By Joseph L. Garcia, Reporter
IF I had known then that my dinner at Shanghai Saloon was the last nice meal I’d have for the next three months, I wouldn’t have rushed through the affair. Right after I left the restaurant on its March 12 opening, the president went on air to announce the community quarantine — which is still ongoing after four months.
This of course, closed down the restaurant at the Podium. But with some restrictions being lifted as Metro Manila entered the less restrictive General Community Quarantine, the restaurant is now open for takeout and delivery services. It takes orders from Monday to Saturday, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Four months after that first — and last — meal, I still remember the filling pork buns, the scallop with salmon roe sprinkled on top, and the very rich crab dumpling with a sticky red skin, as if a lantern. The restaurant had an East-meets-West flavor and aesthetic, inspired by the glamorous and cosmopolitan nature of Shanghai in the 1920s. It’s a shame that in the rush of takeout and delivery, the wine cellar, four meters tall, and the cocktail lounge glamor of the decor would have to be ignored.
We asked Shanghai Saloon owner Grace Lee how it felt to have to close so soon after opening. “Shanghai Saloon is a project we worked on for almost two years. So we were truly excited to finally open its doors last March. So to have had to close after merely a few days was very disheartening for all of us,’ she told BusinessWorld in an e-mail. “I have faith in my team and believe we have created a special dining space. Our Hong Kong chefs remained in Manila. Our staff also, thankfully, patiently waited with us, making it possible for us to reopen quickly.”
Former TV personality Ms. Lee is also behind the Kko Kko Korean chicken chain. Speaking about her other ventures and how they fared during the community quarantine, she said, “We can all agree that this pandemic is the biggest challenge the F&B business sector has had to face in recent history. It was a daily struggle to keep things afloat… to sustain our business so that there is work for our employees to come back to sooner or later. Kko Kko kept its commissary open to cater to take out and delivery demands. And in this time of difficulty, Kko Kko learned to adjust.”
She added, however, “All our branches are of course ready to welcome back our customers with proper protocols in place. We also created newly updated safety manuals to standardize added procedures to make sure our customers feel safe dining with us again.”
As we’ve mentioned, Shanghai Saloon had glamorous decors, and looking at my notes from March 12, it would seem that the decor had a hand in how the food tasted. I remember an unfortunately bland dish of braised noodles, saved by the sheer heft of the seafood toppings and the surroundings (hint: instead of that, get the dimsum and anything in the menu that says duck). With services limited to takeout and delivery, how will Shanghai Saloon still translate the experience of 1920s glam at home? Ms. Lee said, “We’ve definitely created a beautiful place that makes you want to linger, but our food has been delightfully appreciated by our customers from the beginning. Though not everyone has returned to the dining experience at restaurants, they have been recreating part of it in their homes, with their families.”
A complete menu is available on the Shanghai Saloon Facebook page, @shanghaisaloonph. Call to order at 0917-311-2569, 0917-128-2874 or 8426-5587.