[Shanghai] VIA Modern Slow Cook
VIA Modern Slow Cook | Dianping
Address: 建国西路222号(近嘉善路) – 222 Jianguo West Rd near Jiashan Rd (卢湾区 Luwan District)
Date visited: 2013.12 (soft opened this month)
Total bill: RMB¥1688 for four people (RMB¥380 set per person + bottle of wine)
Will return: Yes
– Suckling Pig
– Australian Beef Rump
VIA Modern Slow Cook is a new restaurant serving up–you guessed it–slow cooked food. What does that mean? The food at VIA (except for salads) is slow cooked in its own juices for hours ahead of time, making everything super soft and tender. We tried to add up the total number of hours that it took to cook our meal but our crazy Asian math skills couldn’t keep up.
The concept is family style so dishes are shared (with some dishes split out into individual portions for easier consumption). Pricing comes in three tiers: RMB¥288, RMB¥380, and RMB¥580 per person. Quantity is around the same for each price level but ingredients will vary. It’s like an omakase for European food. We tried the RMB¥380 option, which comes with their signature suckling pig dish. The RMB¥288 doesn’t come with the suckling pig so I recommend the RMB¥380 tier at the very least because this is a defining dish here. More on this magical pig later.
Along the theme of family style, the restaurant is also laid out in several large square tables so our party of four took over one corner of a table while another party sat opposite from us. The tables are large enough that this isn’t an issue if you want nothing to do with the other party but if you wanted to make friendly chatter you can without having to shout across the table. We actually ended up being seated across from the owner of this fine establishment by complete coincidence (or was it? I might actually be stalking him because I like his food so much).
The wine comes in an unlabeled bottle because VIA imports them by the barrel. This saves VIA money and in turn saves us money because VIA doesn’t charge a lot for wine. A bottle costs RMB¥168 and it is decent wine. Owner Edward Chau’s philosophy is that you should be able to enjoy as much wine as you like with your meal without breaking the bank. Applause.
There is an open kitchen where you can watch the chefs prepare the food and by prepare I mean plate it since everything has already been slow-cooked ahead of time. A nice vibe nonetheless, like watching your friend cook at home… except these people can probably cook better.
We started with a slow cooked octopus (12 hours), which tasted akin to ceviche. Octopus can get really tough if not done right but this was very tender. We liked very much.
Next, we had the slow cooked cod (6 hours), which was served cold. I don’t like beans and the marinade for the cod was a bit too citrusy so I wasn’t a fan of this dish.
We each received an egg on jerusalem artichoke and spinach mash, which was perfectly runny and poke-able.
The spinach mash was a sweet contrast to yolk. We always like egg porn.
Next, we had a juicy slow cooked pigeon (how many hours are we on now?) that was saturated with flavor deep in the meat (not just on the surface).
Along with our mains also came enormously portioned side dishes including a vat of carrots and mashed potatoes. These plates were the same size as the mains. More than generous for the four of us.
The suckling pig (okay, I stopped counting the hours awhile ago) was everyone’s favorite and no doubt the winning dish of the night. No sauce, no anything–just soft and loose slow cooked meat wrapped in crispy skin in every bite.
Since VIA was in soft opening during this visit, they were still experimenting with presentation and another table’s suckling pig looked very different. The owner told us our suckling pig was their first time presenting it in roll form and I quite liked it this way. This is the reason why I will come back.
Really stuffed at this point but we plowed on with beef cheek, tail, and tongue stew (we are covering a lot of body parts here). I liked the beef cheek and tail the best and the tongue was slightly tough. What is special about slow cooked food is that the juices taste naturally flavorful simply from simmering for so long. Another lovely beef cheek dish I am fond of is at Mr and Mrs Bund.
On top of the meat dishes from our many courses, our friends from across the table sent over their Australian beef rump (otherwise known as the butt) because they were ultra stuffed by the flow of food as well. The super marbled beef literally melted in my mouth. Really fantastic and okay, this is the second reason why I will come back but I suspect this may have been included in the RMB¥580 price tier so will have to splurge a little for this. Thank you guys for sharing!
Our last main was a handmade cat’s ears pasta (are these what cat’s ears look like?) with uni sauce, basil, tomato, and seafood, which was light by pasta standards. Sparkling Water Guy (the high expectations one who only eats at restaurants that serve sparkling water) liked this, which was surprising considering how many things he doesn’t like in life.
And of course, dessert.
We closed the night out with a simple and well executed flan.
When we were done, it seemed like we were walking out of a friend’s house happily stuffed and sleepy. VIA feels nice for me because I don’t have the responsibility of ordering for the whole table (which I am usually forced to do). It’s like a home cooked meal if only my friends (and I) knew how to cook.