SHEX Reviews: The Cathay Room

SHEX Reviews: The Cathay Room

By Sonia Su

Since 1929, the ninth floor of the Fairmont Peace Hotel, formerly the Cathay Hotel, has been home to an exclusive escape from the often claustrophobic streets along Nanjing East Road.

Overlooking Shanghai’s scenic Pudong skyline (make sure to request a table near the window or outside on the terrace), The Cathay Room offers an exquisite dining experience for both lunch from noon to 2:30 p.m. and dinner from 6 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. Menus are prepared by Executive Chef Nicholas Blair, an Australian native coming from a long line of chefs dating back four generations.

Although the restaurant serves modern European home-style cuisine, Blair brings some Asian influences from his extensive international experiences in Hong Kong, Taiwan and China.

‘One of the best things about being a chef is being able to travel and come across so many ingredients that you don't normally get to see,’ Blair told me. As a result, Blair emphasizes his use of quality local produce, adding components that are local to China and Asia to what would normally be seen as traditional Western dishes.

For lunch, patrons choose a two- or three-course set-price meal for 238 RMB or 288 RMB, respectively, with an additional 15-percent tax and service charge. Blair’s Asian influences are immediately apparent among the starters—from his roasted pork belly with farmed scallop shallot crust and steamed silken tofu with squid ink jus, to the organic green salad with fried tofu croutons, soft-boiled quail eggs and button mushrooms. The restaurant also offers a wine list of 200 labels from Europe and the New World presented by its resident sommelier.

After trying the bread basket consisting of four different types of soft bread, I tried what Belle Bai, the hotels' assistant director of marketing communications, said was one of the chef’s favorite dishes: the roasted pork belly. The equal amount of meat and fat, topped with a nicely crisp skin, meant each bite was packed with indulgently delicious flavor. Plated next to the pork was a perfectly cooked scallop atop a thin slice of silky tofu, which felt nice to the palette after eating such chewy meat. Bai said that Blair’s Taiwanese wife, who he said is his ’toughest customer,' has greatly inspired him as a chef. Especially being in Shanghai, a 'mecca for chefs in Asia,' Blair said he’s more able to share the creations that he has been working so hard to develop.