Following on from her success with upmarket Sichuanese chain Yuxiang Ren Jia, Zhu Rong – or Madam Zhu – has gone on to create this CBD restaurant in the basement of the Vantone building. The space is white, bright and airy; it is sleekly furnished and feels rather like a dinner invitation to a friend’s home – albeit a rather glamorous friend’s trendy industrial loft apartment.
The contemporary menu is a well-chosen selection of classic Chinese favourites alongside more unusual dishes. Starters include fragrant Shanghai-style chicken with a generous layer of finely sliced fresh green onion (28RMB) and small wedges of steamed aubergine topped with fish roe, fresh chilli and enough raw garlic to make it something to be avoided on a first date (26RMB).
From a broad offering of seafood and fish, the tiger prawns with oatmeal flakes, egg yolk and butter (38RMB each) are a curious choice; the prawns are meaty enough to enjoy alone and better picked free of their muesli dressing. The deep-fried crispy pork trotters (48RMB) leave only a smudge of grease on the plate; they are tender and topped with sweet pepper cubes. For the vegetarian, the stir-fried spinach with tofu and mushrooms (38RMB) is delicate and light, with a Japanese egg-tofu platform.
Rounding things off, the yellowfin tuna and noodles with preserved cabbage (18RMB) could be a small meal in itself and is a bargain thanks to the large chunks of white fish, tender somen noodles and a subtle, almost creamy broth. Desserts leave a little to be desired. The tofu ice cream special (18RMB) resembles a dollop of cottage cheese curds on icy ice cream, but the coffee packs a hefty punch.
Quirky photos of Madam Zhu’s friends playfully posing with food line the walls. Even Madam Zhu herself can be found in one, cheekily clutching a carton of milk, providing a glimpse of the lady whose personality – stylish, professional and modern – is so clearly stamped on this restaurant.
By Cecilia Bullock