Mr Gao Wei from the Chinese Embassy in Malaysia
The Braised Fish Head Soup with Preserved Vegetable in Claypot was the simplest dish of the evening but its sweet earthy broth was enough to steal the show. In fact it was so good that Phoenix Bee and myself unashamedly picked several of the fish head bones clean; delighting in the tasty morsels that we managed to extract from the boney crevices.
Earlier our dinner was off to a promising start with Three Shanghai-style Appetisers: Blanched Enoki Mushrooms, Braised Gluten Puffs with Wood Ear's Fungus and Peanuts, and Fried Prawns to whet our appetite.
I love the cold, spongy and slightly sweet gluten puffs studded with peanuts and slices of crunchy wood ear's fungus; the whole ensembel was a multi-textural treat.
The mildly briny Shanghainese-style Fried Prawns were equally simple with a nice smoky tinge to them.
All these interesting specialities were whipped up by four guest chefs from The Eton Hotel Shanghai for Zuan Yuan Chinese Restaurant's Flavours of Shanghai promotion which will run from 23 June to 2 July.
The Sauteed Shrimp with Egg White is possibly one of Shanghai's most renowned offerings. I recall eating this particular dish on previous visits to the city that's famously touted as Paris of the East; only the delicate river shrimps were tinier with a lovely pinkish hue. Anyway I don't think anybody's likely to complain about the succulent shelled crustaceans here; they're bigger in size and slickly coated in smooth translucent egg white.
My personal favourite of the evening was the Deep-fried Mandarin Fish with Sweet and Sour Sauce. The presentation was most impressive; one can't help but admire the criss-crossed cutting on each piece of fish ensures it curled up into a chrysanthemum flower shape once fried! Although you have to look out for hidden bones within the sweet flesh, I daresay it's well-worth the trouble. The bright orange-hued sauce with red and green capsicum dices and pine nuts lent it the final flourish.
We found the Sauteed Shredded Beef with Honey Beans superbly tender; suffused with a deep-seated hearty flavour.
The subsequent speciality of Steamed Mushroom with Minced Chicken and Shrimp was on a completely tangent so delicate and ethereal were the dish's nuances.
We were a little thrown off by the Fried Noodles with Beef and Vegetable. The use of our local yellow noodles was most uncharacteristic in Shanghainese cuisine. Perhaps this was possibly an unexpected substitute the chefs had to make in view of our local restrictions.
Bringing the curtains down to our dinner was Sweet Scented Osmanthus Rice Cake - an enticing treat that tasted remarkably similar to Chinese New Year nin koh (steamed glutinous rice cake) only this boast a subtle floral aroma to it.
The Flavours of Shanghai menu features both a la carte and set menus. Ours is priced at RM380++ per table of four persons. For reservations, call Zuan Yuan at 03-7681 1159.