Shanghia Club, A restaurant name rather unheard of, pardon me for I wallow in my ignorance of elite hotel suites and their picturesque, niche and generally expensive places of food that exist inside of these moneyed man-made maze. The name 'Shanghai Club' paints my memory as one of the elite beachside club from Grand Theft Auto that I could drive into, hook up with someone by the bar and sip a Caipirinha in the company of Yakuza triads. Though the reality was far more simpler, classy and heavily dosed with shades of royal gold enough to impress the Sultan of Brunei. Perhaps, it was dressed in all that teak rafters, parquet flooring and parasol lanterns to make you feel equally regal while food arrives in decorated plates, polished silverware by the table and hospitality that puts a Thai massage to shame.
A one off menu 'Seafood & Sangria' was curated in association with FBAI (Food blogger association of India) who had invited a set of bloggers and influencers for this evening. The table was ready with artsy chinaware, perfectly aligned cutlery, yin yang chopsticks and a cute hand fan like folded menu for the evening. The seats were almost full and service began with pours of four uniquely created Sangria flavours :
- Classic Spanish : Dark concoction, generous splash of Rum with Red Wine and freshly diced pears. Tastes mature and not everyone's cuppa tea.
- Watermelon & Basil : Probably voted as the best of the evening. Bright red in appearance with contrasting taste of the fruit and the sweet herb. The dry white wine and squeeze of Lemon is mildly noticed, makes for a perfect afternoon accompaniment.
- Cherry & Plum : A more likeable affair than the Classic Spanish that features a Chardonnay-only Sparkling and more refreshing punch from the halves of cherries and slices of Plums.
- Very Berry - A Merlot only Sparkling based Sangria induced heavily with mixed Berry juice and full berries.
While the Sangrias were sampled and enjoyed, appetizers and Crab Course service was under way. Serving of Scampi smothered in Hot Bean sauce and finely chopped mango was finished with a minute. Grab it by the tail, lick that excess sauce and plunge it in deep into the mouth, even the shrimp would be proud of how it ended it's physical life-form. Served next were the humble looking Crispy Pomfret chunks tossed with Chinese BBQ Sauce. If you appreciate a perfectly crisp sticky dark Buffalo Wing, then you've just rediscovered exactly the same love, but on a pomfret fillet. The Prawn Shumai with Waterchestnut was perhaps the most underrated appetizer of the evening. People largely forked it out without a dousing of the sauces, which is a little unfair since the prawn filled is quite modest without any deep marination.
Right on the verge of digging into the main course a seafood soup arrives, let me detail that - A Seafood Chilli Butter Soup arrives. Quite a mouthful like its actual name, the soup was perfectly timed when most of the palate went high and dry on subtly spiced food. No gongs went off, though it was time for the mains! Suddenly the empty main course plate and bowls were filled with rice, noodles and spoonful servings of the red Guzion sauce enveloped Lobster and an almost stew of Ginger Soya cooked River Sole. The battered lobster dish was neat with a very comforting thick red sauce, but seeing River Sole making a comeback on the menu of a five star, now that is something really appreciable, also appreciable is the fact that the entire menu was built around south eastern sauces and not one dish featured the easy to fillet, flaky, market dominating 'Basa' in it. I guess it's time for restaurants to bring native fish like Bhetki, Ghol, Silver Pomfret and River Sole back on the dining table. The Lotus leaf wrapped rice, vegetable fried rice and Hakka noodles with pokchoy tasted a little too lacklustre and were passed silently around the table. For the vegetarian fellows, the stir-fried lotus stem dish provided a certain consolation after the humble rice and noodles.
An elegant trio of Jasmine Tiramisu, Vanilla & Red Bean Ice Cream and Star Anise Torte arrived to bring curtains to the evening. Perhaps, easily identifiable as a course designed by an equally elegant and charming pastry chef. The torte was instantly everyone's pick, the visually rich and delicately thin layers of cake and ganache were perfumed with just enough Star Anise dust to leave a lingering aftertaste which whispers 'cake seasoned with spice'. The Tiramisu may be a hit or a miss depending on personal liking for this Italian dessert, the Ice Cream though was quite appealing and gave a much needed wash-down to the palate.
With many a options on offer, the specially curated menus come at different price points:
- Rs. 1500/- for a 5 course lunch with unlimited pouring of Sangria.
- Rs. 2300/- for a 5 course dinner with unlimited pouring of Sangria.
- Rs. 2700/- for a 5 course dinner with unlimited pouring of Sangria.
A preview dinner does not cost a penny hence commenting or evaluating based on its money vs food aspect is not viable. In the end, if you have deep pockets and an appetite for royalty and psuedo-native Chinese food, then the Shanghai Club at ITC Grand Maratha is your destination.
*Medium&Rare was invited by FBAI for this meal at the Shanghai Club, ITC Grand Maratha