Museo Food Bar
Add: 4/F 5 on The Bund, 20 Guang Dong Road, Shanghai 广东路20号，外滩5号4楼
Tel: +86 (21) 6333 0626
Hours: Mon-Fri 2:00pm-12:00am, Sat-Sun 12:00pm-12:00am
Price: [Restaurant Week 4-course set] RMB258 + 10%; [à-la-carte] RMB300-450
Visited: April 2016
Will return: Yes
– Note: This visit is during DiningCity’s Restaurant Week. –
The marriage of art and cuisine is hardly a novel concept. Take Alain Ducasse’s Le Meurice in Paris, whose majestic opulence is inspired by the Château de Versailles. Or the fine-art-encrusted dining room of Gaddi’s at The Peninsula Hong Kong, where guests dine against the backdrop of a 17th century Coromandel screen that used to sit in the Imperial Palace in Beijing, and whose twin currently sits in the Metropolitan Museum in New York. But the art at these restaurants is imposed upon us guests, who sit among such finery somewhat self-consciously, feeling dwarfed by the maestros who deign to grace us with their wondrous talent, both in art and in food.
Museo Food Bar, while also proclaiming itself a fusion of art and dining, doesn’t seek to impress us with the formidable lavishness of which we are merely passive spectators. Its dining room has an understated elegance that is refined but unassuming. Stripping away the pretentious and unapproachable and replacing it with the genuine and familiar, Museo doesn’t look down upon us from an elevated platform, but rather draws us into the creative process – quite literally. One side of the dining room is dominated by an “Art Jamming Studio”, where guests are invited to uncover their inner artist by picking up a paint brush and setting free their imagination. And judging by these paintings, the imagination can certainly lead to marvelous places.
The food runs much along the same lines as the decor, at once reassuring in their humble origins and surprising in their ingenious design. And from time to time, perhaps inspired by the artistry around us, we manage to get a peek through the creative lens of the chef and appreciate his inspirations.
Pick up a shard of Fried Spring Roll Wrapper. Fried to a gleeful crisp but leaving no grease on your fingers, it was dusted with a positively addictive mix of salt and chili powder. Not a few tables asked for seconds, while the bread sat on the side, entirely forgotten.
Take a spoonful of the Cream of Asparagus. This plain-looking soup tasted exactly as green as it looked, with just enough cream to enrich but not overpower the asparagus. Were it not for a few overly stalky pieces of asparagus, this might very well be the best cream of asparagus I’ve ever tasted. On the side was supposed to be a Smoked Chicken Tomato Bruschetta, but I didn’t taste the smoke or the chicken. Pity, the smokiness would have really complemented the soup.
The fork-tender pieces of Crispy Frog Legs were, at first taste, reminiscent of the sweet and sour pork spareribs in traditional Shanghainese cuisine. But hiding beneath that comforting mist of familiarity was the depth of sherry vinegar and the subtle citrusy and bitter tang of Kaffir lime.
Two generous slabs of dense and intensely flavorsome Iberico Pork Jowl Meat were stacked with earthy yet delicate portobello mushrooms and firm, slightly crunchy broccoli. The two strokes of green sauce – apparently the chef’s secret recipe – may be dull in color, but was decidedly not so in flavor. Both rich and vibrant, it brightened the char-grilled smokiness of the pork in much the same way that a bolt of lightning illuminates a dark sky. However, the macadamia nuts advertised on the menu were nowhere to be found. This is starting to look disturbingly like a trend…
The dessert was slightly less inspiring. The centerpiece, a Raspberry Nougat, was quite light and refreshing. The chocolate “soil” had an intriguing texture that almost worked with the granola. The two blocks of lemon jelly, which tasted as bland as they looked, had nothing to do there, while the popping sugar that had every reason to be there was – once again – missing.
The service was exceedingly friendly, but I was somewhat confused when the water they poured into my glass went from cold to warm to hot. Did they run out of ice? The water goblets, though handsome, made it almost impossible for servers to tell if they were full or empty, so I had to ask a server to refill mine quite a few times.
Museo Food Bar displays genuine creativity, both conceptual and actual – though perhaps conceptual slightly more than actual. But the Restaurant Week menu showcased enough artistic flair on the chef’s part that I am quite tempted to return for their regular menu soon.