October 31, 2008

Enoteca-- "Nothing to Write Home About"

As I mentioned in my previous post, I had lunch at a little bistro/cafe called Enoteca yesterday.

In the last week or so, I have become particularly fascinated with the French Concession here in Shanghai, a district previously dedicated to the that isn't too far from Jiao Tong University. The Art Deco, European Architecture and tree-lined streets of the French Concession is a nice change from the odd hodgepodge of old ghetto buildings and clean modern designs of the rest of the city. The endless shopping and options for Western food attract a lot of foreign customers. I haven't done much shopping in Shanghai at all let alone in the French Concession, but the opportunity for a good non-Chinese meal can easily attract me to an area like this. I'm honestly getting tired of all the greasy food and bland Shanghai flavors.

I read about Enoteca on www.smartshanghai.com-- one of my guides to finding new places to eat. It was categorized as French and got rave reviews from everyone who posted about it on the site. I had never seen a place with so many good reviews, not a single bad one. So of course, I had to check it out.

The restaurant is divided into three sections-- bar, dining room, and store, with entrances on the bar side and the store side. The interior was modern yet cozy with plush red cushions on the seats making it very comfortable to dine. Wine was appropriately displayed in all sections of the restaurant.

Our servers and the bar tender were Chinese, although the manager was a Caucasion man and everyone was able to communicate in both Chinese and English.

We had the option of ordering a Lunch Set Menu, there were three available starting at 52 RMB and each included a sandwich, salad, and beverage of choice (one of the pricier sets offered wine in place of a coffee or soda). Since it was our first time and we wanted to really get a feel for the restaurant's food, we chose to order A La Carte, three appetizers and a panini, all to share.

To drink, I had an iced mocha and Nevin had a blood orange Pelligrini. My mocha was one of the better ones I've had. They used a semi-sweet chocolate and added just enough so that the drink was not thick, heavy, or overly sweet, but had plenty of flavor. For those who like extra sugar in their coffee, it came with simple syrup on the side. Nevin's Pelligini was refreshing fruity and not sugary at all and the color was a fantastic deep orange.

We started with a Duo of Tartares which consisted of a Salmon and a Tuna tartare, each bound with a wasabi mayo and served with a small salad and dolops of onion, caper, and parsely garnishes. The fish was fresh and the wasabi mayo was light and subtle, not overpowering at all, a problem we found in some of the other dishes.

The next dish to come out was the Beef Carpaccio. It looked like your basic Carpaccio, but it didn't taste like it at all. The dish was actually sweet, but this isn't a compliment to the meat, but rather a "dish" (excuse the pun), on their choice of olive oil as it had a sugariness, probably used to mask the blandness of the meat, which tasted like a very watered down version of beef. Is there any decent beef in this country? In the two months I have been here I have yet to taste any beef that has any remote resemblance in flavor, texture, and even the healthy red color to US beef. The salad-- nicely done, light vinaigrette dressing with crisp, fresh greens, was probably the highlight of the dish. How sad.

Next was the Mushroom Risotto Cakes, which mimicked a crab cake in shape and texture, but was made from Mushroom Risotto. I give the dish a B-- a nice effort and ok tasting, but missed the mark as the pepper and herbs were overpowering. However they were cooked nicely-- hot, steamy and creamy on the inside and crisp and crunchy on the outside. Unfortunately not a home run, but it is a dish with potential.

For the sandwich we ordered the "Sunshine" Panini, but the only thing that shone between those two slices of bread was the sundried tomatos. It was all I could taste and they weren't even great sundried tomatos. I couldn't taste any cheese, prosciutto or artichokes at all.

For the grand finale, we decided to order the Cinnamon Creme Brulee for dessert. Another disappointment, especially after having such great creme brulee at Franck's the day before. If the menu hadn't said Cinnamon, I never would have guessed there was any in there. The Creme was hardly creamy and tasted more like an egg pudding or the custard part of Chinese egg tartes. And the bruleed sugar shell didn't seem to be freshly done. It seemed to have been bruleed earlier and then reheated in the oven. The whole dish was just slightly warm and the candy top was a bit flexible/bendy.

Overall it was an OK experience. The set menus, at 52+ RMB seem like a steal to me, but I would pick a sandwich that doesn't have sundried tomatos in it. It's a very laid back, comfortable place to dine and service was good. However the food lacks creativity or any invention. The dishes are classic dishes served in their basic standard form, no surprises here. And they don't even do a great job with the basics.

Also, if you are looking for French, this is not the place to go. To call Enoteca French is very misleading. With the exception of their Croque Monsieur and the Creme Brulee, there is nothing French about this restaurant, not even the decor. The wines are mostly South American and the food is more Italian than anything else. Even the name of the restaurant, Enoteca, is Italian.

I would recommend the set menu for a girls' luncheon or a casual business meeting, or maybe a quick bite to eat if you're out shopping. Or if you're on a budget and can't afford a place like Franck's, this would be a nice alternative as the prices are relatively low. I may go back for a glass of wine sometime or perhaps for their Set Lunch Menu if I am in the area, but it is not a place I would go out of my way to go back for.

As Nevin, who was with me said, it was "nothing to write home about."

Sy's Overall Rating: 2.5 Stars (out of 5)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Looks that pure joy!