T’ang Court at The Langham (3 Michelin stars)
Add: The Langham Xintiandi, 5/F, 99 Ma Dang Road, Shanghai 马当路99号，新天地朗廷酒店5楼
Tel: +86 (21) 2330 2430
Hours: [lunch] Mon-Fri 11:30am-2:00pm, Sat-Sun 11:30am-2:30pm; [dinner] Mon-Sun 5:30pm-10:00pm
Price: RMB300-500 (+16% tax and service charge)
Visited: September 2016
Will return: Definitely
After months of anticipation, Shanghai’s first Michelin Guide was finally unveiled on Wednesday. Among the 26 newly-starred restaurants, T’ang Court at The Langham Hotel in Xintiandi was the only restaurant awarded three Michelin stars.
This recognition is less than surprising. After all, its sister, the eponymous restaurant at The Langham Hong Kong, was bumped to three stars just a few months ago, becoming the third Chinese restaurant in the world to receive three stars.
The dishes at T’ang Court themselves have also seen their fair share of accolades. Open the menu and you will find a list of their award winning dishes on the very first page. And these dishes certainly lived up to their names. Cubes of Wagyu Beef were fried in a wok with spring onions, imparting the tender meat with a subtle fragrance that was echoed in rings of sweet fried shallots crowded around the beef. Cracking open the Crab Shells, stuffed and baked to golden-crusted perfection, revealed an abundance of crab meat and onions beneath the crisp top, with just enough cream to bind them together and enhance their sweetness.
Wok-Fried Wagyu Beef with Spring Onions 香葱爆和牛
Baked Stuffed Crab Shell with Onions 焗酿鲜蟹盖
The Fish Soup with Sliced Grouper may have looked underwhelming, the blackened clay pot making an unattractive contrast against the pristine white tablecloth – the wrong setting for rustic charm if ever there was one. But its rough appearance belied its intricate flavors, and this dish turned out to be the most memorable one I had at T’ang Court. The fish itself was moist and flaky, but it was the broth that stole the show with its insistent umami, marvelous depth, and the clean and elegant aftertaste.
Sliced Grouper in Fish Soup 锦绣鱼汤鲜斑球
Equally memorable were the Sautéed Prawns, the succulent little footballs sweet and flavorful. These were accompanied by discs of pork and crab meat fried inside the thinnest shroud of crust imaginable.
Sautéed Prawns and Crab Roe, with Pork and Crab Meat Mille-Feuille 金钱鲜虾球
But half a dozen award-winning dishes, exceptional as they are, are not enough to put a restaurant as a whole on top. In fact, word is that the Shanghai Michelin scouts visited Tang Court no less than five times, and ordered mostly from the less-known dishes. Judging by the number of stars they awarded T’ang Court, it’s safe to say that they found those dishes up to scratch as well. And after tasting many of those dishes myself, I’m inclined to agree.
The very first dish that I had at T’ang Court was Chilled Rice Noodle (a.k.a. Liang Pi). Althogh not usually a fan of rice noodle, I was intrigued when I saw this Shaanxi dish, traditionally served at street-side stalls and shabby holes-in-the-wall, at this Cantonese restaurant in a posh hotel. And when our server recommended it for our starter, my interest was piqued. As it turned out, the dish wasn’t out of place at all. Perfectly seasoned and retaining just the right amount of bite, this was no doubt the most refined and delicious rice noodle I’ve had. Crispy Been Curd Rolls also made a bold statement, with its smokiness building slowly but surely across the filling of tender goose meat, crunchy vegetables, and meaty mushrooms.
Chilled Rice Noodle 冰镇凉皮
Crispy Bean Curd Rolls Filled with Smoked Goose and Assorted Vegetables 鹅肉上素卷
Traditional staples of Cantonese cuisine are also present, but better. Char Siu got an upgrade, made of the tenderloin of Kurobuta pork from Japan, one of the finest breeds of pork anywhere in the world. The Steamed Shrimp Dumplings looked particularly enticing, with a translucent skin wrapped around succulent and flavorful prawns, whose crunchy texture formed a lovely contrast with the slightly chewy wrapper. The Steamed Soon Hock Fish may not look like much, but was in fact one of the most notable testaments to the chefs’ skill. The delicate flesh melted in my mouth, leaving behind a richness that almost reminded me of the fattiness of black cod, while subtle tinges of heat from the green peppercorns tickled my palette.
Barbecued Kurobuta Pork (Char Siu) 厚烧黑豚叉烧
Steamed Shrimp Dumplings (Har Gaw) 水晶鲜虾饺
Soon Hock Steamed with Green Peppercorn 青花椒蒸笋壳鱼
Sadly, my experiences at T’ang Court have not been as consistent as I would have hoped given its three-star standing. On one particular visit, the kitchen seemed to be having an off day. The sautéed prawns were nowhere near as tender as the previous time I had them, the accompanying pork and crab meat “mille-feuilles” were pale and a bit greasy, while the Braised Chinese Spinach was rather bland and unimpressive, a long way from the version of the same dish I’d had at Xin Dau Ji just a few days ago.
Chinese Spinach Braised with Supreme Broth 上汤米苋
But on a happier visit, a plate of Steamed Eggplant with Minced Pork blew everyone’s mind, proving that the chefs do know what they’re doing with vegetables. Whatever sorcery they did, it resulted in the best eggplant I’ve ever had, with a wonderful balance of textures and inexplicably satisfying flavors. Another unexpectedly compelling dish came in the form of Steamed Chicken with Chinese Ham. The chicken, with its juicy flesh and lightly crisped skin, absorbed all the umami from the ham, creating a dish that was rustic but hearty and very delicious. Along the same lines of delightful simplicity, the Braised Pork and Pineapple had an intriguing crust which melts rather than crunches, its softness at once a symphony and a contrast with the tender and slightly fatty pork enveloped inside. Insignificant detail though it may seem, this crust spoke volumes about the consideration and finesse that the chefs put into their dishes. The juicy pineapple added yet another layer in texture, playing an active role in the dish rather than standing on the sidelines as they so often do.
Steamed Eggplant with Minced Pork and Preserved Vegetables 梅菜肉松蒸茄子
Steamed Chicken and Chinese Ham over Lotus Leaf 荷香金腿蒸滑鸡
Braised Pork and Pineapple in Sweet and Sour Sauce 凤梨咕噜肉
As much as I enjoyed most of my meals at T’ang Court, the elephant in the room on every visit was always the plating. I am willing to forgive – or at least overlook – the decided lack of aesthetics on account of the excellent flavors, but every now and then the plating was simply too flabbergasting to be ignored. (What’s the frisée doing next to my Baked Egg Tart? Luckily, the egg tart itself was good enough to take away some of the sting.) Did the questionable aesthetics stop me from visiting three times in a week? No. Do I expect them to put the same finesse in plating as they do in flavors? No. Nonetheless, some consideration and a little effort would have gone a long way.
Baked Egg Tart 蛋挞仔
There has been much controversy these past two days over whether T’ang Court deserves the three stars accorded to them. I don’t presume to understand the precise criteria Michelin uses in awarding stars. However, over three visits, I have found the food at T’ang Court wonderful when done right, showcasing excellent techniques by the chefs. But apart from techniques, a three-star restaurant must also exhibit relentless consistency, and that is where T’ang Court could improve. Nevertheless, T’ang Court presents some of the most precise and well-executed Cantonese cuisine I’ve had in Shanghai, and I wouldn’t hesitate to go back again.