Sir Elly's is a place to pay attention to your food, simply out of respect and recognition of the meticulous attention the chefs, and the wait staff in concert, are paying to it. The French chef Arnaud Berthelier, previously at the Ritz-Carlton in Atlanta, Georgia, brings to his meticulous French technique influences ranging from the Mediterranean to the Middle East and Asia. He melds an extraordinary range of spices and flavours, cleverly or perhaps coincidentally gratifying the Shanghai palate for rich, mildly sweet, intense flavours, and an appreciation for stylish, dramatic plating.
There are surprises on nearly every precisely-composed plate, evoking edible still lifes. The amuse bouche is served inside an eggshell which has had its crown neatly sliced off. Floating at the top is a dollop of sweetish, cold whipped cream. Plunge deeper with your miniature spoon and you encounter warm tender egg custard. It is a beguiling beginning, aesthetically as much as on the palate.
Perhaps the most captivating offering comes early: the oyster shooters (160RMB), served in two shot glasses. Again there is a sweet creamy topping like a cloud, but here the flavour is brightly herbal, perfumed with fennel and lemongrass. Push through and discover layers of distinct flavours: deep green arugula gelée and tiny bits of pickled Granny Smith apples. Nestled at the bottom lies the juicy Kumomoto oyster. The dish is a triumphant combination of sky, land and sea. A teacup of aromatic chestnut soup with pheasant (110RMB) holds the surprise of a hidden layer of butternut squash puree under the surface. The foamy, slightly sweet broth warms and comforts with caramelised autumnal flavours.
A winning main dish of pork belly (240RMB) is a succulent and intense combination of masala spices and mango chutney, which packs a sour-sweet punch, with unctuous pork slices. Another entree of grilled octopus and pig ear (210RMB) is uneven but still contains fabulous elements. The pig ear, sticky with fat, is luscious, while the blackened octopus has enjoyable texture but little flavour. Sweet roasted pear adds a brilliant kick, but the cannelloni beans on the side are too firm and dull. The Noir dessert (110RMB) presents a delightful caramel ball, an airy Manjari chocolate mousse, and creamy yet remarkably light espresso ice cream. Once again, many elements decorate the plate, and flavours are repeated and layered, enhancing and complementing each other.
Like the rest of this extraordinary new hotel, Sir Elly's décor is both lavish and refined, although it lacks the period drama of the hotel's Chinese restaurant, Yi Long Court. Sir Elly's dining room is long, with a high ceiling in the middle portion boasting a remarkable speckled black marble mantelpiece which extends to the ceiling, and a sweeping view of the Bund and the river. Fine points like beautifully crafted Noritake plate ware, Gainsborough England flatware and the thick red leather menu are impressive. Despite managing a new restaurant, the staff are confident, attentive, knowledgeable and a pleasure to talk with. From the amuse bouche to the petit fours, dining here is a charming and sumptuous experience.
By Crystyl Mo