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[On the Radar]: Sheng Yong Xing

A big-name roast duck restaurant from Beijing gets Bund-ified.
2021-02-09 12:00:00
Photos: Brandon McGhee
On the Radar is a SmartShanghai column profiling new restaurants, bars, and other new places we find interesting. Sometimes we stumble upon these places, and sometimes we are invited, but in both cases, we are never paid to write an opinion, rather, these are our honest first impressions, and not a formal review.

Sheng Yong Xing


What It Is: The first Shanghai outpost of one of Beijing's better-known roast duck restaurants. Though it began as a casual, froufrou-free place, Sheng Yong Xing has, in recent years, repositioned itself as a luxury "nouveau Beijing restaurant" known for being very, very particular about its ducks. Each one is tagged with an identification card and raised for exactly 30 days after hatching. Diners receive a copy of that identification card when the duck arrives at the table.

Sheng Yong Xing's ducks, all dressed and ready to roast.

The restaurant's wood-fired oven uses wood from the jujube tree.

Of course, following marination and 70 minutes of roasting in a wood-fired oven with jujube wood (for added aroma, apparently), that duck now looks very different than it did when it left the farm. "But from which farm and which pen did this duck originate?" refined duck eaters are willing to ask. Well, there's a QR code on the ID card, which diners can scan to skim the stats of their bird for some data-driven peace of mind on the quality of their food. Cozy!

The aforementioned ovens.

Beijing duck roasted in the traditional style, hung vertically to render fat from under the skin and allow excess fat to drip out.

Area: Sheng Yong Xing inhabits half the fifth floor of the stately Five on the Bund building, which also houses Glam, Atto Primo, M on the Bund and Ruth's Chris Steakhouse. There is no higher concentration of fine dining restaurants in this city than within this stretch of the Bund, so the choice to locate its first Shanghai branch right here makes its positioning crystal clear: Sheng Yong Xing is a fine dining concept.

Table setting at Sheng Yong Xing.

Atmosphere: Modern, minimalist Chinese design that's fitting for an upscale place like this. There's a row of small one- to two-person tables at the front of the restaurant where Sheng Yong Xing displays its large wine selection.

Small, bistro-like seating at the front of the restaurant.

This area is sleeker, sexier and more dimly lit than the main dining area inside, which pretty much puts all the bonus of giving visitors something pretty to look at on the Pearl Tower and its cohort of glittering Lujiazui towers across the river.

The main dining room has a very different feel to it. Bund bling!

A single low-hanging pendant light is fixed above the center of each dining table, beaming down a bright white light that puts a literal spotlight on the food. On one end of the dining area are three private rooms, each of which is sectioned off by frosted glass and shoji screens.

The side of the main dining area where the private rooms are hidden away.

Chatter and dinnerware clatter are set to low volume. The staff and sommeliers are warm and gracious, speaking in reverent tones about Sheng Yong Xing's ducks and the shifu who cook and carve them. Service is in Chinese, though the entire menu is printed in both Chinese and English, including wine pairing recommendations.

Duck meets duck.

Dishes to Try: Duck -- and if only it were as straightforward as that. Alas...

If you've been to Sheng Yong Xing in Beijing and then come to its sister site on the Bund expecting the same delicious, masterfully prepared duck, with skin that's roasted extraaa crisp and carved thin, cracking like the lightest papadum and gently diffusing duck fat across your tongue... then yes, that same duck is here.

Whereas the Sheng Yong Xing of the past priced an entire roast duck around the 300rmb mark, it now costs 500rmb in Shanghai. There's also a single portion option priced at 138rmb per person. If you choose the latter, then every person at your table has to opt-in too. No splitting.

Duck carving action, done tableside, for your gawking pleasure.

Yet more duck carving action.

All the traditional accompaniments of Beijing roast duck are included: the sticky, savory, slightly sweet tianmian jiang-based sauce, cucumber matchsticks, ribbons of spring onion. There's a small steamer of crepe-like bing to wrap your own duck rolls with all the fixings, and plain white sugar for people who like to savor bites of the crispy, caramelized duck skin on its own, minus the wraps. The restaurant also includes a pure, raw garlic paste -- not every Beijing duck restaurant does, but some people like the sharp contrast it provides to the sweetness of the other ingredients.

An individual portion of Beijing roast duck with traditional accompaniments, 138rmb.

Sheng Yong Xing also offers the option to add caviar to your duck: 698rmb to pimp out the whole duck with Chinese hybrid Sturgeon caviar, or 188rmb per individual portion. The more top-shelf Russian Sturgeon caviar goes for 988rmb (whole duck), or 268rmb per portion. Yes, this pairing was made famous by Hakkasan. Whereas Hakkasan incorporates the cucumber, spring onion, duck sauce and bing into theirs, Sheng Yong Xing eschews all that. It's just caviar and duck here, a dollop of the roe on each compact, bite-sized stack of duck skin and roasted meat.

The caviar add-on option gets you the individual portion of Beijing roast duck and all the fixings shown above, plus two bite-sized pieces of duck topped with caviar, 188/268rmb (depending on caviar type).

The staff recommends that a whole duck be shared among at least four diners. If your table has less than that, they will strongly encourage you to go with the per person option and supplement your order with dishes from other parts of the menu. It's just a suggestion.

The rest of the menu covers contemporary Chinese fine dining rounded out by a small selection of more traditional Beijing cuisine -- dishes such as gongbao chicken (78rmb), zha jiang mian (38rmb per person) and Beijing braised pork ribs (198rmb).

The finer end of the scale centers on high-end ingredients. A lot of it is seafood-based, such as truffle braised abalone (368-558rmb per person), scallion sea cucumber (298-568rmb per person), a whole fried yellow croaker with sweet and sour sauce (698rmb) and prawns with sliced truffle and asparagus (198rmb).

Prawns with sliced truffle and asparagus, 198rmb.

Wagyu shows up a lot, like in the Australian Wagyu fried rice (58rmb per person). Even greens and tofu get the luxury treatment: stir-fried pea sprouts, "artisan tofu in fish stew" and stir-fried spinach with garlic are each 78rmb.

Gongbao chicken, 78rmb. We were told the kitchen only uses dark meat for their version of this dish.

Stir-fried pea sprouts, 78rmb. How greens, handled by a pro, should be -- blanched, stir-fried and seasoned while keeping the original flavor and texture intact.

Damage: A meal for two ranges from 500-800rmb, perhaps less for those who order strategically. Once the more premium stuff like caviar or seafood gets involved, that meal can easily add up to 1000+ for each person -- especially since many of these dishes are priced per person, rather than by the portion.

A Sheng Yong Xing shifu at the roasting station.

Sheng Yong Xing is also branding itself as a specialist purveyor of wine and wine pairing recommendations (hence the sommeliers on staff), and has an extensive wine list selected by Meiyu Li (she was the winner of China's Best Sommelier Competition in 2011, and is prominent within the country's wine scene). Wine and champagne by the glass ranges from 58-108rmb.

Champagne and white wine on ice, stationed throughout the dining room.

Who's Going: Wealthy Chinese couples on dates, wealthy Chinese families going out for a nice meal together, Chinese businesspeople meeting up for power lunches and powwows, and small groups of (probably wealthy) Chinese friends and colleagues catching up over Beijing roast duck and champagne.


If interested in knowing more restaurants that serve Peking Duck, click here for our Peking Duck Venue Listing.