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  • Atmosphere: It’s a little difficult to find The Pine, especially in darkness. It’s in the beautiful complex fronted on Fuxing Zhong Lu by the InterContinental. If you take this entrance, follow the road that curves around to the left. If you enter from Ruijin Er Lu, turn to the right through the gate, and follow the road around.

    Once you get inside, it’s murmur-or-get-stared-at quiet. There’s a slightly jumpy, eclectic soundtrack that meanders from jazz to electronic, but the white tablecloths and the proximity of the other patrons are very Michelin. Very tasting-menu-or-die. I wasn’t immediately comfortable.

    The place is divided up into different rooms, both public and private. Décor is mostly understated but, incongruously, there’s CitySuper merchandise everywhere. Those bright green cushions were a very strange choice in the context. Perhaps it’s a sponsorship deal, but it rather jars with the general aesthetic.

    Food: You can go a la carte, if you really want to, but it’s obvious that the focus here is on classic tasting menus. These are often focused on a key ingredient: crab, steak or truffle, for example. We chose the entry-level menu, because the others were wincingly expensive and also because it looked the best. It gave us two options for each course, too.

    And so we ordered, and the food started to arrive, and it was absolutely divine. I relaxed, even in the starched surroundings, because it was clear that we were in good hands. Brioche was brought first, fresh and soft and meltingly-rich from the kitchen. We said no to more, and I have few more potent regrets this year.

    To start: oysters or a cold dish of beetroot, cheese and hazelnuts. The latter, in particular, was beautiful both to sight and to taste: dancing, light flavours. The fish course, which came next, was a crisped fillet of Japanese white fish with one of those decadent, buttery sauces imbued with technique. Someone teach me.

    Next, the meat course. (There is no vegetarian menu, as far as I know.) There was a preposterously overpriced Wagyu plate, but we both chose the chicken – a neat, chubby ballotine with freshly podded peas and, this time, two of those excellent, deep sauces, served with a boned and foie gras-stuffed crispy chicken wing.

    Things lightened up considerably after that, thank goodness. We were served a light, pineapple-y palate cleanser before our dessert: black truffle ice cream (potent) with green melon. It wasn’t a highlight, but it was a suitable way to end a heavy meal.

    Service: Staff were professional and warm throughout, explaining each dish. The server went to the kitchen at one point to ask, as we’d enquired, what the crisped topping on the fish was. I’ve forgotten the answer, but it was very good of him nonetheless. Wine was promptly poured, and the still and sparkling waters were always served to the right person. Full marks.

    You can see into the kitchen on your way to the bathrooms, too, if that’s your thing. (It’s my thing. I love it.)

    In total, we paid around 2390rmb for two people. Note that we chose their lowest-priced evening tasting menu. To be fair, though, we did also drink a very nice bottle of Riesling and two big waters.

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SMARTREVIEWS

SmartReviews is SmartShanghai’s crack squad of amateur reviewers, eating their way around the city and writing about it. They have been chosen from a large pool of applicants and given a set of strict guidelines to follow to make sure their reviews are honest, informed and fair to both potential customers and the restaurants themselves.

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