Well, what if there is no tomorrow? There wasn’t one today.
(Groundhog day, 1993)
When I left Hong Kong two weeks ago, I didn’t think anything else for hours. Getting on the taxi, walking through the streets, looking for the key of my hotel room, I thought nothing else but: “Meh!”
The brief passage in Macau, however, had given me confidence, almost managing to calm my frustrated expression. But no. The arrival at Shagai simply changed it. Expanded, if you pass me the term: transforming it from a primitive guttural sound of a single syllable into an adverb also endowed with punctuation: “Why?”
I swear: I dreamed of another way to leave China. A nice dinner, a good glass of wine, a gastronomic experience if not unforgettable at least exciting. None of this. My bad. I shouldn’t have chosen, as the last Chinese restaurant to visit, the T’ang Court in Shanghai. And for reasons so clear and simple, now, that give me an anger difficult to control. The first and most important, in my opinion, concerns the disappointment that Hong Kong had given me. Remember? I gave him only a beard and a half, commenting all with a nice “meh”. Repeating the same day, full of the same doubts, the same questions, the same frustrations made me feel like a new Bill Murray who relives thousands of times the Groundhog Day (Groundhog Day, film of 1993). Hopefully, the radio clock, tomorrow morning, will not wake me up with I got you baby by Sonny & Cher …
However, we try to abandon this enormous sense of unresolved pervading me and making the best of our work: telling the dishes of the three-star Michelin’s restaurants.
I am in Shanghai, precisely in the Langham Hotel, which, just like in Hong Kong, hosts the T’ang Court on the sixth floor.
The promises that seem to give you entrance and room, which make the environment lavish, luxurious and well-kept, are not maintained by the local Chinese and Cantonese cuisine. Completely to be rejected.
For once, I decide to rely to the normal menu and not the tasting menu.
I start with the amuse bouche: a puffed potato canapé, extra virgin olive oil and a small bowl of fresh peas and potato with onion. How to diminish the concept of “simplicity”.
We then move on to rice fettuccine with peas and crab and the goose, scalded and then crunchy, served with a multitude of sauces.
The main course is a historical dish, able to climb and win the ranking of the best dishes of Asia. It seems embarrassing to me: I would probably find it hard to serve it even to my friends, in a home evening, when the football match on TV is much more important than what you bring to your mouth. We talk about shrimp, a two-part crab, asparagus and asparagus and crab pancakes.
After having seen on the table a very sad salad coming out of the Eighties, waiting for the dessert, I focus on dishes that are served to other diners: chicken accompanied by a compote of rice and vegetables, a black sea fungus … Nothing exceptional.
As a dessert, I have tartlets stuffed with egg custard, chestnuts and a mango mousse.
The only positive things of the T’ang Court are the bathrooms, which are under the responsibility of the hotel The Langham and therefore are very clean, and a wonderful glass of Chinese chardonnay. I am talking about the Legacy Peak, Helan Mountain East, Ningxia of 2014: a wonderful white, with a well-defined and vibrant structure, which gives notes of pineapple, pear and tropical fruits. Resounding.
Even the service is a lack of quality: it is impossible to talk to the executive chef, who leaves the kitchen long before the end of my dinner (lasted just over an hour) and even frustrating to talk to the restaurant manager. I don’t know if he worked at T’ang Court recently, the fact is that he could not answer any of the questions I asked him. Disappointing.
As I said at the beginning of the article, I changed my expression: from “meh”, I switched to “why?” How is it possible that a similar restaurant has taken the three-star Michelin’s? It’s a mystery. In Europe it would never have happened.
Final vote two beards.