Add: 225 Xi Kang Road, Shanghai 西康路225号
Tel: +86 (21) 6266 7909
Hours: [lunch] Mon-Fri 11:00am-2:30pm; [brunch] Sat-Sun 11:30am-2:30pm; [afternoon tea] Mon-Sun 2:30pm-5:30pm; [dinner] Mon-Sat 5:30pm-12:00am
Price: [dinner] RMB250-350
Visited: February 2017
Will return: Yes
Pelikan, the Nordic-inspired restaurant tucked in a residential street in Jing’an, has been open all of nine months, but its food already feels vastly different from when I first visited last spring. Helmed by Danish chef Kasper Pedersen, the kitchen has honed its cooking, so that what was already good food to begin with becomes more precise and focused.
A raw shrimp tartare was as sweet and flavorful as they come, but it was the hot shrimp broth that made the dish take off. Poured table-side, the broth was uncannily concentrated in flavor and practically vibrating with energy. The outcome was stunning in its clarity.
Raw shrimp tartare with pickled dill stems, fresh herbs, and hot shrimp broth
Thin rings of grilled squid were strikingly tender, taking its saltiness from a light mayo and some freshness and texture from a blanket of greens, but the rose powder dusted on top had very little to say.
Grilled squid and fresh greens dusted with rose powder
The beef tartare goes a few places other tartares don’t. Rather than the blast of vibrant flavors you’d find at French bistros, there was the pure, clean flavor of beef tenderloin, sharpened not by capers and mustard, but by curls of sun-dried tomatoes and a tickle of peppers. The mayonnaise underneath was just on the wrong side of overpowering, but the accompanying fries served with garlic mayo were so exceedingly excellent that we were happy to see them again later in the evening, next to a bowl of plump, tender mussels fortified with a swoosh of herby sour cream sauce.
Raw beef tenderloin tartare with spiced tomato and fries
Steamed mussels with sour cream, fresh herbs, and fries
For all its new-found clarity, the kitchen has not abandoned the practice of hiding the protein beneath a blanket of plants that has almost become a hallmark of Nordic cuisine. Crispy shards of apples and mushrooms covered a mess of braised pork belly like autumn foliage. The pork was cooked to a marvelous tenderness, taking its depth from a brown butter sauce, as well as a strong bolt of acidity from some apple purée. Fillets of grilled cod were less appealing, slightly dry despite the wrapping of pork lace fat that was supposed to keep them moist, but the potato pavé beneath was delicious.
Braised pork belly with crispy apples and mushroom in a brown butter sauce
Grilled cod in pork lace fat with bacon, potato pave, and smoked mussel sauce
Pelikan clearly takes pride in its dry aged beef, devoting to it an entire section on the menu. Our ribeye had a fiercely dark char and lavishly deep flavors, although it is quite beyond me why our server recommended medium, instead of the medium-rare that was our first choice. The accompanying bowl of sautéed onions and dried tomatoes perked up the meaty richness.
Dry-aged ribeye with roasted onion and tomato
In the nine months since its opening, Pelikan still has not acquired a pastry chef, which is why their dessert menu, while enjoyable, is still somewhat lackluster. Still, the stewed apples topped with crispy marzipan and the rice pudding in a warm cherry sauce made a satisfactory, if not exceptional, end to the evening.
Grandma Ketty’s vanilla apples with crispy marzipan and whipped cream
Yogurt ice cream with warm cherry sauce, almonds, and rice pudding