When you are always traveling, the hotel restaurants are usually the first acquaintance to local cuisines for any new cities you go to. Safe bets usually, some of them can be very good.
Le Royal Meridien hotel is the higher grade brand for Le Meridien hotels, now part of the Marriott empire. It used to be my usual stay in Shanghai because of the proximity to my office. Now that I have moved on, I have changed my preferred lodging too.
But inside the hotel, there were several restaurants that I never got to try except for the Cantonese-Shanghainese restaurant.
凉拌鱼翅瓜 Figleaf gourd salad
Figleaf gourd was very popular for a while in Singapore, and then it totally disappeared. The squash is grown for the seeds but ingenious Hong Kong chefs found a way to use the fibrous fruit to product this salad. When steamed, the flesh of the fruit turns into these luscious golden strands, and if you get the timing right, still retains the crunch. Mix it with sesame oil and other condiments to get a beautifully simple yet delicious salad.
凉拌木耳 Wood fungus salad
Wood fungus is rich in anti-oxidant and is very abundant and can be cultivated easily. The dried version can be kept for years and just need water to reconstitute it back to its original crunchiness. Many put it in soup for the earthy taste of fungus, others use this for crunch in salad.
参茸野菌汤 Matsutake mushroom and bamboo fungus soup
This is not the Japanese matsutake – if it is was, the soup would have jumped in price 100 fold. This is the common Chinese matsutake, less intense in flavour and cultivated in farms. Still makes a mean soup when you pair it with bamboo pith fungus, wolf berry, dates and chicken stock.
豌豆百合芹菜 Cashew nuts with celery and lily bulbs
My healthy life choices continue with some more superfood. Lots of crunch in this dish, this is a classic combination of vegetable in Cantonese cuisine.
豆䜴蒸鲈鱼 Sea bass steamed with fried shallots and fermented black beans
Sea bass is a tasteless fish in my opinion, we have many other very tasty fish. But it is one of the most sustainable fish because it can be commercially farmed and reproduced in large amount. So Cantonese chefs have found ways to make this tasteless fish stand out from other more popular choices but unsustainable like grouper, pomfrets, halibut, sturgeon, etc. The strong taste of the condiments impact a nice smokiness and salinity needed from this farmed fish. Excellent.
鳗鱼拌饭 Eel and rice casserole
When in Shanghai, one have to eat eels. This is not the river eels that they use in Shanghainese cuisine, but those are farmed in Jiangsu estuaries for the Japan market. It looks like teriyaki sauce but it is not. It’s a savoury and sweet sauce that is used extensively in Cantonese casserole and when you mix it all up, it makes a very good Cantonese-style unagi rice that is less sweet and more savoury.
They were very famous for their dim sum lunches as well, and on the weekends, ala carte dim sum buffets were very popular. Tried the dim sum once, very good by Shanghai standard, but because I go to HK quite often, I would save the calories for something else.
The hotel has gone through a major facelift and renovations, and that included the restaurant. The original Cantonese executive chef has left and a new chef has taken over with Shanghainese cuisine roots. So you will see a shift in cuisine type. Yet to try since the change in 2019.
Ai Mei Chinese Restaurant 艾美轩中餐厅
789 Nanjing Road East, Shanghai 200001 China （inside Le Royal Meridien Shanghai)
Tel : +86 21 3318 9999
Date Visited : Jan 2016