When traveling in Shanghai, it can be easy to stay with the tried, true… and close by. The Bund is a safety area for foreigners. Everyone knows where it is and how to get there. Even the name is easy to pronounce. Much more exotic sounding, yet just as foreigner friendly (if not more so) is the grey brick turn of the century Shanghai lane neighborhood known as Xintiandi. It’s a quaint area, featuring beautiful architecture, a mix of cafes and high-end shopping, and one of my new favorite Shanghai restaurants (not just Shanghai, but on my short-list for all time favorites) – T8.
It’s hard to say exactly what T8 is, because everything you say about it is true, but it’s not quite enough. It’s a restaurant… and a great one at that but also a bar, great wine spot, and more. The space is divided up into different sections… so while one part is perfect for a relaxing family meal… furnished with cozy couches, family style tables and even designer stuffed bears…
Another area is fast-paced, sleek, and modern… with an open view of the bursts of flames, billows of smoke, and general frantic activity of the kitchen.
And finally upstairs you feel as though you’re in some stylish friend’s home. There’s beautiful exposed wood trim, comfy chairs and sofas and plenty of natural light… perfect for everything from a Sunday brunch to a business dinner.
They even had a cricket housed upstairs (in what looked like salt and pepper shakers for the winter season) chirping away… I’ll admit to the noise standing out to me at first, and then as the meal carried on it actually became quite soothing… as if I was having a meal in the building in it’s earlier days as a home.
As cool as the space is, ultimately you go out to eat for the food. And the food here is wonderful. The menu is ever evolving and changing (so don’t come crying to me if things I list off aren’t served when you arrive). T8 strives to find a balance on the menu between seasonal, fresh ingredients and customer tastes. They’ve also developed meal-specific menus such as the lovely brunch menu sets starting at 238 RMB for 2-courses with champagne and coffee or tea to 328 RMB for 4-courses with the same. And for dinner there’s a 7-course tasting menu that I will be returning to sample for 788 RMB w/o wine or 1298 w/ paired wines.
We recently had the pleasure to share a meal with General Manager Walter Zahner. I could ramble on here about what a gracious host he was… not only talking about the intricacies of T8, but also recommending shopping areas in Shanghai, insights into culture, etc…. but you’re probably reading to find out about the food
We started with appetizers. At Walter’s recommendation I had the Cured Salmon and Lobster Roulade. A seemingly simple dish transformed thanks to the curry pickled fennel, parsnips, and wasabi puree with beetroot sorbet. The wasabi puree had a wonderful kick to eat and taken with the salmon was a great deconstructed and re-invented sushi of sorts.
Joanna had the Cauliflower Soup with salmon pearls and bacon crisp. I’ve been sold on cauliflower soups since my first meal at Amantee and this one just seals the deal. I wish more restaurants would offer this one (as much as I love pumpkin soup, everyone seems to be doing it these days). Perfect soup for our chilly Sunday afternoon.
Walter ordered the Seared Sea Bass Bradade with sauteed beets and swiss chard in a saffron bisque. Another dish that sounded simple, but delivered more than the name would suggest.
Next it was time for the mains. When in Rome China you have to get pork belly. Maybe that’s just my rule, but they do pork belly so well in China and the quality of the ingredient is so high. My Confit Pork Belly with polenta braised red cabbage in a red wine sauce was one of the lightest and most delicate pork dishes I’ve had. It wasn’t too heavy or overwhelming, yet hearty enough to satisfy and comfort on a cool day.
Joanna had the Caramelized Salted Salmon with green mango, longan salad, crispy shallots, and salmon pearls. This dish typified something about T8 I’ve yet to mention. Walter spent a considerable amount of time working in Thailand and brings some great Thai flavors to dishes… not fusion necessarily but the influence is notable and lovely.
Walter ordered the other dish I had my sights set on – Sweet Potato Terrine with olive puree, tomato confit, and lemongrass froth. I’ve decided to always try and taste a vegetarian dish at a restaruant (when I can). How a restaurant handles the restrictions of a vegetarian diet says a lot about that restaurant. This dish was probably the most flavorful dish that came out that day… truly wonderful.
After all that wonderful food we still found some room for dessert. I went against my norm and didn’t order anything chocolaty and instead went with a Fresh Apple Tart with vanilla ice cream and cinnamon caramel. I can still taste the cinnamon caramel sauce.
Joanna went with the Warm Almond Cake with toasted ice cream and coconut foam.
And Walter had the Lemongrass Brulee with coconut sorbet and pineapple salad. The Lemongrass wasn’t overpowering but evident and worked really well in the brulee.
T8 is a great restaurant…edging into my top spot so far for Shanghai. Factoring in the feeling of comfort one gets from the dining room, the quality of food coming out of the kitchen and all the other little details… T8 just gets it right… and that was just off a lunch experience. I can’t wait to try the tasting menu!
House 8, North Block Xintiandi, Lane 181 Taicang Lu,
(near Huangpi Nan Lu, Metro Line 1 Huangpi Nan Lu Station)
Telephone – 6355-8999