From the forces behind lavishly designed Sense 8 and modern Sichuan restaurant Maurya comes The Peacock Room, a shinier version of Sichuanese cuisine that strays far from preconceived notions of the province’s mala-centric, family-style fare. Located in the south complex of Taikoo Hui (Shanghai’s most confusing and poorly designed shopping center), The Peacock Room gives meaning to the term opulent, from its opalescent stemware and gold-dipped framework to the jewel-crusted peacock that greets you upon entry.
Dining commences at a long line of tables that stretches the length of the restaurant. It’s much the way you’d expect to be seated in the great hall of an imperial palace, a place where the glitter and shiny adornments are most pleasing to an emperor.
Designed by Andy Hall (the same guy between killer spaces The Cannery and The Nest), it pools together artistic elements beginning in 19th century China with contemporary Western design, apparently intended to serve as a consideration of the relationship between art and money. The look is lavish, yet remarkable—in truth, it outshines the cuisine.
The food surprises, and not always pleasantly; pushes boundaries, but not always impressively. An artful dim sum starter of little edible purses and packages begins things on a high note, but a crab soup served in a tiny pumpkin framed by billowing clouds of dry ice( a tiresome parlor trick, we might add), doesn’t impress.
One of the other starting plates, a set of candied, paper-thin slices of beef accompanied by chewy sugar-coated cubes of savory pork, better presents the chef’s prowess as he plays with common flavors in uncommon forms.
But then, braised beef scalp—a misleading and terrifying moniker for something that’s actually beef cheek—arrives with promise as you slice through the layers of buttery meat and sticky fat. Here, the flavors are almost too robust for our palates, and instead taste a bit like the smell of a farm. A similar route of ups and downs follows: consistently winning presentation, but with flavors that can’t always keep up with their polished looks.
This place is worth a try if you’re interested in seeing how far a chef can stretch the boundaries of regional Chinese cuisine. But with pricey set menus only (RMB500-600), The Peacock Room is likely a place you’ll go once, but perhaps not run back to.
Address: Taikoo Hui, Room 301, 789 Nanjing Xi Lu (near Shimen Yi Lu) 南京西路789号兴业太古汇301 (近石门一路)