A Michelin Star Dinner Experience in Sea World, Shekou, Shenzhen
Here in the Shekou sub-district of Nanshan in Shenzhen, where burgers, pizzas and BBQs dominate the comestible landscape, Chef Elli Mauro of Michelin starred Italian restaurant Ristorante Il Cantuccio, made quite the splash in Sea World.
Despite the dramatic changes to the area since opening up over 30 years ago, most of the Western restaurants in Sea World still cater to the same tastes they have for decades. It's a bit disappointing that an area with such a heavy concentration of restaurants and cafes doesn't offer more culinary delights and satisfaction; however, considering the large number of expats living in the area, it makes sense I guess that so many focus on providing just the typical daily staples.
It's not that places haven't tried offering more unique and interesting options. Back in 2014, there was a restaurant called Fresco in Coastal Rose Garden 2. They didn't focus on the regular types of food other places offered. They just had three unique types of tapas on their menu that were absolutely delicious. Within a few months; however, they closed. Was it a lack a customers? Was it that the area wasn't ready for the food? Or was the price to high? The problem in my view was simple. They never changed up their menu. Although those dishes they created were fantastic and very reasonably priced; there was only so much of that you could eat regularly. Eventually people got tired of it and their customer base dried up.
Shark Wine Bar & Grill in Sea World, on the other hand, seems to constantly be keeping Shekou on its toes. Not only do they continually upgrade and switch up their menu but they also bring in opportunities for foodies to enjoy awesome culinary experiences. I visited Shark recently with my wife for one such experience where guest Chef Elli Mauro, owner of Michelin starred Italian restaurant, Ristorante Il Cantuccio, teamed up with Shark's Executive Chef Mattias Riccardo Bregoli to create a unique six course tasting menu with wine pairing.
As soon as we arrived we were greeted warmly by their friendly staff, shown to our table and provided with a welcome drink, a glass of Italian Prosecco. It took a little longer than I had hoped for food to be served, not by any fault of the restaurant, just that the schedule for the evening involved all guests being served simultaneously and we had arrived earlier than others. Luckily, the Prosecco was freeflow while we waited.
Before we were served, both Chef Mauro and Shark's Executive Chef Mattias came out to give us a brief history of how they met and how they eventually came to organize such a dinner in which each chef would showcase a few dishes. Mattias once worked for Mauro and was very excited to have this opportunity to invite him out to China to perform together. In fact, the restaurant full of guests seemed just as excited to be a part of it.
The first dish, a deep fried egg with anchovy sauce by Chef Mauro, came out immediately following the introduction and set the mood perfectly with its elegance and simplicity. Upon piercing into the egg, its yolk seeped out over the anchovy sauce base which combined to create the perfect sauce for this simple starter.
The Lobster Tartare up next was made with by far the freshest tasting lobster I've had while in China. Being from California, I'm a huge lobster fan and am used to eating fresh lobsters either right out of the tank or ocean. While in China, I've all but given up on expecting quality in this area, with most lobster being either too chewy, tough or stringy. This was absolutely not the case here. The lobster claw itself was delicious enough on its own; but served in the basil sauce, with pea foam and topped with Beluga caviar made this dish a work of art. My wife laughed at the fact that I was taking such small bites; something I rarely do. This dish; however, was one I wanted to savor every possible moment of.
While we waited for the next dish to be served, bread baskets were brought out for each of the tables. I assumed this was to cleanse our palettes for the next dish so I dug right in; not waiting for the usual explanations given from the chefs between each course. I should have waited as Chef Mattias indicated we might want to use them when enjoying his first dish of the evening, the Foie Gras Terrine; the highlights of which for me were the unique flavors created by the juxtaposition of the onion confit and the various sauces provided.
Between each course, our glasses were exchanged and different wines served to pair with each dish. As usual, I eagerly jumped right in and began drinking away with each one; some with better experiences than others. The wine served before the next meal left me desiring the previous wine; that's until I tried this next dish by Chef Mauro... our first hot dish of the night, the grapefruit risotto with Mediterranean prawns and gillardeau oysters. Like the lobster claw, the prawns were fresh and just about perfect. The combination of the grapefruit risotto and the wine went so well I couldn't figure out which one was bringing out the flavor of the other more. Although I'm a big oyster fan, I left half the oyster after realizing I enjoyed better the combination of its juices mixing into the risotto than eating it directly.
By the time the main course came out my wife told me she was already full. Although the dishes look small, they definitely add up. Luckily, that just meant more Wagyu M8 steak for me. Chef Mattias surprised us by throwing in an extra piece of tenderloin wrapped in bacon in addition to the strip loin; both Wagyu M8. I'm glad he did because personally I enjoyed the tenderloin more, but that could have just been because it was wrapped in bacon. I was so enchanted by the steak I almost didn't try the gnocchi. That would have been another mistake. The use of beetroots in the gnocchi gave it such an amazing taste it would make my Italian grandmother, who cooked us gnocchi every week, jealous.
The night concluded with a special almond 'soup' dessert with mixed berries and pistachio mousse. Chef Mauro confessed that it's his wife's recipe; however, that by no means made it any less impressive than the other dishes served that evening. All in all, this is exactly the type of dining experience real foodies should be looking and keeping an eye out for in town. Luckily, Shark told me they are planning to do events like this more often.
About the Author: Gary Isse
Gary Isse, M.B.A has over 20 years international business experience with more than 10 years in China. He spends most of his time now providing advice and counseling on improving business systems, processes, sales and marketing as well as managing website and online application development projects. He is also a public speaker, and provides training, consulting and coaching on improving communication, management, public speaking and presentation skills. Over the last couple of years, he's been devoting more and more time to ShekouDaily, a product of SHP; which has evolved into one of the most widely used English-Language resources in Shenzhen, China. ShekouDaily works closely with local businesses and partners to report on, produce and share local news, informative content and resources to help the English-speaking community quickly adapt and live happy, healthy and prosperous lives in Shenzhen. Gary can be reached at 150.1413.9225 or via email at email@example.com