Wednesday, February 14, 2018

First Bite: Shangri-La Finest Chinese Cuisine

Celebrating Chinese New Year has been deeply ingrained in our culture. We'd see non-Chinese families also welcoming the Lunar new year by feasting on Chinese delicacies,  cheering during the Dragon Dance and elaborate fireworks displays and handing ampaos to the little ones. Such strong obervance led to the said celebration to be declared a special non-working holiday since 2012. And there is no better way to spend this day than to indulge in some classic Chinese favorites.

Hello, Shangri-La Finest Chinese Cuisine.
Before I continue sharing my experience with Shangri-La, I would like to clear that this restaurant, despite having the same name as the prestigious hotel chain, is not affiliated in any way with the hotel group.
Founded in 1981, businessman Ramon Syhunliong had a lightbulb idea to open a restaurant that would serve as Manila's Shangri-La or as what James Hilton's 1933 novel "Lost Horizon" describes as a utopian sanctuary where one attains peace, love, fulfillment and longevity.
However, the 68-year old restaurateur failed to realize that it takes more than passion to open and keep a fine dining restaurant running. And this is when he decided to get help from a Hong-Kong based chef who sadly became too passionate with something else. But things didn't fall into pieces as the head chef's subordinates, Chef Fando, took the lead with Syhunliong's blessing.
One cannot deny Shangri-La of its right to be called one of the strongest Chinese restaurants in the market for having 36 years of experience. From a team of ten, it has now grown to over a hundred and its seating capacity has now grown to 1,200 from 400 which was already a lot to begin with. And not a lot of restaurants can boast that they have served St. Pope John Paul II in 1995.
For this visit, we had the pleasure to indulge in some dishes part of Shangri-La's Lunar New Year set menus which will be available starting February 16, 2018.
To kickstart our meal, we participated in the tossing of Yeesang or toss salad made with raw salmon, assorted vegetables and spices. Unlike the other Yeesang I've had, this one was less elaborate and there was no server who led lohei
The toss salad was already prepared for tossing which somehow made it less special in my opinion. (You may read my other Yeesang experiences here and here.)
After trying our luck to be the highest salad tosser for prosperity, we continued with journey to utopia with some assorted dumplings composed of Sharksfin, Kutchay, Century Egg Siomai and the classic Pork Siomai. 
All were very straightforward and are your usual dumplings. Eat it fast as it tends to taste not as good when eaten cold.
And speaking of cold, the function room where we stayed at was really chilly making this bowl of Fishlips with Shredded Chicken and Bamboo Pith the perfect dish to keep us warm. I really liked the texture of this dish. Each spoonful was packed with flavor which was predominantly leaning towards salty because of ham bits.
The Beef Tenderloin Chinese Style was yet another no-frills dish that was lightly flavored, perfect to go with a piping hot bowl of Yang Chow.
Kids would enjoy this plate of Fried Garlic Chicken. Though the skin could be a bit crispier for that extra texture, I loved its light garlicky flavor that I had two huge chunks to myself.
The Steamed King Fish with Taoso and Soy Sauce may not look very appealing to some but this is one of the best dishes I've had from the bunch. The King Fish was undeniably fresh and was beautifully complemented by the light-flavored sauce. Make sure to eat it with taoso for crunch and wansoy for added flavor.
Noodles are known to bring long life and of course, a Lunar New Year feast won't be complete without noodles. And Shangri-La offers the crowd favorite Misua Guisado which was generously topped with pork liempo, chicken breast, shrimps, mushrooms, onions and fresh egg.
We also had the classic Yeung Chow Fried Rice to go with all the savory dishes.
While waiting for the other dishes to be prepared, we were treated to a demonstration on how they prepare Shangri-La Peking Duck 2-Way which is also one of their popular dishes to date. 
This is not part of any of the Lunar New Year set menus but guests can order this a la carte to go with their set.
For the next batch of dishes, we started off with Assorted Cold Cuts Combination which was a plate of soy chicken, century egg, squid and kani sticks. I was already too full to try all so I settled with my favorite century egg. I had three!
We also slurped down some Shredded Spinach with Assorted Seafood Soup to help us keep warm as the function room's really chilly! This one reminded me of the comforting nido soup but chunkier because of the chopped spinach, shrimps, scallop, fish fillet, squid, crab meat and egg.
Shangri-La also takes pride in their Shangri-La Chicken which is served exactly like Peking Duck, only it's chicken. We were told that it is more challenging to serve chicken like duck because of its relatively lower fat content. But with the chef's trained hands, he did it like it was nothing. I would still go for duck over this one though.
The Shelled Shrimps with Ham and Pepper was yet another lightly flavored dish which would go well with fried rice. The snappy texture of the shrimp was enjoyable while the ham added flavor and the red and green bell pepper added crunch.
If you're fond of pork, you'd enjoy this plate of Pork Spareribs in XO Sauce. Thoug there was not much sauce, the pork had that nice salt and pepper flavor that would make you lean forward for more.
I was at the brink of food coma when the Grilled Noodles with 8 Treasures was served. Needless to say, I skipped this one.
But I could never skip Steamed Lapu-Lapu in Soy Sauce. As a fan of this lovely fish, I was thrilled that they served it steamed instead of fried. I got to savor this majestic fish's fresh flavor which was enhanced by the light soy sauce. Grab some garlic bits if you want a sharp accent in terms of flavor. (I can't believe that I forgot to take a photo of it!)
For desserts, we were served with the ever popular Sweet Sesame Balls or Buchi, Almond Jelly with Lychees, Lotus Pie, Glutinous Rice Cake (tikoy) and Hot Taro Cream with Glutinous Balls. I wasn't able to get Almond Jelly with Lychees but I did get to try the other four sweet treats.
All were your usual treats. But if I were to choose only one dessert to cap my meal with, I would go with Hot Taro Cream with Glutinous Balls. Quite similar to the local favorite Guinataang Halo-Halo sans saba bits, this dish has that right level of sweetness to please my taste buds.
But if you are looking for something slightly sweeter, I recommend buchi or tikoy.
Sorry, I found the lotus pie a bit too heavy to cap my meal with.

Overall, it was a pleasant visit. All the dishes were very straightforward. There were no fancy ingredients or techniques used and it does not try to compete with fusion restaurants. If you want simple and familiar dishes, this place is a must visit.

And if you visit them on February 16, 2018, the first day of the Year of the Dog, and order one of its special set menus (with price ranging from PHP6,588 to PHP10,988 good for 10-12 pax), you get to also bring home one can of sweet dimsum tikoy, dog stuffed toy and prosperity scroll!

Visit Shangri-La Finest Chinese Cuisine here for the list of set menus and its corresponding prices.

Shangri-La Finest Chinese Cuisine is located at 4 Times Street, West Triangle, Quezon City.

Shangri-La Finest Chinese Cuisine Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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