A hidden gem on Jinxian Lu
East-meets-West restaurant La Maison initially flew under our radar. Though hidden in plain sight on busy Jinxian Lu, the restaurant was so unusually grand that we mistook it for a private residence.
The three-storey building houses a dining room, a bar, a private space on the third floor (also used for brunch service) and a beautiful courtyard. The courtyard space will be transformed into an outdoor bar area soon, in preparation for spring/summertime lounging. We didn’t manage a drink at the second floor grey-toned bar with attached terrace, but were told the short cocktail list ranges from RMB68-98, the Long Island being the most expensive. The wine list hasn’t been finalized but it will hold about 20 selected labels.
We started with the Courtyard Salad (RMB58), a huge bowl of Romaine, arugula and cherry tomatoes tossed with light mustard dressing and slices of grainy pear. . Being gluttons and hungry when we ordered, we added the smoked salmon for RMB48, which seemed unnecessary for the large salad but the fish was fresh and enjoyable anyway. The juicy Xinjiang-style Crunchy Chili Chicken (RMB58) had a sweet, meaty fragrance, and came with traditional deep-fried Sichuan red chilies tossed in the mix.
However, the Chili Chicken was overshadowed by the Sweet and Sour Pork Ribs (RMB88), a deliciously sticky mound of fall-off-the-bone tender meat layered with fat—nothing could stop us from gnawing on those juicy morsels with our hands. While both the chicken and the ribs were from the “small bites” menu, we were delighted by the large portions that greeted us.
Meanwhile, the pan-fried Orange Roughy (RMB188) proved to be a delicate dish with memorable flavors. The filet had a bouncy texture and came steeped in a savory, rich wine sauce. (We wished for bread to soak up the sauce.) In contrast, the musky Xinjiang Lamb Chops (RMB188), though a solid (if heavily-seasoned with cumin and pepper) main course served over a bed of sautéed peppers, proved slightly chewy.
We felt the springy Kung Pao Tiger Prawns (RMB128) fell somewhere between a main dish and a sharing platter; the tasty dish would have been better enjoyed with a bowl of fried rice to soak up the spicy chili, Chinese rice wine and garlic-heavy sauce. They also have pasta and rice mains from RMB88, but perhaps garlic fried rice or spaghetti aglio e olio would help ease the meal and allow diners room for more dishes.
Despite having opened last September, La Maison is still in soft opening, and we were told that the menu and pricing might change. We know there are four partners and one of them is Supperclub co-partner/creative director Olivia Mok. While the dining room could be a bit livelier (slighty bare for now), everything we tried was well-plated and promptly presented, with exceptional service to boot. If they can keep up this price point, La Maison will be an easy place to fill.
Where: 210 Jinxian Lu (near Shanxi Nan Lu)