as many offered at the city's Western restaurants. But the way it is grilled is exclusive. With a special style of grill, a parrilla -found only in Argentina - the meat is prepared in an almost ritualistic way, like a natural fire in the pampas. As a result, the meat, be it the ribeye or the tenderloin, is exceptionally juicy.

On the dessert side, the presentation is more playful and artistic, something the chef says was inspired by his new hobby, painting. The Churros (Spanish doughnuts) stand in a funnel-like pot, paired with a small bowl of bittersweet chocolate sauce, like brushes and paints. And the taste they paint is called "childhood memory".

Cruisin' for a fusion

The wine-by-the-glass menu offered at the by-night-restaurant-and-by-midnight-bar is as seductive and eccentric as its Latin American decor. The Coco Lavanda, a lavender-flavored vodka, is deceptive, with a lip-tingling aftertaste disguised in the coconut-milk texture and the refreshing aroma of limes, plus a dainty sprinkle of shredded coconut adding a fun touch.

For those who sniff at the "girlishness" of the coco drink, try the Mexican bartender, whose talent and creativity is as impressive as his charming smile.

Cruisin' for a fusion

(China Daily 12/29/2013 page8)