Mandopop is a term for Mandarin popular music (rather than pop music performed by men or by using mandolins). It's a subcategory that falls under C-pop, or commercial Chinese language music, and is popular in China (duh), Taiwan, Japan, Malaysia and Singapore. Think Andy Lau, Leehom Wang and Jay Chou. It's also the name of a new entry to Bangkok's fine dining scene that is set to popularise Chinese cuisine with modern flair.
Behind the big wooden doors with aged handles, class and modernity intertwine like smoke from two Chinese joss sticks. Interior-wise, it gives the impression of a place fit for a jet-setting bilingual Chinese with English first names and Chinese surnames - a Tony Liang or a Lucy Eng who has tasted foie gras in France and flown to Hong Kong for sale events countless times with their LV suitcases.
The main dining area is subtly Chinese, adorned with different patterns typical of Chinese doors. At the bar, browse dim sum selections or enjoy a cooking and bartending show. Or sit on a high chair to bask in the natural light coming through wall-to-ceiling glass windows. Upstairs, there are four rooms for private dining, two of which can be connected to accommodate a big clan. Choose one equipped with a TV and DVD player, in case you want to show off a slideshow of your latest world tour to friends and families.
While you can order different dishes for all to share like your Chinese ancestors did, you can forget about the chore of making decisions and go for one of the five set menus on offer.
Set C (B1,550; prices subject to tax and service charge) starts off with a platter of four types of dim sum. Fancy-looking caviar-topped Steamed scallop dumpling is rich. The dough sheet is in salim colour with spinach and beetroot. Steamed glutinous rice with chicken in lotus leaf could be impressive, except the fowl is cut into bits so small you almost forget it's there. Steamed rice skin roll bursts with juiciness from prawn hidden inside while bits of Chinese sausage in Pan-fried radish cake adds much-needed contrast and flavour to what would otherwise be a lifeless cake.
Next is a trio of appetisers and, like the members of S.H.E. girl group, each has its own allure. Complemented by garlic sauce, Pan-seared thinly sliced lamb with enoki mushroom is very juicy. Roasted duck offers firm and aromatic meat with crispy skin on top. Pan-fried cod served with ginger scallion sauce offers nice contrast between fatty and mild-tasting flesh with flavourful sauce.
Like the idea of French Shy'm featuring Jay Chou in a song, the East collides with the West nicely in Foie gras puree soup. Cruelty never tasted so good as the fatty foie gras melts into one with secret soup to deliver mouthfuls of creaminess and flavour. Adding more substance and punch is scallop wonton.
The main course comprises of Steamed cod with preserved vegetable, Scallop noodle in superior stock and Stir-fried vegetable with chef spicy chili sauce. The first two dishes put me in epicurean qigong. However the okra in the stir-fried vegetable completely throws me off with too much bitterness.
The set ends on a low note with Chilled lemongrass gelo with fruit. While it tastes light and refreshing - a good palate cleanser after many fried dishes - I expect something more special than bland jelly and berries floating around.
From the a la carte menu, I order two more dishes (see how much I have to eat just to bring you this column, dear readers). Served with warm mushroom sauce, Crispy lamb rack (B600) contains chopped cod mixed with parsley inside. This culinary kung-fu will knock you out succulently. Kung pao chicken (B200) may look like it has had the chi cooked out of it but it's surpringly tasteful for a dish that has become the Chinese equivalent of pad thai.
Mandopop's ambience is unique, classy and spacious. Creativity and finesse is obviously put into the presentation to give you a visual feast on the plates. I have very little to complain about the food as most of the dishes make my eyes pop in a good way. Unfortunately, the bill does do too. Fine dining at Mandopop comes at a high price so get your red envelopes out of the safe for this one.
Contemporary Chinese G/F, Oriental Residence, 110 Witthayu Road 02-125-9000 Open noon-2:30pm, 6-11pm
About the author
- Writer: Pornchai Sereemongkonpol
Position: Guru Reporter