CHECK IT OUT: Modern Shanghai at SM Mall of Asia, Pasay
Shanghainese at its best
2nd level, Veranda Bayside, Entertainment Mall, SM Mall of Asia, Pasay City
Tel. No. 551-1110
Open from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. (Sunday to Thursday); 11 a.m. to 12 a.m. (Friday to Saturday)
(SPOT.ph) There’s an invisible line in the middle of Modern Shanghai (the restaurant, not the country). On one side, the side facing the sea, chandeliers shaped like Chinese lanterns cast a graceful glow. A wall on the far end makes the space distinctly Shanghainese-glossy chartreuse and puce in an intricate lotus leaf pattern with wooden koi figurines seemingly swimming across, a consolidation of Shanghai’s French-oriental underpinnings. The other side, which connects to the mall, is modest and laidback. Set up like a Chinese home, deep brown lattices are arranged on the walls, contrasting the green-tiled floor, and framing the mouthwatering view of the kitchen. The divide seems unintentional; only the result of taking the original inspiration of Modern China, a fine-dining restaurant, into something a little more accessible. It doesn’t matter where you sit though, there’s no need to choose sides in Modern Shanghai.
It seems far-fetched to say that tea is one of the reasons to brave a trip to Mall of Asia, but it’s true. They have four variations, Fairy Jasmine (lily, osmanthus, jasmine), Lily Blossom (green tea, lily, jasmine), Golden Sunrise (amaranth, jasmine), and Peaceful Garden (chrysanthemum, jasmine)-each a performance on its own. Instead of tea leaves, small bulbs are dropped into the water, which eventually open up into a flower sitting on the bottom of your glass.
Signature xiao long bao
The xiao long bao (P198), or soup dumplings, have that savory broth served not scalding but just perfect for sipping. While most xiao long bao let the soup do all the talking, here, the ground pork takes center stage-amazingly fresh, it’s soft and velvety, not at all like the coarse compact meat ball that we’ve become accustomed to with our ground pork. There’s a special pan-fried version (P228) that adds a bit of a crackle with every bite.
Lucky Pork Knuckle
But that’s only the beginning. Modern Shanghai seems to have perfected the art of cooking pork. To describe their Signature Braised Lucky Pork Knuckle (P888) as just easy to pull apart would be unfair; it literally melts in your mouth. The cook is similar to patatim, and though not as saucy, the flavors remarkably stand out. Yet another example is the "Tung Bor"-style Pork Belly (P418), braised to sinful perfection with tempting golden brown fat in between super soft meat.
Braised pork belly
Sweet and sour fish is a fixture in Chinese restaurants. The Deep-fried Garoupa (P788) is deliciously crispy and deep-fried; the sauce is subtle, complementing the mellow flavors of garoupa. It’s garnished with mixed vegetables and toasted pine nuts.
Deep-fried Garoupa with Sweet and Sour Sauce
Dessert is a happy affair in Modern Shanghai. Crispy Pancakes with Red Bean Paste (P118) shake up the usual buchi tradition. The pancakes are fried like a crispier hopia and finished off with that beloved smooth sweet filling. For the looming summer, Modern Shanghai has timed fresh fruit drinks perfect for those warm days: Mango Tea Sangria (P148), spiked only with soda, is a tropical cooler with mango, strawberry, lemon, and mango tea while the Passion Fruit Lemonade (P178) is a refreshing blend of passionfruit, pink guava, lime juice, soda, pink lemonade, and jasmine tea.
Chinese cuisine has been around for years, but Shanghainese fare is only a recent development-and if Modern Shanghai is any indication, it’s off to a great start.