Monthly Archives: August 2012

Noodle Bull’s Aromatic Beef Noodle Soup

One of my first meals since arriving in Shanghai was one of the best: braised beef noodle soup at Noodle Bull.  A sleek, minimalist interior gives the impression that Noodle Bull may not be authentic, but this is clearly a misimpression. 

I ordered their infamous, traditional beef noodle soup (30-35 RMB), and a glass of their housemade suan mei tang (sour plum juice).  The beef broth in the noodle soup was incredibly aromatic (possibly from the addition of star anise), with a soothing and savory flavor.  It was rich without being overly greasy or full of MSG.  The beef was tender, with just the right amount of fat melting in your mouth.  I also enjoyed the vegetables, which added some freshness to the dish. 

Surprisingly, the suan mei tang quite enjoyable.  I am generally not a fan of the drink because it is usually too tart for my taste, but Noodle Bull’s version had a nice balance of sweet and sour, with a deep plum flavor.

With good food, cheap prices, and a refined atmosphere, it’s no wonder why foreigners and locals alike flock to Noodle Bull.

Noodle Bull
A Mansion, 1/F, 291 Fumin Lu, near Changle Lu
富民路291号1楼, 近长乐路
(86 21) 6170 1299

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Song Fang Maison de The: A Lovely Teahouse in Shanghai’s French Concession

Possibly my favorite place in Shanghai, Song Fang Maison de The is a lovely teahouse in the French Concession featuring premium Chinese and French teas.  The teahouse is a labor of love from owner Florence Sampson, a Paris native and longtime Shanghai resident.  Every detail, from the vintage tin cans lining the shelves, to the old-fashioned Chinese bird cages hanging from bamboo rods on the ceiling, to the elegant floral patterned cushions, adds to the charm and whimsy of the shop.  You certainly pay a premium for the tea, priced at 40-70 RMB per pot, but it is certainly worth it for the quality of the tea an sheer loveliness of the shop.   

Partly because I am pressed for time, and partly because Song Fang is so pictureque, I will keep the descriptions short and let the photos speak for themselves. 

Song Fang’s signature tea tins 

Third floor seating area. 

Song Fang features both a Chinese and a French tea menu.  The above photo is of the Chinese tea set, with naixiang oolong cha.  The tea was very aromatic, with some floral and even milky notes.  My friend and I absolutely loved the tiny tea cup and the adorable frog ceramic teapot.   

The French teas are served in whimsical Western-style teaware.  I enjoyed the China Blue tea (60 RMB), a pleasantly fruity white tea with coconut, blackberry, and orange.  My friend and I also shared a slice of freshly baked peach cake (40 RMB), which was light, buttery, and utterly delectable.  

Despite the fairly steep prices, Song Fang Maison de The may be my favorite teahouse in Shanghai.  With its charming setting, high quality teas, and knowledgable staff, Song Fang is definitely worth paying a premium for.

Song Fan Maison de The
227 Yongjia Lu, near Shanxi Nan Lu
永嘉路227号, 近陕西南路
Shanghai 200031
(86 21) 6433-8283

An Exotic Dessert at The Oval Room

On yet another business lunch, we went to The Oval Room, located (and likely named after) near the White House.  As it was a rather formal outing, I tried to keep it professional, and restrained myself from taking photos of the meal.  Each dish was excellent and had an unexpected touch.  The white asaparagus soup ($11), for example, was smooth and creamy, punctuated with sharp, herbaceous notes from sorrel leaves.  The halibut ($23) was surprisingly earthy, served over a bed of fresh sugar snap peas, shimeji mushrooms, and a deep brown broth.   

But the most surprising, and beautiful, dish was the dessert–coconut custard with lemon-lime sherbert, mango lhassi, and candied mint ($10).  I was expecting a sweet, tropical dessert, but what arrived was much more sophisticated.  While the coconut custard had a subtle coconut flavor, it was more of a vehicle for the other components.  The mango lhassi had a sharp, spicy chile flavor, reminiscent of Southeast Asia.  The lemon-lime sherbert added strong acidity and complexity.  

I also loved the dessert’s gorgeous presentation, garnished with lovely violets and green mint leaves.  I (clearly) couldn’t resist taking a photo. Hopefully my professional career doesn’t suffer because of it, but such are the occasional perils of being a food blogger.

The Oval Room
800 Connecticut Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20006
(202) 463-8700
Oval Room on Urbanspoon

A Memorable Lunch at Blue Duck Tavern

As a summer associate at a law firm, I was lucky enough to go out to many fancy lunches over the past 2 months.  But at the end of it all, the one lunch that stands out most in my mind is Blue Duck Tavern, for its truly spectacular yet unpretentious American cuisine.

The interior is distinctively American, perhaps to reflect its cooking.  Old-fashioned rocking chairs and an open-style pantry greet guests at the front reception.  The expansive dining room features dark oak and wood paneling, and feels elegant without being stuffy or overly formal.

The meal began with the watermelon gazpacho, which I recently waxed poetic about in a previous post.  For my main dish, I  ordered the chilled lobster salad with frisee, avocado, grapefruit, and honey citrus vinaigrette ($15).  It was truly a delightful summer salad, featuring a substantial amount of lobster.  The honey citrus vinaigrette accented the sweetness of the lobster, and highlighted the citrus notes from the grapefruit.  Beautifully presented, and perfectly executed.

We shared a couple sides as well.  The roasted asparagus ($10), topped with bacon, a hard cheese (perhaps parmesan or grana padano), and egg was crisp and slightly charred on the outside, and perfectly seasoned.  Surprisingly, the daily harvest vegetables ($9) were also delicious.  I was expecting your typical boring sauteed vegetables (which is probably why I didn’t take a photo), but what arrived was a gorgeous plate of buttery sugar snap peas and carrots.  The simple preparation–butter, salt, pepper, and a sprinkling of fresh herbs–really highlighted the freshness of the vegetables.

Of course, we had to order the infamous hand cut BDT triple fries ($10), which are quite extravagantly fried in duck fat.  We felt a bit miffed when only a handful of fries arrived at the table, but be warned–a few fries are more than enough.  The fries are very thick-cut and rich, yet not greasy at all.  Definitely worth ordering if you have never tried duck fat fries, but not a dish for the faint of heart or calorie-counters.

I’ll admit we went a bit crazy on desserts.  But at $9 each for a sizeable, delectable portion, the desserts at Blue Duck Tavern seem to be a good deal.  Though I glanced over this at first, the milk chocolate banana s’mores ended up being my favorite of the three desserts.  It was more of a deconstructed interpretation of a s’more, with crumbled graham crackers on the bottom, a caramelized banana custard, and a homemade marshmallow on top.  The marshmallow was blowtorched just before arriving at our table, and had slightly smoky flavor, which accentuated the caramelized banana custard nicely.  Overall, it wasn’t an overly sweet dessert, which is what I normally think of when I think of s’mores.

The chocolate cake with sour cherries was quite decadent and fudgey, but nothing too memorable.  I did enjoy that it was served warm, along with the cold whipped cream on the side.

The apple pie was much larger than we expected, and easily could have been shared by 4 people.  I loved the caramelized sugar on the crust, which added a divine crispiness.  The apple filling was much tarter than usual, and in my opinion, a bit dry.  I like my apple pie filling gooey, or smothered in a bit of just-melted vanilla ice cream.

If you are looking for someplace to host a special meal, Blue Duck Tavern should certainly be your pick.

Blue Duck Tavern
1201 24th St. NW
Washington, DC 20037
(202) 419-6755
Blue Duck Tavern on Urbanspoon

Best Summer Soups in DC

This summer has been exceptionally scortching in DC.  Yet even with 100-degree plus temps, I still found myself craving soup–the one dish that is certainly not desireable in this heat.  Luckily for me, several DC restaurants have adapted their menus for the summer, featuring an abundance of refreshing soups that highlight the season’s produce.  Here are three of my favorites:

Blue Duck Tavern’s Watermelon Gazpacho

Known for its rustic American cooking, Blue Duck Tavern manages to elevate even the simplest of dishes with its emphasis on fresh, local ingredients.  Its watermelon gazpacho ($12, photographed above), recently featured as the soup of the day, was emblematic of its refined culinary approach.  Each bite was utterly refreshing, with the sweetness of the watermelon tempered by a generous drizzle of olive oil, ultimately making the soup more of a savory dish.  Served chilled, with fresh baked croutons and minty, slightly licorice-flavored herbs on top, it was a terrific, unique take on the classic gazpacho.

1201 24th St. NW
Washington, DC 20037
(202) 419-6755
Blue Duck Tavern on Urbanspoon

Fiola’s Summer Corn Gazpacho

I look forward to corn on the cob every summer, and Fiola’s summer corn gazpacho captures that sweet corn flavor in every bite.  The soup arrived chilled over a bowl of ice, garnished with beautiful purple flowers.  The texture was thicker and smoother than your typical gazpacho, with kernels of fresh golden corn throughout.  Featured as a starter on their “Maria’s Light Menu” (which is a steal for $24), Fiola’s summer corn gazpacho was a light and cooling introduction to what would be a fabulous lunch.

601 Pennsylvania Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20004
(202) 628-2888
Fiola on Urbanspoon

Brasserie Beck’s English Pea Soup

Brasserie Beck’s English pea soup has the distinction of being the only hot soup to make this list.  Its temperature was not an issue at all, as the soup was possibly one of the most delicious dishes I ate all summer.  Creamy, pale green soup was poured over thick pieces of bacon, and topped with a perfectly poached egg and chives.  Despite the rich ingredients, the soup was incredibly light and left me wanting to lick my bowl for more.  It was creamy, earthy, savory, sweet, and slightly smoky all at once, but the fresh pea flavor definitely stood out above the rest.

1101 K. St. NW
Washington, DC 20005
(202) 408-1717
Brasserie Beck on Urbanspoon