Fine Dining

Moose 鹿園 @ Shanghai

Opened in 2016 by a returning Shanghainese that spent her formative years in UK, Moose Restaurant & Bar promptly got the Michelin star after a major facelift in 2018.

Moose serves Huaiyang cuisine, one of China’s four major categories of cuisine of which Shanghainese food is lumped into. Led by Executive Chef Paul Zhu who has over 30 years of experience with Huaiyang cuisine, Moose became the 7th Shanghainese cuisine to make it in the 2019 Michelin list, and a year later its sister restaurant in Pudong made the list too..

韵香铁观音

We got to the restaurant at our reservation time and were promptly brought to our table on the second floor in the open hall. And then we ordered a pot of tea – isn’t this the normal SOP, order a pot of tea? However, this pot of Oolong was ¥258, no kidding. The set menu was ¥498, so you can see why I was so surprised. Mental note to self: Always check price.

Dinner service

Everything looked pretty good so far, except for this presentation plate. It looked out of place compared with the rest of the glassware.

镇江肴肉 Zhenjiang Crystal Pork Terrine

镇江肴肉 Zhenjiang Crystal Pork Terrine

Crystal pork terrine is a specialty of Zhenjiang, a small river town of Jiangsu province. Famed for its translucent jelly texture and beautiful pink and white color, the pork terrine is usually eaten with vinegar and ginger dip as an appetiser. Do not be fooled by the crystal clear jelly, it was so flavourful.

山核桃番茄色拉 Pecan Tomato Salad

山核桃番茄色拉 Pecan Tomato Salad

The second ala carte appetiser that I ordered was a seasonal pecan tomato salad.

山核桃番茄色拉 Pecan Tomato Salad

The mini tomatoes had been marinated in plum. In each of these mini tomatoes, pecan nut and cream cheese. Very appetising and not your usual Chinese food.

Selected Set Menu

While the Michelin Guide is mapping out China at a slow pace, domestic restaurant guides have emerged to rival the world’s most famous restaurant guide, and they are very smart to play to their strengths. Moose ran a promotion with the local restaurant reservation app to offer a specially curated set menu.

鸡尾酒

Usually I would not order from the set menu, but it offered individually served portions of the Chef’s selections. It was almost like a degustation menu in a French restaurant.

餐前水果拼盘

五福拼盘冷碟 “Five Fortunes” Appetisers

五福拼盘冷碟 “Five Fortunes” Appetisers

5 appetisers were presented in bite-size portions – sweet lotus roots stuffed with glutinous rice 桂花莲藕, salted chicken 盐水鸡, oil fried shrimps 油爆虾, sea whelks in sweet sauce 甜味花螺 and puffed dough with cucumber and caviar.

Dining these days in China emphasised on the “ceremonial experience” 仪式感 like what you get in Japanese kaiseki or French fine dining. The ambiance, the plating, the chinaware used, etc. all played a part in the whole dining experience. It has reached a fever pitch where every mid and high end restaurants try to outdo each other. You can see trace of hassun 八寸 in the presentation of this appetiser platter.

糟骨头芋艿蒸黄鱼 Steamed Yellow Croaker With Minced Pork And Taro

糟骨头芋艿蒸黄鱼 Steamed Yellow Croaker With Minced Pork And Taro

What seemed like a normal piece of steamed fish had a hidden surprise underneath!

The hidden surprise

Because of the habitat, wild-caught yellow croakers have a hint of floral fragrance when you served them steamed. I have not seen it served in other methods. This was not wild-caught, but it was a good piece of fish – tender and fresh, nothing short of a star. But it was the minced pork and taro that were hiding under the fish that stole the limelight. The patty was mixed with wine lee so the alcohol took away any “fishiness”. And like what my mama always said, steamed fish goes well with a little pork fat.

清炒时令时蔬 Stir-fry Season Vegetable

清炒时令时蔬 Stir-fry Season Vegetable

A simple stir-fry baby bakchoy 鸡毛菜 with julienned shiitake mushrooms. I was introduced to 鸡毛菜 (literally “chicken feather vegetable”) when I was staying in Shanghai. When raw, it was light and cost nothing when vegetables were sold by weight, so it’s a poor man’s vegetable. Actually, it is just a colloquial term for baby bakchoy. I really loved them, even though these days they are no longer inexpensive.

淮扬清炖狮子头 Huaiyang-style Stewed Meatball

淮扬清炖狮子头 Huaiyang-style Stewed Meatball

This is deceptively simple dish, but it destroys many a chef’s career because it is so difficult to perfect. The last time I had this dish was in Yangzhou, where it originally came from. And I thought it could not be surpassed until now.

“Lion’s head” meatball 狮子头 was originally called “Sunflower Minced Meat” 葵花斩肉. It was believed that during the construction of the Grand Canal (which stretches from Beijing to Hangzhou) in the Sui Dynasty (589-618), Emperor Yang travelled to various points along it, including Yangzhou. There, he was reportedly enamoured by several sights, one of which was a valley of sunflowers 葵花岗. When he returned to his palace, he asked the chef to create dishes that would remind him of these sights. And “Sunflower Minced Meat” 葵花斩肉 was passed down over the long river of history, with a few variations in the Jiangzhe region.

There are several styles and by far I enjoyed the Yangzhou-style the best. Firstly pork meat is minced and different chefs swear by the size of the mince. Then a ratio of fatty pork meat is mixed with lean meat, and again everyone has his/her recipe. After that, the styles would defer. Shanghainese would fried the meatball before braising it in a sweet and savoury thick sauce. Yangzhou-style would cooked the meat ball in broth made from chicken and pork bones. And then Chinese cabbage is added to the stew, so you get the sweetness of the cabbaged intermixed with the umami from the broth and meatball.

手工虾蟹炒鱼丝 Hand-Peeled Shrimp And Crab Meat With Fish

手工虾蟹炒鱼丝 Hand-Peeled Shrimp And Crab Meat With Fish

The next course came ceremonially covered, only to be revealed in front of you.

手工虾蟹炒鱼丝 Hand-Peeled Shrimp And Crab Meat With Fish

A sea of golden was revealed on the unveil, the smell of seafood whiffed through the air. On closer examination, there’s crab, fish and shrimp in what seemed to be the golden colour of crab roe. And then there’s the boba-looking pearls among the golden sea.

手工虾蟹炒鱼丝 Hand-Peeled Shrimp And Crab Meat With Fish

You eat this with a spoon. Every spoonful was filled with yummilicious goodness of crab and roe. The boba pearls were vinegar. As they burst in your mouth, it took away the heaviness of the roe and seafood.

百合芡实露拼双麻酥饼 Lily Gorgon Dew and Double Sesame Crumble

百合芡实露拼双麻酥饼 Lily Gorgon Dew and Double Sesame Crumble

Dessert in a Chinese meal was usually a lame affair. But Moose provided two different desserts which highlighted that Chinese desserts can be as good the Western ones.

双麻酥饼 Double Sesame Crumble

First up, a warm dessert.

White sesame on the crust and black sesame for filling

The toasted white sesame on the outside was very fragrant and complimented well with the sweet black sesame paste inside the puff pastry.

百合芡实露 Lily Gorgon Dew

And then there’s the cold lily bulb and gorgon fruit with peach resin soup. A sweet and light ending to the evening.

Afterthoughts

Moose is operated in a three-floor centennial garden house, main dining area on the first floor, private rooms on the second, and VIP banquet on the third. This century-old mansion, complete with a manicured backyard for alfresco dining, was overhauled in 2018. 

The whole house is predominantly in white, matched with antique furniture and oil paintings collected from European auction firms. But on the menu of this exuberant European home authentic Yangzhou cuisine is being served.

Since 2019, they have been awarded 1 Star in the Michelin Shanghai Guide. Their sister restaurant of the same name in Pudong has been given the same accolade in 2020. I was not impressed by Michelin anymore – they are still a good guide on good food, but nowadays there isn’t a “wow” factor anymore, especially for the Asian ones.

The experience I had tonight was subpar. Everything was served simultaneous like a Chinese banquet, but we have ordered a menu that was presented as single servings like a Western degustation. By the time I finished my fish, the crab meat had turned cold. Overall a good eat, but I would not go on my own again.

Moose Restaurant & Bar 鹿园
No.1, Lane 119, Xinhua Road, Shanghai, China
新华路119弄1号, 近番禺路
Tel : +86 (021) 6205 5058

Date Visited : Jul 2021

1 comment on “Moose 鹿園 @ Shanghai

  1. Pingback: Michelin Shanghai 2021 – live2makan

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