Second Helpings: CHAR
What: A stalwart steakhouse offering classy, Bund-side dining, with tremendous views towards the Lujiazui skyline
Where: 29-31/F, Hotel Indigo, 585 Zhongshan Dong Er Lu, near Dongmen Lu. Tel: 3302 9995. Web: www.char-thebund.com
Why: For the Jack’s Creek grain fed Black Angus sirloin, every time
This restaurant really needs no introduction, being recognised internationally as one of the best steakhouses in Shanghai, so we were more than eager to sample the new menu, and seasonal specialities, from new Head Chef Willmer Colmenares.
The supreme quality and authenticity of the meat is what sets this steakhouse apart from the rest, and it takes pride in serving Wagyu, Black Angus and grass-fed beef from some of the world's most renowned cattle ranches, with the restaurant boasting 11 different steak offerings. We were lucky enough to be able to appreciate the beautiful marbling, colour and texture of our cuts when Chef Colmenares brought them to be inspected by the table before grilling.
Latin American Chef Colmenares has taken inspiration from the cuisine of Asia, the Mediterranean as well as his native homeland when rounding out his menu to complement the steaks. These innovative dishes, with their multitude of tastes and textures, add depth to the meaty menu, and showcase seasonal, as well as imported, produce. We began our meal with a selection of indulgent “accompaniments” to our main fare.
The smoked Wagyu beef carpaccio (RMB 158) was a melt-in-the-mouth affair, complimented by freshly flaked Parmesan, rocket and black garlic puree. Moving from turf to surf for a few dishes, we also sampled Chef Colmenares new, innovative lobster and salmon ceviche (RMB 188), with the seafood being cured by a coconut and lime emulsion and served with an avocado sorbet. The smoked octopus salad (RMB 138) followed. Smoked at a low temperature, the octopus meat was cooked to perfection. Seared scallops (RMB 188), which were fresh and sweet with a slight kick from ginger and chilli notes, finished our sojourn from beef. The roasted bone marrow (RMB 178) was brought to the table just before the showstopper of the evening. Served with the bone shooting skywards, apparently in homage to the Shanghai skyline, the rich flavour whetted our appetite for more.
Naturally, steak must be ordered when visiting CHAR, and diners are given a wide variety of options from the type of meat, to the cut and then the cooking style. We shared a selection of imported cuts from the menu, but our standout dish was the ever-so-tender Australian Jack’s Creek grain fed Black Angus sirloin marble score 3+ (RMB 438 for 250g eye fillet or 300g sirloin). This beef had been grain fed for 150 to 170 days on a specifically formulated high energy grain diet, before being cooked medium rare and delivered to our table by knowledgeable wait staff. We could actually taste the attention to detail paid at every step of the process, which made each bite all the more enjoyable.
To end the meal on a sweet note, we sampled the apple tarte tatin (RMB 98), flambéed tableside, the new spicy hot chocolate fondant (RMB 78) and the berries and apple crumble (RMB 78), which all come highly recommended.