Paying the price for fine Huaiyang dining
Huaiyang cuisine, from Yangzhou and Huai’an in Jiangsu Province, is always a good choice for formal and fine dining. The cuisine is well known for its ultimate knife skills that can cut tender tofu into hair-thin shreds and the strict standards set in selecting the freshest ingredients. And that is exactly what diners will find at East Bund 1818, an upscale Huaiyang restaurant, which opened last fall on Binjiang Avenue in the Lujiazui area.
The price of a standard dinner in one of the private dining rooms is certainly high and on average a customer will pay around 1,000 yuan. This is largely because of the expensive ingredients the restaurant sources every day to ensure quality fare and the meticulous techniques that take years to master.
The restaurant has an elegant, bright decor that echoes the view of the Bund. For private dining room reservations, the establishment print customized menus with names and dates.
Traditional Huaiyang-style appetizers are often on the lighter side, like the beancurd sheet dumpling with potherb filling or the various kinds of chilled vegetable dishes. What East Bund 1818 does exceptionally well is its braised pork head meat, a dish that looked rich and fatty but tasted aromatic without any greasiness. The fat was almost jelly-like and the delicious blend of herbs and spices were infused in every bite.
River eel is a true, classic delicacy in the Yangtze River Delta and it’s often cooked with rich sauces to balance the flavor and unique texture.
The braised eel with black garlic at East Bund 1818 only uses the fattier middle segments of the eel and preserves much of the flavors by cooking them in a clay pot. And the plum-like black garlic offered a distinct fragrance to neutralize the richness of the protein.
For a centerpiece dish to wow the crowd, the yellow croaker with pink peppercorn was cooked and served tableside in a super large clay pot. Pink peppercorn is not necessarily a real pepper, it’s a spice from South America with a mild peppery, delicate, sweet flavor.
Large yellow croaker is one of the most expensive fish dishes in Chinese cuisine, due to its scarcity. Cooking it quickly in a high-heat clay pot is an ideal way to preserve the flavor of the fish and keep the meat as tender as possible.
After the rich main entries, the staple and desserts were on the lighter side, such as wild mushroom dumplings and sweet soup of jasmine flower, yellow fungus and pear.
The restaurant has a great terrace overlooking the Huangpu River, and they’ve launched a Huaiyang tea in the afternoon, featuring a 64-layer yougao (oil cake), walnut pastry, mung bean cakes, square cakes and more.
The Huaiyang dessert box for two is priced at 168 yuan.
Opening hours: 11am-2pm, 5-10pm
Address: 1818 Binjiang Ave, Pudong New Area
Average price: 1,000 yuan (US$141.08)