Add: Shop 106, 123 Xing Ye Road, Shanghai 兴业路123弄5号，新天地新里106单元
Tel: +86 (21) 6333 9233
Hours: [1st floor à-la-carte] Mon-Sun 11:00am-11:00pm; [2nd floor prix-fixe] Wed-Sun 2:00pm-9:00pm
Price: [à-la-carte] RMB58-98; [3-course prix-fixe] RMB188+10%
Visited: June 2016
Will return: Yes
Half a year has gone by since Chikalicious opened its doors to eager Shanghai diners late last year, and its popularity is showing no signs of abating. A table (or barstool) for its signature 3-course menu on the second floor is no easier to secure than when it first opened.
And it should come as no surprise, for chefs Maya and Mauro’s desserts aren’t getting any less elegant or meticulous; if anything, the two chefs have grown more comfortable with their new environment and are hitting their stride. If their first menu brought Chika’s brand of sophistication from New York with the occasional twist, then the new creations I encountered on recent visits speak of the couple finding their own voice. Only one dish from the first prix-fixe menu was retained – which, unsurprisingly, is Chika’s famed Fromage Blanc Island “Cheese Cake” that I had on my previous visit – while the other four “main course” selections on their latest summer menu are all new designs by Maya and Mauro.
But, as always, a proper afternoon at Chikalicious starts with amuse-bouche. A pristine bowl of aromatic lemonade sorbet on a weightless cloud of vanilla custard foam was a delightful retreat from the sultry heat outside, though it would be even more so if the sorbet was just a touch more acidic.
Feeling sufficiently refreshed by the amuse-bouche, I opted for a more sumptuous main course on both visits. The Orange-Chocolate Pudding was rich enough to satisfy, but had none of the heaviness usually associated with chocolate. A sprinkling of sea salt chocolate crumble was bound together by a rich and creamy chocolate pudding, which was slathered over a thin disc of spongy, lightly chocolaty brownie. A crunchy dark chocolate leaf balanced delicately on top added subtle notes of bitterness. The layers of chocolate with different textures and richness brought dimension to the dish, while the quenelle of fresh orange sorbet, all sweetness and sunlight, lifted the whole plate with its refreshing iciness and an intoxicating fragrance that brought an entire orange orchard before my eyes.
In a fresh take on a classic dessert, the Wonderland Tiramisu had a light mascarpone mousse encasing an airy chocolate genoise, gently soaked with coffee-amaretto syrup, over a thin layer of crunchy praline, finished with a mildly bitter white coffee ice cream on top. Unlike the compelling complexity of the orange-chocolate pudding, this dish was beautiful in its simplicity. The sweetness, bitterness, creaminess, and alcoholic acidity were all deliciously restrained yet wonderfully balanced, and came together into a refined interpretation of a traditional dessert.
Maya and Mauro had just tested out a new dish on one of my visits: Yuzu Mousse wrapped in compressed cucumber, topped with cubes of cucumber and yuzu agar agar, alongside a yuzu-cucumber sorbet. This dish is normally served as an amuse-bouche for VIP guests, but they graciously let me try it as a palette cleanser. The yuzu mousse was quite sweet yet left a very clean aftertaste, but the highlight was the freshness and greenness of cucumber that weaved through every element but still managed to keep the dish firmly in sweet territories. This is just as wonderful a palette cleanser as it would be an amuse-bouche.
The petit-fours were petit in size, but decidedly not so in flavor. The Coconut Marshmallow was just as pillowy and fragrant as I remembered, but I was even more impressed with the two new delicacies. The Pistachio-Almond Biscotti was a beautifully balanced symphony of a bite – the little dots of rich pistachio purée and light vanilla cream topped with fresh orange zest were the perfect complement to the buttery, slightly salty biscuit. The Chocolate Brownie topped with a single flake of sea salt was gooey and scrumptious, and the strawberry flavored one I had on my second visit was a lovely surprise.
Each of the five “main course” options had a different wine pairing (RMB108-188). The orange-chocolate pudding, for example, was paired with a Pinot Noir from France, and the tiramisu with a Chardonnay from China. The fromage blanc cheese cake was paired with a Duval-Leroy champagne on my first visit, but I noticed that they’ve changed it to Bollinger. There is also a large selection of teas (from RMB68), served in simple silver cups that reflect the beautiful patterns on the saucers.
New desserts are not exclusive to the second-floor prix-fixe menu. On a separate visit, I tried their summer special from the first-floor à-la-carte menu. The Yuzu Mousse Cake was a perfect balance between richness and lightness and an excellent choice for summer.
Chef Maya and Chef Mauro have spent the past six months developing new dishes, but they have also been learning their audience. With each new dish, they consider not just whether the flavors work, but also whether they would be accepted by local customers. Sometimes the answers to these two questions are the same; sometimes they’re not. By moulding New York sophistication to fit Shanghai palettes, these talented chefs are creating desserts that are familiar but also new at the same time.
Chef Mauro told me that a new location is in the works for Beijing, which could open as early as this December. Beijing foodies, stay tuned!