An excellent evening with the Bocuse d’Or Team China in Shanghai

9th December 2016

Watch the Bocuse d’Or video on Youku (China)

Watch the Bocuse d’Or video on Youtube

The Bocuse d’Or is a 30 year old culinary competition, founded by legendary French chef, Paul Bocuse. Until this day, the Bocuse d’Or is still held every 2 years in Lyon, and is considered one of, if not the most prestigious culinary achievements in the world.

Make China great again
Together, we can make China great again

Multiple Michelin star-winning Chef Stefan Stiller has headed the Bocuse d’Or China Team since 2008, and hopes to showcase to the world that China can make it’s mark in the western culinary championships.

That is not saying that China does not have good western chefs, there is a minor caveat with participating in the Bocuse d’Or — every team comprises of 2 chefs, 1 head chef, 1 assistant and 1 coach. The assistant need to be UNDER 22 years old at the time of the competition, and the coach can only give verbal instructions.

The current Bocuse d’Or team China consists of chefs from the restaurants: Sir Elly’s, Yi Long Court and Tai’an Table.

The current candidate is Chef Peter Lin (Lin Weilong), sous chef at Sir Elly’s. Coaching the team is Chef Lucien Gautier, Chef Li Yang as Commis (assistant) and Chef Stefan Stiller as president.

Said < 22 year old chefs
The dream team

I was honored to be invited to his private fund raiser dinner for the Bocuse d’Or team at Sir Elly’s, Peninsula Shanghai. A fund raiser is required because the team is pretty much self-funded, which means they’d need to find sponsors and donors for the good cause, in order to make the trip happen.

Sit anywhere you want.
Sit anywhere you want.

Ok now that the important information is over, let’s look at some food porn.

We were served a total of 9 dishes that evening, with 5 dishes from Sir Elly’s, 2 from Tai’an Table and 2 from Yi Long Court.

Sir Elly’s and Tai’an Table both own 1 Michelin Star each, and Yi Long Court has 2 Michelin Stars.

Note that these dishes are not the actual dishes that will be presented for the competition.

King Crab, Quail Egg, Meyer Lemon Jam
King Crab, Quail Egg, Meyer Lemon Jam

King Crab, Quail Egg, Meyer Lemon Jam

By Sir Elly’s

This was the amuse bouche, meant for one bite. The crab meat was bouncy and had a good toothy bite — super fresh. Lemon flavours complemented the crab very well and didn’t overpower the entire bite, there were some unknown crunchy bits in between, some croutons of sorts, which added some nice alternate textures to the crab. The quail egg yolk, while it’s flavour was subtle, added a smooth finish to the bite. Lovely.

Scallop Ceviche, Lemongrass, Coconut, Lime, Crouton
Scallop Ceviche, Lemongrass, Coconut, Lime, Crouton

Scallop Ceviche, Lemongrass, Coconut, Lime, Crouton

By Sir Elly’s

The scallop ceviche was beautifully presented on a bed of pomelo jelly, something which was left out in the menu description. The large scallops were sliced thinly, something that requires good knife skills because you’re working with fresh scallops here.

While the fruity flavours of the pomelo, lime and lemongrass were pleasant, I felt they overpowered the sweet natural flavours of the scallop. Perhaps it was because the scallops were sliced too thinly.

Double Boiled Black Chicken Soup, Bok Choy, Fish Maw, Matsutake
Double Boiled Black Chicken Soup, Bok Choy, Fish Maw, Matsutake

Double Boiled Black Chicken Soup, Bok Choy, Fish Maw, Matsutake

By Yi Long Court

This was a very traditional cantonese style double boiled soup, that cantonese mums (mine included) would make at home, albeit maybe not with such a premium ingredient like Matsutake.

The trait of a good cantonese double boiled soup is that it must look crystal clear and have good clean, gentle flavours from the ingredients. This was exactly the case with this soup from Yi Long Court. What was impressive was that the matsutake mushrooms and black chicken had still retained some lovely flavours despite having them extracted into the soup.

Blue Lobster from Lobster Royal
Blue Lobster from Lobster Royal

Blue Lobster Royal, Dill Oil, Kaluga Queen Caviar, Silky Custard

By Tai’an Table

This was the show stopper of the evening by Tai’an Table. A lobster served two ways.

Poached lobster meat in a reduced lobster broth. The lobster was cooked perfectly such that it was moist and succulent, tender but still retaining bite. The seasoning was also perfect. Paired with the  equally perfectly seasoned lobster broth, every mouthful simply shut out everything else going on in the dining room, and locked me in a umami trance.

Lobster Custard with Kaluga Queen Caviar
Lobster Custard with Kaluga Queen Caviar

Part 2 was even more impressive. A custard made from the lobster broth, with lobster leg meat within, drizzled with dill oil. The custard had a texture like soft tofu; Softer than a chinese steamed egg. What was most stunning was the marvellously balanced but complex flavours of the custard, one could taste an umami explosion created from the fusion of eggs, lobster, caviar and dill oil. It was a classic example of a masterful dish where you don’t taste an exact flavour of an ingredient in the dish, yet you seem to taste everything at the same time. Bravo.

Steamed East Spotted Grouper, Hairy Crab Roe
Steamed East Spotted Grouper, Hairy Crab Roe

Steamed East Spotted Grouper, Hairy Crab Roe

By Yi Long Court

The next dish had big shoes to fill. It was a steamed grouper fish on hairy crab roe sauce. Steamed fish is a classic cantonese way of eating fish, and a clean and healthy way to enjoy a good, fresh fish. Hairy crab roe is the most overused ingredient of the season, although the hairy crab season is coming to an end. I felt this dish, while expertly prepared, felt a little one dimensional. The fish was simply steamed with little to no extra seasonings such as ginger or spring onions.

The grouper fish, of course, was of exceptional quality. Tender, but still bouncy to the bite.

The hairy crab roe didn’t taste fishy, and was delicately balanced between crab and salty flavours in a starch-thickened sauce.

Don’t get me wrong, it was a good and tasty dish, but not mindblowing.

Pan Seared Rougie Foie Gras
Pan Seared Rougie Foie Gras

Pan Seared Rougie Foie Gras, Red Cabbage, Apple Chutney, Spiced Port Wine Glaze

By Tai’an Table

Back to Tai’an Table’s second offering of the evening. An entire piece of Rougie Foie Gras, perfectly pan-seared, rich yet delicate flavours and textures. The red cabbage and apple chutney had a strong but balanced mix of sweet, sour and slightly spicy flavours, which in accordance with the festive season, incorporated ‘Christmas flavours’ such as nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves with a hit of ginger for spice. Beautiful looking, expertly crafted and sheer pleasure to eat.

Wagyu Beef, Cauliflower Garden, Fresh Truffle
Wagyu Beef, Cauliflower Garden, Fresh Truffle

Wagyu Beef, Cauliflower Garden, Fresh Truffle

By Sir Elly’s

Our last course was a Wagyu beef from Sir Elly’s. The beef, I believe to be a tenderloin was cooked uniformly medium rare, likely sous vide. It was a tender, juicy and delicately sweet piece of what I believe to be grass-fed beef. The sauce that accompanied the beef was excellent — a thick consome-like reduction with slithers of meat fibre visible. It was truly delicious.

Beautiful even doneness.
Beautiful even doneness.

The cauliflower garden was a little arrangement composed of various components, all made with cauliflower. The seemingly solid base was actually a soft puree. This was the level of creativity and execution I was expecting, and the take on ‘steak with cauliflower puree’ dish was inventive and exceeded my expectations.

Cucumber and olives
Cucumber and olives

Cucumber Sorbet, Olive Oil, Yoghurt

By Sir Elly’s

The cucumber flavours really shone through in the refreshing palate cleanser / pre-dessert. A little bit of olive oil at the base gave an alternative strange yet familiar finish in the mouth.

Chestnut Flan, Mango Sorbet with Bergamot Essence, Earl Grey Tea Foam and White Chocolate
Fancy sunny side up for dessert

Chestnut Flan, Mango Sorbet with Bergamot Essence, Earl Grey Tea Foam and White Chocolate

By Sir Elly’s

The single dessert did not fail in standing up against its 8 counterparts before it, both in terms of execution and complexity.

It arrived looking amusingly like a fried egg. The yolk was in fact mango slices, the whites were earl grey tea foam with the chestnut flan hidden underneath.

The mango slices were actually a little sour when eaten on their own, but mix together with the chestnut flan and foam, the flavours all blended in perfectly together.

A masterful dessert that tasted as beautiful as it looked.

Obviously this is not so much of a restaurant review, so no scores are given. Overall I was very impressed with the offerings from Sir Elly’s and Tai’an Table. Maybe expect a full review on these restaurants in future for a more in depth look.

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