What is it?
government is on a culinary road show, opening restaurants in Beijing, Guangzhou
and now Shanghai to promote the food culture and ingredients of the famously
bio-diverse region. The boss of this city’s outlets is a friendly Nanjinger who
is vice president of the Yunnan Merchant’s Association.
To Do Cooking, Shanghai’s second restaurant
in the programme after Beyond the Clouds, is a more rustic and affordable
dining room just west of Xujiahui. The tables and walls are made of rough
unpolished wood and etched brown glass pendant lamps hang overhead. Waitstaff
wear embroidered shoulder bags and headscarves of the traditional
coloured-stripe cotton cloth of Yunnan province.
How does it work?
Aimed more at families and local residents
than the more upscale lounge Beyond the Clouds near the Bund, To Do Cooking
offers a country-style menu filled with dishes inspired by the home cooking of
the dozens of minorities of Yunnan; a cuisine rich in cumin, chillies,
fermented sauces, bamboo, smoked ham, mushrooms and wild vegetables. An
impressive 80 per cent of ingredients are air-shipped from Yunnan and they use
no MSG or artificial flavours. A large picture menu illustrates the choices
which you then tick off yourself on a paper menu.
What’s the top order?
Yunnan cuisine is perhaps most renowned for
its mushrooms and there are different fungi in season every month, which are
offered as specials on the menu. Right now, the fresh niuganjun (cow
liver mushroom, 88RMB, pictured), sliced ribbon-thin and sautéed with
Yunnan green peppers, are extraordinarily fragrant with a meaty depth and al
dente texture. Also terrific is the grandma’s mashed potato (16RMB), a richly
savoury purée with pickled vegetables, tomato and chives.
What’s the verdict? This fresh and hearty Yunnan food served in huge portions at decent
prices is a great introduction to the cuisine of the province. Unlike Beijing,
Shanghai’s Yunnan restaurants are thin on the ground (the group’s other venue
Beyond the Clouds and Jinxian Lu’s Southern Barbarian being the notable
standouts), so although it’s a bit out of the way, To Do Eating is a worthy
destination, especially for big groups and families who will have plenty of
room to spread out, with two large main halls and ten private rooms.
By Crystyl Mo