Yi Long Court
- When: October 2016
- Michelin Stars: 2
- Male DINK Rating: 11/15
- Female DINK Rating: 11/15
- Total Cost: $410
Our last few days in Shanghai were essentially a rain-out due to a typhoon, and we did not want to wander around aimlessly in the rain looking for dinner each night. After dining at Lost Heaven the night before, we were looking for something a little more upscale (perhaps something with Michelin stars?), and we were able to secure a same-day reservation (online) at Yi Long Court, located within The Peninsula Shanghai hotel on the Bund. As you may or may not be aware, the very first Michelin Guide for Shanghai and mainland China just debuted a few weeks before our trip, and Yi Long Court was one of six restaurants to receive two stars, with only one restaurant (T’ang Court) being awarded three stars. So, we were among the first to dine here since it had been awarded Michelin stars.
Since it was raining (and a bit of a hike), we took a taxi from our hotel, the JW Marriott Hotel Shanghai at Tomorrow Square. After exiting the taxi and walking quickly to not get drenched, we entered the Peninsula on the Bund side and were greeted by a long hallway lined with upscale shops. Not knowing where to go, we walked to the end of the hallway, which opened up to the lobby area of the hotel. We asked where the restaurant was located, and were pointed back in the direction whence we came. Backtracking, we now saw that there were stairs near the Bund entrance and a small sign by the staircase reading “Yi Long Court”. After walking upstairs, we were immediately greeted, gave our reservation name, and were seated at a table in the corner with a view of the street. The dining room was perhaps 75% occupied, with a large table full of what appeared to be wealthy local teenagers (sans parents) seated close to us. We were immediately offered a choice of water and presented with the menu.
There were a few different tasting menus, including a hairy crab seasonal menu, and an a la carte menu that seemed pretty extensive. We opted for the “Signature Dishes Menu,” which we felt would give us a good overview. This menu had an option for the inclusion of two glasses (one per person) of the Peninsula’s branded champagne, which we chose. The bottle of champagne the servers initially brought out was not enough to fill both glasses, so they quickly brought out an unopened bottle, placing it on the serving table directly behind Female DINK. Our waiter could not open it, so he called in reinforcements. They eventually succeeded in opening it (this is happening within my eyesight); however, they must have shaken it while carrying it or during the first few attempts to open it because it spewed over the entire serving table. I felt bad, as they quickly cleaned up the spilt champagne. Nevertheless, my glass was filled from the new bottle, and we sipped champagne while awaiting the first course.
The first course – Barbecued Pork & Sliced Beef Shin – arrived after a little bit longer wait than I would have preferred. However, this dish was excellent. Both meats melted in your mouth, and the flavors were spot-on. We loved the pork and liked the beef. The beef was served chilled, and I think the beef was overshadowed by how great the pork was. The crispy vinegar noodles were a nice touch.
The second course – Tomato Soup with Grouper – arrived at the table right before we were finished with the first course. This was a little irritating, but we were cognizant that food in China is normally served when it is ready, not when it is convenient. The vegetables were added to the soup tableside, and the server then lit the sterno and instructed us to wait “a minute” before eating. A little over a minute later, I started to take the lid of the soup bowl off, but I was quickly greeted by what I’m assuming was the manager of the restaurant. She essentially placed my lid back onto my bowl for me and began to make small talk while the soup continued to cook. As she left the table, she removed the lids and told us to enjoy. The soup was incredibly hot, and Female DINK’s soup was actually boiling at one point. After trying to eat a few bites and getting a bit annoyed at the temperature, a waiter came by and extinguished the sternos. After this course became edible without burning our mouths, it was actually pretty good. The tomato broth was light and flavorful, and the grouper was good. The broth was the highlight.
The third course – Baked Lobster with Cheese – arrived halfway through the previous course. And, since it took a while to eat the soup due to the temperature, the lobster sat on the table for quite a while. The lobster itself seemed to be good quality and had a nice flavor. However, it was a bit difficult to eat out of the shell, and we each had to politely spit out a few pieces of shell as we ate. We couldn’t distinguish what type of cheese was melted on top, but it paired well, if not making the dish a bit greasy (says Male DINK only).
The fourth course – Abalone – again arrived before we had finished the prior course. Having sampled a few different preparations of abalone in Hong Kong and Macau last year, we were not necessarily looking forward to this particular course. However, this was the best preparation and flavor combination we have tried, and we actually both enjoyed the dish. It was served with a rice vinegar sauce, and the small cubes of ginger were very potent and a bit spicy. This didn’t detract from the dish, though.
The fifth course – Beef Cubes with Foie Gras – also arrived at the table a bit early. Female DINK decided to order a glass of red wine, and after getting the waiter’s attention, she ordered a 2011 Les Pagodes de Cos (the second wine of Chateau Cos d’Estournel). This bottle was just milliliters shy of being a full pour, and the waitress kindly decided to open another bottle. As the waitstaff were opening the new bottle (again in my eyesight), I could see them conversing amongst each other, and after a brief wait, the waitress placed a new glass on the table, poured a taste, and then poured a new, full glass, essentially giving us two glasses of wine for the price of one! I’m guessing they did not want to mix the two bottles, even though they were of the same vintage. Well done. The wine itself was amazing, which made us a bit sad that we had to miss our tasting and tour at Cos earlier this year. Getting back to the beef: The flavor was great, but the meat itself was a bit tough. We noticed throughout the trip that the beef in China seemed to share this quality. The foie gras was a good portion, and it was excellent. The accompanying brown sauce was full of flavor and was a good fit for the dish.
The sixth course – Cai Xin – wasn’t special, and it proved difficult to eat with chopsticks. The mushrooms and the cai xin (a/k/a choy sum) seemed to be of good quality, but there was nothing in this dish to really keep your attention or perk up your taste buds. Still, this dish was very calming and a good transition from the previous meat course.
The seventh course – Fried Rice – was good; however, we could not eat all of it. We’ve come across this issue before when rice is served, though, as it’s usually the last course before dessert. The rice was very tasty, with the dried scallop on top adding a nice salty flavor.
The final course – Bean Curd – wasn’t quite sweet enough for our tastes, but that’s not a demerit to the chef, as Chinese desserts are typically not that sweet. The curd and strawberry went well together, and the dish was a refreshing way to end the meal.
After paying (with a credit card), we walked downstairs to the lobby of the Peninsula and asked the bellhop to get us a taxi. After a very long wait, he secured a taxi, and we were back at our hotel in no time.
We were surprised that we were able to get a same-day reservation on a Saturday night and that the restaurant was not full when we were there, especially given the fact that the restaurant had just received a major accolade. Perhaps news of the new Michelin-starred restaurants in Shanghai has not yet spread.
Overall, we had a good experience at Yi Long Court. The service was good, despite a few hiccups. The food was good, as well. The one flaw that stood out was timing, but that can easily be addressed. It is difficult for us to rate high-end Chinese restaurants individually, so we normally try to compare our experience to that at a similar restaurant. In this case, the menu at Yi Long Court was surprisingly similar to the menu we had at The Eight in Macau last year, which has three Michelin stars. We liked the barbecue pork and abalone at Yi Long Court better, while the fried rice and dessert at The Eight were better. However, since Yi Long Court is about half as expensive as The Eight, we’d say that it’s definitely a better bargain. Time will tell whether this restaurant will embrace and continue to meet the expectations that come with Michelin stars.
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