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Fifty 8° Grill

May 8, 2013
by Justin Fischer

Area: The newly opened Mandarin Oriental. This long awaited hotel sits at the northeastern outskirts of Lujiazui, just past the terminus of Binjiang Dadao. Most of the area is still under construction, so this development is a landmark in itself. Just look for the striking twin concave office towers that house the CITIC Pacific Group's headquarters.

What it is: A contemporary steakhouse with a French touch by Richard Ekkebus. This Dutch-born chef's CV is studded with stints under some culinary heavy hitters. Among them, he served as a pastry chef under Alain Passard, a chef de partie under Guy Savoy and a chef under Pierr Gagnaire. In 2005 he moved to The Landmark Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Hong Kong, where he opened Amber, which by 2009 had earned two Michelin stars.

The guy he's tapped to run operations in Fifty 8º's kitchen is no slouch, either. It's Jason Oakley. If you've lived here long enough to remember when Laris was actually a restaurant and not a consultancy, his name should be familiar enough. He was chef de cuisine there until about 2009. Prior to that, he worked under Thomas Keller at The French Laundry. Then he was a sous chef under Alessandro Stratta at the now-defunct Alex in the Wynn Casino in Las Vegas. For the past four years or so he was running 55 & 5th at the St. Regis Saadiyat Island in Abu Dhabi.

Collectively, those are some pretty impressive credentials.

With Fifty 8º Ekkebus and Oakley are scaling back all of the dramatics that have become so inextricably associated with gourmet cuisine. It's all about fundamentals — classic recipes done with top-quality ingredients in simple presentations. Wood fire-grilled steaks and chops are the heart of the menu, and they're sourced from big name Aussie producers like Cape Grim, Stockyard and, that belle of the boucherie, wagyu specialist David Blackmore. They do standard cuts like stip loin, tenderloin, chateaubriand and 28-day-dry-aged prime rib. But they also offer a few cuts you don't see around town too often, like the flat iron steak or the wagyu tri-tip.

Rounding out the steaks is a selection of "braises," like pork belly with clove, mustard and brown sugar or a 72-hour beef short rib in a black pepper jus finished with a little orange zest. I tried the latter, and it is fantastic. They also do a few seafood dishes as well. Pan-fried John Dory with fresh peas, morels and a sherry cream sauce is a standout.

In true steakhouse fashion, all of the above are meant to be served with sides. But rather than the typical giant asparagus or creamed spinach, you'll find some refreshing changes like caramelized artichoke hearts with lemon or pureed potatoes laced with applewood-smoked butter, which is just plain awesome.

The starters selection is even bigger than the mains. They do two tartares — one of the traditional beef with cornichons, the other more of a reinterpreted salad with green apples and beets. Charcuterie also plays prominently with lots of house made terrines and rilettes as well as Iberico ham and chorizo.

Desserts are simple studies in classic comfort. We're talking creme caramel, Valhrona chocolate souffles, sorbets of cacao or currant, and the kinds of tarts that would lure you in off the street if they were in the bakery window. Think apple tarts with creme fraiche.

Atmosphere: Decidedly dressed down. Ekkebus is assiduously avoiding the whole stuffy white table cloth vibe in favor of something more casual. The decor is angular and masculine. Plush buttoned leather booths are partitioned by slabs of polished white stone. Table tops are black granite or dark wood. Jazz music dominates the airwaves. The overall feel harks back to the modernist glamour of the 1920s.

Damage: Not cheap. But more reasonable than you'd think. Starters are anywhere between 48rmb to 168. Mains start at 198rmb for a coq au vin and top out at 1088rmb for a kilo of prime rib. Sides are anywhere between 48 and 68rmb. Desserts are around 28 for sorbets and ice creams, 78-98 for anything from the pastry stations. Before you get sticker shock from any of this, just note that the portions are surprisingly generous. I walked out paying about 1300rmb for two and had way more at the table than I needed to eat. But if that still seems too pricey, they do a scaled down version of dinner at lunch for 188rmb. That's a steal.

Who's going: Aside from occasional hotel guest, Fifty 8º's clientele has, so far, been predominantly industry types — people scouting out the competition, people with product to sell, people eating there on the company dime so they can write about it.
April 25

Mandarin Oriental Pudong,
1/F, 111 Pudong Nan Lu,
near Yincheng Lu


2082 9938


Tartare of Beets and Green Apples 48rmb

Beef Tartare 148rmb

Bradade Morue 98rmb

Country Pate 118rmb

Pata Negra de Bellota 198rmb

Black Pepper Beef Short Rib 268rmb

John Dory with Morels and Garden Peas 278rmb

Wagyu Tri-Tip (180g) 648rmb

Sirloin (350g) 418rmb

Flat Iron Steak (180g) 268rmb

Dry-Aged Prime Rib (1000g) 1088rmb

Smoked Potato Mousseline 48rmb

Thin Apple Tart 88rmb

Chocolate Souffle 98rmb
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