Marvelous discoveries

Updated: 2012-09-22 07:51

By Matthew Fulco (China Daily)

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 Marvelous discoveries

Smoki Moto, the hotel's Korean barbeque restaurant. Photos provided to China Daily

Hotel profile | Shanghai

Shanghai's newest Renaissance hotel brims with pleasant surprises, Matthew Fulco reports.

Adventurous souls live for the unexpected, savoring most the ephemeral delight of a fresh discovery.

With the launch of the 383-room Renaissance Caohejing Hotel, spirited travelers have a new reason to visit West Shanghai. The first internationally branded hotel in the Caohejing industrial park and the sixth under the Renaissance name in Shanghai, the 383-room hotel infuses some much-needed color into the surrounding swaths of generic office blocks.

Billed as a "lifestyle brand" in the Marriott portfolio, Renaissance caters to travelers who favor fun over predictability.

"While a Marriott guest lives to work, a Renaissance guest works to live," says general manager Gary Fung. "For that reason, we devised the Navigator program. Analyzing different guest profiles, it makes recommendations to guests for dining, cultural attractions or entertainment," he says.

 Marvelous discoveries

Gary Fung, general manager of the Renaissance Shanghai Caohejing Hotel. Photos provided to China Daily

He adds: "It provides some great off-the-beaten path recommendations."

Naturally, Renaissance's Caohejing hotel does the five-star fundamentals well. Workaholics, dilettantes and the well-rounded alike will feel right at home. It boasts a stable of well-appointed guestrooms, a large business center, a modern fitness center and spa, and an obligatory Chinese restaurant serving highlights from the Shanghai and Cantonese cookbooks.

But it is at the Korean barbeque restaurant Smoki Moto where the hotel's dining experience shines. Normally, if you want a sterling interpretation of the savory - and of course, fiery - Northeast Asian cuisine in Shanghai, you need to comb the anonymous office towers of the city's sprawling western districts. And when you finally arrive somewhere on the 32nd floor, you may just find the best dishes lie on a Korean and Chinese language-only menu.

Alternatively, the hotel brings the taste of Seoul to Shanghai in a comfortable, easily accessible setting, a boon to hotel guests and nearby office workers alike, says Fung.

"This part of the city is just beginning to come into its own," he says. "For that reason, we aim to make this restaurant a destination in itself."

With the restaurant hosting a Korean food festival from Sept 14 to 29, the consul general of the Republic of Korea in Shanghai recently dined at Smoki Moto, Fung adds.

Helmed by Korean chef Allen Cha, Smoki Moto is the first establishment of its kind in an internationally branded Shanghai hotel and the first Korean restaurant in a Marriott property outside of the ROK. While Cha has a deep affection for the traditional cuisine of his homeland, he excels in reinterpreting it for a contemporary, international clientele, refining presentation and the intensity of flavors. His delicious homemade kimchi, made from local water cabbage and red chili powder imported from Korea, has sufficient sting for the bold palate, but never overpowers. To make a hearty Korean version of miso soup, he uses fermented soybeans, or natto, but neatly controls their notorious pungency.

Marvelous discoveries

Fresh, premium ingredients are paramount to the cooking at Smoki Moto, with some of the best dishes on the menu served raw. Try the artfully sliced seafood sashimi. Along with the requisite tuna, salmon and red snapper, Chan includes a pair of juicy sea scallops and squid crowned with salmon roe tasting of the ocean's essence. Better yet is the beef sashimi from in-house butchery which features Australian Wagyu and Black Angus. Bathed in sesame oil and topped with a raw egg and green onion, it nearly works as a carb-free meal in itself. The portion is sizable, so sharing is advised unless you are on a high-protein diet.

Diners squeamish about consuming uncooked foods can skip all of the above, and go straight for the standout barbeque, served in generous short rib cuts and cooked on an in-table grill.

Wash it all down with a rice wine cocktail made with pomegranate vinegar. Cooling and tart, the drink even helps to burn fat.

"In Korea, ladies who want to lose weight sometimes drink a glass of water with pomegranate vinegar in the morning," says assistant restaurant manager Grace Chan, a ROK native.

Studies show pomegranate vinegar may lower blood pressure and cholesterol as well as boost memory in both men and women. Now there's something to drink to.

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