During my first two days in Shanghai, I often ate alone as rif had to work. I sat by the window at Farine Bakery and ordered with an excellent pain au chocolat and hot latte. And at The Commune Social, I choose to sit by the kitchen bar where I got to watch Head Chef Scott Melvin in action.
My day job involves talking to people and after office hours, the occasional blog events or food reviews I attend require some level of social interaction. Dining alone gives me a break from that.
The Commune Social is a partnership between Chef Jason Atherton and award winning Shanghai design firm Neri & Hu, and carries a casual chic speakeasy vibe. I went for the Chef’s Choice, a three, four or five course menu that was both playful and eclectic. Like the Barley paella, squid and gremolata – robustly flavoured with complementing textures from the grains, seafood and herbs.
There’s a different pleasure that comes from paying full attention of what’s happening on your plate or in your head. This kind of satisfaction doesn’t come with eating with others. I loved the fried duck egg with glazed duck liver, a rustic assemblage that was held together by dashes of sherry vinegar and peppery notes of the romesco.
My waitress recommended the four course meal but the lamb cutlet was so good I had to push it to a five course. Because I didn’t want to walk out with any regrets.
The lamb was seared and baked to tender perfection, served with grilled fennel, goats cheese and preserved lemon. Seasoning was kept simple to allow the natural flavours of the ingredients to come through.
My braised pork belly with cabbage puree, pickled kohlrabi and toasted oats was another winner –the skin was crackly and incredibly addictive with a tasty layer of fat beneath. The meat was juicy, with a texture similar to pulled pork; I was very impressed.
Soon after I was done, my waitress led me to the dessert bar, where my final course is composed on the spot. An amuse bouche of caramel popcorn in dry ice kept me occupied as the dessert chef assembled my deconstructed ‘pb&j’ of peanut ice cream, salted peanut caramel, mulberries, strawberries and fruity jam.
It was a beautiful sight and had crunchy, crumbly and creamy texture, with a salty- sweet flavour. I ate this in deep silence, contemplating if I should take a sabbatical and explore the culinary wonders in Shanghai. Sounds like a good idea, no? ;)
I paid a very reasonable RMB258 (approximately RM130) for the above – you can’t get such a meal in KL and definitely not for that kind of price. The Commune Social practices a “no reservations , no service charge” policy to deformalize fine dining and my experience was nothing short of memorable. :)
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Ambiance: 8/10 Price: 6.5/10 Food 8.5/10 (non halal) Verdict: Clever combinations and playful touches. It was a very, very good lunch.
The Commune Social 511 Jiangning Lu, near Kangding Lu Jingan district Shanghai, China. Website