Xindalu shines with seasonal creations
The flirty spring wind of East China’s Yangtze River Delta has paddled the dead water, perfumed the dull air and metaphorically ruffled the already busy kitchen of executive chef David Du.
“I am sorry everything is a little out of control these days,” apologizes Du, whohas been at the helm of Xindalu, or, literally translated, New Continent, the Chinese kitchen atHyatt on the Bund for a decade.
Before our fully stuffed mouths could produce a timely response — a hearty cheer for the newspring menu— the agile native of Jiangsu has quickly fled to the back of the brick oven, where shining, plump ducks are roasting over a fire of fruitwood logs.
Shrewd Shanghainese have flocked here to check out the seasonal dishes and to have a bite of the capital city’s signature duck, packing the spacious dining room even on a weekday lunch.
Starting with the appetizer, tossed spring bamboo shoots and sliced whelk is the way to go. The plate impresses with the chewy whelk and the juicy bamboo shoots, seasoned with soy sauce and given a final sting from the peppers atop the towershaped dish. Less exciting is the bean curd with conpoy and toon shoots, the regional “herald of early spring”.
The sweet-fish, a seasonal favorite of the locals, has been “fused” with someWestern flavors. It is deboned and coated with cheese powder. The fish is fried nicely to a golden crisp, while inside the tender and snow-white meat explains the fish’s nickname: tofu fish. We kind of expect the Longjing tea and dried seaweed slices on the side to help balance the oiliness of the dried fish, but it doesn’t — though the green duo makes a beautiful picture with the yellow fish on the plate, and could be a pretty nice snack if served independently.
The dessert platter ends the meal with a fun twist: a scoop of ice cream flavored with black rice vinegar from Zhenjiang, a city in East China that has almost been the synonymof the “hometown ofChinese vinegar”.
Taking a spoonful of the silky cream into the mouth, at first we were frowning with the unasked question: “Where is the vinegar?” But as the cream melts on the tongue, the sour-sweetness reluctantly crawls out and tingles the palate relentlessly, and frowns unfold into knowing smiles.
If a dessert ends a meal like a punctuation mark ends a sentence, this one is more than a full stop. It is an exclamation point — or perhaps a question mark: Can I have a second one, please?