Bird’s nest dessert [Photo provided to Shanghai Star]
Of the three courses paired with the fine oolong tea, the braised bamboo pith rolls with winter melon were the most pleasing. The seemingly ordinary vegetable is highlighted by a galaxy of precious ingredients including conpoy and black pearl jelly, a rare lake weed that grows in pristine waters and a frequent ingredient on the menu of Empress Dowager Cixi.
This unexpected delicacy outshone the star garoupa fillet in fish broth and the local favorite, Shanghainese noodles in scallion oil. As the table is cleared for dessert, it is time for the simmering Hetian red jujube tea with dark brown sugar. As the only sweetened tea throughout, it boasts a soothing, warming flavor.
The dessert, osmanthus jelly with bird’s nest, is reminiscent of Italian panna cotta, only reversed: with the white creamy part above and the amber-colored jelly below.
Petals of osmanthus are suspended throughout, like ballerinas swirling in air. And it tastes as luxurious as it looks. The enjoyment begins when we dip the spoon into the wobbly bird’s nest cream, or dig further in for the jelly and scoop out a mixture.
As it settles on the tongue, the cool temperature is just right for a smooth mouthful and then a melt-in-the-mouth finish. The serving of a cup of preserved Pu’er tea from Yunnan province, a vintage 1997, is cunningly timed.
As we sip the digestive tea, the stomach seems to be magically cleared and the taste buds refreshed. "Shall I take a look at the menu for dinner," I ask, tongue in cheek.
Shangxi Address: 2F, Four Seasons Hotel Pudong, Shanghai, 210 Century Avenue, Pudong district
The tea pairing menus are available in two sets priced at 800 yuan or 1,200 yuan plus 15 percent service charge. Both feature eight courses with four kinds of fine Chinese tea. Guests who make a reservation and leave their names in advance can take home a pair of delicate bamboo chopsticks with their names engraved for free.