Once in a while, one stumbles upon a restaurant that would bring you the same comfort food that you are fond of, a memory from a familiar place in a foreign land. In this case, Hong Kong street food and Cantonese home cooked food.
Located on the second floor of an old mall (Metro Town) that is part of a residential complex, it is destined to be hidden from the foot traffic that is bustling along Zhongshan Park district. In the distant is the new spanking Raffles City Changning and right opposite is the perennial favourite Cloud Nine, Metro Town is a mall that was meant to be that – second rated, not popular.
However, as they say, nature finds its way. Metro Town became a favourite among the Japanese expats as, I guessed, the lower rental attracted the entrepreneurs to start their restaurants in this mall. There were many Japanese yakitori and Izakaya that found its way there. And then there’s Jizhan Cantonese 兜弄鸡栈.
It is a small restaurant, around a capacity of 30-40 persons divided into tables of 4s. It is not meant to be a massive restaurant. The owners are from Hong Kong, and one of the owner (and chef) was a TVB director, so you can see quite a few familiar faces on the fame wall behind the cashier. But it is still a restaurant, and it is important the food is good.
As the name suggested, they specialise in chicken dishes. They also have a couple of signature dishes like 海南鸡饭 Hainanese Chicken Rice (ala HK-style) and 清汤牛腩 stewed brisket in clear broth, among other familiar HK dishes. I ordered a 葱油鸡 poached chicken in scallion oil as a starter.
From the standard of the chicken, I can see why their Hainanese chicken rice is a signature dish and a favourite among diners. The chicken was perfectly done, no blood but still tender. For another RMB10 you can choose the part of the chicken, so I picked the chicken thigh. However, the scallion oil was a bit over powering which ruined the chicken, soaking it in an oily mess.
The other signature, 清汤牛腩 stewed brisket in clear broth, is a massive sharing portion. So I have to order the alternative, 招牌清汤牛腩河粉 stewed brisket in clear broth horfun, which is the same beef brisket but served with horfun.
It was still a generous bowl. The broth was what I expected, clear, flavourful and not oily. The standard was a notch below 华姐 or the tourist favourite 九记, but it was still the best I have tasted so far in Shanghai.
Mommy says I need to eat greens every meal, so I ordered a portion of 白灼菜心 HK choysum with soy sauce. This is the simplest vegetable dish, no skill required to prepare, only experience. You blanch choysum in boiling water and then drizzled some oil and soy sauce on top, that’s it. But its these simple dishes that can fall flat on their faces.
First the timing of the blanching, s second too long the vegetable turns soggy, a moment too short, the vegetable is still raw so you might as well eat salad. As it is not recommended to eat salad in China from unknown sources, I usually stick to blanched vegetables. Then, the sauce, it has to be a perfect ratio of vegetable oil, sesame oil and soy sauce. The result can either be too oily or too salty or too soggy if the proportion is not right.
They nailed it perfectly, and coupled with the greenhouse HK choysum, the vegetable was very satisfying.
It is difficult to find good restaurants for one diner without succumbing to Western or Japanese food. For Chinese, you can only depend on chachaanteng. Now I have another place to go when I am alone in Shanghai. The lady boss was taking my orders, and she realised I can speak Cantonese, she switched “channel” immediately. And THEN, the whole experience of the lunch went up so many notches, because she did not need to explain what some of the dishes were, and we zoomed into their signatures.
Life of a traveling salesman, you try to find homely comfort in the smallest things. And companionship in a familiar language.
Jizhan Cantonese 兜弄鸡栈(玫瑰坊店)
Tel : 18918662482
Date Visited : Dec 2019