Daimon: Chinese Fusion (that actually) Liked by a Chinese Foodie
After being starred last week, Bo Shanghai is now hosting some of the hottest tables in town. Regardless of the '8 Chinese Regional Cuisine' appeal, I'd still insist calling it western food. Rather, consider the spin-off sister, Daimon Bistro, sitting boldly outside the hidden entrance of Bo, a twist of Chinese fusion with some real fun.
Within less than year, the interior of Daimon has recently been revamped, sensing a redirection of its original concept. But we all know that TASTE always matters the most.
Through my years in the US, I've witnessed and survived countless disasters of fusion attempts based on Chinese food. But things are different now, it never occurred to me that a Chinese fusion could break the spell of being a 'banana', embracing modern culinary techniques/trends while defending the bottom line of some traditional Chinese food -
刚摘完一星的 Bo Shanghai，最近台子蛮难订的。食评老早就写过了，说是中餐西做，但我觉得，还真别把它当中餐吃。门口那家副牌Daimon，还能勉强算作中餐fusion。
Beyond the Cha Siu Bao and Sweet Tofu Pudding, both the traditional Cantonese way with a modern twist, be prepared for the "oh woah" moment when shovling into your mouth, a spoonful of the most perfect clay pot Pork Lard Rice in town.
Now I've been there twice. Last night we arrived shortly before last order (11pm), knowing the Chef not in da house, we were still very happy with what we had. Consistency test, check!
The menu sees an obvious upgrade from last year, in a good way. And not to mention their 300-500 average cost per person, rendering the spot unbeatable on the bund. With Golden Week on your doorstep, for those who decide to enjoy a little at-home retreat, you might as well hit this spot for a hearty Chinese fusion treat.
I did't like it at our first encounter.
Food was one factor, but the lighting was the one to blame. Bad lightings not only disrupt appetite, but also blunt instagramers' desire to post. As social media becomes the main pipeline gushing free endorsements from bloggers and foodies, it's a big mistake to go against the users.
Now the lighting situation has been much improved. The gastrolounge splashed out on the ornate neons, making the hall a realistic sci-fi fantasy, almost comparable to those other-dimension-nightclubs as depicted in Ghost in the Shell.
我特别不喜欢光线暗的餐厅，影响食欲。而且亮一点对朋友圈晒吃的发 instagram 多重要啊！！！变相宣传啊！照片拍不清楚西蛤一只。
And here comes my favorite, the gigantic Maneki Neko, aka Fortune Cat! Behind its adorable bulky body lies the secret doorway to Bo Shanghai.
With upcoming DJs in the house, it's fun to find yourself eating with a full show experience!
我最喜欢的还是这只巨型招财猫！！！模样讨喜的庞大身躯后面，掩着那扇通往 Bo Shanghai 的门。
听说以后还会有DJ 驻场，感觉会很 High。
The bistro still follows Alvin Leung's obsession with Dim Sum and 'Yum Cha' culture. But trust me, they have done better than doling out some swanky looking dim-sum house.
厨魔Alvin Leung 对于港式点心及饮茶文化的迷恋，身边朋友人尽皆知。但若你以为，他只会翻花样做做旧式Dim Sum，搞点噱头，那你可真是太小看这家店了。
Unlike Bo's "Big Eight Chinese Cuisines" formula, Daimon takes another step in unchained creativity. The menu showcased some must-tries including Cantonse classics Cha Siu Baoand "Shark Fin" Soup but thoughtully twisted. You can also find modern tapas choices such as Grilled Skewers and Ceviche infused with new souls, and even Hong Kong-style marinated meat platter! Apart from reforming retro dishes, Daimon made a bold move to infuse western classics with Chinese elements!
先来看看菜单，比起Bo Shanghai“八大菜系中餐西做”的命题作文，没那么多条条框框的Daimon，反而更加天马行空。从叉烧包到碗仔翅，从烧烤到南美鱼生沙拉，甚至还有卤水拼盘……除了地道传统中式小吃的改良升级，Daimon 还尝试了用中餐的食材和元素去重构外国菜里的经典菜肴，有意思得很。
Not everyone owns the talent to master the arts of fusion. Dave Yu, head chef of the 3-starred Bo Innovation in Hong Kong, is also the brain behind Daimon. Spent his early career in a Japanese kitchen, the Hong Kong-born, Australian-educated chef is the best-qualified fusion pro. Like Alvin himself, Dave didn't spend a day in culinary school, but holds a bachelor's degree in graphic design instead!!!
Sick of being a designer? Start cooking then!
这么难弄的概念玩这么溜，Daimon必有两把刷子：负责菜品研发的，是香港三星本店Bo Innovation的大师傅Dave Yu，身兼两职，三天两头跑上海。香港长大、澳洲求学、日料厨师背景，玩起 fusion 当然游刃有余。但最好玩的是，和 Alvin 一样也非科班出身（Alvin 以前是个化学工程师！），人家以前是学平面设计的。
Despite the name and a touch of punguncy, CSB (Cha Siu Bao) Mexican Milk Bun are actually snow buns nicely done. Taro Croquette are served with a slip of newspaper in tradional Chinese, speaking to its authenticity, and the use of crab meat filling is just enough to make it classy. Chili crab Xiao Long Bao, although wrapped in slightly thicker skin than Ding Tai Feng's, expressed a full burst of novelty.
The slum-born "shark fin" soup was lovely too with a luxe-up of whole lobster claw meat...feel free to spice up with more vinegar and white pepper.
I can finally say my favorite item from the menu was this Clay Pot Rice. Perfect rice done in the perfect way! Cooked in the Clay Pot, the rice is is grainy, fluffy, sweet-smelling and full of chewiness. It's not my first time trying rice with Jamon Iberico, my previous experiences were often accompanied by a hint of rancidity. They've even gone further to infuse the regular lard with melted jamon fat!!! Mixing up the rice and Jamon with egg yolk and spring onions, I could not help but indulge in the delightful dance of cholesterol in each bite.
I didn't took it seriously enough when people talked about Daimon's marinated meat platter earlier (we are in a chic, modern eatary on the bund, how good can it be?) ; Turned out I was wrong. The platter on its own was above average; the green mustard dipping sauce is a true weapon. Rather common to find in western cuisine, Daimon gave it an extra kick of fresh green peppercorn that captures your tongue!
下面这盘卤水，被人狠狠安利过，却没放在心上（一个这么时髦的馆子，卤水能做得有多好吃啊？）；结果，卤水本身已经是中上水平，（并没有入镜的）蘸酱也是十分牛逼，芥末酱（Green Mustard）拿来蘸肉是老外吃法，不过 Daimon 这一碟，出其不意地加了新鲜青花椒，丝丝麻意、自带清香，实在是特别。
The boogie night was perfected by those skewers simmering on the charcoal stove. Spicy octopus would lose tenderness easily, but it doesn't bother to take some extra time to enjoy the sausage. Honey-glazed, sweet red sausage has been attached a filmy slice of savory Parmesan, a flavor bomb adored by both the Chinese and the westerners. Plump and fresh Hokkaido scallops are sinfully doused in butter and herb purees, be prepared for a full-scale fat coma.
Limit your photo time to 30 seconds, or it'll burn, burn, burn!
Popsicles on the cold starters menu? Looks fun to try! The key is to throw two of those cherry tomatoes into the mouth, both sour fresh and sugary candied ones, at the same time. It will give you the full spectrum of texture and taste of the fruit. I am not 100% sure I know what to do with the popsicles, made of cucumber juice - they tasted a bit too clean, ideal as a palate cleanser though.
Solid performance on beef tartare atop 'Chinese churro', aka You Tiao (油条). The crunchiness of the porous bread stick balances well with the tender wagyu. Fermented beancurd sauce adds funkiness to the mayonnaise, I can't help imagining rolling it up with a handful of sticky rice, presenting you the all-time classic Shanghainese breakfast roll~~~
And by the way, anyone interested in a review on beef tartares in Shanghai?
This twist of Ceviche, the piquant South American staple features fresh chunks of yellow tail, coconut puree, hint of curry and slices of mango, screams TROOOOOPICAL. The dish was supplemented with a small basket of wonton skins that you'd mistaken for tortilla chips. I would seriously be tricked by the triangle shape before an actual bite!
原本是多宝鱼的 Ceviche（可以看这里复习下 Ceviche 是什么），临时换了 Yellow Tail 来做。椰浆、咖喱、芒果，酸甜开胃，热带到我都想摇起来了！点睛之笔是伪装成tortilla chips 的馄饨皮！裁成三角形炸至金黄，没吃到嘴里还真的会被骗到。
With all the surprises preceding, here's a little expected dissapointment. The unorthodox oyster omelets is probably the purest reflection of Bo's 'deconstructivism', but the combination quickly and literally turned into a mess - scrambled eggs are instead soft-boiled, oysters are covered under the masks of tempura, and fried basil leaves tured into the leading singer of the band...quite impressive but not my dish.
这两道相对来讲没有那么爱，第一道是我自己不好，放的有点久，原本酥脆的玉米片（看起来真的好像是 Cereal 啊！）已经有点“拧”掉了，不过Kaffir Lime Leaf做的泰国风辣酱给人印象深刻，下次去应该会再点来试试；下面这道蚵仔煎，可能是全场最贴近 Bo “解构主义”的一道菜，炒蛋变成温泉蛋，蚝仔裹了面衣变天妇罗，九层塔用油炸透变颜值担当……可是，全部混在一起的时候，口感就未免有点糊哒哒了。
Whenever a liquid Nitrogen bowl (or bucket) is brought to the table, it's show time. This one a close reinterpreation of a traditional ice stall from the old time. Crumbly ice melts right in the mouth, a nice contrast against the sweet-n-sour hawthorn puree and fruit chunks aside, now you can digest a little!
What really blew my mind, was a pot of sweet tofu pudding that came in the little wooden container.
Midly sweet red beans are happily married to the glutinous potato pearls; the tofu is jiggly, with the subtle texture in-between pudding and egg tofu. You can tell the soybeans of its premium quality by the taste of strong ester fragrance, close to perfection that's only second to an icy tofu pudding stand I once encountered on Lamma Island, Hong Kong.
红豆清甜，地瓜圆 Q 弹，最难得是豆花，介于豆花与嫩玉子豆腐之间的微妙质地，颤巍巍白嫩嫩一大块滑入口里，又甜又糯，黄豆用得好，有十足豆香，比它好吃的冰豆花，在香港南丫岛山里吃过一次，就忘不掉。
Following the successful path led by gastrolounges such as The Cannery and the Nest, the menu of Daimon also throw lights on cocktails. The majority of the drinks are ideal for girls-sweet, punched by a bit tartness.
Plum Silver Fizz (which I much prefer the Chinese name 汾粤) replaced orange flower water with preserved plum and turn the beloved Ramons Gin Fizz into an lovely appetizing booze. The favored 'MA'jito, whose first two letters are the homophone for "numbness" in Chinese, is a mojito loaded with sprigs of fresh Sichuan green peppercorns, which tastes exactly like its look.
在 The Cannery 和 Nest 之后，Daimon 也是主推鸡尾酒。大部分酒偏酸甜口味，特别适合女孩子，譬如第一杯汾粤，其实是 Ramos Gin Fizz 的变种，取话梅味道替代了橙花水，开胃。下面这杯麻吉多，获得了全场一致好评，顾名思义，加了很多很多很多新鲜青花椒的 Mojito，好看好喝的一杯酒！
Not only does Daimon excel in traditional snacks, but a glass of Iced YuanYang (coffee milk tea) also testifies to the good work.
猛夸了 Daimon 擅长做传统小食，这杯冻鸳鸯也是意外好喝，用了好原料、花了心思做的东西，又怎么可能差呢？
Here, I'd like to take another 2 mins of your time to share with you, some of my thoughts on fusion food, as well as on Alvin's two restaurants on the bund.
Fusion foods, often as a result of cross-border trades and marriages, or massive cultural outputs, are tasty. Both Tex-Mex in the US, and Korean elements in Northeastern Chinese cuisine are great examples.
Great fusion concepts also happened when there's understanding and appreciation of different cultures. Japan, the most representative of all, assimilated pastas, fried chicken, and even curry thoughtout its unique modern history, and later made it their own.
On the contrast, Chinese food, with its much-divided regional styles, sophisticated flavors and distinct characters, is much harder to perceive. The large culture gap between Chinese and Western culture is almost unbridgeable for those grew up without profound understandings of the other culture.
Alvin Leung, now a world-renown Chinese chef born in London and grew up in Canada, experimented with "Big Eight Chinese Cuisines" with his fellow Chinese chefs DeAille and Simon, decomposed every single element of Chinese cuisine for molecular remodeling.
But how did he manage it?
What you might not know about Alvin, is that he also spent more than 2 decades working as a chemical engineer, before kicking start a chef career with home kitchen.
Given the stories behind, it would now be easier to better understand the food of Bo and Daimon. Chinese but not entirely Chinese, vision and time speaks through Alvin's cross-continental cooking.
Again, the food of a good chef is, and will only be, the refection of himself.
最后，我还是想花点篇幅，说一说我对融合菜，包括 Alvin 上海这两家店的看法。
Written by Xiaoyi aka 喜北
Translated to English by Judy