Paris: Shang Palace

Elisa:

When a new luxury hotel opens – anywhere in the world –, the ultimate goal, aside from filling beds, is for the property to promote and sell its new identity. By doing so, they make known their uniqueness and differences that sets them apart from others; they allow the public to recognize and associate with them.
And that is what I believe Shangri-La Hotel has done well. Apart from the distinct design and architecture that well, you may say is essential for every hotel, almost all Shangri-La Hotels around the world – Singapore, Hongkong, Bangkok, Abu Dhabi, Phillipines (just to name a few) – houses the iconic Shang Palace restaurant. And now in Paris, Shang Palace restaurant become Europe’s first on 8th September 2011. It has since been awarded 1 Michelin star in 2012.
There aren’t many Cantonese restaurants in Paris and Shang Palace is by far one of the best. However, coming from Singapore where Cantonese specialties are plentiful, I was definitely skeptical and reserved of its quality. Overall, I would say that the food was great – but considering the fact that I had been in Paris for a week, stuffing myself mostly with French fine dining before finally coming here –, serving authentic dishes which tasted almost as authentic as the ones back at home. Without a doubt, I could get better ones at home, but this was nevertheless satisfying and pleasing. And with its flawlessly attentive by exquisitely discreet service, I couldn’t ask for more.

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Stepping into the restaurant, you’ll first notice the exceptional sumptuous decoration of modern Asian luxury dining, created by a specialist interior design team from Hong Kong. With crystal chandeliers overhead, gilded serving plates, silver-plated chop stick rests, it definitely reminded me of the Shang Palace restaurant back at home! It incontrovertibly lives up to its name, which means both ‘aromatic scent’ and ‘place for royalty’.
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First up, we had “Lo Hei” Salmonsalmon sashimi, shredded fruits, vegetables, sliced jellyfish and sesame dressing. This authentic dish is traditionally eaten during New Year where each ingredient has a unique meaning. The table’s server would first raise all the ingredients as high as possible above the diners’ plates, symbolizing good luck in the coming year, as well as explaining each of their meanings (See this New Year’s post here!). All diners at the table would then toss them together into the air with long chopsticks while saying various wishes. Well since it isn’t the New Year yet, this one came to us all mixed already. The fruits and vegetables were nicely julienned and provided a nice crunch in contrast to the soft jellyfish and salmon. The sesame dressing was a little too sweet I would say, but it definitely managed to bring the dish together as a whole
533746_10151242357972830_438080184_nThen, we had the traditional Peking duck. Well how could you not have Peking duck at a Cantonese restaurant? We were first served the bird’s beautifully roasted crispy skin, which we wrapped up in a delicate rice-flour pancake with chopped scallions, cucumbers and a smear of plum sauce. It’s a D-I-Y process, which is what I totally love about. I remember when I was young, I would stuff my pancake with loads of fillings and tons of sauce that it would be wet and dripping by the time I pick it up (Yes that’s a lot of sauce). And when I was done having my personal time of indulgence, my hands would be all dirty. Thank God for the wet towels that they provided us with. Well now, as I’ve grown up and understood the culture and tradition, I definitely appreciate just having a piece of flavorful crispy skin, P1040701with that thin layer of succulent fat beneath, a few pieces of crunchy scallions and cucumbers, and finished with a spoonful of plum sauce, all wrapped in a soft pancake. Sublime. However, the plum sauce was strangely a light brown colour, unlike the dark brown colour we usually have. It made us a little skeptical, given that it was a little sweet as well, but we later learned that they added a little soybean paste. Hmm, queer indeed.
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Barbequed Pork, or Char Siew/Siu we would say. If you ask me Chicken rice or Chari Siew rice (specialties of Singapore), I’ll definitely go for the latter, without a doubt. You may call me weird but it is just because of that tender, juicy, fatty piece of pork, with a slight caramelization at the ends, all glazed with a sweet honey sauce that makes me fall in love and crave it all the time. But of course, not all Char Siews are made equally – some are either not marinated long enough for the flavor to fully develop, or not glazed with enough sauce, while others do not have enough caramelizations, and others simply because they are cut either too thick, or too thin! And then there’s the saddest case where the ingredients are just not in the right ratio. Yes I’m a picky person but that’s how perfect my ideal Char Siew is (and well how every Chari Siew should be!). This one I would say was definitely just average. Although the meat was undoubtedly cut too thick, it was still slightly juicy and tender nevertheless. There could have been more caramelizations though, and the sauce was a little too sweet for my liking. It was alright I guess, but I didn’t go for seconds.
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Beef and Snow Peas stir-fry. Stir-fry is a Chinese cooking method where food is prepared in a wok. It is synonymous with the Western technique of sautéing. Firstly, a wok – a traditional round-botton cast iron pan – is heated to a high temperature. Cooking oil is then added to the wok, followed by dry seasonings such as garlic and ginger. When the fragrance has wafted through the air, the meat is added and stirred quickly. This is usually followed by vegetables along with other liquid ingredients such as soy sauce, chinese wine and vinegar. I felt that this dish was done well. The beef was flavourful and cooked perfectly and the snow peas still retained a slight crunch. This I went for seconds 🙂
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Then we had the second round of Peking duck where the duck meat is stir fried with onions and pine nuts (Hmmm, I don’t remember having pine nuts at home…). Another D-I-Y process, scoop as much meat as you like into an iceberg lettuce, top it off with as much plum sauce as you desire, and eat it taco style. I found this exceptionally flavourful and satisfying. Surprisingly, I love the pieces of pine nuts which provided that needed crunch against the luscious pieces of duck meat. It reminded me of the traditional crunchy crackers that we usually had with this dish. So I guess the pine nuts was a great and unique replacement!
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This was a stewed dish of eggplants and chicken served in a claypot. I love claypot dishes. Just imagine: All of you are talking merrily, laughing and smiling and a hot stone pot is placed on the table. You wouldn’t notice at first, of course, since you’re all caught up in the conversation with your love ones. And then when the lid is removed, a gesyer of steam unexpectedly rushes out and you get the mouthwatering and heady aromas. This time, you become cognizant of the dish in front of you – tender meats and vegetables sitting in a flavourful, concentrated sauce that is still bubbling. Yes just describing to you this process makes me hungry already. Ok, so that’s what exactly happens and we were quick to devour. Although it was delectable, I wouldn’t say it tastes authentic Chinese.

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Lobster with chives and garlic and stir-fry vermicelli. The lobster meat was tender, but again, I felt that the seasonings could have been a little bolder to accurately represent Chinese cooking. The vermicelli still had a little bite to them and I definitely enjoy slurping them all up Asian style!
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Last but not least, Black Sesame Glutinous Rice Balls, also known as Tang Yuan, for dessert. Tang Yuan is traditionally eaten during special occasions such as the Dongzhi festival to symbolize the day in the year where the day is the shortest. After this celebration, the Chinese believe that the days will be filled with more hours of sunlight. It is also eaten on Chinese New Year and Yuanxiao/Lantern Festival to symbolize offerings to the gods. But since it has become such a popular hit today, it is part of almost every Chinese restaurant’s dessert menu. There are many variants of Tang Yuan. They can be either filled with sesame paste, peanut paste or red bean paste, or unfilled at all; they can be of all sorts of sizes and colour; they can be served either in a sweet broth (again there’s many different types of broth) or totally dry. My favorite is definitely the Black Sesame Tang Yuan in Ginger and Rock Sugar soup. The Tang Yuan here was bursting with the black sesame paste and the skin almost felt too thin. Even though I love black sesame and anything sesame, this would have certainly been better if the skin was thicker to enclose all that sesame goodness. Also, the soup could have benefitted from a little more ginger and rock sugar, it seemed almost flavorless.
When my uncle told us that dinner would be at Shang Palace, I honestly couldn’t imagine myself having Chinese food in Paris, when we could have divine ones back at home. But I guess my uncle made a good choice! 1 whole week in Paris, c’mon all of us definitely needs a taste of home 🙂 Shang Palace definitely does its best to serve authentic Chinese food. However, their preparations are still timid that I believe the overall palate of this kitchen can improve with bolder preparations to proudly showcase confidently seasoned and authoritatively assertive Chinese cooking. That said, I believe that Shang Palace will be the Chinese restaurant that will accomplish the vital goal of drawing Parisians to the delicate Cantonese cuisine.
Shang Palace
Shangri-La Hotel
10 Avenue d’Iéna  
75116 Paris, France
Tel: +33 1 53 67 19 92
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This entry was posted in Chinese, Dinner, Paris, Travel to eat! :) and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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