The Ritz Carlton hotel in Shanghai houses chef’s Angelo Sabatelli’s Palladio Italian restaurant in Shanghai, China. Palladio attempts to be casual with simple chairs and tables and a minimalist décor that is accentuated by the big space between tables, but the posh marble-lined walls and floor and a Greek marble archway betray it. The restaurant has a small (10’ x 10’) wine display that will soon be converted into a walk in wine cellar. The staff is totally bi-lingual (a rarity in China) and very helpful.
Encouraged by what is alleged to be the best cellar in town and good Italian cuisine, I chose to have dinner at Palladio by myself last night. I am very glad I did, but more so for the food than for the wine. I ordered:
Cotechino con fonduta e tartufo nero servito con mostarda di fruta e puree di castagne (Cotechino sausage with cheese fondue and black truffle served with mustard pickleand chestnut puree)
Delicious. Incredibly well balanced flavors. Like a classical music performance in which different instruments take the front stage at different times. The black truffles, the almost raw sausage, the orange marmalade, the fondue and the chestnut puree taking center stage alternatively with each fork voyage. The best antipasti I have ever had in my life. RMB$95 (US$11.50).
Herb roasted loin of lamb with arugula mashed potatoes, marsala sauce and pan–fried goose liver.
Too much time elapsed between the time I finished the first course and the moment they brought me the main course, but it was worth every minute of the wait. The main course was delicious. The goose liver melted in my mouth and the medium rare lamb had plenty of flavor but did not dominate the whole plate. This is, in short, the best meal I have had at an Italian restaurant. Mr. Sabatelli’s cuisine is much better than other highly touted Italian chefs (like Washington DC based Galileo´s Roberto Donna and others). RMB$200 (US$24)
Budino di cioccolato caldo con gelato all infuso di bergamotto (warm chocolate pudding with bergamot ice cream).
This dessert resembles the warm centered chocolate desserts that made Jean George in new York famous, but the flavor was far from similar. Bergamot is very similar to Earl Grey Tea and gave a uniquely perfumy taste to this dessert. RMB$60 (US$7).
The 2001 Ca Marcanda Promis was very similar to the debut 2000 vintage. Medium ruby with purple hues shouting it is still a young wine. Monolithic and rather subdued nose of red cherries with some spicy black pepper in the background. Some tobacco leaf notes emerged after a while. There was a good attack on this medium bodied wine with noticeable acidity that made it slightly refreshing. Mouthcoating, but slightly harsh finish and only moderate tannin presence. There was not a single hint of new oak in this wine, which needs a few more months to integrate better. Alcohol listed at 13.5%. This is a very good (but by no means spectacular) wine made by a famous Piedmontese producer trying to make inroads in Tuscany. 88 points. RMB$590 (US$71).
I finished the evening smoking a Cuban Partagas Serie D No. 4 robusto that was a due homage to the fine dining experience I was concluding. Full bodied and nutty with cedar notes and very tasty, long finish. For a long time this has been my favorite robusto (together with the also Cuban Bolivar Royal Coronas). 92 points.
All in all this was a great dinner. More so due to the food than to the wine, which was also fine but not as spectacular. This confirms to me that when you have high quality ingredients, you do not need to do too much in the kitchen except to serve them at their best. As I sat in the bar stool watching the restaurant become empty, my mind started reflecting on how good life can be for a business traveler if you have the right attitude and overcome the temptation of staying in your hotel and having non descript room service. There is nothing wrong with having a fine meal alone once in a while. It actually allows you time to write better notes!