At the rear of the newly developed “Cool Docks” area of the bund, Stiller’s restaurant is elevated five levels up in a long, spacious room with leather chairs and pristine white tablecloths made all the more beautiful by the skyline of the pearl of the orient. It is a dramatically gorgeous mix of tranquil elegance and sleekly understated modernism makes an alluring dining space away from the hustle and bustle of Shanghai. If you had spent a full day in the Shanghai World Expo alongside half a million people like myself, you can only appreciate the ambiance as stepping into heaven.
Let’s get the obvious out of the way. You’ll find one of the most beautiful views of Shanghai from this dining room, and the same view from rooftop lounge even more breathtaking. On a lower level, there is a state of the art equipped cooking school for both amateurs and beginners.
Of course we would leave the menu to Chef Stefan Stiller’s wishes as he orchestrates a tasting menu of seven carefully sculpted, classically European courses with a German twist. Stephan, once an owner of a restaurant (Relais et Chateau) and receiving his first Michelin star only 17 months after its opening, is now taking over Shanghai’s culinary world by storm. What I find extraordinary is that even with such a colorful career, he continues to dedicate his time along with his wife to Stiller’s restaurant, injecting every aspect with his personal touch.
His menu is constantly updated on a fortnightly basis to only cook with the best seasonal ingredients available, and his determination to constantly reinvent only adds to his intellectual approach to gastronomy. Under his wing is also Shanghainese Chef Shi Jingshen – who came second (and only winner from China) of the prestigeous Bocuse D’or Asia, securing a place in the finals in Lyon next year and beating Japan into third position.
The night begins with a wonderful selection of warm bread with a marvellous trio of whipped butter – Pesto, Garlic and Sundried tomato for a variety of anticipation of what’s to come. An amuse bouche trio follows on delicate ceramic spoons.
The Variation of Foie Gras and Rhubarb prepared four ways with different techniques and textures (with my favorite ingredient, by the way) is a decadent climax that goes pretty close to also causing one. Thankfully, a distraction of carefully grilled corrugated surface of fresh scallops adds an extra dimension alongside the pea mash, chutney and bisque like foam.
Stefan doesn’t try too hard for an excellent fillet of turbot, perfectly cooked and accompanied by a plump piece of Boston lobster, green peas, pickled pumpkin in a warmly aromatic lemon-grass curry sauce that doesn’t overpower the seafood. Highly in anticipation, I had forgotten to photograph this one, need I say more?
Every flavoursome performance needs an intermission and the marinated cherry tomatoes, mozzarella tomato water and basil sorbet was ever so reanimating on the palate, flawlessly preparing us for the “Rheinischer Sauerbraten”.
The 36 hour slow braised beef cheek is worth all the wait, the intensely rich and tender morsel and takes on a modern edge under the perfectly pink beef fillets, with the slippery mushrooms given a razz by the pea puree, playing catch-up to such xuberance.
The “Tart Soufflé au Chocolate” Mascarpone Foam, Chocolate Sorbet sent the entire dining table into a silence. It is the lovechild of the perfect soufflé top and a warm liquid centred fondant, balanced with the far from creamy chocolate sorbet and mascarpone form where temperatures and textures playfully mingle.
With a menu fit for a royal, even the crown price of Belgium on the table next to us looked pleased, while his five bodyguards could only hungrily feast with their eyes. I was only too glad to be enjoying my meal with all the beautiful people that somehow all magically connected to each other. True decadence!
Stiller’s Restaurant and Cooking School
The Cool Docks
505 Zhong Shan Nan Road, South Bund,
close to Fuxing Rd. Building 3, 7th Floor
Phone: +86 21 61526501