It’s that time of the year again where Fall/Autumn and Winter gets mixed together in Shanghai. To follow the crazy change/merge of seasons, many restaurants revamp their menu to accomodate the cooler weather and along with seasonal produce. The produce of the season in Fall, in Shanghai, are crabs.
Many thanks to Jeff for the invitation to a very intimate media tasting at the chinese restaurant of Andaz Hotel, Hai Pai.
It’s pretty much a hotel restaurant, so you can expect the place to be clean and conservative, no bold statements here or quirky designs, but that is I guess the way it was meant to be. 7.5/10
As with all invited tastings, an unbiased score of 7.5 is awarded. We were seated in a private room that evening, so I was unable to observe the wait staff in serving other tables.
Gold nugget, sharks skin, wild pepper
This was a cold tossed dish, and I have to admit, sharks skin was a little bit adventurous for me. Thankfully there was no fishy taste, and just gentle textures on the skin, juxtaposed with the crunchy ‘gold nugget’ which was some type of melon finely julienned. A sprig of fresh sichuan pepper adorned the dish, while the entire dish had a lovely fragrance of sichuan pepper but not numbingly so. It was certainly a refreshing appetizer to start the meal. 8/10
Shanghai Style Sweet & Sour Pork Ribs
Typical shanghainese dish. Slightly sweet and sour. Riblets were deep-fried before being tossed in the almost caramel glaze. I found a nice balance between the sweetness and acidity of the sauce, which made every piece finger-licking good. 8/10
Bean curd roll, minced pork, mushroom, chinese yam
Unfortunately, no one left one of these for me as there weren’t enough for the table, so I can’t comment on it. I can only imagine it tasted quite good since it got gobbled up so quickly?
Shanghainese marinated beef shank, dried orange peel, soy sauce
Beef slices were tender and had fully absorbed the flavours of the braising sauce. If you had a slice of beef with a piece of orange peel, you’d find the bright flavours of the orange peel off-setting the richness of the beef. Lovely. 8/10
Salted eel, dried balloon flower, spring onion
Another cold tossed appetiser with a very crunchy green vegetable called balloon flower. The salted eel was indeed quite salty, but went nicely together with the otherwise bland balloon flower. Good match. 8/10
Dragon Beans, Walnuts
Dragon beans, also known as Wing Beans. Tossed in a sesame based sauce with some very delightful walnuts. I enjoyed the walnuts more than the dragon beans, as I preferred them more cooked. Overall I found this dish a bit one dimensional, with the two components being very separate from each other as a dish. 6/10
Double boiled sharks lip soup, hairy crab meat
This was my first encounter with sharks lips actually, as I grew up eating more sharks fin (sue me?!). The crab meat were a nice touch to the soup, however I felt this was one of those cases where too much of a good thing spoils the dish. At first sight, I thought it was a bowl of soup noodles, because there was so much of the sharks lip strips.
In actual fact, they didn’t have much flavour, but have this gelatinous texture due to the high collagen content. Beautifying, yes. But it was impossible to have a nice mouthful of soup without a mouthful of the cartilage.
This might be a personal preference, but I hate it when my soups or fried rice have more ingredients than the soup/rice. I prefer a mouthful of soup, complemented with some ingredients.
The flavour of the soup in general was pretty much like a sharks fin soup. I can only give this a 6/10.
Crab leg, strir-fried with Asparagus
This was my first encounter with this dish, but I was informed that it is in-fact, a very classic Shanghainese dish. See, not all Shanghainese dishes have dark soy and sugar!
The difficulty in this otherwise simple-tasting dish is that one had to un-shell all the crab legs carefully and individually to retain their full lengthy form.
The ones at Haipai were quite intact, however they didn’t pull out the cartilage bone in every leg, so on every leg, you either had to swallow the thin strip of cartilage, or spit it out.
The asparagus was fresh and unfiborous, so that was good. Personally, the dish didn’t resonate to me and i would probably never order it on my own. 6.5/10
Stir fried shrimp paste, sweet pepper, mushroom, black pepper sauce
Ok on paper it sounded confusing. It was actually stuffed chilli peppers with shrimp meat and mushrooms. Easily my favourite dish of the evening, because the black pepper sauce gave the sweet and midly spicy peppers an extra kick. Shrimp paste filling tasted fresh and bouncy. I liked. 8.5/10
Fried eggs, hairy crab roe, shrimp
This was the favourite amongst the foreigners at the table, because, eggs!
In reality, I found the crab flavours abit lacking in the dish, but the prawns added nice meaty bites to it. Shrimp stir-fried with eggs is one of my all time favourite dish. This was a dish that went very well with rice, as the egg was perfectly cooked such that it is very moist.
The twist to the dish was that they were served with these chinese buns with deep pockets that you load with the eggs.
It was certainly an interesting way to eat eggs, one I cannot complain about. 8/10
Braised pork tail, chestnut, onion , sweet pea
Cartilage/soft-bone isn’t my favourite thing to eat, so I can’t really appreciate tail parts much.
The dish looked pretty with the sweat peas green giving a colorful accent.
Taste-wise it was like a typical hong shao rou type of braising sauce. Many of us enjoyed the chestnuts more. 6.5/10
Stir-fried lettuce, X-O sauce
Being cantonese, I am naturally a big fan of XO sauce, which is a fried dry sauce comprised of dried shrimp, scallops, chilli and shallots.
A good XO sauce goes well with ANYTHING. It’s like the Sriracha of the cantonese.
This dish had the XO sauce stir-fried with some pork mince, along with the chinese lettuce.
The sauce had the exact umami flavours I was expecting, and complemented the minced pork and vegetables beautifully. I couldn’t help but kept picking away at this dish whenever the dolly would rotate the dish my way. 9/10
Xiao Long Bao
Of course, how can one miss out on crab roe XLB at a Shanghainese cuisine restaurant during Crab season?
The ones at Hai Pai were bite sized and had a thin but resilient skin.
Contained within the dumplings were a delectable pork and crab mince, bursting with a crabby but rich soup. 8/10
Deep-fried crispy eel, sweet corn
This dish came as a big surprise, because chinese eel is seldom deep-fried, but often braised in a sauce. The dish came across to me as fish and chips (sans chips), and it tasted pleasantly like so!
The sweet corn actually referred to the deep fried corn meal puffs, which added an extra crunch to the light yet crispy batter of the fish. I enjoyed this alot. 8.5/10
Stir fried preserved pork, smoked bamboo shoots, green garlic
The preserved smoked pork belly slices were lovely with a rich but not overpower smokey flavour. Infact, the smoked bamboo shoots slices had a much stronger smokiness, and this was my first encounter with the ingredient. Together with the green garlic (garlic leaves), the trio made a very nice smokey combination that is slightly offset by the freshness of the leaves. Liked. 8/10
Soy milk ice cream and dough fritters
Hai Pai’s take on a popular breakfast item. I felt the soy milk ice cream was more creamy and milky than soy. Would’ve appreciated a stronger flavour of soy milk.
fritters actually were like baguette, and texturally was suitable with the ice cream, although taste-wise, a little odd for me. 6/10
And thus ended the epic feast. Prices as you can see in the above dishes that had price labels, were actually quite decent for a restaurant in a hotel and area of this calibre.
There are definitely items worth going back for, and Hai Pai is definitely amongst one of the top choices for a refined chinese dining experience around Xin Tian Di.