China has just too many fancy stories, with the “Eight Immortals Crossing the Sea” being one of the most widely-circulated. The story is quite simple—to participate in a gathering or party, the eight immortals have to pass through the sea. But no one wants to swim or take a boat; as immortals they find different ways to cross the sea. (And we’ll skip the part where the immortals fight with the King of Sea, a dragon.)
The restaurant is named from this story. It is hiding in the hottest place in Shanghai—Xintiandi—with many beautiful restaurants in old Shanghainese style buildings. Stepping into the restaurant, you just feel you are back in old times, with many antiques surrounding you. Most of them are “Eight Immortals”-related, plus some other collections from the owners. The walls of the private rooms feature hand-painted patterns, tapping on the theme of each room.
In the “Phoenix” private room, we start our great journey through Burgundy wines and Chinese food. It is mainly in Cantonese style, with a touch of Shanghainese influence. I have to say, Burgundy wines are very friendly with Chinese food, with their high acidity and smooth, moderate tannins.
I would drink just the first four whites for the whole dinner—they are so fabulous. The hero of the night is Domaine Baron Thenard Montrachet 2009, in a perfect shape of what a Montrachet should be. A little bit more will be too much, and a little bit less will be too little; this bottle is showing beautifully, with wonderful finesse, elegance and balance. While all the reds are quite new vintages, most of them should decant for an hour as they are just too tight, even the Pinot Noir.
Though the food is in Cantonese style, in some dishes you could feel the sauces catering to local taste, which might be too red and tasty compared with authentic Cantonese food. But their goose, shrimp, duck and steamed fish are all must-trys, and if you are brave enough, you can’t miss the goose head and duck tongue. The presentation is quite traditional but well-designed. Dining in such ambience, if you don’t feel like an Immortal, you will definitely think of old times, a colorful and peaceful world.
The restaurant was opened after the Michelin Guide launched in Shanghai; I am quite sure it would have gained some stars if they opened earlier. And whether it gains stars in the future or not, it has become one of my most favorite restaurants in Shanghai.