Ok there is no such actual pier in Shanghai, but as you might have guessed, Mystic Pier 17 is the name of a restaurant in Shanghai, a new one at that, featuring fresh oysters from the west coast of the United States.
Firstly, this was an invited tasting, a big thank you to Jennifer and the owner Paul for the generous invitation.
Mystic Pier 17 is located in the Gubei area of Shanghai, an area that is a little distance away from the city center, but boasts a large community of Taiwanese, Japanese and Koreans. Naturally, there are no shortages of said community’s respective restaurants in this area. New York seafood bistro however? Not that many!
The owner is actually Taiwanese, but had lived in the United States for over 30 years, before coming to Shanghai and setting up this restaurant. The motive? To share his passion and love for fresh oysters and clams at very reasonable prices!
The structure of Mystic Pier 17 is actually quite interesting. There is a lounge / party area on the first floor, an outdoor patio on the 2nd floor, and also a large indoors dining area.
Decor is modern, with a laid back family feel. It’s not a place for fine dining, but more of a place where you feel at home, a place for a nice Sunday after-church lunch.
The owner had hired a talented graffiti artist to impart an artistic touch to the restaurant, as a matter of fact, this is the first restaurant I’ve seen in Shanghai with a full wall murals.
Very interesting! 8/10
As with most of my invited tastings, I will give the restaurant an unbiased score of 7/10. Mystic Pier 17 had only soft-opened in Christmas 2014, and are currently tweaking all elements of the restaurant, from food to service before launching with a bang. 7/10
First up were these fresh Saddle Rock oysters, which are one of New York’s most iconic and oldest oyster types. Unlike the (currently) very popular Gillardeau oysters being sold all over Shanghai, Saddle Rock oysters are much smaller and flatter. They have a soft and creamy mouth feel, with a very light and balanced flavour profile. This makes Saddle Rock oysters a very good oyster for the first timer raw oyster diner. The only affecting criteria would then be the freshness of the oysters. How did the ones at Mystic Pier 17 fare?
Very good. As a matter of fact, my wife and brother in law got their oyster enlightenment at Mystic Pier 17, eating their virgin raw oyster, and more importantly, enjoying every moment of it. Naturally, they were hesitant at first, but very quickly got hooked after slurping the first oyster into their mouths. We enjoyed it so much we requested for an encore of Kumamoto oysters to try.
Kumamoto oysters are even smaller, more irregular in shape because these were wild farmed. Flavour-wise, these were fishier than the Saddle Rock oysters, closer to the Chinese oysters many of us in Singapore grew up eating.
The raw clams were a first for me, and surprisingly, had a very nice bite (basically like cooked clams), while containing a delicate sweetness. No raw fishy seafood taste as imagined at all. Cockles on the hand…are another story, for another day.
Saddle Rock oysters at Mystic Pier 17 are very affordable, at only 30 RMB per oyster. Buy a dozen and get 6 free. In my books, it is worth travelling down just to enjoy these lovely oysters.
To compare with the recent Gillardeau oysters I’ve had? I’ll take a dozen of Saddle Rock any day. 9/10
Seafood Cocktail Platter.
The cocktail platter consisted of cocktail shrimps, scallops and a conch dish. The shrimp was very fresh and bouncy; They went very very well with the special cocktail sauce. I enjoyed this very much.
The scallops was less enjoyable, served raw and lightly torched on the surface with a sweet teriyaki-like sauce. It didn’t look good, and I would have never guessed I was tasting scallops if this was a blind taste test. As I’ve mentioned many times, I feel the best way to enjoy scallops is to simply sear both sides till golden brown with some salt and pepper.
The conch was seasoned with a light sesame soy dressing, and was refreshingly tasty. Slightly similar to the cantonese jellyfish dish that is often featured at the start of banquets.
All in all, this platter gets a score of 7/10, marred by the scallops.
Mystic Pier 17 feature a trio of soups, we tried the clam chowder, lobster bisque and our non-seafood-eating companion had the borsch.
The clam chowder as pictured above was very hearty and had many pieces of clams and assorted vegetables in it. While it was well seasoned, I thought it was a little starchy, hinting that the soup was likely to have been thickened with corn starch instead of cream. 7.5/10
The lobster bisque had a nice but non-overpowering lobster flavour, but suffers the same starchiness as the chowder. There were pieces of ‘lobster’ meat in it, but upon closer inspection, they were probably prawn/shrimp meat. That said, it wasn’t too bad, but I thought it was quite weird to see vegetables in the lobster bisque. 7.5/10
The borsch not pictured here, tasted quite similar to the one I usually cook at home. Lots of vegetables and some meat. Quite normal if I have to be critical of it, but not bad tasting. 7.5/10
Yes yes, I can’t remember the name of the fish that was used… that said, I do remember that the owner said this was sourced directly from the fishermen in Xiang Shan, hence the freshness is unparalleled. The freshness was reflected positively in the taste, as this was the best dish of the day. Very nice firm yet tender meat, with a slightly charred surface. Perfect. Charred seafood never fail to have that amazing umami flavour. The grilled long beans were done and charred nicely too. However I felt this dish could use one more element, like a creamy mashed potato or something. 8/10
New York Strip
We were actually hungering for a good steak that day. Learning beforehand that Mystic Pier specialised in New York style cuisine, I had my hopes up high for a good steak. Unfortunately, my hopes were let down.
The sirloin was insufficiently charred and quite carelessly grilled, as you can tell from the messy grill marks. The side layer of fat was still porcelain white, which meant the chef did not turn the steak on its side to cook the side strip of fat. The quality of the beef was also a little questionable, and I suggested to the owner to re-evaluate their source.
The dish also needed a starch component like a potato mash. The black pepper sauce was ok, but quite chinese inspired. Vegetables were nicely cooked. 3/10
The star of the show was a Tomahawk Pork chop.
The tomahawk is usually used for bone-in ribeye. Mystic Pier 17 has taken on that concept, and twisted it on Pork to present this amazing looking Tomahawk Pork Chop.
On paper and presentation, it looked great. However in execution, the pork chop was dry and overdone. The rib area on the other hand was very moist and tasty, mainly because of the charred aroma, and also because there was more fatty tissue around the ribs.
If the chef can somehow cook the pork chop so that it remains moist and tender, this would be the star dish of Mystic Pier 17. A sweet and sour BBQ-like sauce to accompany the pork would have been great too. The pickled vegetables on the side had too much of a clove flavour, in my opinion. Again, this dish lacked a starch component. 6/10
Bread pudding. Bread pudding came in the form of a party size portion, usual individual portions are smaller. This was very enjoyable, after the disappointing mains. The cold ice cream juxtaposed against the warm and crispy yet soft toast provided a very comforting conclusion to the meal. 8/10
In conclusion, the mains at Mystic Pier 17 definitely need some work. This is the owner’s first venture in the restaurant business, so there are definitely some hurdles to overcome. I felt that the seafood aspect of the restaurant was very strong, and remained a strong highlight of the restaurant. The appetizers while not yet fantastic, simply needed a little refinement to reach a good score.
The meats however, really needed work. All that said, I say this again, the 30 RMB Saddle Rock oysters alone, are enough reason to hop on a cab to Guyang Lu @ Mystic Pier 17.