DUBAI: Often, we’ll recommend a restaurant to friends based on the whole experience — the ambience, the service and the decor, as well as the food. But sometimes, you try a specific dish and it takes you on such a delightful journey that you’ll return to the same place over and over again just for that one dish.
The Grilled Silver Cod with Yuzu Miso Sauce at Shanghai Me is one of those dishes. The Alaskan cod comes wrapped in a bamboo leaf, with a side of yuzu miso sauce for dipping, a lemon and hajikami (pickled ginger sprouts used for styling and flavor). Each bite is like an adventure gradually unraveling on your tastebuds. The tender flaky fish simply melts in your mouth, releasing its smokey and fatty flavors to roam. The portion is not big, but it’s packed with so much flavor that it will definitely satisfy. This dish would not be out of place at a Michelin-starred restaurant.
Shanghai Me is a 1930s-inspired Asian restaurant located in Dubai International Financial Center (DIFC) — home to a growing number of excellent dining options. The Art Deco-style space is very much in line with the area’s classy feel. Its walls are adorned with wood carved in a traditional Asian style, artworks, and a generous helping of plants. The whole area is drenched in warm yellow light in the evening. Sitting in Shanghai Me felt like being nestled in the jungle, particularly on the terrace, which is lined with bamboo and banana trees.
Aside from the wonderful cod dish already mentioned, the restaurant — which bills its fare as “a contemporary take on traditional Asian cuisine” — also has excellent sushi. Although the selection is limited, the flavors and freshness do not disappoint.
The spicy tuna tartare cut roll is a great example. The fresh fish and spicy sauce are garnished with spring onions and placed on top of maki made with creamy avocados and juicy cucumbers rolled in roasted nori, sushi rice and tenkasu (Japanese deep-fried flour-batter). The flavors simply explode as all the ingredients crumble with each bite, while still retaining a perfect spicy-creamy balance.
The lobster corn shells are another gem. A perfect marriage of Latino and Asian cuisines, the crunchy corn taco shells are stuffed with avocado, chipotle mayonnaise, aji yuzu sauce and juicy chunks of lobster. If you’re a fan of shellfish, these are definitely for you as they are packed with soft, scrumptious meat with refreshingly zesty and warm spicy flavors.
No restaurant boasting traditional Asian cuisine would omit dumplings from the menu. Our pick of those on offer at Shanghai Me is the prawn and truffle dumpling — each bite was filled with tender meat enveloped in the earthiness of truffles. Meanwhile, the wild mushroom dumpling is a great vegetarian option, as the perfectly cooked meaty shiitake mushrooms unfold with a strong earthy umami flavor.
For those with a sweet tooth, Shanghai Me has two great offerings that will satisfy two completely different pallets.
For the avid Instragrammer with a love for rich chocolate flavors, the Giant Fortune Cookie could be exactly what you are looking for — complete with the traditional reading. The crispy biscuit of the cookie is glazed with dark and milk chocolates and almonds, hiding a creamy, fluffy mousse inside. Prepare your cameras when the waiter brings out your order, as they crumble the giant structure in front of you.
Our other favorite dessert was a modern take on an Asian classic — a milk cake accompanied by black sesame ice-cream, some fruit jam and a thick milky sauce. The fluffiness of the cake, combined with the creamy sweetness of the milk, the sourness of the fruits and the slight bitterness of the ice-cream create a perfectly balanced and unique flavor with Asian flare.
While Shanghai Me’s prices are above average (as are those of most restaurants in DIFC), the quality of the food justifies the expense. If you want to indulge in an Asian fine-dining experience, this restaurant might be the place you’re looking for.