Being a vegetarian in China certainly is a challenge. As the words bù chī ròu (don’t eat meat) leave my mouth, I brace myself for an eyeroll or look of confusion. That being said I’ve had some exceptional vegetarian experiences in China and it was music to my ears when I heard there was a vegetarian tasting menu in town.
Voted number 29 in the Asia top 50, and only 1 of 2 in Shanghai that made the cut, Fu He Hui exhibits an impressive celebration of Shanghainese cuisine.
Step out of the lift and you are escorted into one of the many private rooms. These intimate spaces have a neutral palette with simple and elegant wooden décor. It only needed some slow mandolin and it could be easily mistaken for an exotic day spa.
We decided to try the 9 course tasting menu with tea pairings and wine – hydration is key. Overall the menu featured a carefully curated mix of vegetables and fungi with the tea sets being a standout part of the experience. The flavours are subtle, but when coupled with the selection of teas its a treat for your tastebuds.
Dishes of mention:
Broad bean, lily bulb, garlic – well balanced and beautifully presented
Claypot rice – wonderfully fragrant with pockets of crunchy rice (also the only source of carbs you’ll get all night)
Chinese sweets –presented in woven baskets it features qiantuan (glutinous rice cake with sweet red bean) and an interpretation of a white rabbit. Delicious.
My only criticism would be of the speed of service. Contrary to most restaurants here the transitions between dishes was a little fast. A little more time to enjoy the experience wouldn’t go a miss,
Fu He Hui is not Chinese cuisine as you know it. An enjoyable dining experience where the atmosphere and flavours take you on a unique culinary journey.
Price for 2 people 2400RMB
Fu He Hui is quiet. Too quiet. The background tinkling of erhu and guzheng music compels whispered conversations and gentle chewing. I wouldn’t advise bringing your DSLR; the shutter would shatter the ambience.
It’s all part of the subtle beauty of the place, of course, but I found it hard to fully relax amid the hardwood and hessian uniforms. There’s a certain piety there that makes you want to straighten your posture and suck your stomach in.
There are normally three different tasting menus, priced incrementally up to 880rmb. The 880 menu normally features the choicest seasonal ingredients, and it included an enticing truffle xiaolongbao, so we chose that one. Alcohol is available, and there’s also a tea pairing (280rmb).
The menu opened with a selection of “small delicacies” – brittle, dainty crackers, deep fried chestnut nuggets, and some fascinating beetroot, berry and chickpea cylinders. The next two courses were equally delicate: a fresh and crunchy bowl of bamboo shoot garnished with ice plant, and a well-balanced mushroom tea.
And then things got heavier – first in size, and then in flavour. When the pumpkin with mashed rice and spices arrived, I was surprised at how simple the flavours were; very little “spice” was discernible. The snow fungus’ meaty heft added more weight to the menu before our favourite run of courses arrived: mui choy, a deliciously satisfying but unphotogenic heap of shaved hazelnuts, braised beancurd and potato emulsion; kou san si, with its pungent dried tofu and teapot of broth; and the maddeningly tiny but delicious smoked porcini with a dreamy white sesame gel.
Even then, there were three more courses: the aforementioned XLB (slightly underwhelming), a charming passionfruit and custard dessert, and a selection of little treats to finish. This included a panna cotta “White Rabbit” candy, of which I’d have loved a whole bag to take home. Please deliver, FHH.
In total, we paid 2248rmb for two people (tasting menus, one bottle of wine, water). Unless you’re a vegetarian millionaire, it’s one to save for special occasions. It’s some of the most interesting, fresh and smart cooking I’ve come across. We were surprised by the mild first few courses, but there’s method in the blandness; by the end, it all made perfect sense.
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