An underground Shanghai restaurant
Take a journey to the south of the Yangtze River at Yong Yi Ting, the acclaimed Chinese restaurant of Mandarin Oriental Pudong, Shanghai. The family-friendly eatery serves up Jiangnan cuisine, the school of cooking from Shanghai, Zhejiang and Jiangsu. Located in Lujiazui, along the Huangpu River Promenade, the Shanghai restaurant sits 21 feet underground at the basement level of the luxury hotel with floor-to-ceiling views of a specially created sunken patio that bathes the dining room in natural light during the day.
New York-based Dash Design and global hotshot Brandimage partnered to vamp up the 10,000-square-foot space in the Chinese imperial style. The tag team — which carries a combined arsenal of dining establishments that includes Los Angeles food truck Wicked Kitchen, Cleveland’s Urban Farmer, as well as luxury brands Godiva Chocolatier, Mikimoto and The Macallan — unveiled the subterranean restaurant in the spring of 2013. Since its opening, Yong Yi Ting has seen renowned chefs such as Alfons Schuhbeck of Germany visit to take cooking tips from the chef’s table show kitchen, along with enjoying the global selection of fine wines, 20 premium Chinese teas and delectable tasting menu.
Once through the top-to-toe glass doors of this fine-dining restaurant, ceramic lanterns shaped like Chinese wine jugs float along the eight-foot ceilings and complement the extensive wine cellar behind the elegant bar. Dark mahogany, black marble tiles and rich crocodile leather punctuate the European-inspired wine bar, a rarity in the country’s Chinese restaurants.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, and the room, the main dining area is awash in bright, creamy colors. Subtle silk dividers separate smaller parties at individual booth seating, while the dining floor is covered with well-spaced large round tables and more intimate square tables of heavy woods, white marble tops and pale leather that are walled in by white lattice.
A private entrance to the underground restaurant takes you down moody corridors with ceilings 18 feet high and floors lit by low-hanging pebble-shaped chandeliers lining the path. This dark river-like passage leads to eight private dining rooms that mimic floating glass boxes atop a foundation of black marble and slate. Choose from rooms that open onto the patio, ones enclosed by stone walls adorned with Chinese motifs or the chef’s table that overlooks the kitchen.
Local chef Tony Lu, the celebrated mastermind behind the Fu restaurants in Shanghai, is a consultant to the kitchen of Yong Yi Ting. The delicate flavors and fragrant aromatics of the Jiangnan region are highlighted by the seasonal ingredients harvested from the surrounding fields and lakes. Don’t miss the crispy pomfret cooked in sweet soy – deboned fish slices, deep fried and well-seasoned with a sweet-savory glaze – a classic dish characteristic of the region and a specialty of Lu’s. Another favorite is the braised boneless beef rib in soy sauce with hickory, a plate of flavorful, melt-in-your-mouth beef morsels that offers a slight smokiness from the hickory. The small portions make the dishes perfect for sampling.