Three restaurants growing their own produce
The g+ dining room is filled to bursting by 6pm on a Wednesday night at this modern global cuisine restaurant, which brings locavorism to its zenith by growing mushrooms and sprouts inside the restaurant.
At the K11 location, the crowd spills out of the doorway where there’s practically a mob scene of clicking mobile phone cameras and squealing children surrounding the live piglet display in front of the restaurant, which is housed next to the cherry tomato plants and mushroom growing rooms.
g+ has ambitious plans to roll out their restaurants ‘all over the world’ according to the restaurant manager, and it looks like Shanghai at least is ready for more of the same.
Chef Johnny Yang, who is from the city, has created a pan-European menu with a few Asian nods meant to showcase the grown-on-site mushrooms and veggies, such as a seared mushroom and Spanish ham platter (168RMB) and a rich mushroom soup in cuttlefish broth (65RMB).
For the mushroom dishes the waiter clips the live mushrooms at your table and then gifts you the root which you can take and re-grow.
The pastas are also brilliant, from the bestselling homemade squid ink spaghetti with seafood (138-168RMB) with clams, mussels, squid and shrimp in a fragrant umami ocean broth and dramatic black noodles, to a brilliant, refreshing cold yellowfin tuna and capellini, fragrant with sesame oil and served over ice (88RMB).
Skip the tough-to-chew stir-fried sprouts (45RMB) and instead order the buttery sous vide salmon over asparagus (168RMB). After all that healthy eating you can afford an order of the fantastic crème brûlée (35RMB) with a thick caramel crust.
As is the case for many of these health-focused restaurants which sat empty at first but are now overrun by crowds seeking food that’s, well, green and safe, Green & Safe was initially quiet. Now it’s a challenge to get a seat.
Launched by a leading organic brand in Taiwan (which also owns Qimin Hotpot), the company has 17 organic farms on the mainland and Taiwan, including the 500-acre Kunshan farm which supplies their two Shanghai restaurants.
Their free-range chicken and hormone and antibiotic-free lamb and beef are from Taihu, Hangzhou and other mainland organic farms.
The chic yet casual dining room is equal parts organic supermarket, deli and café. Their menu is deceptively simple-looking, printed on a thin sheet of paper with check boxes.
However, everything from the salads to the pastas sings with fresh, natural flavours in skilfully balanced combinations. The beet salad (25-48RMB) has big tender chunks of the purple root with arugula to counter the sweetness (we also love these delicious beets in juice mixed with apple, ginger and lemon 28RMB).
The quinoa tabbouleh (25-48RMB) is tossed with cherry tomatoes that pop with summer sun, cucumber and refreshing mint all add up to great texture and crunch.
Spicy Thai beef salad (35-68RMB) has rare beef slices, mint, cilantro and red onion in a tangle with red chillies, although we prefer this delectable beef on its own (55RMB/plate) so you can savour the rare slices rimmed with peppercorn and paired with pink sea salt for dipping.
Perhaps our favourite dish on the menu, the Jinhua ham carbonara (58RMB) has a deeply salty and smoky flavour coating strands of al dente organic spaghetti.
For pastries, there’s a wide spread made fresh every few hours (bake times are conveniently posted) including an incredibly moist carrot cake (28RMB) that might beat the standard bearing Baker & Spice; its perfect sponge texture is studded with fat raisins and, cruciallu, is not overly sweet.
After dinner is the ideal time to pick up your organic vegetables: farm produce is 40 per cent off after 7pm.
What started as a conventional pig farm launched 19 years ago on Chongming Island by Singaporean Tan Hong Khoon is now a sustainable green enterprise. It includes the Mahota organic vegetable and pig farm and a wellness retreat, part of Tan’s Sun Island Resort.
Tan’s new focus on healthy and ecologically-friendly practices was inspired by a sudden heart attack he suffered about six years ago.Last year the company launched hotpot outlet The Mahota, where produce is served on the same day it is delivered from the farm, guaranteeing some of the freshest greens we’ve seen in a hotpot restaurant.
The Mahota offers lunch (68RMB) and dinner (158RMB, all you can eat) sets featuring a variety of seasonal greens that change by the month in a choice of very light, low-sodium broths with no MSG. They serve pork from their farm, which tastes lighter and leaner than meats at typical hotpot places.
The dipping sauces include lemon plus black sesame and chilli tomato (which we particularly like paired with the sweet pumpkin slices). For drinks, they offer ‘super boosters’ like Vital Energy with peppermint, verbena, osmanthus, marigold, meadowsweet and liquorice root.
Attached to the restaurant is a shop where you can purchase Mahota farm produce, all marked with QR codes that you can scan to see not only which plot of land it came from but even who harvested it.
For an up-close look at their green practices you can tour their Chongming Island farm which strives for a closed ecosystem for their crops and stable of pigs. They use animal waste as compost and biologically filtered waste water to clean the pig houses. For farm tours see www.mahotafarm.com or call 6186 9650.