From 1930s Shanghai comes a contemporary take on fine Asian cuisine. David Tapley visits Shanghai ME to discover precisely what the East Asian hotspot in DIFC has to offer.
Located in Dubai’s International Finance Centre, Shanghai ME is a restaurant that looks to showcase the glamour and depth of Shanghai’s history and has been conceptualised with the aim to transport each visitor to experience life under the dynasties.
This certainly appears to be the case when we visit on a Sunday evening to find the restaurant almost nearing capacity and it is immediately evident that Shanghai ME has well and truly made an impact with Dubai diners. It’s easy to see why. The exquisite dining room designed by Florence-based architect Michele Bönan is a homage to the Art Deco design elements of pre-war Shanghai. With red velvet seating adding a touch of sophistication to a room full of grand mirrors, strategically placed Pop Art pieces and ornate urns filled with floral blooms. As sophisticated as the dining room appears, it is the lounge and terrace that captures our attention. Filled with palm trees, banana plants and bamboo, the lively area is reminiscent of a verdant green jungle while still retaining the luxurious touches and Asian detailing of the restaurant space.
The menu at Shanghai ME offers a contemporary approach to Asian cuisine and is rooted very much in tradition. Each dish has clearly been included for a specific reason, and the focus lies firmly on the precision and practice of culinary traditions that have taken centuries to perfect. We’re talking classic dishes that have been passed down through generations and then given a unique Shanghai ME twist to enhance them for the fine-dining landscape of Dubai in 2020.
Broken down into ten sections (plus desserts) the food menu represents a journey through the very best of East Asia. Taking in soups, appetisers, salads, vegetables, fish and shellfish, plus meat and poultry. We begin with Sesame Prawn on Toast (AED 90), large golden parcels that are generously portioned and presented impeccably upon a black slate. Each of the crisp parcels reveals an interior stuffed full of prawns and accompanied by a tantalising dipping sauce; it’s easy to see why this particular appetiser is categorised as one of the Shanghai ME signature dishes.
Despite the name of the restaurant, the menu at Shanghai ME isn’t limited purely to Chinese cuisine, with the selection of dishes offered encompassing much of East Asia. We’re delighted by the sushi selection which includes soft shell crab, spicy tuna tartare and yellowtail cut rolls, although for us, the Prawn Tempura Cut Roll (AED 65) is the one we’d recommend. The crisp prawns wrapped in perfectly portioned rice and covered in slithers of fresh avocado will likely leave you wanting to place an immediate order for another plate.
Premium ingredients come into play with several dishes on the Shanghai ME menu which includes choices such as Japanese Wagyu Beef A5, Peking Duck with Chinese Caviar and Steamed Prawn and Truffle Dumplings Har Gau (AED 55). The latter dish hails from the ‘dim sum library’, a section of the menu dedicated to dumplings and spring rolls. This is perhaps our favourite part of the Shanghai ME dining experience, with the steamed parcels presented in a bamboo basket and adorned with a touch of edible gold. The dim sum themselves are subtle and delicate, as one would expect considering the combination of ingredients. The truffle is used sparingly, so as not to overpower the subtleties of the prawns.
Our main courses come from the meat and seafood section of the menu, with The Wok Szechuan Beef with Mixed Vegetables (AED 160) boasting tender pieces of meat slathered in a thick and fiery Szechuan sauce that works nicely with an accompaniment of Kimchee Fried Rice (AED 50). Similarly, the Grilled Silver Cod with Yuzu Miso Sauce (AED 175) is as good an iteration of the popular dish as you are likely to find in Dubai. The flesh of the fish is infused beautifully with the sweet miso sauce, allowing for an impressive combination of both texture and flavour.
Save room for dessert because those on offer at Shanghai ME work as a real showcase for East Asian flavours and ingredients. The ever-popular Milk Cake with Black Sesame Ice Cream (AED 60) represents a large portion of light and fluffy cake topped with candied nuts. While the accompanying mango, banana and passionfruit compote is a delight that hits all the right notes. The Pandan Brioche Cake (AED 60) represents an alternative and offers something a little more unique thanks to its green colouration and interplay of textures. There’s also a Giant Fortune Cookie (AED 55) with a Hazelnut coating and chocolate and matcha mousse filling, that could bring you insight into the future and a dose of good fortune. Aside from the food, it’s the buzzing atmosphere and attention to detail that set the bar at this DIFC hotspot. With reliable service and a focus on quality, it’s easy to see why the latest opening from Bulldozer Group (the team behind Gaia and Scalini) has quickly become the talk of the town. Featuring a hidden dining table and a new open-air terrace, Shanghai ME lives up to its reputation of “Art Deco elegance” and is highly recommended. Check it out at The Exchange building.