For many foodies, including myself, the thought of a east-meets-west fusion themed restaurant usually results a grimace and scoff. The reason is because it is simply very difficult to achieve a balance in the food from two cultures, catering for people of various cultures. It is a fine line to walk, with a 100% guarantee that there will be pundits blaming your food for not being authentic to their cultural roots.
Xixi Bistro closed in their previous location, but have re-opened in a new location near Xin Tian Di.
Enter Xixi Bistro. A joint and very bold attempt at achieving east-meets-west fusion by Pier (FUMO, IVA) and Ivan. The idea was to incorporate elements of European cuisine into Chinese Cuisine, particularly Italian and Shanghainese. The decision to choose fusion was because there was already a saturation of European restaurants, so they wanted to do something new and give a little surprise. Xixi was actually named after the lady who lived in the exact house 30 years ago. Apparently, she came into contact with many foreign figures back in the day, and thought of introducing their ingredients into her traditional chinese cooking. Kudos to Pier and Ivan for accomplishing lady Xixi’s dream.
Located on Wuyuan Lu, the same street hosts a few other small cafes and hipster-like eateries. Remember in my last review of Coquille, I mentioned that rare are restaurants that make you feel like you’ve entered another world when you enter? Xixi is another one of those.
As you walk past the big window, you catch a glimpse of the modernist feel. Going past the window, landing at the main entrance, suddenly you are transported back to a traditional chinese residential entrance.
A single unmarked door opens up to the world of Xixi Bistro.
The decor was superbly done with taste; Strong hints of nostalgic Chinese elements, yet, every ornament carefully placed with precision.
I liked the red lanterns hanging outside, the super chinese walkway at the entrance, the vintage floral wallpapers and the modern floral plates.
Tables were plentiful and well spaced apart. At the back of the restaurant is a large outdoor area with more seats and heaters during winter.
All in all, i thought the decor of the restaurant was very, very cool. 9/10
Xixi gets very busy in the evenings, especially towards weekends. As this was an invited tasting, an unbiased score of 7.5 is given. That said, I noticed the floor staff were very efficient and customers came and went smoothly.
As I had already mentioned, the food at Xixi Bistro is fusion between East and West. Chinese vs styles from Europe. While some dishes were mediocre, many of them were actually very well thought out and innovative. All that said, if you intend to visit Xixi Bistro, do so with an open mind, and you will find yourself more easily pleased. No point walking into Xixi Bistro expecting superbly authentic Chinese or Western cuisine.
Smoked Salmon Bruschetta / Wasabi Shrimp Bruschetta (25rmb)
These bruschetta were served on crispy glutinous rice crackers in place of bread.
While I did enjoy the fresh tasting toppings, I thought the rice cracker base were abit dense and hard. To be honest, I’ve never enjoyed the original snack on it’s own, mainly because of the chewy texture. That said, the salmon and shrimp toppings were very well seasoned and had great flavours. 8/10
Black agaric, Okra with sichuan pepper dressing (25rmb)
A light tasting appetizer with a Sichuan-style cold-tossed dressing. Okra were fresh and crunchy. Pine nuts added more textural layers. 8/10
Ice Plant Salad (New)
This was a very popular ingredient last year, in restaurant circles because of the ice-like leaves appearance. In actual fact, the vegetable doesn’t have much flavours, and is more of a visual and textural gimmick. This new special at Xixi had a classic sesame peanut dressing, and actually paired quite well with the ice plant. Sadly, the dish was quite forgettable. 7/10
Spicy Fermented Quail Eggs (20rmb)
This was Xixi’s take on the classic chinese century egg tofu dish; A dish very common in local restaurants all over Shanghai. The tofu and avocado combination had already been tried in a few places, and has proven to be a successful pairing in recent times. The addition of Century Quail eggs however, was truly interesting. It was my first time trying the quail version of the fermented egg ingredient, and it was pleasantly nice. Although smaller in bite, the quail versions of Century eggs prove a stronger flavour punch. This dish is meant to be eaten with all ingredients together as a whole, upon doing that, you are rewarded with a profound combinations of flavours and textures in the mouth. 8.5/10
Lotus Caprese (30rmb)
This was another one of those dishes that made you go “wow, why didn’t I think of that?” when you first lay eyes on it. The lotus chips had a beautiful light crunch. The dish, when bitten into, brought together flavours of the tomatoes, basil and cheese from Italy alongside the Chinese lotus root chips in a harmonious pairing. 8.5/10
Bamboo Carpaccio (New)
This was was abit of a stretch. A vegetable carpaccio. They used a ‘Lao Gan Ma’ type of sauce on the bamboo shoot slices, resulting in quite a fiery bite. That said, the dish had nice strong flavours throughout, but was nothing memorable. 7.5/10
Deep-fried Camembert with Potatoes (48rmb)
Not sure how this dish fits in the fusion spectrum, perhaps the deep-fried cheese were meant to emulate deep-fried tofu. Regardless, the oven roasted potatoes were out of place. I liked that the fried cheese had a light and crispy crust. I also liked that it was oozing out luxury when bitten into. Identity-wise, I thought it was very confused. Nevertheless, based on taste, 8/10
Spinach / Pumpkin / Ragu Ravioli Jiaozi (25/20/28rmb)
Folded in the Chinese ingot method. These were briefly pan-seared on the bottom before being served with a sprinkling of scallions and sesame seeds.
The spinach was one of the crowd favourites. Wrapper together with a cream cheese filling. The two ingredients went well with each other and was perfectly presented in a light crispy dumpling skin.
The pumpkin was more mediocre, with the promised bacon lacking.
The ragu was surprisingly fitting for the jiaozi presentation, and tasted very rounded and well seasoned.
All in all, I applaud the bold attempts at re-inventing the ancient chinese jiaozi with western fillings. They worked quite well. 8.5/10
Pesto Fried Rice (35rmb)
This was a light looking and tasting fried rice. To be honest, I didn’t detect the pesto flavours strongly in the dish. It was, however, a well fried and seasoned fried rice. 7.5/10
Iberico Sausage Fried Rice (38rmb)
This was a very lackluster fried rice. Despite the dark looking rice, suggesting that it would be bursting with flavour, the rice was actually quite bland. The accompanied iberico sausage were quite flavourful, but somehow didn’t manage to impart their flavours to the rice. Shame. 6/10
Fried Noodles with Bacon, Soy sauce, Mushrooms and Celery (35rmb)
This looked like Xixi’s take on ‘Singaporean-style fried vermicelli’. Capelinni AKA Angel-hair Pasta was used instead. We detected a slight burnt taste in the dish, and sadly, the flavours of the dish didn’t stand out to leave a lasting impression. It was mediocre at best. 6/10
Spicy Sauteed Kidney Beans and Smoked Ham (35rmb)
This was a typical chinese dish in areas where smoked meats are prevalent, like my wife’s hometown of Hubei. I found it well cooked, with the beans tender but still retaining bite. The smoked ham was of decent quality and tasted nicely but not overly smoked. 8/10
Slow Cooked Pork Ribs with BBQ Sauce, Baby Potatoes (112rmb)
This was Xixi’s take on American BBQ ribs, but what they forgot to mention in the english menu dish title was that it was a rose syrup infused BBQ sauce, as opposed to a traditional American BBQ sauce. Funnily, in the chinese name, this was mentioned.
The thing is, what would happen, which happened amongst a few of the Americans at our table, was that people who were expecting a traditional BBQ sauce would find this rose flavoured sauce off-putting. On the contrary, if people were expecting a refreshing take on the BBQ sauce, they would probably find this rose version quite refreshing (like me)!
Long story short, order this dish, the rose BBQ sauce was very nice and paired with the fork tender, bone-falling-off ribs stupendously. 9/10
Grilled Tiger Prawns (168rmb)
Four simply grilled large butterflied tiger prawns with salt, pepper and a squeeze of lemon juice. The prawns tasted fresh and were competantly done, but as a dish, it felt quite random and unremarkable on the menu, especially as the 2nd most expensive main option. 7/10
Dong Po Rou
This was another special of the evening. Chinese Dong Po Rou, which is a steamed chunk of pork belly marinated in soy sauce. The version at Xixi is served on a bed of quinoa with brussels sprouts. Surprisingly, the Dong Po Rou tasted very authentic! The meat was quite tender, but I felt it could have used a few more minutes in the steamer because the skin still had a little bit of a bite in it. The quinoa soaked up and paired very well with the sweet and salty sauce, if only we had more of it, because there was more sauce than quinoa, which made it a little overly oily at the bottom of the bowl. This would be easily fixed if there was more quinoa. That said, the effort still commands a 9/10.
Zucchini and Goat Cheese Roll (38rmb)
This served as a palate cleanser after the rich, fatty meat. Essentially it was goat cheese, rolled within thin slices of zucchini served on top of a fruity jam. On paper it sounded like a very raw tasting dish. In reality, flavours melded together beautifully and was very refreshing.
I’m not a goat cheese person, but the sweet tanginess from the jam together with the zucchini helped offset the gamey taste entirely. Extra points for presentation. 9/10
Crispy Herbs Roast Chicken (88rmb)
Lastly, we had the roast chicken that was on every other table in Xixi Bistro. It was a whole chicken, served with the same roasted potatoes and tomatoes from the other mains. The skin was well roasted and crispy, meat, tender and juicy within. However I didn’t feel much of the herbs that was mentioned in the name of the dish. I felt this roast chicken could be further improved with more aromatics flavouring the meat. Technically, it was a well roasted chicken, so it gets a 8/10
Xixi Bistro has only been opened a little over a year, but I concur that these guys are doing it right. With the exception of a couple of dishes, most of the items on the menu were well thought out and executed. Being someone of Chinese heritage and yet also well versed with western cuisine from a young age, I totally understood and accepted most of the creative offerings here.