In three and a half years of reviewing Shanghai's new restaurants, there have been many good times. There have also been bad times, and numerous bouts of food poisoning. But there have never, ever, been times like 1767 Cocoon. Since this will be one of my last reviews for That's Shanghai, this medieval banquet of a restaurant was too compelling to resist.
See, 1767 Cocoon is a restaurant that shouldn't exist. Somewhere along the line, a shareholder should have stepped in and said, 'No, what's happening here is strange and incorrect.' But there were no alarms. There was no warning.
A fabulous monster was born.
It's hard to say what kind of food is served here, since much of it is so baffling it leaves you speechless. The chef, who shall remain nameless, used to work in hotels where he learned Western food, or a version of it, before taking a turn down a more creative path at 1767 Cocoon.
First out of the kitchen is a pale, mysterious substance with five carefully dried shiitake mushroom pieces, exactly 12 salmon eggs, a sprig of mint and an artful dusting of cocoa powder, lubricated by what transpires to be a baby food smooth slick of potato purée. Reader, let us tell you that under no circumstances should cocoa and fish eggs intermingle within your mouth.
Our second course plays it straight – a simple medley of peas, barley pearls and baby abalone cascading from a pumpkin (RMB108). A fishy, saliva-like sauce combines the elements together, and serves to soggify a casually inserted 100-dollar rice paper bill. Benjamin Franklin gazes at us with a pursed expression, incredulous that his illustrious political career has culminated amidst shriveled abalones.
Next, a giant cloud of candy floss (RMB78) makes its way onto the table, looking like the discarded powdered wig of a 17th century courtier. The candy floss itself is imbued with a malty, slightly fishy flavor, the taste of which is actually not bad. We sense there is a surprise hiding underneath. Perhaps a ball of ice cream, or a quivering panna cotta?
No, to our delight there is a filet of grilled eel underneath, served with candied rocks of chocolate (for decoration only!) and a halved kalamansi. Despite looking like it might have already been pre-chewed, its flavor is conventional, and we're almost disappointed by the lack of madness.
Same for a plateful of buns (RMB58) styled to look like freshly-earthed potatoes, complete with a grinning plastic farmer. These transpire to be filled with a mild, jelly-like substance unremarkable apart from the fact that it is inside buns disguised to look like potatoes.
After an eternity, the reason why we are really at 1767 Cocoon make an entrance. The 'chicken KiNG' (RMB108). Propped up in a custom-made chair furnished with white bread cushions, a cocktail umbrella stabbed into its shoulder and a sandy beach of panko, the expression on the chicken looks somewhere between blazed and furious at the culinary indignities done unto it.
Our suited waiter returns wearing a pair of surgical gloves, and begins tearing our poultry monarch from limb, which makes rude squelching noises as it loses its extremities one-by-one until nothing but a scowling carcass remains.
The halved egg shells do not contain egg yolk, saving us the barbarity of dipping chicken KiNG in a sauce of its own menstrual products. The sauce is in fact mango, though it does little to overcome the gag-inducing saltiness of the meat.
With the end in sight, we prepare for dessert (RMB38) – a toast stick palace with a pastel pink ball of strawberry ice cream, flanked by what we naively assume are strawberries and blueberries. But 1767 Cocoon has one final trick up its sleeve:- those blueberries are black olives.
How do olives taste with toast and strawberry ice cream? Absolutely crazy.
Food verdict: 0.5/3
A carnival of the bizarre in a mall setting, whatever vibe there is at this restaurant is infinitely eclipsed by the food (although the staff were charming.) Clearly, 1767 isn't a place to visit for serious dining. But truth be told, it was one of the funniest, most hilarious experiences we've ever had in a restaurant. If you're the kind of person for whom normal entertainment no longer works, or if you could just do with a laugh in this bleak world, you will no doubt find it here.
Vibe verdict: 1/2
Total Verdict: 1.5/5
Price: RMB100-300 per person
Who's going: locals
Good for: a laugh
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