Xin Tian Di is one of the most iconic tourist spots in Shanghai, perhaps second only to the Bund. As a result, it is naturally one of the prime locations for many restaurants and bars to pop up and down. Glasshouse is the latest addition to the strip, and I was fortunate to be in town to attend their soft opening media tasting.
Glasshouse is housed in the first floor of a building off one of the many alleys of Xin Tian Di. On the second floor of the same building is Italian restaurant, Va Bene. Note that both restaurants are from the Hong Kong Gaia group of restaurants.
Note that this was an invited media tasting. What you experience might differ, and also the dishes might get tweaked eventually based on all the feedback during this soft opening period.
Glasshouse is a series of restaurants, originating first from Hong Kong, where they also the restaurant of the same name, along with Townhouse and Greenhouse. The idea was to create a safe haven in the middle of the city for people from all parts of the world to come together, relax and escape temporarily from their various busy walks of life. The cuisine featured is modern asian with a western twist.
The decor of the restaurant was clean and simple with predominantly white and wooden tones. The interior was spacious with plenty of breathing room between tables. Glass walls were featured on the entrance and one side of the restaurant, which occasionally allowed one to peek at the people walking in and out of Xin Tian Di. This is not a posh place, and had more of a lounge/bistro feel. Quite relaxing indeed, and I approve! 8/10
As always with invited tastings, an unbiased score of 7.5 is given. You know the drill.
For the evening, we were presented with a special tasting menu of their signatures:
- Crispy Fries with Truffle Mayo
- Pink rice paper roll with smoked salmon, prawn, herbs and white balsamic
- Bacon wrapped scallops with shrimp sambal sauce
- Caesar salad with a fried runny egg, and spider jumbo soft-shell crab
- Singapore noodles with red lobster, serrano ham, goose liver and homemade curry
- Banana creme brulee with moscovado sugar and dark coffee.
We ordered a round of drinks to start, and Glasshouse boasts a large cocktail and drinks menu. I’m not a big drinker, but my friends from another table tried quite a number of cocktails, and the cocktails looked excellent and creative.
For me, I had the Mr Charming, and citrusy rum/gin based cocktail. Quite refreshing!
Lychee Iced Tea
My wife had the lychee iced tea, which was so tasty I ordered another one for myself. Super refreshing and thirst quenching in the summer weather. Iced tea with notes of lychee juice and a hint of rose, and topped with 2 whole lychees.
Crispy Fries with Truffle Mayo (RMB 58)
This looked quite generic, but turned out to be quite tasty. The fries had a light batter on them, almost like corn starch which gave each of them a light but crackling crisp. The flesh of the fries were moist but not drenched in oil, quite an interesting texture.
The truffle mayo was very full flavoured, and as you can see above, there were lots of truffle apparent in it.
That said, it’s a pity they weren’t using house-made chips, the manager had admitted that the fries were infact, sourced from a supplier. 7.5/10
Pink rice paper roll with smoked salmon, prawn, herbs and white balsamic. (RMB 78)
A vietnamese rice paper roll inspired dish with some Japanese influences. While this tasted fresh, it didn’t leave a particularly lasting impression. The white balsamic sauce was new to me, and had a light refreshing tang, and went well with the seafood ingredients of the roll. However, I didn’t feel any of the ingredients stood out in terms of flavour or creativity, nor did I detect anything special from the pink rice paper. 7/10
Caesar salad with softshell crab (RMB 138)
This caesar salad had a nice visual impact because of the impressive portion of fried components ontop of the salad — A whole soft shell crab, and a deep-fried egg that was runny in the middle.
The server would cut open the egg to allow it’s molten yolk to run all over the salad.
The crab was nicely fried and crispy, albeit parts of it had abit of fishiness.
Unfortunately, I felt that the components of the dish didn’t synergize well together to make a nice caesar salad. The crab wasn’t flavourfull enough to replace the usual bacon or anchovies in a classic caesar. The lettuce were served in whole leaves, which made it not only cumbersome to eat, but also difficult to toss well to coat with the salad dressing. If you want to serve whole leaves, you would have to do it like what Chef Tino did at Gaia 2: brushing every leaf individually with salad dressing before assembly. Missing was also the parmesan component of a classic caesar. With regret, I can only give a 6/10
Bacon wrapped scallops with shrimp sambal sauce (RMB58 for 2 scallops per skewer)
Bacon wrapped scallops is a popular way of preparing scallops in the west, although in Asia, I believe many people prefer scallops in their natural delicate flavour. It was interesting to find a sambal sauce paired with this. The sambal sauce was quite acidic for my liking, although it did have a nice fiery kick.
The scallops were nicely plump and juicy, accented by the smokey aroma of bacon.
Although the Americans would agree that bacon makes anything better, in this case, I would actually have preferred a few sticks of simply grilled/seared scallops with salt and pepper. That is however, a personal preference. I also only like my bacon crispy, no less. The red strips on top which I presume to by chilli strips looked nice, but didn’t add any extra dimensions of tastes to the dish. It was however comforting to find the scallops well, but not overcooked. 7.5/10
Singapore noodles with red lobster, serrano ham, goose liver and homemade curry (RMB 158)
Singapore noodles, aka Xing Zhou Mi Fen is one of those dishes that do not exist in its suggested place of origin. Largely originated from Canton/Hong Kong, this is a classic fried vermicelli dish that is seasoned with curry powder and boasts a varied array of condiments like strips of ham, char shiu, mushrooms, prawns, etc.
The version at Glasshouse aimed to elevate this noodle dish with premium ingredients — lobster, serrano ham, foie gras and their own housemade curry.
I was delighted to find that their rendition of the dish stayed true to the origin flavours, with the various premium ingredients adding much interest while eating along with tons of flavour.
Lobster was bouncy but not rubbery. Foie gras pieces were nicely seared on the sides and creamy within. Serrano ham provided a salty accent to the noodles. The curry flavour was pleasant and apparent throughout the noodles. More importantly for me, was that the fried noodle dish did not have an entire salad fried together with it — something that really annoys me in many other Hongkong cafe places. I felt that this was a fusion dish done well. 8.5/10
Banana creme brulee with moscovado sugar and dark coffee (RMB 78)
An intriguing creme brulee, served on a shallow pan with caramelized banana slices topped over it. A jar of rum was poured over for a rather strong flambe…
… followed by a pouring of a shot of espresso to put out the flambe.
Truth be told, I’ve never seen a creme brulee like this before. Caramelized banana, custard, rum, dark coffee. I thought it was a super bold attempt, but one that worked very well.
The coffee juxtaposed with the sweetness of the bananas and custard to create an unusual harmony of flavours. The texture of the custard was spot on, although I had wished there would be some sort of a crispy glaze ontop of the bananas, the dish felt one dimensionally soft for a creme brulee. All things considered, I would eat this again, and it gets a 8/10
This was only a small sample of quite a robust menu at Glasshouse. It would take quite a few trips to be able to sample everything on the menu, and I actually do urge you to do so, perhaps in the coming weeks after they have ironed out some of the issues and tweaked their menu.
Prices are slightly above average in general, but quite acceptable for a place in Xin Tian Di.