Shanghai: Tock’s Montreal Deli and Brunch at Burdigala

Tock's - A Montreal Deli

Tock’s – A Montreal Deli

I miss sandwiches. That is possibly one of the things I miss the most in Shanghai. I miss having freshly baked bread that is crunchy on the outside but soft in the inside– piled high with sliced meat, sauce and veggies. Tock’s (221 Henan Zhong Lu; 河南中路221号) fills my sandwich needs by ticking off three out of four of those boxes. I have never been to Montreal so I can’t be an expert on what is a “Montreal Deli,” but I freaking love sandwiches and am an expert on those. Tock’s serves beautifully smoked meat sandwiches. You can order regular (150 g of meat) or monster (225 g). I love my meat and I love my sandwiches, but regular is honestly enough meat. I can’t imagine who can finish off a monster sandwich.

Duck Pastrami on a Montreal-style Everything Bagel

Duck Pastrami on a Montreal-style Everything Bagel

With your sandwich, you get an order of fries or salad. I would definitely recommend the Caeser salad over the fries. The salad was topped with croutons and bacon and the dressing actually tasted like Caeser dressing (and not just bland mayo). The fries were crispy, but I didn’t feel like they had much potato taste. For the bread, you can choose rye or a Montreal-style bagel. ORDER THE BAGEL. The rye is again, underwhelming. It’s kind of dry and lacks any rye bread taste. However, the Montreal-style bagel is to die for. Tock (yes, that is the owner’s name) explained to me the difference between a Montreal-style and New York-style bagel. Montreal-style bagels are boiled in water with honey and are a little bit more dense. That bit of honey makes for an awesome bagel because I like how the sweetness contrasts the saltiness of the meat. Also, when you order an everything bagel, there is topping on both sides (so key) just like a NY-bagel.

I ordered a smoked duck pastrami sandwich on a Montreal-style everything bagel and my friend ordered the smoked meat sandwich on rye. The duck pastrami was tasty but it was a lean cut of meat. I feel like it would be a good choice for someone who was looking for a “healthier” option. My friend thought his smoked meat sandwich was actually too fatty, but I could handle it without any issues. Next time, I think I would try the combination of smoked meats with smoked turkey pastrami. I think that would be the perfect combination of fattiness and meat. Finally, the key to the perfect sandwich is to order it with the spicy mustard. So yes, a smoked meat sandwich on a Montreal-style everything bagel with spicy mustard would be my sandwich of choice.

Shanghai: Burdigala

Shanghai: Burdigala

One of my friends had posted photos of her brunch at Burdigala (550 Wuding Lu;武定路550号) on WeChat. I am so glad she did; otherwise, I might not have found this gem. Burdigala is a wine bistrot with the goal to bring French wines to Shanghai and not charge a ridiculous amount. I found the atmosphere of the restaurant to be really cute and welcoming. There was some counter seating that would have been perfect a place to have a glass of wine with a friend.

Brunch at Burdigala

Brunch at Burdigala

For brunch, you can order à la carte, but the better option is to get the set price meal for 158 RMB. You start the meal with a vegetable salad (cucumbers, tomato, olives and ham) served in a glass jar and it is followed by cold cuts and plenty of baguette bread and a croissant. I know this meal looks simple, but it’s incredibly comforting. My friends and I used to have nights where we would literally just eat bread and cheese or bread and cold cuts/foie gras for dinner when we lived in Paris. After the meat and cheese course, you get roasted potatoes, a soft boiled egg with foie gras and a ham and cheese sandwich. The ham and cheese sandwich is so incredibly rich. You can tell that they grill that bread in delicious butter. If you weren’t full yet, you still get a jar of creamy yogurt topped with a fruit preserve.

With your meal, you also get to choose juice, tea or coffee. I would pass on the juice since it isn’t fresh and go for the tea or coffee instead. This brunch is definitely a bang for your buck because they’ll even refill your bread basket. Honestly, one order is enough to feed two people (although I don’t know how happy the restaurant would be if two people only placed on order) so it’s good place to go if you have an appetite.

Shanghai: House of Lasagna, Henkes and Mr. X

Lasagna Bolognese with Garlic Bread

Lasagna Bolognese with Garlic Bread

The House of Lasagna (174 South Xiang Yang Road; 襄阳南路174号 opened in Shanghai a few months ago and I was eager to try it because lasagna is total comfort food to me. Growing up, I used to eat Stouffer’s microwavable frozen lasagna whenever my parents were on a trip and my sister used to babysit me. It’s a strange memory to have, but I instinctively link lasagna to good times with my sister. The House of Lasagna is in a tiny space with only about 4-5 tables and little stools. They offer the classics like Lasagna Bolognese while venturing out to some interesting combinations like Curry Seafood Lasagna.

Carbonara Lasagna at House of Lasagna in Shanghai

Carbonara Lasagna at House of Lasagna in Shanghai

I was craving a classic so I went with Lasagna Bolognese (classic ragu with mozzarella and parmesan) while my friend ordered the Carbonara Lasagna (bacon, mushroom and parmesan in cream sauce). We ordered the homemade shaken lemonade and Arnold Palmer. What I liked about the lasagna was that they served it in a clean beautiful plate with two delicious pieces of garlic bread. My lasagna bolognese was solid with plenty of cheese and a hearty meat sauce. I was only wishing there was more of the red sauce for me to dip my garlic bread in. Then again, maybe this is also just a personal preference because I always love a lot of sauce with my pasta.

House of Lasagna Delivery

Loving the cute delivery packaging! Carbonara lasagna on the left and pork belly and mashed potatos on the right.

The carbonara lasagna had a wonderful cream sauce with layers of ham and mushroom. I actually liked it better than my lasagna bolognese, but it is definitely rich and I don’t think I could have eaten an entire serving by myself. Since the restaurant is small, it’s not the most comfortable space in the world. House of Lasagna currently has free delivery and I have totally taken advantage of this service. When I ordered delivery, I tried their pork belly and mashed potatoes. I really like the pork belly. The meat was tender and actually tasted more like a pork chop and it came with worcestershire sauce to dip the meat in. I enjoyed the mashed potatoes but I felt like they needed more salt. I would definitely order the pork belly and mashed potatoes again.

Henkes Brunch in Shanghai

Henkes Brunch: Pancakes with Bacon and Bananas; Four Cheese Pizza; Eggs Benedict with Bacon

In other news, I’ve been trying to find new brunch places in Shanghai (because I can’t go to Madison every weekend). I recently went to Henkes (1601 Nanjing Xi Road; 南京西路1601号), which is located on the 1st floor of the Reel Mall. Henkes serves brunch all-day on the weekends, which I really appreciate on days when I can’t get out of bed until 3 or 4pm. I ordered the pancakes with bacon and bananas and my friend ordered the eggs benedict with bacon. In Shanghai, when you see “bacon” on the menu, it’s normally more like Canadian bacon so non-crispy ham. This was literally the first time I’ve seen American-style bacon and my heart nearly skipped a beat. Truthfully speaking, that was the real highlight of the meal. My pancakes didn’t have much of a buttermilk taste and the consistency was too cake-y for me. I definitely enjoyed the eggs benedict more, which had perfectly cooked eggs and a nice Hollandaise sauce. However, after both devouring our meals, my friend and I were still hungry. We ended up ordering a 4-cheese pizza, which again was just OK. The pizza was soggy and disappointing. I wouldn’t go out of my way to eat at Henkes at brunch again, but it’s a reasonable option if you wake up late on a lazy Saturday or Sunday.

Mr. X Puzzle House

Mr. X Puzzle House

Finally, the last thing I wanted to talk about was Mr. X (550 Jumen Road; 局门路550号), an awesome puzzle/mystery house. They have 5 different themed rooms and you’re basically locked in a room and have one hour to try and figure out how to get out. Reservations are absolutely necessary and it’s best to go with a group of 6-8 people. I don’t want to ruin any surprises, but the rooms are super interactive and really fun. I’ve done three of the rooms and I’m totally addicted and want to beat all of them. I highly recommend it and it’s even a good team building event if you’re looking for something fun to do with your co-workers.

Shanghai: Weekend at Madison’s

Top reft: Me & Chef Austin Hu; Top right: Madison Tonic; Bottom: Ginger Carrot Soup

Top left: Me & Chef Austin Hu; Top right: Madison Tonic; Bottom: Ginger Carrot Soup

I’m not going to lie. I really wanted to title this blog post “Why I want to be Best Friends with Austin Hu (and his cousin Garrett),” but I decided that was probably borderline creepster. A few months ago, I wrote about brunch at Madison and how it was one of the best brunches of my life. One month ago, Austin Hu actually commented on my blog and I had a mini freak-out because he liked my blog!

I’ve been dying to try Madison for dinner and now I wanted to meet Austin. When my sister came into town (who is a bigger foodie than I am), it was the perfect reason to book a dinner reservation. At dinner, Madison actually has two sides to the restaurant: a more casual gastropub called Madi’s and the more refined dining experience at Madison.

Seared Foie Gras with Strawberries

Seared Foie Gras with Strawberries

As soon as we sat down, I asked to meet Austin and asked him for his recommendations of what we should order. My sister and I were slightly overwhelmed so when Austin offered to make us a personal tasting menu, we couldn’t refuse! The man made us a nine-course tasting menu. It was so much fun being surprised with each dish. While I won’t talk about every single course in detail, I will highlight my favorites!

Top left: Kanpach wrapped in seaweed; Top right: Pork Belly with frisée and apples; Bottom left: Perch on top of a Kimchi Stew; Bottom right: Duck ragout with Spinach Pasta

Top left: Kanpachi wrapped in seaweed; Top right: Pork belly with frisée and apples; Bottom left: Perch on top of a homemade kimchi stew; Bottom right: Duck ragout with spinach pasta

The definite star of the night was the kanpachi. It was seared perfectly with that raw pink center. The fish is wrapped in seaweed and gently sliced, topped with puffed black rice, mushrooms and fried pickled ginger. I was loving every single bite of this dish and I didn’t want it to end. Everything worked so well together. The cold fish with the crunchy bits of rice made the textures so interesting. Once you added that sweet and spicy ginger into the combination, then it created a party in your mouth.

My second favorite dish was the spinach pasta with duck ragout. The pasta was cooked that perfect al dente texture and the sauce was rich and hearty. I wanted to drink it up. Once you added the slight tangy, creamy crème fraîche-like topping, you had the perfect bowl of pasta. It reminded me of flour + water back home, making me nostalgic for San Francisco.

Top: Squab served two ways. Seared foie gras on top of squab breast with squab confit leg. Bottom: Short rib with a sweet potato purée.

Top: Squab served two ways; bottom: Short rib

The squab was served two ways. Another slice of perfectly-seared foie gras was served on top of the squab breast, while the confit leg was flash fried. The combination with the sweet potato purée was divine. The real winner was the short rib that Austin specially prepared off menu. Keep in mind, I was so full at this point, but I still managed to eat my plate. This was because the short rib was unctuous and literally melted in my mouth. I couldn’t let such delicious food go to waste!

Austin is constantly changing the menu since his food is locally sourced. If you ever see the kanpachi, duck ragout or short rib, order it immediately! After our amazing dinner, Austin actually talked to my sister and I for a good 45 minutes and we even got a tour of the kitchen. I just loved the way he talked about food. It was absolutely fascinating and I felt like I was learning so much (hence why I want to be his eating friend). We also met his cousin, Garrett, who works the front of the restaurant and is super welcoming and friendly.

It was not planned at all. My sister was only in town for less than two days. The next day, we made a last minute decision to go back to Madison’s for brunch. My sister had seen “duck fast disco fries” on the menu and she was sold. Yes, we ate at Madison twice in the span of 12 hours.

BRUNCH AT MADISON

BRUNCH AT MADISON!

The sister and I wanted to sample a bunch of dishes. Between what we ordered and what Austin made for us, we had 8 dishes at brunch. You should have seen the table next to us. They literally thought we were crazy when our entire table was filled with plates and then MORE plates of food came.

We sampled the banana-stuffed French toast, donuts, duck fat disco fries, cornbread, poached eggs, scotch eggs, flower pot sourdough bread (dinner menu normally only) and finished it all off with a S’more sundae.

Left: Duck fat disco fries; right: Donuts

Left: Duck fat disco fries; right: Donuts

There was so much goodness happening on the table that I will honestly try and recap as best as possible. Duck fat fries were so amazingly good. They were seasoned, crispy on the outside but still soft and chewy on the inside, and served with a rich gravy. The donuts were like churros that were light and fluffy without being oily. Austin explained that they were Jewish-style and I could not get enough of the raspberry sauce which accompanied the donuts.

Cornbread

CORNBREAD!

I talked about my love of the skillet cornbread in my previous blog post, but I had to mention it again BECAUSE I learned that Austin coats the bottom of the skillet with caramelized honey! Dear me, no wonder it tastes so good. The sweetness of the honey cuts the savory cheese, bacon and Tabasco butter.

Top left: Duck Scotch eggs; Top right: Flower pot sourdough bread; Bottom left: Poached eggs

Top left: Duck Scotch eggs; Top right: Flower pot sourdough bread; Bottom left: Poached eggs

The flower pot sourdough bread is on the dinner menu, but they were cool enough to make us a batch. I miss good bread. When the sourdough came out warm, I literally was sitting at the table listening to the audible crunch of the bread. My sister was smelling it to see how sour it was. We looked like a couple of crazy people fondling bread. BUT THE BREAD WAS OUTSTANDING. While not as sour as the bread back home, I was more than happy to pair it with the warm, creamy chive butter.

The poached eggs are Austin’s favorite dish. I can definitely see why because the hollandaise sauce was mind-blowing. We learned that Austin adds his own homemade XO sauce to give it that slight kick. I really enjoyed the mustard seeds that popped in your mouth– almost like caviar. The sauce was creamy and lemony, without being too heavy. The poached eggs were served on top of pork trotters and toaster muffins. We were digging the combination of the eggs with the more gelatinous texture of the pork trotters. I discovered the best combination was taking the sourdough bread and sopping it in the hollandaise sauce.

The Aftermath

The Aftermath

A HUGE thank you goes out to Austin and Garrett Hu for being such amazing hosts and also for not judging two sisters for totally pigging out at their restaurant. Madison is definitely one of my favorite restaurants in Shanghai (and not just because Austin and Garrett are so cool), but because the food is absolutely delicious, the ambiance is fun and the cocktails are also inventive.

And now, I will end this blog post with a photo of the S’more sundae. If you were able to read this blog post without salivating, I commend you.

Madison: S'more Sundae

Madison: S’more Sundae

Bay Area Homecoming

San Francisco's Dolores Park

San Francisco’s Dolores Park

Going home for the holidays was too wonderful. I was spoiled by warm weather (mid-60′s), good food, family and great friends. I wish I could have extended my trip longer, but in a blink of an eye, I was on a plane heading back to Shanghai.

I just wanted to share a few of the food highlights from the trip home. This was in addition to having prime rib for three straight meals in a row. We had two prime rib roasts for Christmas Eve dinner, which lead to an abundance of leftovers. I definitely did not complain.

Gochi Mountain View: Sashimi, Agedashi Tofu, and Onigiri

Gochi Mountain View: Sashimi, Agedashi Tofu, and Onigiri

Gochi is one of my favorite restaurants and they serve Japanese-fusion tapas. The original location is in Cupertino and there is always the longest line if you don’t have a reservation. They recently opened a second location in Mountain View. It seems a little bit easier to make a reservation since it’s newer.

Gochi: Unagi Clay Pot Rice

Gochi: Unagi Clay Pot Rice

They have some funky dishes on the menu like Japanese pizza and potato gratin, but my favorites are definitely the more traditional items like agedashi tofu and onigiri. The BEST dish is their clay pot rice and my personal fave is the unagi rice bowl. I love how you get the crispy parts of the rice all mixed in with eel, seaweed and veggies. I like to order a side of dashi broth because nothing tastes better than finishing a meal with a clean, light bowl of soup.

San Francisco's Foreign Cinema

San Francisco’s Foreign Cinema. Top Right: Heavenly Scramble; Bottom Right: Tuna Salad Sandwich

I miss San Francisco so much that it makes my heart aches. I’m sure that sounds overly melodramatic, but San Francisco is honestly my favorite city in the entire world. Since my time was limited, I made a point to have brunch at Foreign Cinema. Foreign Cinema has an awesome courtyard area and at night, they project old movies against a huge wall. While their dinner is slightly lackluster, they have one of the best brunches in the city.

Foreign Cinema: Pear & Currant Homemade Pop Tarts

Foreign Cinema: Pear & Currant Homemade Pop Tarts

At brunch, Foreign Cinema always has a daily selection of homemade pop tarts, which have fresh fruit fillings like pear and currant or mango and pineapple. The pop tarts are always divine. The maple-glazed bacon is also a must-order. I really enjoyed my dish, the “heavenly scramble,” which had fresh dungeness crab and brussels sprouts.

Bi-Rite Creamery

Bi-Rite Creamery

No trip home would have been complete without a visit to Bi-Rite Creamery, San Francisco’s premier ice cream store. My favorite flavors are always the salted caramel, ricanelas (cinnamon ice cream with snickerdoodle pieces) and balsamic strawberry (only available in the summer). With the warm weather, the line for Bi-Rite was extra long and wrapped around the building like three times. The wait is worth. Trust me on this one.

San Jose's Boiling Crab

San Jose’s Boiling Crab

I know it’s a chain, but I love Boiling Crab. How can you really go wrong with huge bags filled with Cajun-spiced shrimp, crawfish, dungeness crab and corn on the cob? Wash it down with some ice tea and accompany it with some rice and fries– you’ve got one killer meal. I was really appreciative of all my friends who came out to see me (I think we had a table of 11). I feel like it’s a bonding experience when you grab a group of friends who have to roll up their sleeves and eat with their hands.

And now, I will end this post with a picture of my favorite sandwich in the entire world. Turkey sandwich on sourdough roll with extra veggies and spread from the Village Cheese House in Palo Alto. It was the first thing I wanted to eat as soon as I got off the plane.

Turkey Sandwich from the Village Cheesehouse

Turkey Sandwich from the Village Cheesehouse

Shanghai: Coffee Tree and Snippets of the French Concession

Ferguson Lane Shanghai

Hipster dogs also enjoy brunch in Shanghai

This past week, Shanghai’s pollution Air Quality Index (AQI) hit an all-time high of 504 out of 500! We exceeded the scale. How is that even possible? I find it hard to believe that just one week ago, I was enjoying fresh air and sunshine and roaming the quaint French Concession neighborhood.

Shanghai: Coffee Tree

Shanghai: Coffee Tree

I caught up with some friends for brunch at the Coffee Tree, which is located down an alleyway, Ferguson Lane, at 376 Wukang Road (武康路376号). Coffee Tree has a big outside patio area (perfect for warm summer days) and a smaller indoor area. They don’t take reservations, but my friends were lucky with the timing and we were able to get a table for three easily.

Coffee Tree has an awesome brunch special. For 138 RMB, you can get a 2-course brunch special with starter, main, endless coffee and a drink of your choice. For a 168 RMB, you can get a 3-course special with 2 starters, main, endless coffee and a drink of your choice OR starter, main, dessert, endless coffee and a drink of your choice. It’s a lot of food!

Top left (clockwise): Italian Egg Benedict, French Toast, Smoke Salmon Pasta, Close-up on Poached Egg

Top left (clockwise): Italian Egg Benedict, French Toast, Smoke Salmon Pasta, Close-up on Poached Egg

Between the three of us, we ordered French toast, Italian Egg Benedict, Norwegian Egg Benedict, smoked salmon pasta, cheesecake, cappuccinos, fresh juice and coffee. We definitely did not go hungry. My favorite was the Italian Egg Benedict. It was two perfectly poached eggs served on top of prosciutto and wheat bread with a small order of potatoes and salad. Whenever I order eggs benedict at a new restaurant, I always ask for the hollandaise sauce on the side. It’s so easy to mess up hollandaise that I don’t want it spread all over my plate of food if I don’t like the taste of it. Luckily, Coffee Tree’s hollandaise sauce did not fall into that category! It was light and creamy at the same time with just a hint of lemon– the perfect touch of acidity.

The French toast was a pass. It didn’t have enough cinnamon flavoring and was also missing that egg-y, custard-y batter in the middle. My friend liked his pasta a lot and his wife raved about her Norwegian Egg Benedict. So I would definitely recommend the eggs benedict at Coffee Tree!

French Concession

After brunch, I decided to wander and try and capture some of the beautiful architecture and scenery in the French Concession. Technically, the area is now called “The Former French Concession” because they changed the name a few years ago, but it’s just too much effort to say that many words. It’s still the French Concession in my mind.

French Concession People

I loved all the tall sycamore trees with their leaves slowly changing colors, causing the light to dapple on all the buildings. It was a beautiful day and posting these photos is already making me mourn the loss of fresh air in Shanghai. Hopefully, the air will clear up soon so I can go back to happily wandering the meandering roads of Shanghai (sans-mask)!

French Concession Walks

Shanghai: Brunch and Coffee on Yong Kang Road

Coffee at Farmhouse Café

Coffee at Farmhouse Café

Brunch is quickly becoming my favorite meal in Shanghai. This is probably obvious based on my recent posts at Shanghai Brewery and Madison. When Lana texted me for an impromptu brunch on a warm Shanghai day (that warmth only lasted one day), I couldn’t pass on the opportunity.

A glimpse of Yong Kang Road

A glimpse of Yong Kang Road

Yong Kang Road is a popular street now that has been converted to a bunch of restaurants, bars and boutique stores. It always amazes me how quickly Shanghai changes because that section of the street used to be a wet market. Now, it’s a hot bed of expats and it basically feels like I never left America.

Bubbles/Farmhouse Cafe

Bubbles/Farmhouse Café

Lana took me to Bubbles/Farmhouse Café (67 Yong Kang Road; 永康路67号). It’s a little confusing because the sign outside says “Big Bubbles, No Troubles,” but the interior says Farmhouse Café. She explained that she thinks the restaurant changed owners, hence the perplexing signage. I was just happy to have a good cup of coffee in Shanghai.

Omelette and Chicken Pita Sandwich with Pumpkin Soup

Omelette and Chicken Pita Sandwich with Pumpkin Soup

Lana ordered an omelette with sausage, ham, cheese and tomatoes. It was served open-faced and looked absolutely scrumptious. I opted for the chicken and avocado pita sandwich, which came with pumpkin soup. I wasn’t expecting the filling of my sandwich to be pre-mixed with pesto and rocket lettuce, but it tasted really good so I didn’t mind. I really liked how my pita was slightly crispy since they had lightly toasted it. The pita actually reminded me of what I used to eat in college on the on-campus quick Wolfgang Puck eatery. I used to always order chicken pesto pita sandwiches so I was instantly transported back to college while eating at Farmhouse Café. The food was fresh and simple and reasonably priced. I would happily go back, especially on a lazy Saturday/Sunday.

Café del Volcan

Café del Volcan

Artist at work

Artist at work

After brunch, Lana and I stopped by Café Del Volcan (80 Yong Kang Road; 永康路80号, across the street from Farmhouse), which was the cutest coffee shop. I loved watching the barista make each cup of coffee with love and care and it reminded me a little bit of Blue Bottle Coffee in San Francisco. I will definitely have to back to try some of their pastries/coffee. I just loved the decor and everything about the place and went a little snap-happy inside the store. Can’t wait to go back soon and maybe enjoy another brunch.

Cafe Del Volcan Inside

I have never seen such detailed light labels.