Warning: Extreme graphic images of fatty beef ahead. Proceed at your own risk.
My 2nd and last booking for Shanghai Restaurant Week was at the famed UNICO by Michelin 2 star chef, Mauro Colagreco. As you can tell, my strategy for SRW this year was to visit the high-end celebrity restaurants that you usually wouldn’t be able to eat at for 258RMB. The evening’s dinner started out beautifully, but unfortunately had a disastrous ending.
Located again, on 3 on the Bund, this time on the second floor. UNICO had recently went through a revamp, converting its once high and fine dining vibe to a modern chic dining lounge sort of feel. The menu had also gone through a transformation into its current version 3.0.
The lighting is dim but tables were well lit with spotlights, making them extremely photographer friendly. The kitchen is open, and is presented in one long stretch when one visits the bathroom. There are dining tables as well as ‘lounge tables’ throughout the restaurant, although I gathered the lounge tables would have been a little low for people to dine comfortably. 8/10
UNICO was very busy on our visit on a Sunday evening at 8. As such, we waited for nearly 15minutes AFTER we had placed our order, before some bread came. Servers did not make any mention of the wait time, nor any other matter until later in the dinner. 8/10
This was the speciality house bread, which was delightful. Perhaps because we were very hungry. This bread was soft, warm, fluffy and salty. I thought the shape was quite unique. It was absolutely delicious on it’s own, and also dipped in olive oil. 8/10
Foie Gras Mousse. Modern and chic. This was exactly what I had expected from a restaurant of this calibre, and it tasted as great as it looked. Foie Gras mousse topped with a piece of seared foie, and some candied crystals scattered on top. The mousse was rich and decadent, with a full bodied foie gras taste. The piece of pan seared foie gras on top was just as good, and infact, one realised how pure and concentrated the mousse was, because both components tasted nearly the same.
The candied crystals offered a sweet counterpart to the rich and fatty taste. A piece of potato chip was placed beneath the glass, and added some crunch and variety to the dish. It was worth noting that the portion was also very generous. 8.5/10
Fresh Anchovies Pissaladiere.
Composed of fresh anchovies, red onion, boiled egg, and dressed in a citrus dressing on top of MC’s signature bread.
This tasted very mediterranean, and refreshingly so. The anchovy fillets were flavourful and not fishy. All the components went together with each other very well, and stood proud on their own. Egg was well cooked— cooked through with a soft yolk. The bread was labelled as “MC” bread, which meant it was a MC signature, however I thought it was nothing too special. 8/10
Homemade Pork “Rillettes” Terrine
Again, super generous portions in this course. Rich and fatty pork that had been mashed into a pate. Served with toasted bread and some pickles. Flavour-wise, I thought the terrine was abit one dimensional, which essentially tasted like salty fatty pork. It was a good decision to pair it with some pickles to offset the greasiness. All that said, I would probably never order this. 6/10
Asado Beef Short Rib on Parilla.
The beef at UNICO are charcoal grilled.
I was struggling to decide whether or not to write this review, because of this dish, or rather, the experience all 3 of us had with it. So far, all the food we had that evening was good.
I had previously seen pictures of this short rib, and also on the table of other diners that evening; It was gloriously huge. Short ribs in many places usually come in small chopped ribs, however the version at UNICO almost looked like a mini tomahawk steak, of which I am a big fan of, especially if charcoal grilled.
A huge commando-like knife was presented to cut the beef, which was very nice and unique. The knife was sharp and sturdy in the hand.
That said, the ribs that came on all 3 of our plates that evening were incredibly fat. If I were to estimate, I would go as far as to describe them as 80% fat, 20% meat. The flavour was amazing because of the charcoal smokiness, but it was simply too fat to eat without feeling like throwing up.
We ordered medium, but all 3 were done of varying done-ness between medium and medium rare. It was a huge pity because this would have been a marvellous main course.
All 3 of us couldn’t eat more than a few bites, my wife was already overdosed with the greasiness. I was trying to man-up and get a few more bites in. My other companion was deciding if this was the way beef short rib usually is; I am pretty sure it is not.
The waiter took note of our difficulty, and offered to replace the beef. I asked if other diners have had the same complaint, and he said that actually we were the first to say that the short rib was overly fatty. I asked another fellow foodie who was at UNICO for the same meal, and he said that the rib he had was entirely lean. Anyway, long story short, we had another rib prepared for my companion, and this was how it turned out:
In the end, the waiter offered to change our companion’s main to the sea bass, of which I am very thankful and appreciative of.
Sea bass & Yunnan truffle mash. I didn’t personally eat this because both my wife and I were feeling quite tired from the greasiness. We were offered a round of cocktails to sooth the heaviness, and I picked mango based rum cocktail. It did help abit.
I am deeply apologetic that we wasted 4 short ribs, but sincerely wished we could have eaten it all if it wasn’t so fatty. For the experience we had, I can only give it a 4/10, points go to the beautiful smokiness and the fact that it was a generous serving. A chimichurri sauce might helped offset the fattiness a little bit.
Exotique Ice Cream Nougat. I like nougat candy alot, hence I picked this dessert. Presentation was cute and petite. Taste-wise, quite de rigeur. Nothing quite fancy to shout about. Raspberry was sour. 6/10
Chocolate Mousse and Ice Cream.
Given our state of mind at that time, a heavy dessert was clearly a bad idea. Chocolate fanatics would adore this dessert as it was extremely rich and chocolatey. For me, a little too much with no other element to provide a counterpoint. The single raspberry garnish was again, sour. 6/10
All in all, I hope I won’t get flamed badly for this review, but it was indeed the experience we had.
I applaud the waiter for attending to our concern and compensating with a re-fire, drinks and a mille feuille. Problem was that we really, really wanted a good steak that evening, instead of extra drinks and dessert.
I hope that it was a one time fluke with the beef ribs, and perhaps I will be back another time to try a proper steak on that gorgeous charcoal grill, but based on our experience that evening, I can only recommend the starters and bread.