First look: The 1st Seasons

New Western entrant from a polished Chinese team


Shanghai’s holiday season brought a bounty of Chinese chefs and proprietors running fine Western cuisine destinations. In Time Out we covered the gorgeous cosy villa of VIA, which features slow cooking under the auspices of Edward Chau of Hong Kong. We praised the three young Chinese entrepreneurs behind homey-chic Macasa, where shabby Boonna once stood. And we admired the Italian cuisine of Wang Xiaofei at Hongqiao’s elegant Bistrot Un Million under the able management of Manager Wang Baiwan, also of El Camino.


Now with The 1st Seasons, we welcome one of the most polished menus out of them all. Located directly next door to Kaiba on Dingxi Lu, new Western entrant The 1st Seasons is entirely Chinese owned and managed.


Chef Leo Wang has worked in Dubai, Spain and Australia but it’s his Shanghai experience that we’ve experienced first hand over the years. He cooked at T8, Mesa and Larder and the influences of his talented former head chef, Steve Baker, are imprinted on his current menu. But not those alone, Wang has his own original ideas and it’s here where he’s created one of the more successful modern fusion dishes we’ve tasted in years. More on that in a moment.


First, an introduction to the 1st Season's young, yet impressively well-travelled project director and GM, An Peijun. An previously worked abroad in several European countries and then at the Chicago Hilton. In Shanghai he did time at Bund 18 and most recently Larder. While An is not an owner, he has performed like one at The 1st Seasons, nearly singlehandedly furnishing the space, equipping the kitchen and drawing together the team. And while the interior design (based on a movie set theme) feels a bit sparse and unpolished, this only sets the scene for greater surprise when the first dish hits the table and wows us.


The roast beetroot with warm honey goat cheese (68RMB) is a delicious stunner. A collage of razor thin disks of beet is topped with warmed goat cheese, snow pear batons, lettuce, watercress, croutons, and asparagus slivers. Its contrasts are both visual and palatable: warm and cold, purple, white and green.


Beef carpaccio (78RMB), which some will remember as a signature at Mesa, is served with a similar cheese gratin spread and grilled focaccia. To create a superb little sandwich, spread the crispy toast with your

cheesy butter and layer on the tender raw beef.


Chargrilled Australian Tajima Wagyu beef flank served with sous-vide bone marrow, mushroom, pickled shallots, red wine and bordelaise sauce (35RMB/oz) is a tasty, perfectly cooked steak. But it’s the side of sous vide cooked, then baked bone marrow which stands apart. It’s the best rendition we've eaten in Shanghai or elsewhere. The top is perfectly crisped into a blanket of crackly bread crumbs and the interior is melting hot. We were literally scraping the bone to get all the rich tallow.


As for that remarkable fusion dish? It’s the soya milk soup with miso cod fish (168RMB). If you’ve never eaten fresh silken tofu on a Shanghai street in the early morning, you might not get the same nostalgic reference when you eat this dish. But you’ll still taste the Chinese twist on the typically Japanese-influenced classic. Here cod fish is poached in hot soy milk with seaweed and chives until just wobbly tender just like the classic Shanghainese breakfast food. Underneath are a few pieces of crunchy youtiao. It’s brilliant.


Sweet endings here include an exceedingly soft and fluffy flourless chocolate cake with vanilla cream, berries and strawberries a spill of strawberry sauce.


For the best deals, head here for lunch set (60-70RMB). Dinner dishes run from 48-88RMB for appetizers, 148-188RMB for main dish except steaks, and 188-388RMB for imported steaks. There is also an extensive wine list spanning the globe and a massive catalogue of cocktails featured on a rotating monthly list. Look for our full review in the February issue of Time Out.

The 1st Seasons, 739 Dingxi Lu, near Yanan Xi Lu, Changning district