Bistro 321 Le Bec
Add: 321 Xin Hua Road, Shanghai 新华路321号
Tel: +86 (21) 6241 9100
Hours: [lunch] Tue-Fri 12:00pm-2:00pm, Sat-Sun 12:00pm-2:30pm; [dinner] Tue-Sun 6:00pm-11:00pm
Visited: March 2016
Will return: Definitely
It’s been nearly four years since Chef Nicolas le Bec abruptly decided to shut down his two-Michelin-star restaurant in Lyon, France and move to Shanghai – much to the surprise of foodies around world and the excitement of the lucky foodies in Shanghai. Four years later, Bistro 321 Le Bec still stands out in a city with no shortage of French bistros.
Chef le Bec renovated a villa from 1924 on the beautiful plane-tree-lined Xin Hua Road for his restaurant. The former carriage house became the Bistro, the servant quarters upstairs (Downton Abbey flashbacks, anyone?) turned into a Wine Bar, and the main house became the Villa, which serves more upscale French cuisine.
The extensive menu – a full 8 pages! – is filled with French bistro classics. But peeking through between the lines is the global influence that Chef le Bec was known for at his Lyon restaurant. The Canard à l’Orange, an ultimate French classic, gets an oriental twist with the addition of Chinese dates; a Pork and Duck Rillette is infused with Chinese five spice; and the Tarte Citron is incorporated with a touch of the Japanese with some yuzu.
A million thanks to my lovely lunch date Ellen for some of these amazing photos!
Starting the meal with some crusty bread.
Walking into the dining room had brought us past a lovely display of Bistro 321’s famous pots salés (savory pots), which contained mouthwatering pâtés like Smoked Salmon with Lemon Leaf and Confit Potatoes, Rustic Duck Pâté with Pistachios and Juniper, and Smoked Soft Herring Parisian Style.
Delicious as those sounded, we decided to go traditional for our first visit, and chose Foie Gras de Canard Mi-Cuit au Cognac «Sel et Poivre» “Half-Cooked” Duck Foie Gras with Cognac “Salt and Pepper” (230). And we couldn’t have been happier with our choice. The best and richest foie gras I’ve had in Shanghai, and almost as good as the best foie gras I had in Paris. Mind-blowing! Only issue: it’s a bit hard to scoop out at first since it came straight out the fridge. Let it sit for a few minutes before digging in (if you possess that kind of restraint).
Les Profitéroles d’Escargots, Creme d’Ail Snails “Profiteroles” with Garlic Cream (110) sounded like an intriguing and promising dish, but sadly fell a bit short of my expectations. The escargots were tender and flavorsome, but the profiteroles weren’t crispy at all and didn’t add anything to the dish. I actually prefer good old-fashioned escargot since you can dip your bread in the juices and soak up all the goodness. C’est dommage.
Pieds de Cochon sans Os, Croustillant, Jus de Champignons Crispy Boneless Pig’s Feet with Mushroom Sauce (200) came highly recommended, and certainly lived up to its reputation. Rich, tender, and gelatinous, sitting on a bed of incredibly flavorsome mushrooms. Love, love, love!
Equally satisfying was La Purée Le Bec Le Bec Mashed Potatoes (30 for small, 55 for large), which was comparable to Chef Joël Robuchon’s famous mashed potatoes that I had at L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon in Hong Kong. So smooth and creamy! It was a bit sweeter than most mashed potatoes, but I thought it worked quite well with the pig’s feet, which was just a tiny bit salty.
Incidentally, Chef Robuchon opened his first restaurant in mainland China last Friday at Bund 18. I’ll wait until the crowd’s died down a bit before I go.
Our waiter looked a little askance at us when we ordered not one, but two desserts. What can I say? Sweettooth.
My list of favorite lemon desserts has a new frontrunner! The Tarte Citron Jaune, Yuzu et Meringue Légère Yellow Lemon Tart, Yuzu and Light Meringue (70) was an absolute delight. The lime zest on top really brought out the citrusy fragrance, and the balance between sweetness and acidity was spot-on.
Just as delicious, Millefeuille Minute, Crème Vanille Millefeuille with Vanilla Cream (70). Magnificent cream sandwiched between perfectly flaky pastry. Definitely going out with a bang.
A little French wisdom to end the meal: “To eat well, you must have bones and fishbones.”