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YongFoo Élite Reviews

This restaurant is housed in what used to be the British Embassy, which is a really impressive structure. You enter via a set of gates and follow a route that leads to the restaurant. The dining room is located on the ground level, and it includes garden patio seating as well as a private dining area. In addition, there is a vast garden that did not seem to be very well kept, and the whole site had an air of fading grandeur about it. The cuisine of the Shanghai area is the focus of the restaurant’s offerings. There was a large selection of dishes on the menu, as well as a tea menu and a wine list.

We began with mung bean custard cake, a strange combination that was rather sweet, and it felt like an unusual way to begin the dinner, similar to presenting a lemon tart at the beginning of a French meal. It had a gritty texture that I didn’t find especially appetizing (12 out of 20). Drunken chicken consisted of slices of cold chicken breasts on the bone that had been marinated in wine for many hours. Even though the wine flavor came through, the chicken itself was a touch too dry, and the chicken was served cold from the refrigerator (at best, a 13/20 rating). Bean curd “ham” was served with a smoked egg on the side. It wasn’t really enjoyable eating the slices of bean curd, but the egg was intriguing, with a sticky yolk and an overtly smokey flavor (13/20), which I found to be a pleasant surprise.

Then there came a platter of cold meats that had been preserved. In order to generate a mist over the plate, dry ice was employed, which must have been pretty amazing to someone who has never seen this effect before, such as someone who has just woken up from a decades-long sleep or who has never eaten in a restaurant before. A decade ago, this kind of gimmick seemed to be out of date. The duck was okay but a little dry, the ham was equally dry but with a little more flavor, and the shrimp, which was partially in its shell, was inedibly chewy. The best were some ginko nuts that had been kept. Though this method of preserving meat developed out of necessity in the days before refrigeration, eating it makes you realize how difficult those days must have been (11/20).

The first hot dish, pork belly cooked in rice wine and soy sauce, was much better than the first cold dish. This was extremely good, not too greasy, and had a small sweet and sour flavor (14/20), which I like. The tofu and crab roe with scallion dish was devoid in flavor to say the least. Crab is a high-priced component that was scarcely discernible in this dish (11/20). Meatballs made from minced pork were served in a stock with water chestnuts and bak choi, among other things. The beef itself was almost completely devoid of flavor or spice, and the bak choi had gotten somewhat mushy (ten out of twenty points).

Baby bak choi and baby bamboo were the most outstanding dishes. It was much more delicate and had a pleasing texture than the previous bak choi, and the batons of baby bamboo were very tender (14/20). Finally, we picked up some xiao long bao, the liquid pork and crab filling of which tasted entirely like pork, maybe because crab is a more expensive component than pig. However, although the texture of the dumpling was satisfactory, given that it was somewhat thin, another xiao long bao that we sampled shortly afterwards for comparison from an allegedly well-regarded street food stall known as Jia Jia Tang Bao tasted better and cost less than a tenth of the price (12/20).

The service was mainly acceptable, with the waiter at least asking whether we were satisfied with the pace at which the food were being served. One of the reasons there aren’t many images is because the waiter first said that no food shots were permitted, but subsequently appeared to lose interest in enforcing this unusual prohibition. He had no objections to my photographing the space, but he did object to my photographing the meal. Later, he emphasized that images taken with a phone were OK, but that photos taken with a camera were not, which was bizarre. All of this is taking place in a dining room that is absolutely vacant. The whole price for a somewhat small meal with just tea to drink amounted to CNY 493 (about £56). If you drank wine and ordered more ambitiously, an average cost per head may be £80 per person, according to some estimates. Given the high quality of the meal and the wide variety of choices available in this metropolis, this is an absurdly high price. It was probably revealing that we were literally the only diners at this meal, though two latecomers wandered in just as we were about to leave the establishment. This is just another example of Michelin’s nonsensical score in Asia. Two stars? What do you mean? Hardly. The well-traveled Chinese individuals with whom I dined were also unhappy with the meal here, indicating that this was not simply a case of a foreigner who didn’t “understand” the cuisine. Compare this to one of the top restaurants in Hong Kong, or even London, and you’ll see that the rating is completely illogical.

Cuisine Type: Shanghainese

Specialties:

Address: 200 Yongfu Road, Shanghai, China Mainland

Phone: +86 21 5466 2727

Website: YongFoo Élite Official Site

Hours: Closed: 1-6 February

Michelin Stars: 2