Evoking the atmosphere of China’s preeminent commercial center in the 1930’s, Grand Shanghai in Grand Copthorne Hotel brims with a decidedly old world flair. A band serenades diners with Chinese tunes from decades past while staff churn out Shanghainese specialties such as crispy eel, xiao long bao and crystal pork. The restaurant itself is not new to Singapore’s food scene – it’s been around for more than a decade. Wedding banquets from Grand Copthorne Hotel have also been held here for years. The other thing to note is that Shanghainese cuisine is not that common in Singapore. When I received a media invite from the good folks at Noisy Crayons, I knew I had to check it out!
As the name suggests, Grand Shanghai is set in a rather grand dining hall with a stage used for performances. Two singers wearing cheongsams took turns in entertaining the audience, easily switching between hits in Mandarin and Cantonese.
We started the meal with the restaurant’s Deluxe Cold Dish Combination which consisted of 7 types of cold cuts ranging from $12 to $16++ per plate – drunken chicken, jelly fish in spring onion oil, crystal pork, crispy eel, vegetarian goose and baby cucumber with minced garlic. Compared to the Fujianese cold cuts that frequently appear in Chinese banquets, the Shanghainese style offers lighter bites. The highlight for me was the crispy eel which came as dark as the night due to the smattering of a sweet-salty sauce. Quite addicting.
Then came the Chicken Soup with Wonton (from $32++). This was a more toned down dish, one that would actually fit right into most people’s definition of comfort food. The soup was rich and hearty without being too oily. The wontons were actually chive dumplings, a type which is frequently seen in Shanghainese cuisine.
The Pan Fried Croaker Fish ($18++ per piece) surprised me at first. Each person in the table was served a whole fried fish. Totally dry and without any hint of a sauce, the fish came with slices of lemon for sprinkling. I was to discover later however, how the dryness actually fit into the concept. The fish was perhaps one of the crispiest fried fish I’ve had in a long time. It was so crispy that I didn’t notice myself chewing the bones (which turned out to edible)! What a pleasant dish – something that I initially didn’t expect much from but actually turned out to be quite good. I found this to be a worthy alternative to the steamed fish in soy sauce that I typically find in Chinese banquets.
The Braised Lionhead Meatball with Hairy Crab Roe (from $30++) was another highlight. The meatball itself was pretty large, slightly more than a whole egg. It was then coated with hairy crab roe and some crab meat that gave it a sweet taste. A satisfying dish.
We had shrimps two ways, first was stir-fried and second was sauteed with salted egg yolk (from $30++). Due to the tartness, the latter was especially to my liking.
The Snow Cabbage with Soya Bean and Beancurd Skin (from $20++) was another classic Shanghainese dish. The beancurd skin came in thin, elongated slices that gave it a noodle-like quality. Topped with unripened green soybeans, the snow cabbage gave the dish a well-balanced flavor. It would have been even better if there were more snow cabbage on the plate!
The Xiao Long Bao (from $6++ for 4pcs) came two ways, the traditional way and a version filled with crabmeat. Overall, I found them to be rather unremarkable. Neither great nor bad but I would be inclined to turn to Grand Shanghai’s other gratifying hot dishes instead.
The Aloe Vera with Jelly ($6++) and Souffle Egg White Balls with Red Bean ($2.50++ per pc) was quite a unique dessert. While aloe vera jelly is commonly seen, I’ve yet to see egg soufflé in any Chinese restaurant. Along with the red bean stuffing, the soufflé was a punchy ending to the meal.
390 Havelock Road
Reservations: +65 6836 6866
Open: Tuesdays to Sundays, 12 – 2:15PM / 6:30 – 10:30PM