Tao-Li serves up waves of Shanghai fare

The Tao-Li Chinese restaurant in the opulent Nikko Hotel is offering an eight-course meal to celebrate the New Year. Jessica Gray samples the spread.

February is a time of celebration for many cultures around the world, and it’s no different for people influenced by Chinese culture here in Ha Noi.

From February 10 to 25, the Tao-Li Restaurant in the Nikko Hotel will offer the best of Shanghai cuisine in honour of the Chinese Lunar New Year. The restaurant is on the second floor of the hotel, which is located on Tran Nhan Tong Street near Thong Nhat Park.

The meal consists of eight succulent dishes featuring a wide selection of foods traditionally eaten during this holiday, ranging from exotic mushrooms and dried cranberries to birds’ nests. The menu was created by Tao-Li chef Qiang Feng from Shanghai.

Tao-Li serves up waves of Shanghai fare

This is a unique culinary opportunity because many restaurants are instead focusing their attentions on specialties reserved for Tet, the Vietnamese Lunar New Year celebration.

“Not many hotels are doing promotions for the Chinese Lunar New Year,” said Adwin Chong, the hotel’s director of food and beverage.

Eight courses

The meal began with an interesting combination of beef, jellyfish, and squid appetizers served with chilli spices. Hungry or not, I doubt the least adventurous eater could resist trying each tasty treat.

Even my dinner companion, who is notorious for avoiding seafood at all costs, dug in with gusto.

The cold appetizers were followed by an abalone soup with crabmeat. With its perfect blend of fish and crab in a salty broth, this dish was the uncontested favourite of the night.

Next came a dish consisting of deep-fried shrimp in light batter with more shrimp served in a tomato sauce. Each was cooked to perfection. The tomato sauce gave the meal a signature taste that was unexpectedly innovative. The battered shrimp tasted better when dipped in the tomato sauce because of its plain batter that even soy sauce did little to enhance.

A little bit full by now, our hunger came back full-force as we were presented with the fourth course: shelled-crab in a spicy sauce.

We had a lot of fun cracking the crab’s shell to get to the melt-in-your-mouth meat inside. I recommend people who don’t like spicy foods should have a glass of water handy when eating this hot dish.

Next we were served steamed chicken and mushrooms, our least favourite course. While the chicken was flavourful, the steamed mushrooms left a strong taste in our mouths that was unpleasant and bitter.

The sixth course more than made up for the previous dish. The sauteed White mushrooms and Chinese cabbage each had subtle, but distinct tastes that worked well together. The dried cranberries were a lovely addition to the vegetables.

The seventh course could only be one thing: a serving of fried rice, Shanghai style.

With lots of shrimp, the rice was a great choice to serve just before dessert to prevent people from becoming too full early on. The corn seeds changed the texture of the rice and made it more interesting on the palate.

The meal ended with the famous Asian treat bird’s nest soup. This soup is a semi-sweet dessert made from birds’ nests cleaned by hand and then soaked in stock with wine. The bird’s saliva on the edible nest becomes gelatinous and makes this dish an interesting textural adventure for the mouth.

Before leaving, we soothed our full stomachs with cups of Jasmine tea.

More than just a meal

The table’s glass turning tray was an added bonus that made sharing food much easier and less messy. The understated decor and soft music only added to our dining experience.

In terms of the Tao-Li’s staff, each server was both attentive and helpful in explaining the ingredients of each dish and how it was cooked.

In this reviewer’s humble opinion, you can’t go wrong choosing the Tao-Li to celebrate this time of year with friends and family, if you don’t mind spending the money to get authentic Chinese cuisine. The eight-course meal costs US$20 per person without drinks or wine. Make sure you go with at least three other people because reservations can only be made in groups of four or more. You may also want to dress up a bit as well because the Nikko Hotel is a five star establishment.

And don’t forget to come with a healthy appetite!

If you’re looking for another special meal in March, the Tao-Li is planning to offer a special menu created by the chef from the Nikko Hotel in Beijing.

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