Our Maiden voy­age to this Palm eatery

Khaleej Times - City Times - - FOOD - david@khalee­j­times.com DAVID LIGHT

ANEW CHI­NESE bistro. In a town in­un­dated with Far East­ern cui­sine, to be ab­so­lutely up front, we weren’t par­tic­u­larly en­thused when we first heard about Maiden Shang­hai’s ar­rival on our culi­nary land­scape. Our lo­cal hole-in-the-wall, close to work, is fre­quented at least once a week and ac­tu­ally serves up some pretty good dim sum. Then there’s strong rep­re­sen­ta­tion from at least two of the ma­jor malls, a cou­ple of take­aways and de­cent spots in DIFC and around the Deira Clock­tower. How­ever, two el­e­ments re­gard­ing Maiden piqued our in­ter­est (three if you count the restau­rant’s pri­vate karaoke room): the decor is in­spired by 1930s Shang­hai and the flavours promised to be some of the most au­then­tic you can find this side of the Hu­nagpu. To give you a lit­tle pre­view, on both counts the eatery is just about spot on. While the am­bi­ence wasn’t par­tic­u­larly retro, it did pos­sess el­e­ments of the Chi­nese city’s clas­sic glamour, but it was with the food and the ser­vice that we were most im­pressed. Gen­uine and burst­ing with fresh, crisp zest, the recipes are su­perb, as are the staff’s ef­forts at mak­ing you feel more than wel­come.

Head­ing down to the FIVE Palm Jumeirah ho­tel on a Wed­nes­day even­ing, we were un­aware that it was ladies’ night at the restau­rant’s up­stairs ter­race. Com­pli­men­tary bubby be­tween 8 and 10pm meant the crowds as­cend­ing for two-hours of free­bie ac­tion in Maiden’s ded­i­cated el­e­va­tor made for a lively in­tro­duc­tion. The din­ing room on the first floor, while busy, was thank­fully not throng­ing with party-go­ers. Mood light­ing, in­ti­mate ta­ble set­tings and the clink­ing of cut­lery and glasses, you could even say it was go­ing to be a mel­low ex­pe­ri­ence. The fi­esta of flavour, though, soon ar­rived.

Every dish in Maiden is MSG-free, which dic­tates the chef must rely on their skill alone to tease out every last drop of salty, sweet and sour good­ness. They ac­com­plished this with aplomb.

The first round of our ban­quet promptly ar­rived one drink in: some straight-up salt and pep­per squid, shred­ded beef with car­rot in Shang­hai Sauce and crispy prawn and Chilean seabass roll. While the or­ders may not have been the most ad­ven­tur­ous, we were more in the mood for go­ing for some firm favourites rather than a jour­ney of ex­plo­ration. It paid off. Rather than fine-din­ing as such, although the qual­ity was ex­cel­lent, what ar­rived was a more home-cooked af­fair. This al­ways leads to a big tick from us. You could tell the plates had been thought about. The same went for the sec­ond course. De-boned lamb with scal­lion and soya sauce, Kung Pao lob­ster and a bit of rice were all lovely, but it was with the tra­di­tional Pek­ing duck where we went ‘quack­ers’. It is so sim­ple, as you’re prob­a­bly well aware, but ab­so­lutely de­li­cious and will have us re­turn­ing as soon as hu­manly pos­si­ble. We’re sure you’ll feel the same.

Where: Maiden Shang­hai, FIVE Palm Jumeirah Best dish: Pek­ing duck Avg. cost per per­son: Dhs250

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