Trust Zorawar Kalra, Founder of Massive Restaurants, to launch eateries that are massive—not just in size, but also in terms of what it delivers. Hotel Shanghigh, Kalra’s newest venture in Lower Parel, serves retro Chinese cuisine, and the restaurant also hosts glamorous live performances every day.
As soon as you enter Lower Parel’s Kamala Mills, you are greeted with an imposing façade of Shanghigh, which is painted red and has a tiny hard hill roof over its entrance door. The roof with red tiles is an example of classic Chinese architecture. Once in, you feel as if you have stepped into a hip restaurant in some forgotten Chinese town.
The quadrangular bar is in the centre of the eatery, coupled with beige and red-coloured high chairs on its four sides. Liquor bottles are placed on the racks towards the ceiling on all the sides of the bar, which is decorated with over-the-top Christmas-like baubles.
More than 100 golden and red traditional Chinese lanterns hang from the ceiling on either side of the bar. Several Chinese handheld fans are placed on a wall in the shape of a dragon, while next to it is a painting, also of a dragon. The dragon is handpainted using light hues and looks stunning in the background of sandpaper-like texture of the wall.
On the farther end of the restaurant is the much-talked-about stage and runway, where international artists perform every evening. On either side of the wooden runway, six tables are placed, which I am told are the premium seats. Guests prefer to book these, as they are the closest to the stage and the bar.
Design-wise, what completely bowled me over, was the gigantic two-faced 20-feet dragon that hangs from the ceiling, right above these premium seats. This beautiful red dragon has been created by a team of 25 artists.
“Hotel Shanghigh is a love letter to the Shanghai supper clubs of the 1930s, which had good food and great entertainment,” says Kalra. “The focus is retro Chinese—the kind of food that’s unapologetically authentic.”
“For authentic Chinese food, three ingredients are vital—chillies, fresh sesame oil and soy. So, we order these and several other ingredients from Thailand, which is the epicentre of Oriental ingredients,” says Chef Pankaj Jha of Shanghigh.
I start my dinner on one of the premium tables, right below the gargantuan dragon and around 20 beautiful golden mount ceiling lights, which I am told changes colour as the evening progresses. I start with the very refreshing Suan La Tang Soup (Wonton with hot and sour soup) and Sweet Corn Soup.
Chef Jha sends Avocado, Kale and Roasted Beetroot Salad, which has slices of avocado with baby kale, roasted beet and toasted almond. I was pleasantly surprised by the combination of leafy kale and bland and buttery-tasting avocados, which made for a delicious dish. Classic Edamame Truffle Dumplings and Pak Choi and Shiitake Dumplings were next in the queue.
Keeping it authentic, Pak Choi and Shiitake Dumplings are wrapped in crystal wrapper and I relish each bit of that potato starch. Though the Classic Edamame Truffle Dumplings were flavourful, I would have relished it more if its truffle scented creamy edamame filling wasn’t gooey.
High energy mood
There’s a nice vibe to the entire place. Two artists camp near the stage, prepping for their gig. “We are focusing on the high-energy vibe and are excited about the music curation. Every week we will see a new talented DJ play here,” says Kalra. “Soon, Fashion Wednesdays will roll out too, a collaborative ramp shows with fashion designers,” he adds.
Next, the drinks. Kalra tells me that they have a limited-edition bar menu. “The cocktails are designed by restaurant manager Arnold Hou and his team, which changes every month,” he says. Once the new bar menu is drawn up, cocktails of the previous menus will never be repeated.
The Age of Invention (milk clarifying hibiscus tea, lychee puree, lemon juice and gin), Death of The Warlord (vodka, Campari, lime juice, rose water and ginger ale), Journey of A Thousand Suns (homemade 5 spice rum, fresh lime juice, cane syrup and homemade coconut soda) and The Great Emigration (Baijiu, homemade lemongrass Tincture, lime juice, egg white and sugar syrup) are few of the cocktails currently on the menu.
Hou, is of Chinese descent, but has settled in India. “I have the best of both worlds,” he says with a grin. His Chinese roots and Indian nationality makes him a good fit for this role.
“My team and I picked flavours like sugarcane, coconut, jasmine, Baijiu among other ingredients,” says Hou. Baijiu is a spirit that is exclusively sold in China. “Only three weeks ago Baijiu entered the Indian markets. It’s the first time ever!” Shanghigh is one of the few places in India if not the only one, to have a Baijiu cocktail on the menu.
Chef Jha recommended Tapas: Stir-fry La Jiao, Gingko & Shimiji and I am glad I tried it. The Shimiji mushrooms were rich in taste and the hotness of La Jiao is not for the weak-hearted. By the time I finished Tapas, the golden ceiling lights changed to red—a colour that is clearly the favourite. My only discontent with the red lighting is that it becomes too dark to even understand what the food looks like.
Under the red lights, I had Spinach Noodles with Mapo Tofu, which blended quite well. To my delight, the noodles did not have a dry and dull taste that’s typical to spinach. Clubbed with Mapo Tofu, which has diced tofu and pickled chilli bean sauce, both the flavours complemented each other.
Towards the end of my dinner, I was unable to make up my mind on the best dishes. It’s now clear why Kalra was so hesitant to name one dish from the menu that is his absolute favourite. After much prodding, the restauranteur says, “I love each and every dish, but Prawn Chueng Fun surely gets the brownie points.”
Desserts and dance
I had almost finished the main course when two female dancers waltzed onto the stage. Dressed in neon fringed green pants and spaghetti blouse with sequins and tassels, they looked stunning when they twirled. The giant white feather as a headgear added drama to their Latino moves.
I was enjoying the performance while partially in a food coma when a server presented the best desserts in the house—Matcha Delight and Ice-cream Roll. Matcha Delight (looks like a ball of cream) was quite surprising, as when I looked at it, I presumed the inner portion (mousse) would have a pungent flavour of matcha tea.
However, this mousse was velvety and had a mild matcha flavour and the vanilla bean crisps enhanced the taste. Ice-cream Rolls were my favourite. The rolls were deep-fried, which made the outer layer of the mildly hot rolls crisp. As soon as I took a bite of it, the silky ice-cream bursts out of the roll. This cold surprise inside the warm roll was truly mouth-watering.