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  • Writer's pictureF.W. Hume

#TWC This Week's Chinese

#TWC This Week’s Chinese

“Learning another cuisine is like learning a language. In the beginning, you know nothing about its most basic rules of grammar. You experience it as a flood of words, or dishes, without system or structure.”

― Fuchsia Dunlop, Shark's Fin and Sichuan Pepper

Decorative entry doors to the restaurant

For many years there was very little good Chinese food in Paris. Now there’s number of very good regional places, from Szechuan to Xinjiang. And more opening all the time, mostly catering for the new Chinese community. A few of these cuisines I've known most of my life. Others are a delight to research and discover, with flavours, textures and unfamiliar ingredients that challenge the resolve but so often add a new element of pleasure to our lives. We usually eat at them once per week and then organise large banquets with wine pairings for our friends new, old and not yet met. I call it #TWC. (Reach out if you live here or are visiting and are interested in joining us, we'll invite you to join us if there's a space free).

We are so thankful for the fantastic food at these new places. Soon I'll post a list of them. But, there's really only one place to head the list. There is the Shang Palace. And then there's all the others.

It is hardly a secret. The only Michelin starred Chinese in France. We've been eating here a couple of times per year since they opened in 2011. And have yet to be disappointed. Primarily Cantonese, but still a cuisine D'auteur. The Author at the moment is Samuel Lee Sum, a protégé of the celebrated chef Bobby Lo Tak Yan of the Hong Kong Jockey Club of Beijing. He describes his cooking style as "all about food quality and the freshness of ingredients. You have to use the best possible ingredients around" and his style as "a mixture of influences from Cantonese to northern Chinese cuisine, with a touch of western presentation". The apple clearly falls not far from the tree, it is a very fitting description of food at the Shang Palace.

Entrance Lobby

But what is a bit of a secret is that for its elegance and excellence it is very reasonably priced. It still is a place for special occasions but among the Starry Constellation of Paris restaurants it is among the more affordable with lunchtime menus at 58 euros. We splurge a bit. But to gorge ourselves on the wonderful food, tea and wine for 3 hours for around €100 is a perfect way to celebrate. (Be very careful of the wine list which gets heady fast, oddly, most of the wines on the list are in €200 and up range. Some are really bargains at that price you still have to pay it. There are few reasonable bottles scattered through the list but among the first growth Bordeaux and great domaines of Burgundy they look a little forlorn).

Hidden away in a sub-basement of the elegant, sometimes over-the-top oriental-western fusion Rococo Shangri La hotel. It is one of the stranger of dining experiences to go down into depths of the hotel and find this interesting visual mixture of the gaudy and the sublime. But somehow as the meal progresses it all slowly seems to make sense.

So this week, what did we eat?

A signature dish Red Rice Crepe with crispy shrimp

Baked BBQ pork buns

We had some shumai, there were various vegetable amuses bouches served with the house red pepper and shrimp sauce, they brought out some great XO sauce on request.

So far this is being washed down by lots of very good 2017 St. Veran and Guan Yin tea.

Then things start getting serious. The Peking duck in 3 services.

The duck soup

Our duck, dubbed Figaro, yielding the magic of the perfectly cooked crispy skin.

The duck meat in lettuce wrappers

Washed down with a very good Pinot Noir D'Alsace (we tried to pretend it was one the vertiginously priced burgundies near it on the list and almost paired perfectly with the plum sauce of the two main courses)

Food coma beginning to set in and we haven't even had the freshly made egg custard tartelettes yet

And what else should I say? How many Michelin-starred gastronomical restaurants in Paris can you leave feeling so satiated your hunger doesn't really return for a day or two? #shangpalace #shangrila #sofull #chinesefood #TWC

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