Madam Zhu's Kitchen teases taste buds with unique dishes

Updated: 2012-05-05 07:53

By Ye Jun (China Daily)

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Madam Zhu's Kitchen teases taste buds with unique dishes
Green peas with pieces of ham and slices of white lily bulb highlights Madam Zhu's Kitchen's menu. Ye Jun / China Daily

Don't let the long wooden stairs stop you from entering Madam Zhu's Kitchen in the basement. Once you step in, the stunning interior decor is enough to put every diner at ease.

The beauty is in the details. It may be the peony at the center of the table and at least 10 other green plants as well as delightful pots of flowers - butterfly orchids, daisies, winter jasmines, peach blossoms and morning glories. Or the bookshelves and white porcelains on them. Or even the dark wood tables and chairs. Or the combination of all of them. Somehow, the setting exudes a positive atmosphere to make one feel at home.

The new dishes of spring and summer brought me to Madam Zhu's Kitchen. Also invited were other members of the media and the restaurant's ardent patrons. Dishes that got the thumbs-up will be featured on next months' menu. I was pleasantly surprised by quite a few.

One of the cold appetizers, which I've never tried elsewhere, pairs water chestnut with sea snail in a mustard-flavored salad sauce to create an interesting contrast in taste. Another unexpected, yet refreshing, appetizer is the assorted fresh fruits salad with chops of strawberry, dragon fruit, mango and hami melon sprinkled with black pepper.

I also find the spicy eel with pickled chilies totally unique. The hot dish goes best with a bowl of steamed rice. The chef also served bamboo shoots with mashed cuttlefish - what a special combination - in the shape of a real cuttlefish. It didn't taste too bad, either.

Another winner is green peas with pieces of ham and slices of white lily bulb. The ham gives the peas a salty and meaty flavor. The restaurant also served tasty classic, such as old Shanghai chicken with green onions. We were served a gratifying dandan noodles with minced pork to complete the meal.

Madam Zhu's Kitchen teases taste buds with unique dishes
I like most of the dishes except a few, which did not sit well with my taste buds. The oil-braised bamboo shoots are a tad too sweet. Traditional Shanghai-style deep-fried flour cake with shrimp is too oily.

Owner Zhu Rong is also the founder of the popular Sichuan chain restaurant Yuxiang Renjia. So, it is worth trying every spicy Sichuan dish at the restaurant. However, the menu is balanced with Shanghai and Cantonese cuisines, as its chef was once an executive chef at Shanghai's Whampoa Club. The wide array of fusion cuisine explains why the restaurant labels itself as a "Chinese cuisine restaurant" instead of associating itself with food from just one region.

Zhu Rong says she established Madam Zhu's Kitchen to cater to families and friends, who want a cozy place for dinner. She designed all her six restaurants in Beijing, Shanghai, Zhejiang province's capital Hangzhou and Chongqing.

I look forward to trying more dishes on the menu, especially spicy ones. Maybe I'll try the Sichuan-style hotpot next time.