Look out Grandma, there’s a new kid in town. Moulded in the same screamingly-successful form as Hangzhou giants The Grandma’s and Green Tea, the brand-new 7017 Shiku already has 30-60 minute waits at their first branch near People’s Square, and for good reason: the generous portions here are economical and crave-worthy.
With its business-savvy scheme, it’s no shock that one of the brand’s young co-owners is from the notoriously investment-smart Zhejiang city of Wenzhou and was previously a rising-star investment banker at HSBC before realising his dream of opening a restaurant. (He also fitted in a stint as a diving instructor in between).
The founding partners wisely surmised that while a cavernous, smartly-designed Zhejiang-themed restaurant with budget prices was a concept that could be lifted wholesale from Hangzhou’s restaurant leaders, they should specialise in a distinct area’s cuisine. They chose Jiande, a city around 130km from Hangzhou known for its fresh water fish, rice wine and salty, spicy delicacies.
7017 Shiku’s interior, by French designer Baptiste Bohu, integrates a minimalist industrial feel with a few Zhejiang references, such as a giant wall mural of a Jiande river scene. There are angular tile motifs on the walls, a distressed cement floor and an assortment of chairs including some yoke-backed modernised-Ming dynasty-style numbers.
The restaurant says that nearly all of its ingredients are transported from Jiande, including fish from the Xinan River which runs through the city and rice wine produced by local Jiande farmers.
On our visits we find the pork dishes to be some of the best on the menu. The signature steamed pig cheek (hongyun dangtou, 59RMB), served in a graphic manner atop a sawed-in-half pig skull, features chewy-tender strips that are surprisingly lean with a distinctive meatiness that is well-balanced with the accompanying black vinegar. Vying for best pig dish is the salted ham hock (zouyou xianti, 68RMB), a giant pile of lip-smacking fatty and crispy meat slices, which is also vividly paired with a hoof bone. While pork plays a smaller role in the steamed glutinous rice balls (jiaxiang zheng yuanzi), it also lends unctuous richness to the generous steamer basket of rice and cabbage which, for just 28RMB, is a steal, especially as it’s enough for four people.
Adding to the pork riches on the menu is the meat with steamed buns (jiabing dakuairou, 48RMB), a bowl of luxuriously smoky, thick pork slices which taste like sticky, fatty (but not greasy) and fragrant bacon, paired with fresh steamed mantou for creating tiny bacon sandwiches.
With prices that are shockingly low for the quality of ingredients, 7017 Shiku is nonetheless a restaurant that knows its numbers. It’s got a menu with 134 items, a dining room with 144 seats and a goal to open one new branch every year. If we had to bet on it, we’d put money on it expanding even more rapidly than that.
By Crystyl Mo