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A culinary experience that is like teleporting to the South of France

Shanghai has no shortage of wonderful French restaurants, but La Table at  Maison Pourcel might just be one of the most memorable French meals we have had in Shanghai…and in fact one of the most memorable meals of the last few years for us at AE. The Michelin-starred Pourcel brothers bring culinary perfection to bear on a simultaneously traditional and inventive Mediterranean French menu in location that’s as storied as the brothers themselves.

The building, known as Red House, has been part of Shanghai for years housing various Western restaurants since the 1930’s. The Pourcel brothers have transformed this large space into a haven of gastronomy that is at once personal and intimate yet also grand.

Studiobar on the 6th floor houses a French tapas bar, private rooms, a balcony

and an extensive wine room containing over 3000 bottles of wine.

The restaurant sits 2-stories up on the 8th floor boasting 180-degree views of the French Concession. But honestly once the food started to arrive, we scarcely looked past the table as the real focus was on the food.

In the tragedy that faces many diners in a fine restaurant, we struggled to decide what to order. Everything beckoned, but decisions had to be made. We had the opportunity to meet Jacques Pourcel before the dinner and asked him about his food philosophy – he explained it was a “study in contrasts” and so we decided to choose dishes that we thought would best represent this.

Paul, never one to pass on a pumpkin soup, chose the Puree of Pumpkin and Chesnut with Sliced Truffle, Cracked Hazelnut Emulsion, Bread Chips and Comte Cheese. The soup was probably one of my favourite dishes of the meal (Paul and I shared it : ) It was somehow both delicate and hearty  – creatively layered with the hazelnuts on the bottom, then truffles and the silky pumpkin puree on top.

Next up was a Traditional Pate wrapped in Brioche, a classic South of France dish. Pure and simple…and delicious.

Actually at this point we are getting full, but there are many other courses to arrive. We knew we were in trouble if everything kept coming out so consistently and perfectly executed! And so it was then it was the Duck Liver and Cepes Ravioli arrived. Buried under a mountain of foam were the mouthwateringly good ravioli. The richness of the duck liver was deftly cut with the addition of a sweet pumpkin puree. (188RMB)

Paul was particularly excited about the next dish – a Crispy Egg Stuffed with Slightly Scrambled Egg and Mashed Green Pea served with Toasted Bread topped with Truffle and Duck Liver (188RMB). I loved the whole concept of an egg inside an egg. The egg was simply crusted in cornflour and inside, as promised, were soft scrambled eggs.

Next up was a Scallop cooked in its Shell with Fava Beans, steamed inside a Pastry Crust. The presentation was as exciting as the dish. As the server broke the bread seal, a delicate briny aroma wafted up and prepared us for the taste that was to follow.

Finally (I know this was an incredibly indulgent meal) we enjoyed our main courses. Paul chose the Pan-fried Beef Fillet with Bone Marrow, Pan-fried Duck Liver with Braised Silver Beets and Truffled Gnocchi. Think about it…steak, truffles, foie gras, marrow and gnocchi…it doesn’t get more decadent than that!

Or does it? I ordered the Suckling Pig with Caramelized Roasted Pork Chops, Spiced Pear-Quince Compote and Crispy Skin. It was a crispy plate of pork goodness, alternating between succulent and crispy. Decadent somehow seems to fall short of describing this course.

And on to dessert. As is often the case with gastronomic restaurants we were surprised with a pre-dessert, a Pineapple Granite with Coconut Foam.

For the “regular” dessert Paul ordered the Green Tea Parfait in a Chocolate Shell (198 RMB)

and I tried the Vanilla Souffle with Rose-bud Confit and Sherbet (88 RMB). Both desserts were clever interplays of richness with bright and fresh contrasts.

It was in fact as Jacques had promised…whether it was the interplay between crispy and succulent pork, or the contrast between rich foie gras and sweet pumpkin, the palate was teased and delighted. Despite that we eat a great many “memorable” meals, we agreed this was among the most memorable. With 15 restaurants worldwide that they either own or had a great hand in shaping, one might mistakenly think they are executing a “formula” a la Joel Roubuchon, but this is simply not the experience that we had. Not only was this epic feast luxurious and decadent, but it was also thoughtful and at times playful. It is in fact the contrast, just like in life, that makes for a winning gastronomic experience.

Le Table at Maison Pourcel
35 South Shan Xi Road, Near Changle Road
Shanghai, China
Telephone: +86 (21) 6215 8777

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