Continuing with the birthday adventures from last month…S, DS and I checked out MADAME SHANGHAI for my second birthday dinner. The address says it’s in Darlinghurst, but really it’s on the edge of Hyde Park so that’s pretty much the city to me. The restaurant is opened by the same people who do LOTUS so we definitely had high expectations of the food! However I didn’t quite understand what made it different to LOTUS…let’s take a look and see if you think the food has a Shanghainese spin to it!
Drinks & dumplings to begin – fairly standard for a Chinese meal. Some of you might know that I don’t drink, but when it’s your birthday the restaurant can of course whip up something fantastic that’s also non-alcoholic! I don’t remember exactly what was in my Mocktail but it was definitely tasty. We also had some Steamed vegetable dumplings ($10) from the specials menu which were fairly standard. I actually think the same ones are served at LOTUS. So – nothing to complain about there.
Next up we shared a couple of the bigger dishes. From the specials menu we had the Kingfish sashimi with yuzu, chilli, tamari dressing and a mandarin Szechuan salt ($24). I always find it funny when they serve sashimi at a Chinese restaurant, let alone a Shanghainese restaurant?! Pretty sure it’s Japanese! Either way, it was super tasty and the yuzu and mandarin citrus flavours worked really well.
For the meat dish we ordered the Sticky pork hock with tamarind and rosella ($29). Apparently it’s a classic dish at MADAME SHANGHAI. I love when pork is done in a sticky, sweet sauce. Make sure you order some rice to soak up all the sauce! Because I love steamed fish we also ordered the Steamed barramundi fillet with shitake mushroom broth ($30). This dish wasn’t anything special really…just your standard, Cantonese-style steamed fish. The mushroom broth was okay but I almost would’ve preferred it with the standard light soy sauce dressing.
What’s a Chinese meal without fried rice?! From memory, there were a few rice options on the menu but the mention of mustard seeds in Madame’s fried rice with BBQ pork and mustard seeds ($15) won me over. It’s really quite a simple dish, but the crunch and mild heat of the mustard seeds really elevated it to the next level.
As I mentioned above, we were at MADAME SHANGHAI for my birthday dinner so of course we had to get a dessert. We were all pretty stuffed from the food, so we decided to go with an old Chinese restaurant favourite – the Mango Pudding – mango, milk foam and finger lime ($16). I bet you agree that it’s the most reliable of all Chinese desserts! It was so sweet of them to add a candle and ‘Happy Birthday’ on the plate! Adding finger lime to this dessert was a totally genius idea. Milk foam – not so much / couldn’t really taste it anyway. I’d love to go back and try some of the more interesting desserts too!
Overall, the food was pretty good but not different enough from LOTUS that I would go back. The atmosphere and decor are…interesting. From the outside you see a brightly lit bar with tables along the big glass windows. But inside, most of the seating is actually in separate room that I can only describe as Chinese boudoir crossed with cabaret. Extremely ornate, mirrors and glass, navy velvet curtains covering the walls, very dark. There was some great people-watching that night too which added to the theatrical atmosphere. Try it out for yourself and see how you feel…
DS’S TWO CENTS: “Really interesting place with some excellent people-watching, but I’d prefer to go to Mr Wong any day.”
18 COLLEGE STREET