Good Eats

Dianshizhai 點石齋小宴 @ Shanghai

This is a restaurant with a prominent relative. The brother of the owner of Dianshizhai 點石齋小宴 is the literary luminaire Yu Qiuyu 余秋雨.

Right at the entrance is the signboard of the name of the restaurant written by Yu Qiuyu. Opened in 2005 by the brother of the famous author, it serves really authentic Shanghainese fare. The restaurant is housed in the historical area of 石庫門 Shikumen, where the Chinese Communist Party held their first people’s congress in the nearby warehouse.

There is a general dining area as well as private rooms (“baofang”) available to book with minimum charge. A room that sits 8-10 people will have a minimum charge of around RMB¥1,000+, which is not difficult to fulfill even with very modest dish prices.

涼菜 Appetisers

秘制散養鹹雞 salted chicken

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秘制散養鹹雞 salted chicken

Firm yet tender, the salted chicken was not as stiff as it looked.  Very rich in the chicken taste and nicely salted for a simple appetiser.

海蜇頭 jellyfish in vinegar

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海蜇頭 jellyfish in vinegar

The jellyfish was flavoured with sesame oil and vinegar, with a dash of chilli oil. Crunchy. Flavour can be enhanced with the vinaigrette dipping sauce.

上海熏魚 Shanghai style smoked fish

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上海熏魚 Shanghai style smoked fish

To start, let me clarify that this Shanghai Smoked Fish (aka, Shanghai Xun Yu, 上海熏鱼) is not actually smoked in the usual sense, the “smoking” process takes place in the sauce. In Shanghai, this Smoked Fish is a cold appetizer loved by locals and visitors alike. The dark sweet soy sauce is a very Shanghainese flavor, so it’s no surprise that like Shanghai Red Braised Pork (Hong Shao Rou), the quality of a given restaurant’s Shanghai Smoked Fish goes hand-in-hand with the quality of the restaurant itself! Needless to say, each restaurant has its own heavily guarded “secret sauce.”

江南素八鮮 Jiangnan eight vegetarian treasures

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江南素八鮮 Jiangnan eight vegetarian treasures

Made of 8 kinds of shredded vegetables (celery, bean sprout, carrot, radish, shiitake mushroom, enoki mushroom and seaweed), this is a delicious appetiser that is easy on the palate. The taste is a delicate whiff of sesame oil, with soy sauce and vinegar.

紫薯沙拉 sweet potato salad

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紫薯沙拉 sweet potato salad

雞汁百葉包 bean curd skin in chicken stock

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雞汁百葉包 bean curd skin in chicken stock

烤麩 marinated bran dough

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紅燒烤麩 marinated bran dough

Hong Shao Kao Fu, (红烧烤麸) is a Shanghainese vegetarian cold appetizer. Kao fu is a form of wheat gluten, often sold dried, that tastes kind of like tofu. What a lot of people don’t know about Chinese food is the abundance of cold dishes often served before the main meal. This is one of those traditional dishes.

熱菜 Main Course

清炒水晶蝦仁 sautéed river shrimp

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清炒水晶蝦仁 sautéed river shrimp

Stir fried crystal shrimps 清炒水晶虾仁 is often also found in the Shanghainese restaurants. It is called crystal 水晶 shrimps for their near translucent appearance. It looked like a really simple dish, but the work to clean the shrimp (taking out the intestines and sh*t for each one of these tiny shrimps) you have to give the appreciation of the hard work of the chefs.

川湘乾鍋牛蛙 Sichuan bullfrog

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川湘乾鍋牛蛙 Sichuan bullfrog

Not my favourite. The bullfrog was dry and overcooked.

港式椒盐排条 fried spare ribs with spiced salts

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港式椒盐排条 fried spare ribs with spiced salts

A Cantonese dish slipped into the menu.

紅燒肉燜蛋 braised pork belly and eggs in red sauce

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紅燒肉燜蛋 braised pork belly and eggs in red sauce

This is a signature dish of the restaurant. One must order this dish for every visit. It is the epitome of the Shanghai 濃油赤醬 oily and rich style of cooking. The fats of the pork belly has rendered so well that it simply melted in your mouth. The sauce was sweet and it braised the boiled eggs perfectly.

清蒸石斑 steamed grouper

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清蒸石斑 steamed grouper

Grouper is one of the better farmed fish, and if fresh, the meat would be tender and firm. Simple steaming and drizzled with the soy sauce would just do the trick.

江南蟹粉豆腐 Jiangnan crab roe and tofu

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江南蟹粉豆腐 Jiangnan crab roe and tofu

My second favourite Shanghainese dish, the crab roe tofu would enticed you to have multiple bowls of rice. Another good way is to eat it with noodles.

土雞湯 free range chicken soup

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土雞湯 free range chicken soup

Served in a clay casserole, it was hot chicken soup for the soul in a chilly winter night. The oil kept the temperature of the soup hot. Strangely, it did not hardened like the spicy fish. Perhaps that’s the heat retention characteristic of claypot casserole.

上海八寶辣醬 Shanghai spicy eight treasures

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上海八寶辣醬 Shanghai spicy eight treasures

Bits of pine nuts, mushrooms, beancurd, bell pepper, diced ham, bamboo shoots stir-fry with a spicy soy sauce.

响油鱔糊 River eel in heavy soy sauce

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响油鱔糊 River eel in heavy soy sauce

My favourite Shanghainese dish. River eels are deboned and then stir fried in sweet soy sauce, stock and aromatics like garlic and leek. And just before serving, a ladle of boiling oil is added on top of the oil, causing it sizzle with the hot oil – hence the name 響油 ringing oil.

黑胡椒牛肉骰粒 black pepper diced beef

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黑胡椒牛肉骰粒 black pepper diced beef

Some called this dish Maggi diced beef. It was peppery, savoury with umami from the Maggi Seasoning.

水煮鱸魚 fish in Sichuan spicy sauce

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水煮鱸魚 fish in Sichuan spicy sauce

The room was a chilly 20˚C, and while we were talking, the strangest thing happened. Without a warmer underneath the plate, the chilli oil hardened in the cold of winter.

無錫麵筋炒群菇 Wuxi gluten and mushrooms

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無錫麵筋炒群菇 Wuxi gluten and mushrooms

清炒蘑菇上海青 mushrooms and bakchoy

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清炒蘑菇上海青 mushrooms and bakchoy

I believe this was the weakest dish for the entire evening, absolutely lacklustre.

酒香草頭 sauteed edible clover in wine sauce

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酒香草頭 sautéed edible clover in wine sauce

We seldom came across edible clover anywhere else, but in Shanghai it is everywhere in markets and restaurants during the spring months. Edible clover 草頭 preparation is very specific and very simple, using a good amount of oil, salt, and Bai Jiu, a popular Chinese sorghum-based grain alcohol. Bai Jiu varies in strength, and many say that you must use a brand that is at least 46% alcohol! In my opinion, the Bai Jiu is what makes the edible clover really delicious.

蔥油拌面 noodles in scallion oil

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蔥油拌面 noodles in scallion oil

Scallions are deep fried in vegetable oil to create scallion oil 蔥油 and this oil is then used as a condiment for dried noodles together with Shanghainese style dark soy sauce. Simple yet satisfying finish to a really long and full dinner.

甜品 Dessert

酒釀芝麻湯圓 sesame glutinous ball in wine lees soup

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酒釀芝麻湯圓 sesame glutinous ball in wine lees soup

Sweet and slight taste of alcohol. I really like the glutinous rice, it was not sticky to the teeth, and the filling of sesame paste was really fragrant.

The food was great, the service was attentive. While the staff spoke no English, they did have a menu with pictures and rough English translations and we had an absolutely fabulous Chinese feast. Highly recommended

Dianshizhai 點石齋小宴
徐匯區永嘉路320號(近襄陽南路)
Tel : 021-54650270, 54650271

Date Visited : Dec 2019

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