Shanghai restaurants: The legendary Jesse

One restaurant's name kept cropping up as the most authentic in Shanghai whenever I talked to locals, friends who had visited Shanghai, or when I searched online: Jesse. It's actually a small chain, but I was invited one evening to the original, by chef Austin Hu of Madison, and we were joined by a great group of expat and local chefs, food writers and enthusiastic eaters.

Staggering food. So many new dishes, flavours and textures. Pungent fermented tofu (left) was not, I have to admit, one of my favourites, but the tofu skin salad (right) was great. 


Another challenging dish, drunken crab: raw crab marinaded in shaoxing wine. I've read some reports that the live crabs are literally drowned in the rice wine. Not such a bad way to go, I suppose. Most disconcerting was the fizziness of the resulting raw crab meat, fizziness usually being one of nature's warning signs that something is no longer edible.


This, though, was stunning – head of a grouper, roasted on a bed of some kind of sea asparagus-type thing.


And, at last, my chance to taste sea cucumber. Delicious, actually: very mild, very soft, very difficult to pick up with chopsticks in front of a table of people with expert chopstick skills.


And, the legendary Shanghai dish: hairy crab.


Shanghai food is resolutely un-spicy (sugar, soy, garlic and ginger are the main flavours), so this fried prawn dish was a bit of a surprise. Actually, the chillis weren't all that hot.


'Eight treasure duck', stuffed with eight ingredients, of which I can only remember 'rice'. Crunchy, fatty, meaty, delicious.


Pomfret marinated in fermented rice.


The aftermath.


… which be followed by far too many cocktails.

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