Leaded by chef Eric Pras, Maison Lameloise, the only three-starred Michelin restaurant in Burgundy, France, opened its first overseas stronghold in Shanghai three years ago. It then has since proudly perched on the tallest building in Shanghai with a breath-taking view of the Huangpu River. Time is a gift. After a revisit, I was greatly impressed by chef Yann Klein’s understanding of the Chinese terroir and the use of local ingredients. I stand by my commendations as the whole dining process is just like a progressive symphony, leading you to the spectacular beauty of the moment.
As soon as I was given Le Grand Menu, part of its autumn menus, it was clear that there was something different about chef Yann Klein this time. Hairy crab, Sichuan caviar, yellow fish and pomfret… I was intrigued by the proportion of Chinese ingredients in the menu, would it be too Chinese? two fish dishes in a row?
I joked with Yann that the dishes on the menu looked like “new Chinese cuisine”.
Chinese ingredients have been Yann Klein’s main focus for the past two years, and he mentioned the use of Chinese ingredients during our last visit as well. This time visiting, I was impressed by how drastically and triumphantly the cuisine under his leadership has evolved, which far exceeded my imagination.
Lameloise’s savories are always a treat. There was baby shrimps marinated with Shaoxing yellow wine and citrus wrapped with corn tuile, served with pumpkin puree and chestnut chips. Also the puff pastry filled with coriander cream and served with homemade Xinjiang lamb ham. Chef Yann is ready to go all out.
The first formal course is hairy crab with Sichuan caviar. Like a Chinese-style crab feast, the hairy crab is freshly peeled before serving. The meat is delicately sweet, with crab rice vinegar jelly and blackcurrant to enhance the overall acidity. Grand use of colours and smart exercise of decoration.
Recently I have seen Italian aged vinegar used in Chinese dishes, but aged Italian balsamic vinegar is often sweet and is usually carefully garnished on cold dishes or served straight away. Applying it in Chinese dishes is gaining popularity but I don’t think it works very well with dishes that require high acidity. Some of the aged vinegars even use production methods not certified by authorities and are relatively cheap price wise. The names have fallen victim to certain commercial propaganda to become buzzwords instead of being used correctly. Chef Yann uses Chinese rice vinegar instead, which is more of a creative touch achieving surprisingly pleasant effect.
Hairy Crab and Sichuan Caviar
The appearance of caviar in Chinese restaurants has become so ubiquitous that it is rare to not see it in a meal. But Yann Klein has chosen the best quality caviar from Sichuan, and the popping texture on the tongue is exactly what I miss. The pairing of caviar and crab meat is a common one in French cuisine, but chef Yann has done it smartly. Gently scooping it up into the mouth, you will feel the multi-layered caviar dancing with the sweet, delicate crab meat and the tart rice vinegar jelly that follows, forming a flavourful tempest where you have to slow down and carefully savour in small bites.
The dish was accompanied by a tablespoon of fried crab coral and sea bass in donut dough, which were still crispy on the outside though it cooled down a bit after tasting the main part of the dish. Yann talked about having tried Chinese-style crab feast and was left with very good impression.
Lameloise’s dishes are still very much dedicated to magnificence and sophistication, which some might consider old-fashioned. But this actually requires a higher level of technique as well as elaborate work, which is indeed a much-valued craftsmanship in these times.
What followed was confit yellow fish in aromatic oil served with white beans and shellfish stew, sliced squid and topped with a chardonnay reduction which is the signature sauce from chef Eric Pras. Also this dish is served in Lameloise France as well at that time. The yellow fish is already soft and fatty and full of aroma, and when paired with sliced squid cooked to just the right level of doneness, the crispness of the dish balances the flavours without compromising the overall presentation. With white beans and shellfish stew, you get three different flavours and multiple textures in one dish. It was like three choir voices singing together, a masterpiece of texture and a veritable two-star winner.That entered another fish dish, but in a very different way from the previous one. The pomfret is smoked and pan-fried to a perfect crispy skin, a classic French flavour. When you are about to think that the smokiness seems to overwhelm the fish itself, the oaky, toasty chardonnay tastes surprisingly harmonious with the smoky notes – you have to nod approval for that. The sweet, velvety pumpkin served on the side had an autumnal touch.
From the top: Yellow Fish/Pomfret
Also stunning were the matsutake mushrooms, wrapped in pain au foin (hay bread) and baked, a classic technique in France countryside that preserves the moisture and density of the mushrooms while infusing them with a vegetal note of the hay. The chef himself would cut the bread at the table, from taking out the bread to drizzling a dash of the sauce, all done with great skill and ease. The tender, airy and fresh mushrooms were tantalizing with the combination of toasted bread, white mushroom puree and brown butter sabayon, adding to each other’s effect and delicious harmony.This dish was a masterpiece, one of the top three matsutake dishes I can recall. It was so tasty that as if all of the sudden, everything else melted away and all of my senses were concentrated on the way it smelled, felt and tasted in my mouth.
The following wagyu beef didn’t outperform its predecessor, however the carrots tart with its knife-cutting work of meticulously crafted layers was more eye-catching, complemented by the oxtail and bone marrow ravioli with a red wine and beef sauce, which was naturally delicious.
Wagyu Beef M7 Striploin «Rangers Valley»
Dessert has always been Lameloise’s forte. Flavoured with Grand Marnier (an orange-flavored liqueur) and sprinkled with confectioner’s sugar, the Flambéed Crêpes Suzette is simply a must-order for almost every table at its French restaurant.We tried different desserts and my favourite was the pear tart with liquorice. It’s based on pear parfait and pear juice in the shape of a flower petal, in which the fruit pear is believed in TCM to drive away dryness and moisturize the lungs. Lameloise has the outstanding Pastry Chef, Guillaume Gautier, and a team of professional, productive pastry chefs with dazzling creations.
The menu may not seem long, but each dish has something unique to say. Apart from excellently prepared and presented meal, the design of the menu already had an element of smooth sophistication and great theatrical permanency.
Before this time, I never fully understood what Eric Pras, the much-venerated owner of Maison Lameloise in France, actually means by saying “tradition is innovation”. But now it’s clear to me: the menu is of modern simplicity, but without sacrificing the traditional values of fineness, elegance and complexity of the French cuisine. Portion sizes are also perfectly right, which is another point I liked about the menu. Besides, I agree that the proportion of the winning dishes in a meal should be taken into consideration in menu design.
Yann Klein, who comes from eastern France, began his culinary studies at the age of 15 and graduated from the Institut Paul Bocuse in France at the age of 21. He then travelled around France, trained under chefs with different styles and Michelin stars accumulating culinary skills and experiences. He says he thought he would stay at Lameloise for two years at the most, but it’s been nine and a half years now. One of the influences is Eric Pras’ culinary philosophy of respect for all things.
After four years in China, Yann Klein has matured in his knowledge of the country and is now more confident in employing traditional Chinese ingredients, such as dried shrimps and dried orange peel, to add creative twists to recipes originally from French Lameloise. Channeling the prestige of Chagny is paramount. He says that there is still a lot of progress to be made for Shanghai Lameloise, and that his mission will be accomplished if his diners can enjoy the same level of dining experience as in France.
Executive Chef：Yann Klein/Writer and chef Yann Klein
Creative and open-mined, Yann Klein is an excellent chef who knows exactly where he’s headed, and he will continue to pursue better understanding of the width and depth of the land.
Located in one of the most prestigious wine regions in France, Maison Lameloise in Burgundy pays particular attention to pairing food and wine. The restaurant does live up to its fame since it has been awarded three stars in 1979. Perched on the 68th floor of Shanghai Tower, this new outpost of French flair fits in seamlessly.
The dinner was a truly memorable dining experience, and yet worth lamenting considering two stars given to its contemporary restaurant. Lameloise Shanghai deserves more recognition.