The Commune Social
Add: 511 Jiang Ning Road, Shanghai 江宁路511号
Tel: +86 (21) 6047 7638 (no reservations)
Hours: [lunch] Tue-Fri 12:00pm-2:30pm; [brunch] Sat-Sun 12:00pm-3:00pm; [dinner] Tue-Sat 6:00pm-10:30pm
Price: [3-course lunch set] RMB178; [à-la-carte] RMB200-300
Visited: April 2016
Will return: Definitely
I visited Table No. 1 and the Commune Social on the same day. I can think of nothing that says “Jason Atherton fan” more than that.
While I was having brunch at Table No. 1, Chef Christopher suggested that next time I visited the Commune Social, I should try the complete experience by going from the Tapas Bar to the Dessert Bar to the Cocktail Bar. And that’s exactly what I went to do that very evening.
The Tapas Bar is a ring of stools around the open kitchen. More than being able to watch the team of chefs at work, these bar seats have the added benefit of allowing your dishes to be personally delivered to you by the craftsmen themselves.
I never spend as much time perusing the menu as I do at the Commune Social. Between the daily specials and the additions to their regular menu, there are about a dozen new dishes since my last visit just over a month ago. Decisions, decisions…
But first, a cocktail never hurts – or in my case, a mocktail, as I wasn’t feeling up to drinking… The Grape Expectations (58) was a fizzy and refreshing concoction of soda, rose, lychee, and of course, grapes.
Since it was a very warm spring evening, I started off with the cold Poached Prawns, Kohlrabi, Wasabi Mayonnaise and Herbs (92).
I really gave it my best shot, but no matter which angle I took, this dish always looked like a veritable bird’s nest. But looks can be deceiving – this dish tasted far from chaotic. It was a perfect symphony of flavors and textures. The poached prawns were sweet and tender, topped with crunchy threads of kohlrabi. The wasabi mayo offered a slight kick but stopped short of stabbing one in the throat. But the most distinct feature on the plate was definitely the Rou Song – a Chinese snack made by drying shredded pork until it is light and fluffy – which added a subtle sweetness and an interesting texture. Fusion without confusion.
I was thrilled to see Baked Bone Marrow, Red Cabbage and Green Apple Salad, Toast (98) on the menu, even if it was served with different accompaniments from the marrow at Chef Atherton’s 22 Ships in Hong Kong. The sweet apple purée worked beautifully with the marrow, while the red cabbage slaw provided a much needed lift.
Moving on to the Dessert Bar, which was a lot quieter than the Tapas Bar. Perfect for enjoying something sweet.
Complimentary Strawberry Ice-Cream in a cute polka dot cup.
Chef Kim Melvin has whipped up some new desserts! Practically half the dessert menu was occupied by new creations – Green apple, feta and honey, Black forest cake with black sesame seed and strawberry… And this, Pineapple, Hazelnut Cake and Piquillo Pepper Sorbet (62). Just let that sink in for a minute. Piquillo. Pepper. Sorbet. That is probably the craziest and most ingenious thing I’ve heard in a long time.
And it really, really worked! The piquillo pepper echoed the flecks of pink peppercorn on the pineapple, and somehow brought out the depth of the hazelnut cake and heightened the tropical flavors. The dots of sherry vinegar gel were little explosions on my tongue.
As I mentioned, I didn’t feel like drinking that day, so I ended up not going up to the Cocktail Bar. Next time, I’ll have the whole experience.