Xin­dalu shines with sea­sonal cre­ations

China Daily (Canada) - - FOOD - By XUJUNQIAN in Shang­hai xujunqian@chi­

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?

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