Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Rolex Dinner at the Peninsula

Although it seems like there is always something to celebrate in Shanghai, it's not often that you get properly suited and booted and taken out on the town.

So when a good friend invited me to a black-tie evening hosted by Rolex in conjunction with the Salzburg Festival, I knew it would be a doozy.

After hurriedly rushing home, slapping on my formal face, and weaving through rush-hour traffic on the back of a mototaxi with my dress billowing behind me (an 'only in Shanghai' moment), I arrived in an oasis of calm at The Rolex Experience at The House of Roosevelt on the Bund. I had never been to the space before, and it plays home to an impressive museum of the brand's history and a blindingly bedazzled collection as well as the event itself for the night.


We heard a selection of opera solos from the creative director of the Salzburg Festival and then, the real reason I went, were shuttled to The Peninsula for a private dinner.

The setting wasn't half bad - it was housed in a specially-erected tent on the roof adjoining the penthouse suite, with a view of the Bund stunning enough to remind you why you love this city. Again, an 'only in Shanghai' moment. Let's just go with #OIS from now on.



I had been to Sir Elly's, the excellent bar atop The Peninsula, before but I had never sampled the food beyond bar snacks (also excellent - worth the trip and bar bill alone), so I was excited to see what was on offer.

The menu was extensive and each course was paired with the most spectacular wines, which they unfortunately declined to list, but I will attempt to describe in my distinctly non-oenophilic vocabulary.

[Warning - the lighting was a bit bizarre, so apologies in advance because all the photos are PINK! Maybe it was a subtle stab at Paul Pairet's Ultraviolet...?]

We started with a mammoth Guillardeau oyster, served atop seaweed and topped with a nicely sea-worthy foam of horseradish, a mignonette of pickled green tomato (in lieu of the traditional shallot), and fennel pollen. The dry rose champagne complemented this perfectly and let the briny oyster, set against the creamy yet zesty horseradish, sing.


Next was a torchon of foie gras, delightfully silky, but served with "fall apple textures" and gingerbread for contrast. The apples were in both softly poached and crispy chip form, and the gingerbread was in tiny toasted cubes. Alongside was an unfortunately licorice-y salad.

It was all an ideal combination (licorice notwithstanding) and it was served with a sweet white, most probably a Sauterne. Again, a perfect pairing.


After came a hairy crab risotto - 'tis the season! - crowned with a sliver of bacon. The risotto itself did little to shine or even showcase the delicate crab, but you can't argue with fatty pork, and it came with a punchy yet light red, as shatteringly crisp as the bacon.


The fish course was a steamed 'Seven Star' bass, apparently from the "pristine" (in China? Agree to disagree...) waters of Zhuhai, with organic pumpkin, the tiniest mushrooms, and ginger, all immersed in a tea broth cleverly poured tableside from traditional earthenware teapots. The fish itself was nothing special, but the dish as a whole had good flavor and the light white complemented the delicate flavors nicely.



Finally, we had 'Silere Merino' lamb, a lamb raised in the mountains of New Zealand which are allowed to mature more slowly, allegedly to give their meat a finer grain and more complex flavor. Although I knew none of this at the time, it was a truly delicious and decidedly deeply flavorful lamb, cooked with Ras El Hanout spices, preserved lemon, and black garlic to add to the complexity. A deep, plummy red rounded out the dish.


For the grand finale, we were served what was only appropriate in the presence of Salzburg's shadow: a traditional Sacher Torte made with Schnapps and topped with apricots and apricot sorbet. It would have been interesting if they had used persimmons or another local equivalent to apricot, but even that quibble was drowned by the delicious champagne that just kept coming.

As coffees came around, pianos crafted from chocolate were unveiled loaded with fruit jellies and truffles.



And what better way to finish the evening than with an encore round of drinks at The House of Roosevelt itself, toasting Yao Ming with his own brand of wine.

#OIS.


The Rolex Experience
Bund 27
27 Zhongshan Dong Yi Lu, near Beijing Dong Lu
The Bund
http://www.therolexexperience.com/en

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