Restaurants are not all about the kitchen and their cooks or chefs, but front of house as well, and those that greet one, explain the style of menu and perhaps the thought behind the dishes, present the dishes on the menu, serve you a beverage, perhaps even suggest the wine, this was not the case at Heritage by Madison over the recent May Day holidays.
After walking out of a nameless restaurant earlier in the evening for poor service, waiters arguing over meagre servings of wine which was corked, my regular dining partner and I called Heritage by Madison on the off chance of being able to squeeze one in at 18h30, the reply came the restaurant is full, but we have room at the bar counter, we agreed and arrived promptly at the allotted time.
The restaurant was not full, and still had tables available, a number of those remained available throughout our stay at the bar counter, with one other sole diner being seated at the bar counter, which was unmanned for the majority of time except when asked for some additional lime to accompany the Tea Smoked Chicken dish which was exceptionally I might add, more of the dishes later.
We were served throughout the meal by Angelina, and Barry whom I knew from Frank Pecol’s former bastion, Franck of Ferguson Lane fame, or perhaps now the infamous former bastion.
The menu was offered, which really has no beginning or end in the traditional sense of a menu, we chose dishes that others had picked from various dining site app’s which were supposedly a go-to dish at Heritage by Madison, now granted they have been undergoing a “soft opening” phase since April 23.
We opted for the following dishes, and foolishly assumed that they would come in this running order.
Salted Duck Yolk Lotus Roots
Beef Tartare – snow pear, sesame, ginger, mustard
General Hu’s Cauliflower- chocolate gastrique, mint and chillies (Gastrique is caramelized sugar, deglazed with vinegar, used as a flavouring for sauces)
Tea Smoked San Huang Chicken Supreme - XO aioli, seasoned sesame salt
Crispy Pork belly -day kimchi, house-made mustard
Beef fat fries with saffron aioli
We were not offered any pre-dinner drinks, whether cocktails or wine, but was offered tap water, sorry no wine list, we had to ask and then advised that you have a choice of these two white wine by the glass, the bottles were placed in a large plastic wine bucket on the bar counter, the choice was either a French Riesling from Alsace or a Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand, both under the house label called Terroir and imported by Sarment wines, a French wine company, cost per glass 60 RMB the same goes for their selection of Red wines by the glass, that was a Pinot Noir, from New Zealand, and a Sangiovese from Italy, both under the house label called Terroir and sold at 70RMB and 65RMB respectively again imported by Sarment wines, as were many of the full bottles of wines supplied by the same company, Sarment who is based in Shanghai, all of these Terroir labels, go for around 120RMB trade prices.
Frankly speaking, I would have asked the wine supplier to print off a temporary wine list, and a perhaps even a beverage list, even if one is still in a “Soft Opening Period” for someone has entered the data into the Restaurants Point of Sale system on pricing for both the food and drinks items, that where you get your bill from at the end of the meal after all.
So back to the dishes, as I mentioned the menu offered, had no beginning or end in the traditional sense of a menu, so we were served in the following order.
Salted Duck Yolk Lotus Roots, which were more of a bar snack, and must say rather unique and tasty.
Then came the Beef Fat Fries with saffron aioli, now I have dined at several of Austin Hu’s incarnations of Madison over the years, from Dong Ping Lu, Dong Hu Lu, and Feng Yang Lu, and his interpretation of Fat Fries, whether finished off in Beef or Duck fat has always hit the sweet spot, the saffron aioli could have had a little more kick to it, and possibly a few strands of saffron would have not gone amiss, even those from Xinjiang would have been effective.
The Beef Tartare – snow pear, sesame, ginger, mustard was served next, none of your traditional slivers of Melba toast or a baguette sliced on a slant was offered, but rather delicate hearts of butter lettuce instead. I mentioned earlier at times there is a need to explain the style of menu and perhaps the thought behind the dishes, present the dishes on the menu, none of this with this dish it was plonked down in front of you and you guessed or simply assume that you place some of the Beef tartare into the hearts of butter lettuce and munch away, this dish needs additional seasoning and an explanation I feel, a little disappointing.
Next came General Hu’s Cauliflower- chocolate gastrique, mint and chillies (Gastrique is caramelized sugar, deglazed with vinegar, used as a flavouring for sauces) so now you know if you were wondering what it was, must say this dish stood out for me, and something I would eat again.
Crispy Pork belly - day kimchi, house-made mustard, unsure what day kimchi is, this red cabbage was certainly not kimchi in the true sense, the overall dish is something that you might get in any Germanic style restaurant, Pork belly with red cabbage and mustard, the dish was tasty, lovely crisp skin, and very fatty pork belly, the mustard hit home, I enjoyed the dish, but nothing special.
Finally, the Tea Smoked San Huang Chicken Supreme - XO aioli, seasoned sesame salt, this was juicy, moist, succulent hit all the right notes, the kitchen were a little stingy with the lime, had to ask Barry the waiter for additional limes, he went behind the bar to cut and serve.
I asked to see a dessert menu, sadly nothing available, asked for the bill which came to 737RMB for two pax and paid in cash, as the restaurant does not have credit card facilities, only take cash or WeChat pay, asked for a Fapiao, that will have to be sent to you, and I am still waiting.
So, end result, would I recommend Heritage by Madison, a whole heartily yes, I will give it three stars, and bordering on four, but not quite there, as they need to get the service side sorted out, and would say they need a front of house manager to train the service flow, work with the kitchen to understand the menu and present this to the punters that dine at Heritage by Madison, the music was way too loud, it’s all the small things that count to make the overall experience of a venue, as at present it’s not quite there, I look forward to going back in the not too distant future, and seeing improvements, as Austin Hu certainly has had the staying power in Shanghai.
Having been in Shanghai for over 10 years, I have frequented all the Madison iterations since the original Dong Ping Lu location. If you’ve been here long enough for that, you probably remember when Element Fresh was affordable and you probably still rock a Hotmail or AOL e-mail account. You have been in Shanghai too long, but getting to experience another iteration of this great restaurant will make it all worth it.
We went for brunch with a group of 6 adults and two children less than a week into its soft opening. The burger is not just Shanghai-good, it’s one of the best you will have anywhere. The dragon bean salad with poached egg is one of the few East-West creations that is better than the sum of its parts. The charred octopus was cooked perfectly with a light crunch outside and super tender with no chewiness inside. The kids went through two orders of duck spaghetti before I got a chance to try it.
Ambience and service were also top notch. The only minor drawbacks are the location and somewhat small portions. The Bund Finance Center is just another mega mixed office and retail building, and probably close to nothing in your normal routine (but it’s by the bund!). On the other hand, it is probably a more central location for the entire city (even people in Pudong).
Overall, I’m sure this is the frontrunner for best new restaurant in 2019 and would recommend you go soon while it’s still easy to get in.
Kid friendliness: One of the children in our group didn’t care for their homemade strawberry soda (it was probably the first strawberry soda she ever had made with actual strawberries), but the waiter switched it out right away to something she liked. These types of gestures are so rare in Shanghai that it deserves a mention.
200-300 rmb per person with drinks
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