Culinary artist serves up a gastronomic joy

Chef Akrame Benallal has caused quite a stir in the gastronomic world since the opening of his first restaurant “Akrame” in Paris in 2011.
Courtesy of Akme

Akrame Benallal

Chef Akrame Benallal has caused quite a stir in the gastronomic world since the opening of his first restaurant “Akrame” in Paris in 2011. It was soon awarded a Michelin star within a year.

Establishing his name in Paris was not his ultimate goal. Benallal wanted to conquer more than just Europe and opened his eponymously titled restaurant in Hong Kong, as well as other concepts in Manila, Philippines and Baku in Azerbaijan. And luckily for foodies in Shanghai, he has chosen to express his culinary finesse and expertise in the nation’s most populous city. 

Benallal partnered with 55 by The Group, and opened AKMé and Passage by AKMé, as his first venture in the Chinese mainland. 

“I’ve been traveling to Shanghai for over two years and I found the culinary scene in the city is impressive. The project 55 by The Group itself is amazing that made me confident to open my restaurant here,” Benallal said. 

AKMé is a haute cuisine venue where you can experience the chef’s universe. He usually begins with a dish based on an idea, an ingredient, a feeling or sometimes a mood. 

“But my menu differs according to the local culture and produce. I like to see local people’s feedback and create a menu adapted for this market. For example, we adjusted the portions and focused more on seafood here,” he said. 

Benallal’s philosophy is to evolve and surprise his customers constantly. 

“Normally a restaurant opens, and it wants to show all of their signatures and later on, no more surprises. That’s not my way. Every time my customers come back to my place, they would be happy to discover the evolution,” Benallal said. “The best compliment my customers give to me is when they say they never eat such food in other restaurants.”

Benallal artfully interprets contemporary French cuisine into a pure yet powerful style through the use of quality ingredients and unexpected flavor combinations. The chef is inventive and bold yet stays within the limits. His limit is to respect the products and the beauty of the products. 

“I try to use all the possible parts of one product for example a lobster or a fish by presenting different layers, flavors and textures,” he said.

The interior of AKMé sets a warm and inviting atmosphere with soft earthy tones. The giant black and white photographs of vegetables are featured to remind the basic essence to the ingredients and its terroir.

Currently the restaurant offers three types of fixed menus. Including a four-course prix fixe menu (588 yuan), a six-course AKMé special menu (988 yuan) and a eight-course seasonal tasting menu (1,288 yuan). 

My journey began with an exquisite plate of homemade pasta, mushrooms, black truffle, and aged Parmesan and next up was king prawns and consommé with smoked black tea. The consommé was superbly enhanced by the black tea and the king prawns were succulent, meaty with a subtle, sweet flavor.

Grilled blue lobster, grapefruit and turnip is a first-time customer’s must-order, a classic dish. The ability of the chef to create a simple and daring way was expressed again through the lobster dish, grilled in front of you, enhanced by the grapefruit-dressed salad served on the plate. Foie gras flan was also impressive because of its intensity and spectacular elegance. 

However, never leave the restaurant without trying the dessert: Smoked and slow-roasted pineapple and vanilla, inspired by artist Pierre Soulages. 

“Black is my favorite color, profound, dense, mysterious and this color is full of potential. Everything springs forth from black, like a painting of Pierre Soulages. From this fascination is born the dessert,” said Benallal.

Courtesy of Akme

Char-grilled blue lobster, grapefruit and turnip

Courtesy of Akme

Smoked and slow-roasted pineapple and vanilla

Info

Opening hours: 6pm-10pm

Tel: 6428-9799, 6469-9969

Address: 1/F, No. 55 Wulumuqi Rd S.

Average price: 800 yuan

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