With its low lighting and minority-inspired designs, Lost Heaven set the mould for Shanghai-based Yunnanese restaurants and its two branches (this is the more intimate of the two, the much bigger Lost Heaven on the Bund
is the other) never fail to deliver a classy 'ethnic mystic' dining experience, surrounded by beautiful patterns and vibrant colours.
The restaurant’s name is inspired by Lost Horizon, James Hilton’s story of the timeless, mystical, paradise-like valley of Shangri-La. Although Lost Heaven is billed as a Yunnanese restaurant, the food is modern-creative, inspired by the legendary Ancient Tea Horse Trail that winds throughout Yunnan, Burma (Myanmar) and Tibet.
The journey reveals the treasured flavours of the numerous minority groups in the region, such as the Dai, Bai, Yi, Miao and Naxi. Young chef Li Zhire, from a city near Kunming, leads the kitchen, forging an abundance of provincial ingredients into new combinations that will make you swoon.
Lost Heaven's menu is huge, leaving small tables with a quandary of choice, so go with a larger clan if you can. Start the evening with a cocktail called the Thai zeed (60RMB), an elixir defined by refreshing coconut, chillies, and a sweet edge. The non-alcoholic drinks are less lovable, like the strongly flavoured tamarind and palm sugar cocktail that shivers with too much sweetness.
Nibble on crisp wild-weed vegetable cakes (40RMB) flecked with willow leaves and wa coriander, the pungent leaf called culantro (not to be confused with cilantro) in Latin cuisine. They lend a herbal undertone that complements a crisp, pocked surface speckled with local mountain pine grains that go better with a swipe of tomato chutney and a cocktail.
Burma’s classic laphet thoke, a Shan ethnic tradition, crosses the border to Yunnan renamed as ‘tea leaf and cabbage salad’ (60RMB). It’s lively with fresh-fried peas and favas that hold their bright colour and nutty flavour, exploding in detonations of beany crunch between shreds of cabbage and pickled tea leaves. It’s a refreshing dish to revisit throughout the meal.
A chilled starter salad features soft, fleshy eggplant with annoyingly tough skins beneath slabs of soft, cool tofu, drinking in a delicious sauce under crumbles of fried garlic (50RMB). Dali-style chicken with chilli and green onions (68RMB) are tender skin-on thighs, pan-fried crisp and splayed beneath a green mountain of scallion and herbs, although the chilli is weak. The ‘tribe chicken with seven spices’ (68RMB) is a tender epiphany of silky shreds enveloped in flavour. An odd display of cod fish – relatively unknown in Yunnan – and local sea bass dominate the seafood options.