I think one thing everyone should take into consideration -- but haven't yet -- is that, Cantonese food is all about subtlety. Susur Lee combines Chinese and French cuisines, but to be more specific, he combines Cantonese and French cuisines. He's trained in the Canton way of cooking, and we all prefer things fresh and natural and subtle. Americans (more so than Canadians) really aren't used to that. This is one reason why a lot of Americans (and Canadians) find Susur's and Shang's food as "unflavourful".
That be said, Susur Lee has tried to change that, by adding more flavour into his dishes, or else his cooking wouldn't have appealed to any Westerner. But then again, there's something to be said about "umami" or the subtlety and natural flavours of the food, and that's certainly where Susur Lee comes from.
I've admired his food for years, and his love of food. Food isn't just "food", in that "I'll just have a hamburger from X and it'll be fine". Food is supposed to represent a culture, and Susur Lee has mastered that, and not many, if any other, fusion chef has.
Wow, Shang... We had a terrible experience here. It was just straight awful. I will say the Singapore Slaw was really pretty fantastic... Here's our full review:
What an incredible disaster. Look up The Hindenburg on the internet and you will get a good idea of the special kind of catastrophe our recent visit to Shang was.
Having heard some good things, Team Infatuation headed out on a rainy Monday night for further investigation. We made a reservation and arrived on time to an empty bar and an obviously slow restaurant - yet we were told to wait at the bar for our table. Fair enough. I understand the concept of not seating too many tables in a waiter's section, kitchen capacity, or whatever - even though we had a reservation. After about 15 minutes, we asked the host what the deal was and were reluctantly seated. We sat down and could hear a pin drop. Maybe 1/4 of the tables were occupied, and judging by the complete absence of audible conversation, everyone was either angry or afraid of the staff. No waiter or busboy visited the table for about 10 minutes, and throughout the evening we had to ask someone to find our server three times to rectify various mishaps.
Read the food rundown for the rest of the story, but the service was a joke, and this place is not cheap. Also, they will tell you its "family style", which is perfect if you are family of exactly two, you are rich, and you hate food.
This is the only reason I didn't rate Shang a 0. The Singapore Slaw was a very good salad to share. 19 Ingredients!
I love Yellowtail. It is without question my favorite kind of sashimi. This Yellowtail smelled like a mix between sweaty sock and old fish. We told the waiter it smelled and tasted bad, to which his reply was "let me check with the kitchen". He returned and condescendingly told us it has just been cut from the fish, and that we were, well…wrong. Dear chef, your fish was either six days old or had just been pulled out of the Gowanus Canal.
Diver Scallop and Chorizo
This was one of those "family style" dishes that cost us $23.50 for three of them. A decent scallop wrapped up in a banana leaf with some sausage and some kind of stuffing like paste at the bottom.
Crispy Lobster Lettuce Wraps
The lobster is served hot, and surrounded by a heavy batter, almost like a lobster hush puppy with lettuce around it. The "lemon balm" flavor is almost unbearable, and overpowers everything else. Party of five + each of you gets one = $45.00.
Crispy Garlic Chicken
Fatty chicken that came served atop a dark gloppy sauce that our non Infatuation co-diner said reminded him of college Chinese takeout. Not in a good way.
Hunan Spicy Orange Pork Ribs
Short pork ribs covered in what I think was the same sauce that was under the chicken. I was eating mine with a fork because they were so messy and mostly fat. The waiter kindly reminded me to eat them with my hands. Thanks. I hate you.
* Wasting Your Time and Money
I was completely underwhelmed by this new addition to the LES. I went with a friend for dinner in good spirits and left feeling like I had been punished. The service was rude and lackluster. The food was fair to poor. Decor was boring and trying soo hard to be chic that it was not at all. They got out wine order wrong and the whole experience was bad overall and it was way over priced for what it was.
Took the mother-in-law last week and was nervous because of the mixed reviews. But I liked it, and she loved it. The reviewer who said you feel like you ate a feast that was clean, light and elegant was spot on.
Sure, you can get similar food in Chinatown, especially if you order the more standard Chinese fare. But the slightly fusion/"nouveau" Chinese dishes were, I thought, worth the not insignificant price. Everyone is right to like the Singapore slaw. The XO prawns were also well enjoyed by my table, as well as the octopus.
The clunker was the scallop and chorizo. Tiny, overpriced and muddy tasting.
A dish that hasn't gotten a lot of attention but which was blow-me-away good was the pancakes with foie gras and blackcurrant jam. OMG, so good. Almost as good was the simple mantou bread--it had a satisfying, slightly greasy crisp outside and fluffy inside, almost like a savoury doughnut. Terrific for sopping up the nice sauces.
Go, order wisely, and enjoy.
I was there last week and this is what we had:
Singapore Slaw with salted plum dressing -- wonderful with tons of flavors and different textures. I'm toying with the idea of trying to make it on my own as there's a recipe on foodnetwork.ca, but it looks really labor intensive.
Turnip Cake steamed eggplant with cantonese preserved black bean and shiitake mushrooms -- I liked the eggplant and mushrooms, but wasn't too crazy about the turnip cake as there was no crispness to it and was kind of soggy and mushy.
Carmelized Wild Sablefish mustard green relish, miso mustard and salmon caviar -- one of my favorite dishes of the evening. The mustard and salmon caviar were really good complements to the sablefish.
Foie Gras And Chicken Liver Pate with green onion pancakes, wheat mantou crisps and black currant jam -- Delicious and rich.
Shang’s Spiced Slow Cooked Berkshire Pork Belly with purée of lily bulb, red cabbage and apple purée -- I probably wouldn't order this again. Was way too sweet and quite messy
Crispy Skinned Young Garlic Chicken with sweet and sour onion marmalade -- I only had one piece of chicken (white meat) and thought it was okay. Those who ate the dark meat thought it was outstanding, crisp and very tender.
Mongolian Lamb Chops glazed bananas, chili mint, carrot cardamom chutney and peanut sauce -- I loved this dish because of the sauces and chutneys. It really enhanced the lamb and was quite tasty.
The vegetarian in our group had this (along with the Singapore slaw):
Beijing Style Cucumber Salad avocado, persimmon, squash and miso barley with lotus root
Chick Pea Sweet Onion Fritters with ginger and mango chutney, minted yogurt
He loved all of his dishes. As I didn't taste it, I don't have anything to say about it.
Susur Lee was out there quite often in the dining room. I have to say that he looks wonderful for a man approaching 50. I'm hoping to look half as good as he does at that age.
With the exception of a couple of dishes, I thought the meal was very good. I would say must-orders for me are the slaw and sablefish.
re: Miss Needle
Unfortunately I can see that happening. It was pretty busy when I was there, though. But it's been kind of getting panned by a lot of reviewers. But I do think there's a bit of a prejudice going on as people are used to Chinese restaurants being dirt cheap. So even though Shang doesn't serve traditional Chinese food, I can see a lot of people thinking the place is "expensive for Chinese food." I do think it's more difficult for an upscale Chinese restaurant to make it than, let's say, an upscale French restaurant because of expectations.
re: Miss Needle
<I do think it's more difficult for an upscale Chinese restaurant to make it than, let's say, an upscale French restaurant because of expectations.>
I think there is a great deal of truth to that, but I bet you remember what happened to ol' Alain Ducasse when he first waded into the Manhattan dining scene. It seems to me that when a "name" chef sets up shop here after first establishing himself somewhere else, the bar get raised juuuuuust a little higher. As if to say, don't waltz in here & try to teach US about food.
re: Miss Needle
>>even though Shang doesn't serve traditional Chinese food, I can see a lot of people thinking the place is "expensive for Chinese food."
Miss Needle, you know I am your big fan but I will have to disagree about this statement. I don't think people go in to Shang and thinking that it is really Chinese food. I think they know they are into fusion food which is supposed to be more expensive. (sort of like Morimoto, you know you are into expensive fusion Japanese food). I don't see the same kind of complains for Buddakan. I think the problem is simply that the food at Shang is too fussy and not really that great. It's expensive for the quality of food that they serve, not the genre of food that they serve.
Just like the song...if he can make it THERE...after all, it is New York, New York.
As a Torontonian who has watched Susur Lee turn the dining industry around up here, it is sad to see these comments, and the reviews coming off the early days at his new venture. But one of the things that has always separated Lee from his peers is his willingness to fail, or more specifically, to learn from his own mistakes. Dumbing down...perhaps, but he's in a whole new neighbourhood, and, yet again, he is trying a whole new thing - essentially being the house restaurant for a hotel. It's the Thompson that's the attraction. I believe if this works, he will be house resto for the new Thompson that's opening here. He needs to get a better handle on his audience, and hopefully, he'll have a chance to do so. BUT...in these market conditions, in one of the hardest cities on the planet to open a new restaurant...phew, I wouldn't want to be in his shoes.
I must admit to great surprise when you tell me that he's allowing sub-par service. He has always had such an attentiveness to detail and the Big Picture in his restaurants; this just sounds so not right.
While I wish him great good fortune in NYC...if it doesn't work, we Torontonians will always welcome him back.
re: The Goddess
As a fellow Torontonian, I heartily second that sentiment. We will definitely welcome Susur back with open arms. I loved Lotus and Susur - it's harder to decide where to go for a special occasion now.
I have also been saddened to read such reviews because I know what he's capable of.
I've been trying to decide whether to go to Shang on my next trip to New York. On one hand, I want to see what's happening for myself and sample the food. On the other hand, I only have a few days and can't afford to waste even one evening on a meal that isn't absolutely amazing.
What a dilemma!
Went to Shang with a large group this past Friday. My observations:
We sat down, a busboy swoops away the glasses on the table, and then someone brought us filled water glasses (we asked for tap). I also was a little confused by why the water came with a lemon slice already in it. (Do they think NYC tap water tastes bad?) Also found the weighted chopsticks (heavy on the top end) to be awkward at first.
We too had to wait a little to get the cocktail menu and then again to get the food menu. Also I think some patrons have been stealing the pages out of the menus (it's a single piece of paper folded into two columns tucked under a piece of string) as 1 of the 3 cocktail menus we were given were empty. The other oddity was that the server described Shang to us as a Chinese (not "Chinese-influenced" or "Chinese-fusion") restaurant that serves family style.
Other than that, service was fine, and our server made some dish recommendations which were spot on. She also offered to put in some orders as 1 1/2 orders, without prompting, which was helpful for dishes that come in 4 pieces. Serving utensils were provided, our personal plates were refreshed with new plates periodically, empty plates were cleared quickly.
- Singapore slaw with salted plum dressing was excellent, not much more I can say about it that hasn't already been said. Our group of 6 demolished our two orders. Big thumbs up.
- Braised oxtail soup dumpling with tapioca enoki mushrooms and salted pork. A total misnomer on the menu where it says "oxtail soup dumpling." (I'm holding the menu in my hands, it says "soup dumpling.") This is NOT a soup dumpling as understood in Shanghai cuisine (xiao long bao). This is a single large dumpling in a single bowl of clear, light soup with a small shooter of vinegar to the side. Not a dumpling filled with soup. The dumpling itself had a nice wrapper and was a generous size but the oxtail filling was on the bland side (I expected more flavor). Very one-note. I really wanted it like this dish. The soup did nothing for me, either. For $10 per serving, this dish was not worth the trouble.
- Foie gras and chicken liver pate with green onion pancakes, wheat mantou crisps and black currant jam. This was quite good and the petite scallion pancakes were quite cute. The jam contrasted nicely with the pate. I would order this again.
- Turnip cake, steamed eggplant with Cantonese preserved black bean and shiitake mushrooms. The turnip cake was perfectly cooked and had a good texture, with a bit of crispness on the outsides. But the eggplant didn't seem to fit.
- Crispy lobster, salted duck egg, lemon balm, shallot, chili lime juice in lettuce wrap. Really more of a croquette with miniature greens on top, and then wrapped in lettuce. The lettuce seemed more like an after thought (why make something into a croquette and then put it in a leaf of lettuce). I thought the lobster filling needed a bit of salt. Overall: eh, especially for $9.50 each.
- Homemade steamed tofu custard with crab, shrimp, lobster, mussels and air dried scallop, dessert moss, Tanjin bouillon. Tasty and essentially a fancy chawanmushi. Comforting but not impressive.
- Diver scallop with 8 treasure rice steamed in fresh bamboo leaf, salt chili tomato sauce. The rice was excellent and very reminiscent of other glutinous rice dishes in Chinese cuisine. The scallops, being steamed, had a slippery texture that I wasn't wild about, but they tasted OK, if a little mushy and bland to me. I probably wouldn't get this again.
- Mongolian lamb chops, glazed bananas, chili mint, carrot cardamom chutney and peanut sauce. These were good. I was impressed with the sauces and glazed bananas but I felt that the lamb on its own wasn't seasoned enough. Maybe I just prefer more char on my lamb chops.
- Shang’s spiced slow cooked Berkshire pork belly with puree of lily bulb, red cabbage and apple puree. The mantou that came on the side had only 5 pieces, so we had to ask for another order in order for everyone to have at least one mantou ($3 for another 5 pieces). It felt odd to pair a wheat mantou to pork belly. And the mantou seemed a bit flat (not fluffy at all). Also the mantou were too small and thin to really hold a piece of the belly plus some of the purees, so eating this dish was a bit messy. The belly was really nice and soft but had less flavor than I expected. I still prefer the pork buns at Momofuku Noodle and Ssam Bars, though, particularly because there's a bit of variety in taste and texture from the vegetables. The Shang pork belly in the mantou plus some purees lacked any variety in texture.
- Crispy taro puffs with curry beef. The curry, beef, and taro flavors blended together in a really harmonious way. Good. But felt overpriced at $3 a puff.
As for dessert:
- Coconut crème caramel with cantilly crème and black rice pudding and ladyfingers. Tasty and the ladyfinger was quite good (like a freshly made Milano cookie). I was impressed that the dish came in a cup with a saucer, with a smear of marshmallow fluff on the saucer, where the smear had also been toasted. Beautiful presentation.
- Warm Banana Chocolate Cake with Jackfruit and Pineapple, Rum Butterscotch Sauce, Chocolate Pave and Spiced Macadamia Brittle. Nice texture (excellent crumb) in the banana cake, without the banana becoming overwhelming. And I'm not usually one for banana desserts. Our group's favorite of the three.
- Almond Crusted Warm Chocolate and Vanilla Custards, Huckleberry Compote, Lemon & Apple Cider Sauce. Like a pairing of hot custard-filled donuts. The chocolate was too milky for me and not chocolate-y enough, I preferred the vanilla one.
Overall, I thought the savories were hit or miss and the sweets were fine but nothing extraordinary. I appreciated that as a whole the meal felt elegant, clean, and light. But there is such a thing as a dish being too balanced as to be unmemorable. Only a few dishes stood out flavor-wise. I wanted a little more boldness and more seasoning in nearly everything. With judicious ordering you can put together a pretty good meal, but a lot of what looked good on the menu was ultimately disappointing.
Once again, a thoroughly enjoyable review. I haven't been to Shang yet and am hesitant to go. I was living in Toronto when Chef Susur Lee had his restaurant Susur there and it was supposed to be the top restaurant there. I had both his tasting menu and a la carte at Susur and was not particularly excited about both. The tasting menu was nicer and they made an effort to give you completely different dishes for each couple (so 6 of us have 3 x 2 different tasting) to share and taste more. But the fact was that I wasn't wow'd very any of the dishes. However, I know a lot of my non-Asian friends enjoyed it very much and I think my famiiliarity with Asian ingredients and dishes made it harder for me to appreciate his Asian approach.
Looking at the descriptions of the dishes, it seemed like he had tried to incorporate more ingredients into a single dish than when he was in Susur. Perhaps it is the food trend these days that you need to put a lot of exotic / usual ingredients to make a dish sound intriguing. But in this case he might be trying "too hard". I think I will still try to visit once (just to fulfill my curiosity) but I won't put too much high hopes for it.
That said, I still hope that Chef Susar Lee can survive because afterall, he was from Hong Kong and he used to work in Toronto and both places have special meanings to me.
You are right about the number of ingredients. Some items on the menu took three lines to describe!
It was amazing that everything tasted balanced but overall it was unmemorable. As a friend put it, I'd rather have a meal with some things I loved and some things I hated, than a bunch of things that left no impression. I dine with both Asian-American and non-Asian-American friends and we all though the food could be more flavorful.
Good luck! I had really high hopes for Shang and I think that my background (Chinese-American) made the hopes even higher.
I just went to Shang this past Friday 12/12. Our reservation was for 7 pm, the only time the restaurant could accommodate a party of 5. We got there the dinning room was literally totally empty. This didn't surprise me as the attitude matched the setting. An unmarked door, snotty hostess, minimal decoration. I dd expect this though. I wouldn't have a problem with any of it if the food lived up to the hype. We brought to the bar and encouraged to order cocktails while our table was prepared.
A little while later we were brought to our table. It was a little odd because without any other patrons there the room seemed very empty, vey quiet and formal.
Out waitress was really not at all knowledgeable about the menu. When asked if the chef had any special vegetarian items the waitress simply told us to order a salad. This was okay because we didn't expect there to be any special vegetable dishes we just figured it was worth asking. They did have a vegetable section so that wasn't an issue. They had about 6 vegetable dishes to pick from so that was nice.
When asked about specific dishes or for recommendations the waitress just looked over our shoulders and read straight off the menu. She really seemed to have no idea about the establishment or the menu which was disheartening.
The waitress knew half of our table was vegetarian since we told her and asked about it. She brought out the vegetarian dishes first then after those were done the meat dishes. This resulted in our party eating at two different times. The vegetarians on the first round while the meat eaters waited and vise versa.
I wouldn't say it was horrible service but I truly did expect a little more of a higher standard of service considering setting, prices and attitude.
The food, the most important thing was just okay. I had the raw sliced octopus, beef cheek and seafood orzo. My friends had the vegetable dishes and they said they were okay, nothing to write home about.
The sliced octopus was okay. Not bad not great. It was sliced thing but still tough without much taste. I've had much much better octopus at other restaurants. It was served on slices of tomatoes which seemed like an after thought. The tomatoes didn't even have any real flavor.
The Orzo was by far a complete miss. It was orzo, pine nuts, pineapple, fennel among other things wrapped in a cold thin egg omelet. Aside from the ingredients not complimenting one another I had about 5 pieces of shrimp in the whole thing. There was no seafood mix just shrimp bits. This omelet wrap was pretty big and the shrimp pieces were just bits not full shrimp or even decent chunks.
The beef cheek was by far the best out of the three. It was slowly braised and served over simple brown rice. It was very good but as my friend put it, it tasted just like good Irish stewed beef. Nothing special and certainly no Asian flavors in there. Seemed very out of place actually.
Overall the bill was 180 for 6 small plate dishes with 3 alcohol drinks. What I expected. I would have been more then happy to pay that price if it was worth it. I felt it defiantly was NOT worth it at all. Being in NYC of all places where Chinese and fusion food is ample Shang will defiantly have to take a step up if it's going to survive.
Save your money and go to Chinatown instead.
One of the most disappointing things is I heard and read so much about S. Lee and I saw him there that night. If he was there he must have been overseeing things and it was totally sub-par.
Perhaps Canada just doesn't have that great of food........
I tried Shang on opening night (not sure if that should matter one way or the other?), but Susur Lee was in the restaurant and came into the dining room and spent some time walking around thanking people for coming, etc which I thought was quite nice. Anyway, the space was quite nice. Dark, red, pretty much what you would expect from a nice place in NY these days. Our service was fantastic. Our waitress had plenty of recommendations, etc. so on that front the restaurant did not disappoint.
The food however was a different story, and it might have been our own fault. We had the pleasure of having eaten at Susur in Toronto and it was definitely the best meal of our life. The service and the food there was just incredible and unfortunately for us it set our expectations (perhaps unreasonably?) high.
Steamed And Crusted Dim Sum Vegetable Potato Dumplings
Lobster And Shrimp Croquettes
Shaved Choi Siu Pork Loin
Mongolian Lamb Chops
Warm Chocolate Cake
Unfortunately, I can't comment too specifically as I don't remember the food too well at this point. However, I do remember that the Shaved Choi Siu Pork Loin might be the worst thing I have ever eaten. It literally tasted like deli meat with some honey mustard sauce (like a really bad ham sandwich). And the Warm cake was absolutely terrible. I've had better chocolate cake at Fridays. However, the lamb and the potato weren't too bad. The potato dish was effectively a bad rip off of a basic indian dish but done worse, but compared to the rest of the food it actually stood out. The croquettes I thought were bland but my girlfriend quite liked it so I might be wrong on that one. And the lamb was perfectly cooked--but nothing special.
To echo the sentiment above--save your money and go to Chinatown instead.
However, unlike the person above I promise you Susur Lee's cooking is superb. Or I used to think that, maybe I should tone down my excitement as well. Perhaps these are just the opening kinks of a restaurant and in a few months things will get better?
went to shang on friday night and it was very good but very expensive. first off, the staircase leading into the restaurant on orchard street is ridiculously high and long and if you're coming with someone in a wheelchair, i suggest you enter on chrystie instead. susur lee was in the kitchen cooking (at least i assume so because he was making the rounds in the dining room). what was surprising was that on a friday night the place was maybe 3/4 full and that's being generous. maybe it's the economy or the weather, but whatever.
anyway, the food itself was for the most part excellent. the oxtail soup dumpling in beef broth was spectacular. the beefiest i've tasted and the dumpling had a light casing with great oxtail inside. the singapore slaw was incredible. it's mixed at the table and has something like 19 ingredients. this happens to be a very generous portion and the highlight of the evening. the onion fritter with mangos and mint yogurt was another standout. think of it as the best gourmet version of a blooming onion you've ever had. the only miss of the evening was the orzo with seafood in an egg crepe which someone commented on already and the bee's mash cocktail which didn't seem to have any whiskey and just tasted like sugar. we ended with the vanilla bean ice cream with chocolate sauce and a crispy cone thing. standard but good.
all in all, the food was very good but super expensive. also, it seems more like the type of place to grab a drink and 2 or 3 dishes rather than try to figure out how to have a full meal.
Went to Shang, the relatively new Chinese-ish restaurant in the Thompson Hotel Lower East Side, tonight with two friends.
Shang is in a beautiful space, on the second floor of the hotel. It has one of the most interesting and beautiful lounge/waiting areas, and a nice bar, in addition to beautiful space. It does look like they are missing a large sign that announces that this is Shang, and once you come up to the second floor it's a little confusing.
The restaurant itself is elegant, dark, and while there are many tables, feels quite expansive. It was maybe 1/3rd full on a Monday night.
The hostess and waitress and busboys were all extremely nice and accommodating. Our waitress mentioned that we could order off the menu, or they would be happy to make us a meal given a price point and some general guidelines. All the tableware during the meal was very nice, but particularly the elegant chargers when one first sits down. I also liked the menus themselves, with an interesting blend of felt, metal, and paper.
Anyway, on to the food:
We first had the "Steamed and Crusted Dim Sum Vegetable Potato Dumplings, Swatow Chili, Soy Juice"
This was an interesting dish, being four dumplings crusted over and thus linked together although easily broken apart. Unfortunately, the dumplings themselves were not that good --- the skins had an odd texture, the vegetables inside, while finely chopped, didn't go well together and didn't bind together, and the "Soy Juice" was not very complimentary. It was also topped by some forgettable micro greens.
We also asked for "scallion pancake" or "green onion pancake" as an off-menu appetizer, which they graciously brought. This was a long, thin plate of ten silver-dollar sized pancakes, which were thin strips of dough twisted around scallions. They were good, although nothing spectacular. Because they were so small and thin, some of their edges were slight over-fried. The black vinegar that they brought out with these was absolutely terrific. One of the highest quality Chinese vinegars I've ever had.
For the main's we shared the following three dishes:
Magret Duck Breast with Osmanthi Flower Chili Honey and Braised Burdock Root
SHANG's Spiced Slow Cooked Berkshire Pork Belly with Puree of Lily Bulb, Red Cabbage and Apple Puree
Caramelized Wild Sablefish, Mustard Green Relish, Miso Mustard and Salmon Caviar
The duck was obviously high quality duck meat, although it arrived at the table a little on the cold side. The taste of osmanthus flower and chili were extremely muted under the sweet sauce, but the cold burdock root was a nice textural pairing with the duck.
I didn't have the pork belly, but one of my DCs described the pork belly as overly greasy and not having a clear difference in texture between the fat and the meat. It certainly looked beautiful. I did dip some of the accompanying micro-salad into the sauce and tasted the puree. The sauce over the pork belly was not very interesting. The puree was tasty, but it was difficult (for me anyway!) to distinguish lily bulb or cabbage under the apple.
The sablefish was the strongest main dish. It was actually terrific --- perfectly cooked white flesh, delicately caramelized on only one side, paired with a very pungent yet subtle mustard relish and some of the most flavorful and sharp salmon caviar I've ever tasted. Not only did the flavors of the two mustard elements compliment the somewhat heavy and strong sable flavor, but the flaky texture of the fish paired excellently with the juicy caviar bits. This dish was terrific, but essentially nothing about it seemed Chinese. Between the sable and mustard and caviar, it seemed more Jewish!
Accompanying the main dishes we had "Steamed Savory Rice Squares with Winter Melon and Black Trumpet Mushrooms" which were an interesting riff on rice. These were squares of compacted white rice with winter melon and mushrooms stuffed into the middle and were quite tasty, although not spectacular.
The "Seasonal Asian Greens Sautéed in Garlic Broth" were very expertly sautéed slices of Chinese cabbage, in a subtle broth that was not very strongly flavored of garlic and thus quite balanced.
As for desserts, the three of us shared two of them:
Traditional Warm Black Sesame & Peanut Tong Yuan, Grapes, Watercress and Osmanthi Honey Consommé
Granite of Orange and Lemongrass, Lemon Curd, Passion Fruit Gelée with Bitter Orange Sorbet, Banana Blueberry Compote and Paper Thin Crisp
The tang yuan was the most Chinese dish of the entire meal. The tang yuan themselves had a good consistency, and were each stuffed with both black sesame and peanuts. They were floating in a slightly thickened broth that was clearly infused with gui4 hua1 (osmanthus flower). The skinned grapes that were floating along with the tang yuan tasted strongly of watercress, which was an unexpected and delightful pairing.
The granité was less interesting, but still quite good. The best part was the lemon curd, which was rich and soulful. It could have stood on its own, and I wished there was more of it in this dish. The two separate granités were almost tasteless, and the bitter orange sorbet should have been renamed the sweet orange sorbet. The chopped fresh fruit was refreshing and delicious.
We also had three very creative drinks, which everyone seemed to enjoy very much:
Bitter Lemon: Plymouth Gin a Splash Vermouth and Fresh Lemon
Yen Yen: Christiania Vodka, Canton Ginger Liqueur, Cucumber, Fresh Lime
Bee's Mash: Jack Daniel's, Muddled Plum, Lime, Thai Basil, and Wildflower Honey
I thought the Bee's Mash was one of the more creative and balanced such drinks I've had, and the ingredients were muddled with great care.
None of us tried this, but I wanted to mention that the "Black Sesame", composed of Chai Infused Captain Morgan Rum and Ground Black Sesame sounded very interesting and creative. We were advised that it was more of a dessert drink.
Finally, we did have tea with dessert. It was a green jasmine tea. Incredibly for an elegant restaurant, whether Chinese or not, this tea was ordinary tea from a tea bag, served in Western style individual metal pots, extracted by water that was much too hot for a green tea.
Ultimately the food at Shang was disappointing. The desserts, drinks, service and especially ambiance were terrific.
The tang yuan, of all things, showed the promise of what Shang could be. This dessert took a traditional Chinese dessert, jiu3 niang4 tang1 yuan2, and replaced the fermented glutinous rice wine with a different taste by adding grapes, watercress, and a different form of gui4 hua1 that is still strongly reminiscent of the traditional form. All the tastes were carefully balanced. The tang yuan themselves were freshly made, and also combined two tastes generally found apart, sesame and peanut, into one. The entire dish was beautifully presented.
No other dishes lived up to this level. The dumplings were inspired by Chinese food, but departed from it in almost every way and ended up being an interesting experiment that didn't work. The duck and pork belly also were Chinese-ish, but seemed to rely too much on similar sauces and didn't pay enough attention to texture. The sablefish was truly terrific, but didn't seem Chinese in the least. The extensive menu may also hold other gems, and I might make a return visit. But one should be clear what this restaurant is -- it is not really a high-end Chinese restaurant. It is a restaurant that serves a mix of dishes, some Chinese, some inspired by Chinese dishes but really applications of French technique, and some that seem to have little connection at all, although they may still be quite tasty. It has a beautiful space, an interesting bar, attentive staff, and a mixture of Chinese and Western tableware and customs.
187 Orchard Street, New York, NY 10002
i was also there monday night ... however i had a slightly opposite take. i think the room is AWFUL! ... terrible detailing and what's up with the crooked lamp in the middle of the room. service was also wonky. i sent back a bottle for the first time in my life because it was clearly off. instead of bringing another bottle the waiter seem to blame us for choosing the wrong wine and suggested we choose another. the food however was good. we had almost everythign on the menu and thought it was quite good. being chinese i have always had a problem w asian fusion. but susur lee has never disappoitned. i found the menu to be steeped in contemporary cantonese flavors. i have always found that he basically takes everyday chinese resto food and takes it up a notch. i LOVED the pork belly - we call that mui choi cao yuk. the cuke salad is very reminisent of a cold jelly fish app we have at banquets - hoi jeet pai. i could go on and on but susur lee is quite true to the best of hk style/cantonese asian cusine and does it well.
oh - one other thing - why the hell did they have plated on the table that they take away and replace without having ever been used? ... and the weighted chopsticks drove me nuts. and why the need to present us w our forks/knives/napkin? .... just put if out before i get there!
all in all thought it was decent ... for those not familiar w his previous establishments shang is closer to his more pedestrian "lee" as opposed to the higher end susur which served more haute cuisine.
Maybe he should've stuck with the Susur formula. I've never experienced such outstanding service and food as when I ate at Susur's. It's a shame to read all the negative comments regarding Shang, although I'm not surprised as it was a gamble for him to open this style of restaurant after years of Susur and in NY none the less (the Thunderdome for restaurants). When I ate at Susur's it was already several years old and he had the dining experience down to a science. All his employees made sure the restaurant ran like clockwork. I say let the man work out the kinks and in about a few more months (if it lasts =P) you Yanks should start to see the real Susur Lee.
I used to live in Toronto and dine at Susur a few times. I honestly have to say that I wasn't very impressed by his food there then, and Shang is actually already better than Susur, but a little more fuzzy in the use of ingredients (like layers tons of ingredients in one dish, which I found mostly unnecessarily).
While I respect Chef Lee and fully want him to be sucessful, I am sorry to say that it isn't because Shang has worse food than Susur that makes it unsucessful. His food was simply not up to the standard of NY culinary scene, not then, not now.
do you think it has to do with the whole fusion thing? i find alot of my friends who didn't grow up eating chinese food (or other asian food) tend to be really impressed by some fusion asian cuisine while I find a lot of it mediocre...not to say that either of us are right (since taste is a totally intangible idea), but i kind of feel like i'm rarely impressed by fusion places b/c i usually know what the original dish should taste like and I always feel the fusion dish while intentionally different never really matches up the original
Susur Lee's restaurant in Toronto (called Susur) was also a fusion restaurant. So my comparison of Susur (the rest.) vs Shang is purely based on the quality of the food, not about fusion or not. To me Shang isn't worse than Susur. But it is more fuzzy and I think he tried too hard to impress by putting too much into each dish.