Flame bar and grill is a steakhouse located in the high end Kerry Centre shopping mall at Jing an, Shanghai. I was there yesterday evening for a rather pleasant China Restaurant Week dinner, together with my Dutch friend for our bi-weekly meet-up. I was initially concerned about the quantity of the meal, because our appetisers were really amuse-bouche size.
Luckily, we finished the meal entirely stuffed and satisfied.
The RMB 258 menu consisted of some rather attractive items, an Alaskan King Crab cake, mushroom soup with white truffle oil, and an Alaskan King Crab fusilli. While I was initially attracted by both of the Alaskan King Crab items, I went for the steak main eventually.
Flame bar & grill has a very modern decor, with an open kitchen partitioned with glass panels. The music was a little loud and busy, but my Dutch friend liked it, saying that it reminded him of his youth.
Service was friendly and courteous, with every waiter/waitress that we encountered on our way in and out greeting us, and saying farewell with a smile.
Shortly after our order, we were brought the bread basket, but was a little disappointed that we could only pick one bread. I had the cheese roll, which was normal — nothing to shout about. Butter was provided, but it wasn’t room temperature, but rock solid.
A pleasant surprise came in the form of a complimentary amuse bouche — A ham croquette. The croquette had a delightfully thin and crisp crust. Upon breaking it apart, a soft and creamy potato mash infused with smoked ham bits oozed out. Flavours and texture were on point, the crisp panko crust juxtaposed against the warm velvety center. Lovely. 8.5/10
Next up was the first starter, the Alaskan King Crab cake. I was disappointed to see one single crab cake on the plate, even more so after tasting it — because I wanted more.
This had the similar panko crust as the amuse bouche, and was about 3 inches wide.
I was pleased to find the crab cake full of crab meat, as if it was an actual piece of crab. The crab cake didn’t have a lot of unnecessary spices and seasonings, which allowed the natural sweetness of the crab meat to really shine. The remoulade sauce and a mysterious black sauce on the side added more depth and umami to each bite. I suspect the black sauce might have been a squid ink sauce. If only we were given two cakes instead of one. *sad face* 9/10
Next up was the mushroom soup with white truffle oil. Naturally, it was the truffle keyword that attracted me to order the dish. I would describe this as a puddle of soup, albeit a very, very good puddle. The menu did not say what mushroom was used, but I’m guessing it was made with cremini mushrooms. The mushroom flavour was very rich and apparent, infused with cream and multiple strainings, the soup was smooth as silk, with no mushroom bits at all in the soup. The slivers of roasted mushrooms on top gave some texture and another blast of mushroom umami.
The truffle oil was actually infused in the soup, and not dropped on individual servings. As such, it was really subtle, almost non-existant if I wasn’t looking for it. It would have been nice to have 2-3 drops of truffle oil on each serving instead of having the truffle oil pre-incorporated, and again, it would really be great to have an actual bowl of soup, as opposed to a puddle which we devoured in about 6 spoonfuls. 8/10
At this point, I was getting worried. Am I going to have to pay a visit to McDonalds after this meal to complete my dinner? What have I gotten myself into for RMB258? Will I get a 220g piece of tenderloin as advertised?
Thankfully, our steaks arrived, and it was indeed a 220g hefty piece of Australian beef. It looked small at first, but it had height.
I only learned later from their regular menu, that their steaks are charcoal grilled over binchotan — A highly valued white charcoal from Japan that burns at unusually high temperatures, allowing the food items to achieve a high heat sear. This allows one to achieve a thin charred crust on the steak like it was seared on a pan, but still have the smokey goodness of a charcoal grill.
That said, I thought it was still abit stingy to only pair the steak with one broccoli flower, and a swipe of their creamy mash.
The tenderloin was cooked perfectly medium, and was dry and crusty on the outside, while pink and juicy inside. We were given a separate plate of seasonings, which contained a whole slew of condiments: Black pepper, horse-radish, pickles, dijon mustard, sea salt and paprika.
I enjoyed my steak best when dipped in just a speckle of sea salt, and then with some paprika. The steak wasn’t seasoned much on its own, so a little bit of salt helped to bring out the flavour more.
At the end of the course, I was pleasantly and quite profoundly full. Why profound? Because moments ago, I was very sure from the size of their starters, that this was going to be a lacklustre meal in terms of quantity. Surprisingly, the portions were managed just, right. 8/10
Shortly after, our plates were cleared, and desserts were served. The dessert of the evening was a strawberry mille-feulle, or in layman’s terms, a strawberry napoleon. Paired with the layered pastry was a strawberry sorbet, and 3 raspberries.
The strawberry sorbet tasted very citrusy, barely detected any hints of strawberries at all. We asked the waiter at first, to find out what flavour the sorbet was. The manager came by and explained that it was a strawberry sorbet, with only a little strawberry. Hmmm…. right. It was rested on a mound of pomelo flesh, which tasted sweeter and more flavourful than any other element on the plate.
The actual pastry was light and had a light fragrance of baked cheese. The mascarpone that bound the layers together was lacklustre, and so were the quality of the strawberries used, perhaps because strawberries aren’t in season. All in all, the entire strawberry dessert tasted very little of strawberry, with the strongest and most sour flavours coming from the 3 raspberries. I have had quite a few run-ins with raspberries, and I have to say, I have never, ever, tasted a raspberry that is sweet. This was a very lacklustre dessert, compared with the other parts of the meal. I felt both the pairing of the components and their individual qualities didn’t shine. This is miles away from the strawberry napoleons at Mr Nice Cafe. 5/10
The house chilean wine was very acidic and not very drinkable. My friend said his blueberry mojito was… interesting.
I asked for their regular menu before we left, and learnt that our 220g tenderloin’s usual price was RMB 350. That explained why the starters were so small, because they had to cut back to justify the RMB258 set meal which included a RMB 350 item.
They have a RMB350 and RMB450 prix fixe menu which boasts 4-5 courses, and had some interesting items. It might be something to consider every once a while, for a special occasion.