Wednesday, May 30, 2007

T8 Restaurant & Bar, Taicang Road, Xintiandi, Shanghai

T8 Restaurant & Bar, Taicang Road, Xintiandi, Shanghai
Wednesday 30 May, 2007

Our experience at T8 last year was faultless so it was imperative that we return this year. I had been in communication with the assistant to the GM since our experience last year and received this lovely message just before we left:

Stephanie, so good to know you are coming to Shanghai in May and welcome back! I'd love to reserve a nice table for 3pax on Wednesday 30 May at 7.30pm under your name. Look forward to receiving you then!

T8 is a restaurant that earned a place in Conde Nast Traveler's 2002 "Hot Tables" list of the top 50 "world's most exciting restaurants." The restaurant is tucked away in a corner of Xintiandi - a shopping and entertainment area crafted out of the buildings that, ironically, were the site of the first meeting of the Chinese Communist Party.

The restaurant's design is unique offering a lotus pond on entry, wooden latticed partitions dividing the eating area into intimate dining rooms, an impressive glass wine cellar, glass fridges displaying the fresh vegetables and an open kitchen that is wonderful to watch with impeccably dressed staff.

On arrival we were led to our table......... upstairs. Not happy Jan - I immediately knew something was not right as the dining space upstairs is so secluded and you are so far away from the liveliness of the kitchen and atmosphere downstairs. We ordered Apple martinis to kick off the evening and these were without a doubt the best apple martinis I have ever tasted. Despite this we still wanted to move downstairs so called the Manager over. After explaining that we would like to be seated downstairs and had specifically requested this when we had booked in February he looked shocked and said it was near impossible to secure a table downstairs and that I couldn't have received an email from the assistant to the GM as she was on sick leave. As we have learnt persistence pays off in China so after repeating our request - guess what? A table miraculously became free downstairs. After enjoying our drinks upstairs and sampling their amuse bouche - sangria sorbet and individual fresh baked bread served in clay pots with zucchini butter - we moved downstairs.

Our table was positioned with a perfect view into the kitchen and now that we were settled we decided to celebrate with a bottle of Bollinger. The staff were discreet and move around the floor effortlessly - before you even realised your glass has been refilled or your plates cleared. Not surprisingly we received another amuse bouche - sangria sorbet and individual fresh baked bread served in clay pots with zucchini butter - as it was so deliciously good we didn't turn it away.

The menu is a fusion of Chinese/ Japanese and international cuisine and there are only about 6 offerings for entree and main. For entree I could not go past the Watermelon salad with goats cheese, haloumi, watercress and coriander. It was light, fresh and the flavours just exploded in your mouth. My China buddies opted for the tataki of tuna served on a long rectangular plate and the salmon fillet on a Chinese salad base. We all sat there in silence enjoying every single mouthful.

For main I ordered the slow cooked lamb high pie with yellow curry bisque and my dinner buddies opted for beef tenderloin and king prawns. The presentation of these dishes were just so impressive - each dish came to the table on a different shaped plate that was perfect for it and must have been designed with the dish in mind. The smells and flavours were overwhelming and again, we were not disappointed. My lamb pie was melt in your mouth good and it was sitting in a bowl of bisque that was spicy and incredibly more-ish.

The kitchen was so entertaining to watch and we found it fascinating that although the chefs were all Chinese and Japanese every order was read out by the Exec chef in English and all the staff replied 'Yes chef'. I love watching the action of a kitchen and this one made it look effortless. Every staff member had a crisp white uniform on with the T8 logo on the back and although we could see how hot it was in the kitchen none of them had broke a sweat.

We were all so full that dessert was definitely not on the cards. Instead we ordered more apple martinis and retired to their bar. Sinking into the large leather chairs we could easily have camped out there all night. Whilst it wasn't the experience we had hoped for the food was sensational and I have no hesitation recommending T8.

T8 Restaurant & Bar - 8 Xintiandi North part Lane, 181 Taicang Road, Xintiandi, Shanghai - T: (86 21) 6355 8999


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