Shanghai Baby – The Yak
Ondy Sweeting is seduced by the lush flavours and chic interiors at this hip new addition to Petitenget’s culinary scene. Photos: Lucky 8.
It doesn’t take long to taste the history of Shanghai Baby’s chef Ganesha Pideksha – both in genes and genre.
Starring on the upscale modern Asian menu is foie gras, truffles, and confit and crème brulee . . . so there are no secrets here as to what influences Chef Ganesha – a sassy and creative talent now exposed.
“We are not Chinese at all but a modern Asian dining experience that has been modified to develop something new,” he says. “We use elements of contemporary Shanghai cooking – a style that is popping up in some wonderful old buildings in that city, which is more experimental than traditional dining.
“I’m also influenced by the foods that were abundant in Shanghai in 1900 when it was a major trading place with European foods impacting on the local environment. Locals started to eat with forks and spoons and it was a complete melting pot of cultures and cuisines,” says Ganesha.
This melting pot presents a wild ride through adaptations of traditional Chinese entrée favourites such as Xiao Long Pao – tender and juicy steamed dumplings that explode with a stream of flavours in your mouth. Shanghai Baby has mastered combining foie gras – a most traditional French delicacy – and it’s rich and buttery taste, with an ethereal Asian broth. The black winter truffle Xiao Long Bao is worked into delicately spiced chicken creating a taste sensation of steaming delight. The third in this trio is a suitably sublime nod to classic Chinese cuisine with Shanghai spiced chicken that is a traditional time bomb that lasts just a moment.
Other Chinese favourites that appear on the menu include wonton soup – seafood dumplings in a rich ginger broth, plus a hot and sour soup with chicken dumplings in a chilli, ginger and garlic broth.
The wok-seared scallops are awesomely tender and finished with soft cauliflower, hoi sin and cucumber foam. This is balanced with a thin tempe crumble plus a hint of citrus and Hong Kong-style XO sauce.
Maintenant pour le style Chinois Francais with sesame crusted foie gras where the rich fullness of the liver is stabilised with apple plus a ginger and carrot foam. A little slice of Bali grape intensifies the flavour of the spiced wine gastrique.
Chef Ganesha has chopped, simmered and sizzled his way from culinary school in Jakarta to the kitchens of five-star hotels in the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, landing himself the job of Demi Chef at the game changing Mozaic Restaurant Gastrominque in Ubud, where star chef Chris Salans has had a major hand in developing the skills and curiosity of culinary gifted locals.
“I love French techniques and methods,” says Chef Ganesha, “as they can be successfully applied to cooking styles from any region. It’s about knowing and understanding food and the ingredients used. During my time in the UAE I bought a lot of books by the master chefs. I still do. I love to explore and experiment,” he says.
His exploration serves several surprises particularly a gem of a main that is butter soft Black Angus beef on baby corn flavoured with lemon grass and coriander with a most exquisite crab and corn sauce. This is a main event that is so tender it was carved with a fork and spoon. Prepare to have the tastebuds astounded.
Seafood lovers will enjoy the confit of coral trout – which is cooked slowly at a very low temperature and comes with a black bean sauce, XO sauce and a crisp oriental salad.
Devotees of Peking duck, which has been a mainstay in Beijing for 700-years dating back to the Yuan Dynasty when the Mongol Emperors ruled the region – will immerse into the many tastes of the restaurant’s stir-fried version. Chinese dining diehards will love the Kung Pao chicken and roasted pork belly, or even the pork and prawn curry. There are vegetarian options including stir fried 1,000 vegetables and braised tofu with a soy and ginger broth, plus an exotic Shanghai garden salad with Asian vegetables and fruits with a Shanghai dressing.
Desserts are also a unique blend of European and China, with grilled spiced pineapple dressed with a shaoxing sabayon listed beside chocolate crème brulee. As a cherished delicacy, chocolate makes two appearances and the true fiend of the bean will most likely select the lush Five Elements Chocolate with a mousse, a tuile, chocolate soil plus a sable with kluwek ice cream. Francophiles should aim to savour the shaoxing poached pear with red wine, Shanghai chilli with caramelised granita and the extraordinary crystallised candlenut that was almost like a candied pop corn in it’s lightness.
“I was lost before I came into a kitchen,” says Chef Ganesha. “I just love it and believe working as a chef is like being a DJ – you have to feel it. Listen and smell and taste. They are all connected. Now I think I’m living the dream,” he says.
Shanghai Baby is a hip and buzzing place with beautiful interiors of funky Chinoiserie, painted ceiling, huge round windows and a very hip lounge and bar.
The lounge is a seething hot spot for Bali’s beautiful people. A team of sensational mixologists who squeeze, crush, grind and pour their way into producing a series of stand out cocktails including a bourbon-based Whiskey Sour and the signature Miss Young – a subtly sweet concoction that is served in a spectacular pot of smoking dry ice and topped with fresh lychee sprinkled with black pepper.
Shanghai Baby is as big and beautiful as its landmark building in Bali’s sophisticated night time strip of Petitenget and with Chef Ganesha rolling out divine dishes this new destination could well be prepping for some series encores.