Refined Dim Sum and Hairy Crab dishes at the Shangri-La
In honor of autumn being hairy crab season and the arrival of the Shangri La’s new dim sum chef, we headed over to Shang Palace for some wonderfully indulgent Chinese fine dining.
While Shang Palace itself has been serving guests for 40 years, new dim sum chef Li Shou Tao and his culinary team of seven have been tasked with the duty of presenting a fresh twist on the traditional, timeless dim sum dishes. Chef Li aims to combine traditional cooking techniques with contemporary ideas and flavors to give the dim sum served at Shang Palace a modern-day pop.
Shang Palace is located at lobby level just to the right of the main entrance at the Shangri La Hotel. The quiet environment of the restaurant is a nice retreat from the constant hum of noise found in the lobby and downstairs in their more casual buffet space.
The interior of Shang Palace is classic Chinese fine dining with a strong red and black color scheme, impeccable table settings and imposing round tables – fit for both large and small groups. The softer details such as the textured floral wall covers and velvet chairs create a contrasting welcome, homey feel.
At Shang Palace we settled in for the sampling of a variety of their dim sim and crab offerings.
We kicked off lunch with a plump Steamed Lobster Dumpling ($10.00, 3 pcs). The outside skin had a nice springy texture, while the lobster and vegetables inside were light in flavor. The lobster taste was not overly detectable, but the creation was a welcome start to the meal.
Next was a dim sum combination. The trio of bites was both masterfully crafted and presented – a manifestation of Chef Li’s 23 years of practice in the kitchen.
The Crispy Barbecue Bun ($4.50) is created Hong Kong-style, baked and slightly sweet. I could eat these babies all day long. I love the ever-so slight crispiness of the top of the bun and the sweetness of the barbecue and meat on the interior. Well done.
Bonus points for the decorative loop being eatable as well.
The Steamed Boletus Aereus Dumpling ($7.00, 3 pcs) is comprised of the highly sought after boletus aereus mushrooms. The exterior of the dumpling was beautifully presented with a hint of gold flakes, while inside provided an unexpected crunch. With such strong mushroom flavors I personally enjoyed this little guy dipped in the chili sauce.
The Deep-fried Shredded Turnip Pastry ($7.00, 2 pcs) was stuffed with tender radish and foie gras. While I admittedly could not detect any foie gras flavor, I really enjoyed this bite. Honestly, it could have been stuffed with anything. What steals the show is the ultra flakey, crispy, buttery, paper-thin layers of pastry. Do you think it would take me 23 years to learn how to make this at home?
Next up was a classic Steamed Siew Mai ($7.00, 4 pcs), filled with prawn and mushroom and topped with fish roe. The texture was predictably bouncy and the taste was fresh. It’s hard to go wrong with this classic dim sum dish.
Shang Palace’s Steamed Rice Roll ($9.00) is filled with barbecue pork and parsley. The gelatinous outside was sightly thicker than usually found and I did not find the flavors on the inside to be as strong as I would have preferred.
Don’t let first looks fool you. No, this isn’t a porridge, this is the Steamed Turnip Cake ($8.00). This dish is a welcome surprise and unique spin on the commonly found fried carrot cake.
Topped with a generous layer of egg whites and filled with bits of conpoy, the steamed variety puts a modern take on this beloved dish. The taste and texture were both extremely enjoyable – light, airy and just the right amount of salt – and left the whole table mmmm‘ing in agreement.
Chef Li puts local Singapore touch on classic Chinese dim sum with his Chili Crab Buns ($7.00, 2 pcs). No surprise these were a favorite of mine. The sesame seed topping gave the bun a wonderful slight crunch. The chili crab flavors were present, but not too overwhelming. The bun itself gave off hints of sweetness at first bite, while the filling provides a kick of spice on the back end.
Now, onto some hairy crab dishes presented by Master Chef Steven Ng. Hairy crab, or Chinese mitten crabs as they are also known, are a seasonal delicacy and famous for their prized and abundant golden roe.
At Shang Palace you can choose from a set six-course menu ($138.00) or nine different hairy crab a la carte items ($22.00 – $96.00) now through November.
We tried the Braised Tofu with Hairy Crab Meat and Roe ($36.00, a la carte). This dish was served in a thick, soup-like form. The tofu and crab meat almost blended into one, while the edamame beans provided a necessary crunch.
The Braised Hairy Crab with “Shiso” Leaves and Glass Noodles ($96.00, a la carte) was served as the grand finale. The glass noodles layering the bottom of the plate were very tender and gave the dish good sustenance.
In this dish you will find about one half of a crab with a claw and a few legs. The shell of the crab was softer than I anticipated making it easy to access all that yummy, tender hairy crab meat. The generous amount of golden roe is surely what drives the price of this dish.
Throughout the various dishes Chef Ng deliberately plays with various cooking techniques in order to compliment the hairy crabs rich, yet delicate flavor.
Ending with dessert, Chef Li whips up a Steamed Coconut Layer Cake accompanied with Ginger Tea and a Rice Ball ($6.00). The cake tasted sweet with generous amounts of shredded coconut packed between each layer, and salty with a strong salted egg base.
Paired with the cake was an intense ginger tea with a black sesame gluten ball. While the ginger flavor of the tea was far too strong for me, the overall concept and execution of the dessert paired nicely with the formerly mentioned food dishes.
Overall, Shang Palace provides classic, well-executed Chinese fine dining cuisine set inside a luxury 5-star hotel. The understated modern take on dim sum, as well as the hairy crab delicacies, make Shang Palace a great place to visit if you are looking to impress others or treat yourself. Go grab your parents or your favorite client (and expense account) and head over to Shang Palace before November is over and the crabs are gone.
Expected Damage: $40.00 – $138.00 / per pax (depending if you order the set menu or a la carte)