I have to admit, Chinese cuisine holds a special place in my heart. As someone, who grew up in the '90s, long before American fast food chains hit the market, and much before Italian and Continental came to be cool, there was only Chinese food, and eating out invariably meant good, old Chinese. However, of late, (especially in Mumbai), Chinese cuisine, I have often felt, has become all too gimmicky, with the once familiar flavours we grew up on, been lost completely. So, when an invite to try the newly-opened Hotel ShangHigh, promising ‘Retro Chinese’ came my way, I was only too thrilled. Considering, the restaurant was an offering from Zorawar Kalra’s Massive Restaurants, the name behind Farzi Café and Pa Pa Ya, only doubled my excitement.
Now, every time Zorawar Kalra announces a new restaurant, the culinary world watches with great curiosity, waiting to be surprised and impressed at the same time. Hotel ShangHigh that opened in the January of 2020, in Mumbai's buzzing food hub, Kamala Mills, is no different. Inspired by 1930s-style Shanghai supper clubs, Hotel ShangHigh's ‘high-energy, performance dining’ concept brings diners comfort-oriented, ‘Retro Chinese’ cuisine, designed to give patrons a taste of original Chinese restaurants from old-world Shanghai.
You can spot the restaurant from a distance, what with its strikingly, cheerful red exterior walls bold red façade, installed with over 37,000 blooms. As we enter, we observe how the design aesthetic is a marriage of the glamour of old-school Chinese theatres with a new-age pop Shanghai vibe. A colour palette of reds, maroons, pinks and golds dominates, and some of the walls boast hand-painted, Chinese-inspired imagery. The ceiling features 120 lanterns in different colours, materials and sizes, complete with colour-changing lights, controlled by the music. What's absolutely fascinating is the stage and a runway, which makes its way into the dining area of the restaurant, and have been specially created for live performances. A 20-foot long, two-faced dragon, hand-painted by artisans and mounted on the ceiling, serves as a central focal point.
The menu is extensive, but what catches my attention is how straighforward it is, and how competitive the price points are. The Chef explains how the team of travelled multiple times to Shanghai, researching and learning techniques that shine through in every dish. Begin with nibbles such as the Maodou (edamame) with butter garlic and five-spice chilli; Turnip Cake; and Popcorn Chicken and Prawns. Salads like Seaweed and Black Fungus with Rice Vinaigrette Dressing; Smoked Duck Breast with Hoisin Mango Vinaigrette; and Braised Lamb and Mandarin Orange with Lime and Chili, will follow. Soup options like Suan La Tang (wonton with hot & sour soup); Crab Rou with Enoki (a clear crab and mushroom soup); and the classic Sweet Corn Soup (vegetarian, chicken or seafood), are also available.
A wide range of Dimsum and Potstickers soon made its way to the table in the form of Smoked & Tempered Aubergine Dumpling; Spinach & Tofu Wonton (with crispy chilli oil and pickled ginger); Lobster & Pink Peppercorn dumpling with XO Wild Curry; and Charcoal Hargao with Shaved Truffle. A wide selection of Tapas follows, like Warm Tofu with Scallion Soya Chili; Spicy Hunan Potatoes; Drunken Whole Prawn; Butter Garlic Pepper Squid; Grilled Black Cod with XO Sauce; and Spare Ribs Shanghainese Style. Those looking for heartier options can order Dolsot Meal Bowls, a complete meal in a sizzling, single stone bowl – options include Seven Spiced Chicken; BBQ Tofu & Avocado; Braised Pork Belly & Haricot; and Asparagus, Pok Choy and Mangotout (snow pea) Dolsot. Each bowl is served with an option of rice or noodles and a selection of sauces. One can also enjoy Dan Dan Noodle dishes like Baked Tofu and Baby Choy Sum; and Minced Chicken Breast with Pak Choi and Turnip.
Main Courses offer something for everyone, starting with vegetarian options like Eight Treasure Vegetable with Mala Sauce (a fragrant chilli Sichuan pepper soy sauce; Asparagus, Snow Peas, Mock Meat & Cumin-Dried Red Chili; seafood dishes like Whole Lobster in Smoked Chili & Ginger Soy Sauce; Crab Clay Pot; and Five Willow Rainbow Trout; and pork options like Braised Sliced Pork with Fragrant Chili & Bell Peppers; and @ Your Own Risk, the spiciest dish on the menu, pork ribs with Tien Tsin pepper – the spiciest chilli from China.
Lamb lovers will enjoy Honey Pepper Lamb Rack; and Chinese Cumin Lamb with Chili & Bell Peppers; and those who like chicken can choose dishes like General Tso’s Chicken; Five-Spiced Chicken & Chestnuts; and Ningbo Drunken Chicken. Classic Chinese food fans will appreciate the Beijing Peking Duck Two Ways, crispy duck sliced tableside, wrapped in a pancake and served with cucumber, scallion and hoisin plum sauce; or Stir-Fry Duck served with three-grain, hand-made noodles. All dishes can be enjoyed with Rice & Noodle accompaniments like Lobster Fried Rice; Red/Black/Blue Fried Rice; chewy Yi Mein Noodles; and Three-Grain, Knife-Shaved Noodles.
Alongside the meal, a steady stream of cocktails followed. The launch cocktail menu features innovative cocktails like The Age of Invention, a technique-forward, gin-based cocktail made by milk-clarifying hibiscus tea, lychee puree and lemon juice; Death of the Warlord, inspired by the roses present at the funerals of old Chinese warlords – the drink is a smooth blend of vodka, Campari, fresh lime juice, rose water and ginger ale; and The Mandate of Heaven, inspired by the belief held by the old rulers of China, that a just ruler must maintain harmony between heaven and earth. This cocktail features aromatic gin and earthy house-made limoncello, that brings a harmonious balance to the heavenly marshmallow foam on top. The Great Emigration features Baiju, a popular Chinese spirit made from sorghum, combined with house-made lemongrass tincture, fresh lime juice, egg white and sugar syrup; while Journey of 1000 Suns, which pays homage to the sugarcane that travelled from China to the new world, becoming rum in the process – this drink is a potent mix of house-made five-spice rum, fresh lime juice, cane sugar syrup, and house-made sparkling tender coconut soda. Guests can also enjoy Rise of the Republic, featuring bourbon, jasmine green tea for balance, lavender and elderflower syrups, and sparkling wine on top, to help the floral notes rise.
We dedicated our evening largely to gin cocktails, starting with a simple gin-and-soda before moving to one involving hibiscus tea and a lychee decoction. The manager explained how the cocktail menu is limited edition, which means by next month there’ll be a fresh set of cocktails and another reason to drop by.
Hotel ShangHigh has all the trappings: the alcohol, the showgirls, a cheerful vibe. But at the end of the meal, what you realise is that at its very core of Hotel Shanghigh lies its food: comfortable, familiar and authentic. And that's what will have us coming back for more.
Ground Floor - 11, Oasis City,
Kamala Mills - Entrance #2,
Lower Parel, Mumbai – 400013
Tel: 91 77188 82923 /24; 91 22 49716931 / 32
12 noon to 1 am, Monday-Sunday