On the day I thought was a Tuesday, when the restaurant was supposedly closed, I wanted to start with a good lunch that will set off my exploring Shanghai’s French Concession. I arrived at Xintiandi for the first time and was thinking of eating at Xin Ji Shi restaurant. It was close to noon, and the area was still relatively quiet. I decided to go exploring the complex first and to snap pictures of the renovated shikumen-style buildings before the lunch crowd came in. As I was navigating through the labyrinth that was Xintiandi, I happened across T8, a restaurant once mentioned by a friend who had never been there, but had heard of it. I did some checking before flying to Shanghai and found that the restaurant, under Executive Chef Stephen Wright, is managed by the group GHM Ltd. (General Hotel Management), which is responsible for such resorts like the Chedi in Bali and the Leela in Goa. I was surprised to see that there was activity going on inside when I thought it was supposed to be closed. I decided to enter and ask if they were open. The hostess, Doreen, said yes. Quickly I realized that today was a Wednesday. What had gotten into me? I could not claim jetlag since there was only an hour difference between Shanghai and Tokyo.
The dark but warm décor and interior of the restaurant provided a contrasting break from the bright and cold late fall weather of Shanghai. I chose a seat close to the open kitchen and counter. The severe concrete wall on my left was softened by a floor-to-ceiling Indonesian woodcarving screen; the space in between was filled with soft lighting, producing a nice glow on this side of the restaurant. The kitchen, a square open-plan kitchen, protruded into the main dining room, providing diners with an uninterrupted view of the Chef who, aided by his staff, was performing his culinary magic. Concurrently, this gave the Chef a complete survey of the ground-floor dining area. A counter lining three sides of the kitchen was also available for a closer view of the activities happening in there.
The restaurant, serving modern Mediterranean and Asian fusion cuisine, offered two different set menus in addition to the a la cart items. I opted for the three-item set menu and chose beef carpaccio with sweet and spicy eggplant sambal for my appetizer; seared salmon on a bed of warmed vegetables for my entrée; and the triple chocolate cake with coconut ice cream as the final act of my lunch.
The appetizer arrived and immediately pleased me with the novelty of the presentation: sliced medium thick, the beef carpaccio encased the sweet and spicy eggplant sambal within. I could taste every element in this appetizer: the strong taste of the filling was tempered with the subtle flavor of the seasoned raw beef. Goodness, it was so delicious that I had no choice but to leap off my seat and to approach the Chef to compliment him. It turned out that he used to work in Indonesia for a period of a year or less. I mentioned to him that I was born and raised there, so we started chatting a bit about Indonesian food and spices. I also told him that he would spoil the rest of my dining experience in Shanghai, because after this, I was not sure if I could find anything this scrumptious. If the appetizer were any indication, then the main entrée would be really heavenly. As we were talking, I saw that every now and then he backed away from me to check something inside the oven. Quickly I realized it was my salmon he was preparing; I thought better to leave him alone so as not to ruin the dish.
As expected, my main entrée did not disappoint. He prepared the salmon the way I always liked it. Most of the places I went almost always messed up a salmon order by preparing it too dry or overcooked. Steve seared the salmon just so that it became crusty on the outside but very moist and wet pink in the inside. From the kitchen he shouted to tell me that this was his version of gado-gado (an Indonesian salad with peanut dressing) with a seared salmon on top. These two dishes convinced me to summon the hostess to reserve a table for a friend and me for the coming Friday night at 9pm.
While I was enjoying my dessert, Steve came to my table and invited me to come back for dinner. I told him that I had just made a reservation for Friday night and was going to take a friend. I asked him what he would recommend for dinner, and he told me that he would come to my table to suggest some. A true artist, he did not quite know yet what he would be in the mood for that night, and would prefer to wait until then to sound his recommendation.
Before leaving the premises, I was advised by Steve to have a look at the second floor with the Indonesian décor and some antique Chinese cabinets. I noticed that the restaurant’s name, as well as the number of resident goldfish in the tank near the hostess station was 8, an auspicious number in the Chinese culture. The second floor held a dining hall that could be converted into a banquet area. A small room adjoining this area was a Members-only dining room (members of the
Finding a good fusion restaurant is not an easy feat because San Francisco has always been rated highly when it comes to fusion dining (the California Cuisine, which basically is a fusion between the East and the West.) Even the well-reviewed “M on the Bund” had not impressed me quite as much as T8 did today. I look forward to Friday dinner. Located in the recently renovated area called the Xintiandi at the northeastern periphery of the French Concession, the T8 Restaurant and Bar alone is worth traveling to Shanghai for a great culinary experience.
No. 8 Xintiandi North Part
Lane 181 Tai Cang Road
Shanghai 200021, China
Tel: +86 (21) 6355-8999
Fax: +86 (21) 6311-4999
Photo Credit: ©T8 (Taken from the T8 website)