Shanghai: Japanese Sukiyaki at Ri He 日和

Ri He | Sukiyaki

Ri He | Sukiyaki

Sukiyaki is one of my favorite dishes and whenever I see it on the menu, I’m always tempted to order it. I love sukiyaki because the broth is slightly sweet from the soy sauce, mirin and sugar base. When Austin Hu could not stop singing the praises of the sukiyaki at Ri He 日和, I knew that I had to try it. Located a little further in Gubei, Ri He (4th floor of 130 Ziyun Xi Lu; 紫云西路130号4楼 ) serves sukiyaki, Japanese hot pot, sashimi and a variety of other dishes.

Wagyu Meat Platter

Wagyu Meat Platter

Ri He Seating

The star of the restaurant is the wagyu beef sukiyaki. For 588 RMB, you can order the 2-person sukiyaki set. This includes thinly sliced beef with various levels of marbling from A2 to A6, pork belly, tofu, vegetables and udon noodles to end the meal. The meat is absolutely incredible. With all the fattiness, it just melts in your mouth. It’s hard not to savor every single bite. Ri He’s sukiyaki sauce is also amazing and I like how it’s not too sweet. Whenever I go to Ri He, I always feel pampered since someone handles all the cooking for me.

Sashimi and Agedashi Tofu

Sashimi and Agedashi Tofu

Normally, I’m wary of eating sashimi in Shanghai, but Ri He’s fish is incredibly fresh and safe to eat. You can ask what the local catch of the day is and they usually always have fatty tuna belly. There are also other small eats like agedashi tofu. Our waiter also recommend their gyoza and beef pancake, which I’ll definitely have to try next time.

The menu is completely in Chinese and Japanese so make sure to bring a friend who can speak and/or read Chinese. At the very least, you can open up online reviews and point to photos. The staff is incredibly patient and friendly so if you do end up struggling a little bit, I’m sure they’ll recommend dishes for you.

Shanghai: Chikalicious Dessert Bar

Chikalicious | Chef Maya in action

Chikalicious | Chef Maya in action

I love the concept of a dessert bar and I am actually surprised that no one thought of opening one in Shanghai sooner. Originally from New York, Chikalicious (123 Xingye Lu; 兴业路123弄5号) is a two-story dessert bar. The first floor takes walk-ins and has a small selection of desserts, including crêpe cakes and seasonal desserts. However, the real magic happens on the 2nd floor where you can experience the 3-course dessert tasting menu (188 RMB + 10% service charge).

Lemonade Sorbet with Honey Thyme Gelée

Lemonade Sorbet with Honey Thyme Gelée

Chef Maya and Chef Mauro are constantly changing the menu based on seasonal produce and you have to appreciate their creativity. On our visit, our meal started with a lemonade sorbet accompanied by honey thyme gelée. With the over 100 degree weather in Shanghai, this was perfect starter to cool us down.

Fromage Blanc Cheesecake Island

Fromage Blanc Island “Cheese Cake”

Japanese Honeydew Two Ways

Japanese Honeydew Two Ways

For our main courses, I ordered the NY-famed fromage blanc island “cheese cake.” This is probably the most ordered dessert at Chikalicious and often sells out every day. Served in a dish of crushed ice, this island cake is a cross between a foam and a mousse. It’s incredibly delicate and light with a very subtle cheese taste. It’s a very pure dessert and I like the hints of vanilla bean spread throughout the cake. My friend ordered the Japanese honeydew two ways. Compressed honeydew with mint was served with lemon foam, mint agar agar and melon sorbet. All the desserts are very light and are meant to highlight the natural ingredients. The honeydew flavor was bright and I loved the lemon foam. Eating the melon sorbet tasted like you were biting a piece of fresh melon. With each main dessert, Chikalicious recommends a wine/champagne tasting, which helps elevate the whole experience.

Chikalicious | Petit Fours

Chikalicious | Petit Fours

Yogurt Panna Cotta

Yogurt Panna Cotta

Our petit fours included coconut marshmallows, pistachio biscotti and strawberry cake. My favorite was definitely the coconut marshmallow, which had a foam-like consistency and melted in my mouth. While upstairs does have table seating, I actually recommend reserving a spot at the bar. You get to watch all the dessert chefs in actions and it’s absolutely mesmerizing. If you’re lucky, you may even have a chance to strike up a conversation with Chef Maya or Chef Mauro. Chef Maya was incredibly sweet, smiley and talkative. She could sense our enthusiasm for her desserts and gifted us a mini yogurt panna cotta. We were so excited because, earlier, my friend had a hard time deciding between the panna cotta and the honeydew dessert. The yogurt panna cotta is served with fresh peach sorbet (that pink is the natural color!), peach slice, dill agar agar and caramelized almonds. I really appreciated the crunch of the almonds and different textures in this dessert. The panna cotta was smooth, creamy with a nice sourness. The flavor from the peach was so intense and sweet.

Seasonal Japanese Yuzu Cake

Seasonal Japanese Yuzu Cake

Reservations for upstairs is an absolute must and they’re open from 2:00pm-9:00pm (Wednesday-Sunday). If you can’t get a table upstairs, you can always sample the desserts from the café downstairs, which is open from 11am-11pm daily. On a separate visit, I sampled the seasonal Japanese yuzu cake at the café. This was literally one of the best pieces of cake that I’ve ever had. A layer of white cake is topped with yuzu cream filling, fresh whipped cream and pistachios. It was incredibly light and airy and full of citrus flavor, reminiscent of eating lemon curd. While we were talking to Chef Maya, she mentioned that they’re already making the next cake to replace the Japanese yuzu one. It’s good to know that anytime you go to Chikalicious, you’re bound to try something new and exciting.

Shanghai Breakfast Eats: Egg and Taoyuan Village

Egg Spread

Look at the spread! Egg in Shanghai

Who doesn’t love a good breakfast? This is a long overdue post because Egg (12 Xiangyang Bei Lu; 襄阳北路12号) has been open for over a year and it’s probably one of my favorite cafés in Shanghai. It’s a chill place to grab a cup of coffee and do some work.

Yangmei Soda + Latte

Yang mei Soda + Latte

When I want a good cup of coffee, I can count on Egg to deliver. I’ve been disappointed multiple times on expensive places that serve coffee for 40-50 RMB (I’m looking at you, Farine). Egg is the only place that I can find cashew milk lattes and the owner, Camden, happily makes her own cashew milk. If coffee isn’t your thing, fear not as there are plenty of other libations to choose from. Camden is always serving some type of seasonal flavored soda and there’s even beer and wine. Most recently, I had a yang mei soda, which is made from fresh fruit nectar. Note: If you don’t know what the Chinese fruit yang mei is, check out my blog post where I went yang mei picking!

Egg's Hippie Bowl

Egg’s Hippie Bowl

By far, my favorite dish at Egg is the Hippie Bowl. This Instagram-worthy bowl is full of barley topped with roasted carrots, radish, kale, feta and an egg that is pickled in beet root. The vibrant dressing really brings this whole dish together. Normally, I’m a big meat eater, but this is one of the few times where I’m happy to eat vegetarian. It’s a hearty bowl and you can tell that Camden pays attention to the details because even the barley has flavor.

Egg Shanghai

When my sister and I went, we ordered the hippie bowl, cornbread waffle, breakfast taco, carrot fritters and apple pie pancakes. The cornbread waffle comes with cola-braised pork, pickled yardbeans and tomato jam (plus a fried egg). I really liked how the cornbread waffle wasn’t too dense and had nice flavor, which paired really well with the tender pork. I fell in love with the tomato jam. I want a jar of that jam to just spread on all things in my life. The carrot fritters were also really tasty and naturally very sweet. The apple pie pancakes were a special for the day and they were my 2nd favorite dish. The pancakes were thick and cake-like with amazing cinnamon sugar cooked apples. The only thing that I wasn’t a big fan of was the “taco” because there was too much sauce and it was messy to eat. Egg is open every day from 8:00am to 6:30pm.

Taoyuan Village

Taoyuan Village

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Shanghai: Taian Table

Chef Jeno Racz

Taian Table | Chef Jeno Racz

It’s been awhile since I’ve gotten really excited about the restaurant scene in Shanghai. Recently, I had dinner at Taian Table and it was definitely one of the most memorable meals I’ve had here. Headed by Chef Stefan Stiller and Chef de Cuisine, Jeno Racz, Taian Table is a private dining restaurant with 20 counter seats and two small tables that can set up to 4. The location is a secret and only revealed after you’ve made a reservation. There is only one menu, which is completely based off the seasonal produce. You can choose from a 14-course (1,288 RMB) or 10-course (988 RMB) meal.

Taian Table | Amuse Bouches

Amuse Bouches

My AMAZING gin and tonic with a vegetable salad

My AMAZING gin and tonic with a vegetable salad

I’d definitely recommend sitting at the counter because it’s fun to be right in the middle of all the action. We started our meal with amuse bouches of mackerel with pickled pineapple relish, turbot in a pea puree with shrimp foam, and a foie gras truffle with sweet wine dressing. Next came the vegetable salad. Pickled vegetables served atop of baba ghanoush with a vanilla dressing. Probably the most intriguing bite of the trio was the tomato-shaped goat cheese. Chef freezes the goat cheese and then dips it in gazpacho, which solidifies against the cold cheese (I’m simplifying the complex process). I would also recommend the gin and tonic, which is served with Hendricks gin and freeze-dried cucumber sorbet. It’s probably the best gin and tonic I’ve ever had and so incredibly refreshing.

Scallop Ceviche

Scallop Ceviche

King Crab

King Crab

The scallop ceviche was one of my favorite dishes. Topped with an oyster and sea urchin, the ceviche was paired with a lime-coconut and chili dressing. I really liked how there is this rich contrast of the spiciness and citrus from the sauce and then a sweetness from the fresh seafood. It was a bite worth savoring. Our next dish was Alaskan king crab mixed with mayonnaise, chopped roses and wasabi tobiko. I was really astounded by the presentation and all the small details in every dish. The green sauce, which is brushed on the bottom, is actually wasabi cream!

Onsen Egg

Onsen Egg

The beautiful presentation continued with the 62 degree-cooked onsen egg, which was on top a bed of spinach and next to 42-month old Iberico ham. The “nest” was actually fried spring roll wrappers and was super delicious with the creamy egg. I forgot to take a photo of the following dish, but it was a celeriac and parmesan cream on top of a beet root custard with raspberries and pepper oil.

Sea Bass

Sea Bass

Yellow Fin Tuna

Yellow Fin Tuna

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Exploring Bali: Ubud and Beyond

Bali: Holy Water Temple, Tirta Empul

Bali: Holy Water Temple, Tirta Empul

While staying at the Alila Ubud hotel, my sister and I also signed up for a day tour where we visited Tegalalang rice terrance, holy water temple and a spice and coffee plantation. I wanted to share some of my favorite photos from the tour.

Rice Paddies

Rice Paddies

Hard at Work Harvesting

Hard at Work Harvesting

Tegalalang Rice Terrace

Tegalalang Rice Terrace

By far, my favorite part of the tour was visiting the holy water temple, Tirta Empul. Founded in 962 AD, it is a Hindu temple where people travel far and wide for the ritual purification. Before you enter the temple, you must wear a sarong (including men) and they are available in the front entrance.

Love the Beautiful Structure

Love the Beautiful Structure

Purification Pool

Purification Pool

If you’re interested in going in the water, be sure to bring an extra change of clothes and your own sarong (you’re not supposed to enter the water with the temple’s provided sarongs). The water is extremely clean and I’m sure quite refreshing in the hot weather. If you’re in Bali, this is definitely a must visit destination.

Temple3

Prayer Area

Prayer Area

Koi Pool

Koi Pool

The darker circles is were the natural spring water flows in

The darker circles is were the natural spring water flows in

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Bali: Fine Dining at Blanco Par Mandif

Blanco Par Mandif: Stunning Fruit and Vegetable Salad

Blanco Par Mandif: Stunning Fruit and Vegetable Salad

I found Blanco Par Mandif in Ubud through TripAdvisor and it was definitely my favorite meal in Bali. The restaurant offers Indonesian fine dining and takes classic dishes and gives them a twist. Since I’m not very familiar with Indonesian cuisine, I honestly can’t vouch for how it compares to the authentic dishes, but it was a wonderful meal that I couldn’t wait to share.

Blanco Par Mandif was a little hard to find since there was not any posted signage, but you walk downstairs to a small counter that maybe seats 10 people max. You choose from a 7, 9 or 13-course meal and pick your starters and mains from the menu. Do yourself a favor and just order the 13-course menu. It’s totally worth it. To be completely honest, I wanted the 13-course menu because my sister and I didn’t recognize any names of the dishes and there really wasn’t much description. By picking the entire menu, we weren’t forced to make any difficult choices!

I won’t go in-depth for every single dish, but I really wanted to highlight the warm hospitality and friendliness of the staff. Our server was smiling the entire time and was more than happy to explain every single element on our dish and where the ingredients came from. As an extra courtesy, the restaurant called our hotel to arrange for a pick-up without us even requesting it. Our driver was ready and waiting as soon as our meal was over. The service honestly made our dining experience that much better.

Amuse Bouche: Egg Custard, Fried Tempeh and Cuttlefish and Buns with Duck Granita.

Amuse-Bouches: Egg Custard, Fried Tempeh and Cuttlefish and Buns with Duck Granita.

We started our meal with an amuse-bouche of an egg custard with coconut foam and two pieces of fried tempeh and cuttlefish. This was followed by small buns topped with a duck granita. Our first course was probably one of my favorites simply because of the beautiful presentation. It was a stunning fruit and vegetable salad with a fried spinach leaf– literally, a work of art. At the bottom of the plate was a cashew, chili and vinegar sauce and you were encouraged to mix everything together. Besides the sauce being sweet and tangy, I also appreciated the freshness and crisp textures on my plate.

Pickled Cabbage in Apple Cider Vinegar

Pickled Cabbage in Apple Cider Vinegar

Our next course was pickled cabbage in an apple cider vinaigrette. The server mentioned that the apple cider was made in-house and fermented for 3 months. Our 3rd course was a corn and crab soup with extra crab in the middle of the plate that was wrapped in watercress.

Corn and Crab Soup, Noodles Topped with Grated Fish, and Smoke Octopus

Corn and Crab Soup, Noodles Topped with Grated Fish, and Smoke Octopus

Next came homemade noodles that were topped by grated fish and pickled veggies. The fish was smoked for 2 hours per day for 15 days straight. I really enjoyed the smoked octopus with sundried tomato and black bean tartare and compressed papaya with coconut and honey vinaigrette. The smoked octopus was hearty and had the texture of meat, plus the sundried tomato and black bean tartare was bursting with flavor.

Seafood Courses: Shrimp and Red Snapper plus a Pleasing Palate-Cleansing Sorbet

Seafood Courses: Shrimp and Red Snapper plus a Pleasing Palate-Cleansing Sorbet

Out 6th course was a king prawn with potato puree and crispy potato, followed by red snapper with cauliflower curry sauce. We had a gorgeous sorbet cleanser with fresh pomelo pieces and roseline jelly.

Gudeg

Gudeg

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