Food with flair
Updated: 2015-01-29
By Pauline D Loh (Shanghai Star)


Silky smooth: The Malaysian seafood congee has delicate pieces of baby lobster and fresh abalone. [Photo provided to Shanghai Star]

When the winter nights are deep and cold it is comforting to know where you can put some fire in your belly. Pauline D Loh visits the highest supper club in Shanghai.

This is not your usual pub grub. The rice congee is silky smooth cooked so long that every grain has dissolved into a fine puree. Delicately cut pieces of baby lobster and fresh abalone are added to the steaming hot clay pot right before the diners.

Chef Ong Kian Tiong, the Malaysian-born cuisine master helming the kitchen at Flair, the Ritz-Carlton, Pudong, makes his mark on the unusual supper menu here.

The pair of congee offerings is part of a January promotion to attract the cold and hungry on winter nights. Indeed every delicious mouthful glides down the throat to warm the tummy so much that you will soon be glowing with warmth and pleasure.

The chef’s native influences are also reflected in a special noodle dish that he has adapted from the average Kuala Lumpur coffee shop. This is "banmee".

Chinese diners may find similarities in the Shaanxi hand-cut noodles, but that is the only thing familiar. The stock is a rich broth brewed from tiny whitebait or ikanbilis. These tiny dried fish are harvested off the coast of Malaysia and often used locally to sweeten soups.

The chef’s bowl of hand-cut noodles are long wavy ribbons covered with tasty fish stock. What gilds the lily is the pile of freshly deep fried whitebait on top. The soup is further sweetened by the addition of finely minced meat and garnished with tender mustard green shoots.

But, the dish that resonates most and puts true fire in the belly is the rich coconut rice popular throughout Singapore and Malaysia — nasi lamak.

This is where the chef shows his true colors.

I always believe that the simplest cooking techniques show off the chef’s true skills. Did you know that it takes fine attention to detail to cook a perfect hard-boiled egg? It must have a well-set white, a tender golden yellow yoke and most of all it must be brightly colored with no ugly ring black around the yoke.


Simple fare: Nasi lemak is a staple dish in many Kuala Lumpur restaurants. [Photo provided to Shanghai Star]

The snowy white mound of coconut rice is surrounded by a spectrum of colors that shine even in the dim light of the supper club.

Apart from the brilliant white and gold of the egg there are green slices of cucumber a pile of even tinier baby whitebait, crisp fragrant peanuts, a pile of stir-fried French beans and at 12 o’clock prawns smothered in a mellow but spicy chili and onion sauce.

The sambal chili is just what the coconut rice needs, and the other embellishments on the plate add variety but it is the chili and the rice that is the essence of nasi lamak.

It is the perfect dish to assuage homesickness for both Malaysians and Singaporeans but it is comfort food for all when it comes to late night supper.

Flair, at 285 meters above ground has floor to ceiling windows that look out directly at Shanghai’s most famous landmark, the Pearl Tower. It is first and foremost a bar known for its exotic locally themed cocktails and mocktails. While you can get your classic Cosmopolitan and martinis it is the drinks after the Chinese folk heroes you must try.

For the men a natural choice is a plum liquor based concoction named after a famous patriot, warrior and poet Yue Fei. Just like the stories about his character the cocktail harbors some velvet beneath the manly steel.

The ume liquor softens the hardness of the drink but there is still plenty of kick. Another signature cocktail is named after Mu Guiying, arguably the most famous of the Yang Family lady generals. This is softer on the palate but still has enough fire for a winter’s night.


Address: FLAIR, Ritz-Carlton, 8 Centrury Avenue, Pudong Malaysian

Copyright © 2014 Shanghai Municipal Education Commission. All rights reserved.